(Photo: Reuters / Eric Thayer)
Christian groups are offering their prayers and practical support after a giant tornado ravaged Joplin, Mo.
At least 116 people died when a half-mile-wide tornado tore through the city, the deadliest single tornado in the U.S. since 1953.
The tornado hit the city’s hospital and reduced hundreds of homes and businesses to rubble, turning parts of the city into a wasteland.
Some residents have described the scene as a war zone or as if Armageddon came.
Tussiona Mikell recalled to CNN that as she and a few others were waiting out the storm in the cooler at a Dollar Tree store, "There was a lot of calling on Jesus. People were crying, saying different things. I was calling out 'Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.'"
The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod has received reports that up to 75 percent of the city of 50,000 has sustained some damage with much of the damage catastrophic."
“This [devastation] is bad, really bad for such a small city,” said the Rev. Glenn F. Merritt, director of Disaster Response, in a statement. “The recovery will be more difficult because so much infrastructure has been destroyed.”
LCMS World Relief and Human Care has made available up to $50,000 for disaster response efforts and will be working with the Missouri District through Immanuel Lutheran, Martin Luther School and the Rev. Gregory Mech, the church pastor, in Joplin, according to Merritt.
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association's Rapid Response Team, meanwhile, is working with Samaritan's Purse in assessing the situation.
"Right now the pressing need is for community officials and workers to be able to stabilize the situation and provide basic necessary services," said Preston Parrish, executive vice president of Ministries at BGEA, in a statement. "We are praying for area residents, that they will experience the presence and care of Christ in the midst of these storms."
Also trying to provide immediate assistance, John Marshall, president of the Missouri Baptist Convention, has urged Baptists in the region to do what they can to help in the disaster relief efforts.
Baptists are being advised to contact a sister church in the Joplin area to give aid through.
“We are praying and will be sending help in every way we can,” said Marshall, according to Baptist Press. “May God help the people of Joplin.”
Wanda Shellenbarger, Missouri Baptist Convention women’s ministry leader, told the newspaper that the Harmony Heights Baptist Church and Empire Baptist Church in Joplin had both been leveled by the tornado.
“We’ve had massive destruction and devastation here,” she said.
“Please pray for all of us as we minister to so many hurting people. God can use even this type of thing to reach more for Him.”