Nearly three years after a tornado devastated the community, a Presbyterian church has revamped itself from “emergency outpost” that hosted thousands of volunteers in the immediate aftermath of the 2011 tornado into a vision called “The Joplin Promise.”
The Joplin Promise seeks to serve people on both sides of the poverty line by connecting teens, young adults and mature Christians from across the country with a community that lives in a far different reality. In a week this summer in Joplin you can:
- do construction;
- mentor a child;
- learn what the Bible says about the faithful responses to poverty; and
- be transformed, even as you are used as an agent of transformation.
To understand The Joplin Promise you have to revisit the Joplin nightmare.
Imagine you’re the pastor of a small church on the edge of a neighborhood where 8,000 families lost their homes in an instant. Now imagine that the vast majority of those people are recipients of government entitlement programs including food stamps and welfare. They have no boot straps to pull up and the poverty cycle in which they are trapped is now generational.
What do you do?
You pray ardently, you meet immediate needs, you study the Biblical response to poverty and you construct ministries that bring people into meaningful contact with one another to alleviate both the crisis and the chronic conditions.
That’s exactly what pastor Cliff Mansley and the New Creation Church are doing in Joplin.
Following the devastating and deadly tornado that ravaged Joplin on Sunday, May 22, 2011, God began pouring out every spiritual and physical resource necessary for the accomplishing of His redemptive will. Within days the New Creation Church was designated a distribution center for Federal Aid in a community where 80 percent of the people were living below the U.S. poverty line before the tornado hit.
Since the storm, the church has hosted thousands of volunteers from across the country who came to help the people of Joplin rebuild physically and spiritually. Now those teams are largely gone, but the needs of the people — especially the children — are not.
When I first talked with Cliff Mansley three days after the tornado he already knew that God intended to use the New Creation new church development as an outpost of resurrection hope. Three years later there is evidence of God’s power at work.
Prior to the tornado New Creation had already embraced the children of the projects surrounding the church’s location. Following the twister they simply opened wide their doors and in streamed hundreds of needy children.
The church launched “KidsQuest” providing supervised tutoring, the arts, Bible and activities each day from 3-6 p.m. Mansley says, “The purpose of KidsQuest is to provide students with a safe environment to where they can explore, discover and use their gifts and talents. Our aim is spiritual transformation, helping them improve academic performance, giving them opportunities for creative expression, helping them develop good character and become leaders. All of it is unto the goal of presenting them mature in Christ.”
Mansley also shared that “these kids have pretty difficult lives. Eighty percent of them were living below the federal poverty line prior to the storm. Now all of them are. All of their families are on government assistance of one kind or another. Few of them have dads in their homes. And all of them experienced the trauma of the tornado and its aftermath.”
Mansley notes that an important part of KidsQuest is the full dinner that is served every day in addition to the healthy snack kids receive upon arrival. He also notes that it wouldn’t work without transportation. So, volunteer drivers provide transportation in their aging shuttles to KidsQuest from every school in the area that has four or more kids participating in the program.
Here’s where you come in. Remember all those commitments you’ve made over the years over all those children at their baptism? Joplin is an opportunity to make good on those commitments. You can tangibly demonstrate the grace and truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the life of the children there.
http://www.thejoplinpromise.com/, 417-782-8200, 1831 South Conner Avenue, Joplin, MO 64804.