On May 22, 2011, a devastating tornado swept through Joplin, Missouri, destroying homes, schools and churches. Many lost their lives and even more were seriously injured. In the wide path of the twister was St. James Methodist Church, including its chapel where Church of our Savior held their weekly worship. The congregation decided to wait until the emergency responders and rescue teams had completed their work before wading through the rubble. They were only able to salvage some communion wafers, an unopened bottled of communion wine, a few vestments, a couple of prayer books and hymnals and a Pascal candle holder. Despite the devastation of the tornado, Church of our Savior has experienced an abundance of blessings from its community and other Christ followers across the nation this past year.
“God had blessed our little church so many times by providing us with first a nice little chapel to worship in the spring of 2007,” said Mark Knight, Sr. Waden of Church of our Savior. “When we lost our worship space, St. Phillip’s Episcopal Church graciously offered us the use of their church free of charge until we could find a suitable place to gather.”
After two months, the parishioners decided to move to Rita’s Place, a small café that rented for a mere $50 per week. Every Sunday, they would move the tables and set up an altar for the service. Then, in October 2011, they were able to move to another church which offered its space for six months. In April 2012, Church of our Savior moved to its current location, Crossroads International House of Prayer.
For months, members Ray and Peggy Vawter drove by Crossroads but saw no action on Sundays. After contacting their director, Daryl Billings, the entire congregation came to look at the facility one Sunday afternoon. Admitting he had never considered anything like this before, Daryl realized God intended the two to come together for a reason and it was up to them to figure out why. Soon thereafter, the congregation began renting the space for, again, just $50 per week.
“It is a great location, only a mile off a major highway and less than a mile from Missouri Southern State University,” said Mark. “While Morning Prayer is conducted by our two lay leaders, myself and Ray Vawter, we do hope to find a priest that would be interested in coming to Joplin full time to help us grow and spread the Gospel of the Lord.”
Not only did Church of our Savior receive prayers and gifts from its community, but churches and individuals from across the country blessed this small congregation. The Rt. Rev. Royal Grote, Bishop of the REC Diocese of Mid-America, donated a chalice, paten, cross for the altar, hymnals and prayer books. The Diocese also established a building fund to assist in the purchase or construction of a church when an appropriate location is found. All the money collected will be held by the Diocese until there is a definitive plan for a building.
News of the church’s troubles also made its way up to St. Thomas Episcopal Church in North Syracuse, New York. With the help of a nearby church, St. Thomas donated a large main alter, a Prie-Dieu kneeler bench, a lay reader’s lectern, a brass alms basin, a credence table wall shelf, a processional cross, a remembrance book table and two wood flower shelves.
“We also received vestments and a lectern from Rev. Forrest Burgett and his congregation at Trinity Anglican Parish in Prairie Village, Kansas,” said Mark. “It’s just been incredible receiving these monetary donations and small church items. We are eternally grateful.”
Recently, an organ was donated by Mrs. Thomas Carder of Liberty, Missouri. Not only did she donate the organ, but also paid for its restoration and cost of delivery.
Feeling immensely blessed by the love, prayers and donations from so many, Church of our Savior has come a long way since the tornado. Please join us in lifting up this congregation as they continue to search for a full-time priest and share their love for Christ in the Joplin community and beyond.
Photo Caption: The chapel at St. James Methodist Church where Church of our Savior met before the tornado hit on May 22, 2011.