by Betty McDowell, Director of Affiliate Services
Catastrophe hit Joplin, Missouri, on Sunday, May 25th, as severe tornadoes devastated significant portions of the Joplin community. The pictures of devastation are heart wrenching with 30% of the city gone and another 40% damaged. The reports of loss of life and damage have been difficult to comprehend.
The story is still unfolding for Joplin and its residents. But the story of the local pregnancy help center is remarkable.
For several years, our affiliate in Joplin, Life Choices, has operated one of the best models in the country involving STD testing and treatment. Years ago, they saw the vision for impacting this college town by expanding their medical services to include STD services. Pregnancy help centers from all over the country have sought to understand how Joplin successfully draws students in for STD testing and treatment and shares God’s plan for their sexuality – a message that of course is counter to the prevailing culture. Life Choices, as The Body of Christ at work, has been influencing the culture with some success. They truly have been a haven for those devastated by the culture of abortion and lack of sexual integrity.
All of that was before the tornado hit.
Scrambling to connect with Life Choices folks, we now understand that ten volunteers and staff have lost everything but their lives. Many of the churches that supported the ministry are now rubble and many of their individual donors lost everything. The leaders of the ministry told us that as many staff as possible came to the center Monday morning (the ministry/center was untouched) and began finding as many material resources as possible to start handing out to people in the community. They quickly became a hub for material services.
With the local hospital destroyed by the tornado, Life Choices opened its doors to the medical community to set up essential medical care in the ministry offices. Currently there are several doctors providing a variety of services to the community because Life Choices quickly recognized that they were well positioned to serve the community in the aftermath of the devastation. Once a haven from the storms of life, they have stretched themselves to serve as a safe harbor for assistance of all types as they bring life back to their community.
While the center staff at Life Choices is currently overwhelmed and suffering, they have recognized that this is their finest hour to influence the community and the culture. They have stayed strong in believing, practicing, and teaching God’s plan for salvation and sexuality in a culture that does not want to hear it but is now looking to them as a beacon of hope.