The chaplains of Joplin


As Joplin Missouri continues its rescue and recovery work, some of the busiest people in town have been the volunteer chaplains. The New York Times details what their ministry has been over the past week, focusing particularly on the chaplains work of sharing bad news with families desperate to find their loved ones.

“Mr. Heath, who is not paid for his work as one of the four Joplin Police Department chaplains, says he prefers that the families get angry with him rather than at someone from somewhere else, someone who cannot possibly grasp all that has happened.

“I’ll take it,” Mr. Heath said, describing a family that screamed at him on Thursday when he told them their relative’s body had been identified. “I’d rather it be me than anyone else in the world. And if that keeps them from yelling at their wife or their husband or whoever, yell at me all you want. Start yelling.”

Mr. Heath, 54, rode out the storm in a basement at Villa Heights Christian Church, 10 blocks from some of the worst destruction. The sirens screamed just before a service was to begin at the church, where Mr. Heath is the children’s minister.

He spent the six hours that followed in a flattened, darkened park, standing watch over several corpses until someone could take them away. He has not been back to his paid job at the Ozark Christian College bookstore, and he suspects it may be many days — especially with the names coming at such a lurching pace — that he will be able to do so.”

If you’re interested in helping out in Joplin, the Diocese of Western Missouri has posted this information on what’s needed.

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I read this moving story in the newspaper this morning. Mr Heath and the other chaplins are the face of Jesus to the people in Joplin. God bless them for what they do. God bless and give comfort to the people in Joplin.

June Butler

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