Two months ago, Duane Moudy, the Lutheran Disaster Response US Regional Coordinator of Lutheran Family and Children’s Service of Missouri gave me a tour of Joplin, MO, a city ravaged by an EF5 tornado on May 22, 2011. We visited the McGuirk family at their new home. The 4-bedroom house newly built by Habitat for Humanity and partially funded by Lutheran Disaster Response is beautiful, inviting and filled with warmth.

Delbert McGuirk, Shandie Reed and Jackie McGuirk in front of their newly built home.

Delbert McGuirk, Shandie Reed and Jackie McGuirk in front of their newly built home.

The McGuirk family has five members – Delbert and Jackie McGuirk, their adult daughter Shandie Reed and their two granddaughters, 4 and 10. When the twister hit, their three-story rental home was decimated and the collapsed debris inflicted varying degrees of injuries on everyone in the household. Delbert’s right leg was badly injured; he had to undergo multiple surgeries and the amputation of a part of his right leg. Shandie, who is in her early 30s and has juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, was also wounded.  The injuries have further complicated her multiple medical and mobility related issues.

But the tornado did not shatter their perseverance and resilience.  When I met Delbert, he was walking around with his prosthetic limb. He is maintaining his sense of humor and forward looking attitude. Shandee is a true inspiration. She is youthful, poised and energetic; she carries with her a strong sense of purpose. I later learned that she and her mother Jackie are the true heroes. Jackie has been Shandee’s caretaker for years, and together, they would not allow injuries, disability and even disasters deter them.  Today, against all odds, Shandee is still walking, driving and holding a job with a local non-profit organization.

Immediately after the storm, the family rented a tiny house as their temporary home. Trying to rebuild their lives and dealing with complicated health and mobility issues was extremely challenging. They needed a new home that would work for them and not against them.  A year ago, Shandee wrote a passionate letter to present their case to the local Habitat for Humanity chapter, which is a member of the local Long Term Recovery Committee.  As you may recall, Long Term Recovery Committees are made up of faith-based and civic organizations as well as government agencies with the purpose of assisting individuals and families impacted by disasters.  Duane Moudy has been a member of the Joplin committee since it was formed in June, 2011.  Habitat for Humanity, hearing the McGuirk story, approved their application.  Subsequently, Lutheran Disaster Response, Lutheran Family and Children’s Services, and other local partners joined hands to contribute towards the building of the new home for them.  It is rewarding to see the McGuirks moving into their new.

In disaster recovery, individual perseverance matters but so does the support from the faith-based, civic groups and governmental organizations. Your support has enabled Lutheran Disaster Response US to be a vital partner in these communal efforts to help individuals and families like the McGuirk of Joplin to rebuild their lives. Thank You!

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