Chris and Kathy Thies are youth volunteers at Ascension Lutheran Church in St. Louis. With friends who live in the Jefferson City area and experience on the ground cleaning up after tornadoes, they saw an opportunity to give the teenagers a service project. After the recent tornado, they contacted Trinity Lutheran Church in Jefferson City to see how they might be able to help.
When the email request for volunteers first went out, the response was fast and Thies could tell the kids were excited. A group of 18 people, including adults, came together to assist people in the tornado’s aftermath. They settled on the date of June 5, and asked the congregation to supply them with things like tarps, gloves, rakes and other supplies. Judging by the pile of items they took with them to Jefferson City, the congregation was as enthusiastic as the youth group.
In 2014, the Thieses traveled to Nebraska, after two tornadoes wreaked havoc on a town. They were not necessarily surprised by the extent of the damage in Jefferson City, but many of the youth were. Chris says, “They were astonished to see how much devastation was packed into a narrow tight corridor, right through the countryside and right through the town.”
The group worked on three different projects. The first involved a woman named Hilde, who had constantly turned away assistance. An independent personality, she had often sent volunteers to her neighbors and other community members, certain they needed help more than she did. By the time the Ascension youth group came, she was ready to accept help. The tornado had lifted the shed off the ground, but left her belongings—right down to the magazines. The teens helped her clean and sort her belongings, which included cherished family heirlooms.
After a generous lunch back at Trinity, they went to the home of Dr. Jean King and her daughter, Jocelyn. Dr. King is the widow of Dr. Robert King, a former Synod Vice-President. The yard had been damaged extensively and still had significant amounts of debris that needed to be cleaned up, including pieces of a fence that had been splintered.
Finally, the group went to a local park. The tornado had pretty much left the park alone. Unfortunately, the city’s parks department had been forced to do the same, as all their time and energy had been on assisting people in the aftermath of the storm. They had been planning to do landscape work and tree planting, but the supplies had been sitting on the sidewalk. The Ascension group was able to pick up where the city employees left off.
The ride home had the kind of positive atmosphere that only comes after a long day of satisfying work. Chris says, “We met some awesome people and really felt we’d been able to help in a few situations that had been overlooked, or in which the individual withheld help from themselves. They really saw God’s hand in how the community came together.”
The Missouri District has been working closely with our circuit visitors to coordinate with congregations impacted by both tornadoes and floods, to quickly connect people in need with resources and assistance most relevant to their situation. Whether the need is tools, clothes or help from a LERT team, many of our congregations have members and neighbors facing the hardest time of their lives.
To contribute to helping people in the aftermath of disasters in the Missouri District, go to our Donate page or contact Leah Sieveking at firstname.lastname@example.org or (314) 590-6211.