LAYTON — A Utah pastor is at the center of a grass-roots humanitarian effort in Joplin, Mo., as residents struggle to pick up the pieces.
Senior Pastor Myke Crowder of Layton's Christian Life Center church grew up in Joplin, has relatives who have lost homes there, and now plans to take an RV full of clothing, supplies, money and whatever can be mustered to Joplin.
The hours after the deadly tornado were agonizing for Pastor Crowder. Phone lines were down. He relied on text messages and whatever information and pictures he could find online.
“Those places are leveled,” he said Monday. “They’re gone. They’re down to the concrete.”
He’s talking about Joplin’s landmarks. St. John’s Regional Medical Center sustained heavy damage. Joplin High School was flattened. His wife’s aunt and uncle live close to the school. Their home was also in the tornado’s path, and it did not have a basement.
“The home was destroyed and miraculously, one in the bathroom and one in the hallway — they survived.”
The pastor only learned they had made it late Monday morning, long after the tornado had roped out over the Missouri countryside. Stories have slowly trickled in from other loved ones who had lost their homes.
“Until you are looking at it, it’s just impossible to fully get a hold of,” the pastor said.
The devastation and Pastor Crowder’s close connection have led to, essentially, a humanitarian mission to Missouri this weekend. The RV departs on Sunday. Meanwhile, Pastor Crowder and others with his church are spreading the word that they are taking donations.
“I was watching it on the news this morning,” said Pam Klagge, who is also with the Christian Life Center. “I was upset. I was crying and it touched me with what all these people were going through."
Klagge said the church was looking for clothes, relief supplies and money. Checks are good for a charitable tax credit.
“You just want to reach out to people when they’re going through times like this,” Klagge said.
The church and local businesses have teamed up to create several drop-off locations. They include the Layton Christian Academy, 2352 E. Highway 193 in Layton; the Automatic Car Credit locations in Salt Lake City, Layton and Ogden; and Northern Realty inside the Layton Hills Mall.
Pastor Crowder is simply hoping to offer as much relief as he can, along with prayers.
“There’s a lot of people in need of prayer,” he said. “And from Utah, for the most part, except for these donations we’ve talked about, prayer is all we can offer them.”