One man’s faith helped heal the Joplin community after devastating 2011 tornado

Joplin Tornado: Stronger Together

Joplin Tornado : Stronger Together

More Joplin Tornado: Stronger Together

JOPLIN, Mo. (KSNF) — St. Paul’s United Methodist Church was one of close to 30 churches damaged or destroyed ten years ago in the Joplin tornado.

Two of its member died and 99 families lost their homes.

Its lead pastor for the past 26-years is Aaron Brown, whose faith and leadership helped heal a community.

This survived, and it was turned to this page. And the passage of scripture is for everything there’s a season, a time for every matter under heaven.

Pastor Aaron Brown.

The bible at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (SPUMC) hasn’t been touched much over the past 10-years.

Nor has another relic that also survived the storm: one particular cross.

“How many times do I think about the tornado? Probably every day,” said Aaron Brown, SPUMC Lead Pastor

Pastor Brown was one of the key figures in the healing and recovery process.

Along with his work from the pulpit, he was also part of Rebuild Joplin and spent countless hours counseling hundreds and hundreds of survivors.

“I think those are the moments when you see can you practice what you preach? Having been here, at that point, for 16 years as a pastor, realizing okay, I built a lot of trust over 16 years, now’s the time I have to utilize that trust to rally people in a direction of healing and hope and rebuilding, not only our church, but our community,” said Brown.

His rally work went into effect immediately after the tornado and it involved a hammer, that night, in the middle of the street.

“And so I found this hammer, and I’m like, I’m taking it, ’cause I know that I’m going to need to dig somebody out and like the only thing I got is this hammer, so I carried it around with me all night just ready to use it whenever it was needed. I call it my yellow handled faith hammer,” said Brown. “You know, when it comes to my faith, what I realized, I don’t know if it was weeks or months later, that the whole tornado experience, the losses that we had, it made me understand God less, but trust God more. I saw how faith mobilized the entire country to show up here and say what can we do to help and people loving us without even knowing us. So I saw faith in action in ways that I never thought I would see or have to see in my life.”

Brown attributes his strength in the process, in part, to one basic trait: responsibility.

“Everything we have is a gift to be used in servanthood, so having been here in leadership for so long I knew that was a gift that I had to be a good steward of, and if one way I could be a good steward of that was to just be visible and speak and rally people local and rally people nationally, if I could do that, that’s what I was supposed to do, so I tried to do that as much as I could,” said Brown.

That included an 800+ mile bike ride from Joplin to New Orleans in 2013, which was part of “JoMo Adventures.”

That event raised more than $155,000 to rebuild homes and lives of natural disasters.

That was 2-years after our natural disaster when, even then, Brown had and saw hope.

He recalls, “I think the moment that I thought that it was going to be okay, was the moment I saw people streaming in from all over, and I knew we weren’t alone. I thought, ‘It’s gonna be okay.'”

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