A group of 11 people from Christian Life Center in Rolla are in Moore, Okla., spending their holiday weekend feeding both the victims of the EF-5 tornado that destroyed the town as well as the volunteers who have traveled there to help those in need.
Eddie Jones, pastor of the church, called the Rolla Daily News Friday from Oklahoma, a block away from the Plaza Towers Elementary School that was ripped apart by the twister on the afternoon of May 20 and where several students died.
Jones and others from the church traveled to the Oklahoma City suburb Thursday and Friday to serve hamburgers and steak sandwiches to those affected as well as those offering relief.
By 3:40 p.m. Friday, Jones said more than 1,000 meals had been served since that morning.
“The people are very grateful for what we're providing for them,” Jones said.
“Our church is real strong on community outreach,” the pastor continued. “We love helping other people, and we’re always talking about how we can serve people. The mission of our church is to help hurting and broken people.”
Jones said the scene is hard to describe without showing pictures. “When we first drove in, there was a lot of devastation,” he said. “It’s very chaotic.”
He told the Daily News that he saw families searching through the rubble to find family heirlooms.
“We had some people looking for their wedding rings and they both found them,” Jones said. “We have people who are close to where we are who still have not found their cars after walking three or four blocks.”
Jones also told of a mother who has three adult children who all lived in the same neighborhood in their own houses. However, the tornado destroyed all of their homes and now the mother and her three adult children are homeless.
The Christian Life Center group plans to stay in Oklahoma at least through Monday, Memorial Day.
The church had a way for people to donate on its website and many people in the community brought supplies to the church Thursday and Friday.
Jones said the church may come back to Moore, Okla., and bring more supplies. Jones thanked the Rolla community for helping the church, including businesses that donated grills, charcoal and a freezer.
Two years ago around this time, about 50 people from the church traveled to Joplin after a tornado struck there. At that time, they stayed for about three weeks.
“There are not really any differences (between the two tornadoes),” Jones said. “The destruction here is just as devastating as it was in Joplin.” Jones noted the death toll was much higher in Joplin, however.