August 19th, 2011
03:28 PM ET
By Ninette Sosa, CNN
Joplin, Missouri (CNN) – On May 22, this blue-collar town on the edge of the Ozark Mountains was dealt the most deadly tornado since modern record-keeping on twisters began in 1950. The tornado killed 150 and injured more than 1,000.
After the disaster, the parking lot at the Joplin Family Worship Center became a donation center geared toward helping tornado victims.
The church has more than 7,000 volunteers who have served thousands of people with everything from food, to clothing to appliances. Tractor-trailers with supplies totaling more than $5-million have dropped off donations from around the country.
"They're able to shop for clothing themselves, it’s all free,” says Charity Bethke, a Joplin Family Worship Center. “If they need furniture or appliances they can go to our tents outside to get those bigger items.”
Bethke considers herself blessed for many reasons: not only does she have a job where she feels fulfilled by helping people - her home was unscathed by the tornado.
“Our side of town is picture perfect, it's beautiful,” she said. “But when you drive through the affected area it's literally like a big scar across our city.”
"There's no logical explanation why we're alive," said Patsy Harbottle, a volunteer at the Joplin Family Worship Center.
During the tornado, Harbottle’s house blew up around her while she and her husband were huddled in a closet. At one point she was lifted off the ground.
"As odd as this sounds, when I was floating I became relaxed and peaceful and I know that was the peace of God," she said.
Harbottle and her husband survived with only minor injuries and today Harbottle is helping others while also rebuilding her own life.
And while Joplin still has a lot of rebuilding to do, Bethke said that she and her husband have noticed new signs of life in the hardest hit area. Trees that had been stripped of their bark by the tornado are now blooming. “There’s green life coming from bare trees,” she said.
Patsy Harbottle shared her story in this podcast from CNN Radio.
About this blog
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.