After the 2011 Joplin tornado along with the ecumenical relationships strengthened in the rebuilding efforts, the interfaith connections also gained momentum bringing forth communication and understanding among the various religious traditions within the community. The Joplin Interfaith Coalition came together in 2012 with the limited goal of observing the anniversary of the tornado through expressions of faith. Praying together was seen as an opportunity to affirm unity as a faith community while at the same time respecting theological differences. It soon became apparent that the time was ripe for a more vigorous agenda to develop a series of programs and explore in more depth different aspects of our different religions. What started as a time to gather for prayer has evolved into opportunities to learn and worship together, to work on service projects, and to share meals and fellowship.
The Joplin interfaith community during the past four years has continued to realize the many commonalities we have as people of faith regardless of our faith traditions as we strive to be all that God has ordained us to be in the world in which we live. One of the key commonalities we find amongst our traditions is God’s call for service to others. The Jewish, Christian, Islamic and Bahá'í faith communities in Joplin who participate in the Coalition take this to heart and continue to find ways to participate in joint service projects throughout the year.
On August 19th, members from the various faith communities volunteered with Habitat for Humanity for a day of service. The work day consisted of painting the interior of a house that is near completion. The team was able to work alongside Travis, the home owner who is a paraplegic. Travis and his family look forward to moving into their new home sometime within the next two to three months. He expressed much gratitude for the volunteers who were helping that day as well all of the volunteers who have helped make a dream come true. The Coalition members were truly blessed to be working alongside him and hearing the story of his journey. While some of the volunteers worked at the house, another team of volunteers prepared an awesome lunch at South Joplin Christian Church providing an opportunity not only to dine and take a rest break, but also to fellowship.
Sponsoring the various service projects has not only provided opportunities to serve others but also the opportunity for members of the traditions to build relationship while working side by side. The Coalition’s Habitat Work Day was the latest among several joint projects. In the spring the Coalition became involved in preparing and serving meals at the local Ronald McDonald House seeing it as an opportunity to provide comfort and compassion for families experiencing the serious illness of a child. Other service projects have included working at Crosslines Ministries, Joplin’s local food pantry and bagging food items for the Joplin Public Schools Snack Pack Program. The Coalition attempts to organize service projects about every two to three months.
Throughout the course of the year the Coalition hosts bi-monthly Saturday morning panel discussions, an annual Multi-cultural dinner in November, and annually in June come together for a time of worship and sharing. As part of the annual worship and reflection an opportunity is provided for small group discussions to allow the attendees to share their ideas for topics of discussion, service projects and suggestions for other programming. The Joplin Interfaith Coalition is a non-profit organization that aims to grow understanding, respect and relationships among people of all faiths, beliefs and cultures.
Submitted by Rev. Kathryn Wilson
Minister of Mission and Outreach
South Joplin Christian Church