Joplin residents impacted by the devastation of the May 22nd tornado are in need of a circle of hope and support says Ron Routledge, pastor of First Christian Church, Brookfield.

He feels The Next Step, a seminar sponsored by Freedom Seminars will prove to be such a balm to those hard-hit in every way.

The Routledge family includes, from left, Louise Ann, Monikah, Rebekah, Ronikah and Ron holding grandson, Kaisyn. They also have a son, Ransom.

Having grown up 10 miles south of Joplin, it was natural for Routledge to see what he could do to help after the devastating May 22nd tornado.

“My wife and I were there a week after the tragedy,” Ron said.  “We helped some friends clear out some of their furnishings, then walked the streets and saw the rubble and helplessness.  That evening I was physically sick.  There was just so much devastation. So many people were affected in so many different ways. I had never witnessed something that destructive on a community-wide basis.”

They live in northern Missouri many hours away from Joplin, but even so the Routledge’s organized a campaign in conjunction with Stanbury Uniforms, a band uniform company in Brookfield, to raise $10,000 to help the Joplin High School band.

Still Routledge wanted to do more to help the people deal with the “emotional debris” the tornado had left. 

He began to think about a situation he had encountered not long ago. A husband and wife lost their home to a tornado.

“They were at home at the time,” he said.  “The house was destroyed around them but they managed to survive. It hit them hard emotionally. A couple of years later, I learned the man had taken his own life.  Those around him said he never really recovered after the tornado. It really wounded him, not only physically but emotionally and spiritually as well.  He had never been able to process what happened.

“I thought, ‘What if there had been a safe place for him to go to talk and emotionally debrief? What if he had a circle of support and hope?  Would the results have been different?’”

So when Ron learned that Russ and Pat Hardesty, founders of Freedom Seminars, were planning to do a free seminar in the Joplin area to help those struggling with issue related to the events of the May 22nd storm, he was eager to help.

“Perhaps The Next Step will help Joplin residents process the events, discover some tools for coping and begin to heal emotionally and spiritually,” Ron said. “It will not be a time of giving answers but more of a time to begin to reflect on their own lives and values and start to put the pieces of their lives back together.”

The seminar will be held on Nov. 11-13 at Ozark Camp and Retreat very near where Ron grew up.  “My wife and I are taking a week of vacation to help serve the people who come to the workshop,” he said.  “We believe very strongly in the approach which is providing an environment where those who have been hit hard by this tragedy can find a safe arena to do some group sharing, individual processing and self-discovery.

“It will be a time when families and individuals can incorporate this experience into the life they now live in a way that does not immobilize but empowers. It will be a time of healing.”

In talking with some of those who have been working with Joplin residents, Ron says the devastation is so widespread that for many it is difficult to resume any kind of normal life.

The Next Step will be somewhat similar to Roots and Wings, Freedom Seminar’s basic workshop.  “It will be empathetic,” he said, “compassionate, forward-facing and spiritual without being preachy.”

Another difference will be that the workshop is open to families. There will be a component for children and youth separately.  Some sessions will bring the entire family together.

Families will be able to stay together in cabins on the retreat grounds.  All meals and lodging are provided during the workshop. A $300 value, The Next Step is available to Joplin area residents as a gift from individuals and businesses that recognize the challenge of rebuilding, recovery and renewal.

With a limited enrollment of 50, Ron says he sees this as the first of many seminars to come in Joplin and other places.  “There is not much of a model for this type of workshop to help after widespread community tragedy,” he said, “but the need is great.

“My hope is that this workshop will be a model that will be duplicated in many ways to serve other communities with similar devastation.“

In order to make this hope a reality, many individuals, churches, businesses and corporations will be needed to assist in many different ways.

“The support already has been phenomenal,” Ron said.  “A lot of Freedom graduates are helping and serving during The Next Step Joplin. Sponsors are stepping up to help. Participants will experience this quiet support undergirding their engagement throughout the three-day process.”

“The workshop is being given out of true compassion and service.  It is not about action prompted by pity or the attempt to ‘save’ someone, but rather it is creating a circle of hope and finding resources and tools to help them take the next step on their journey.”

Those interested in sponsorship may contact Freedom Seminars at 573/808-1371 or email [email protected]

Teresa Shields Parker
Teresa Shields Parker is a Christian weight loss author, coach and speaker, who has lost more than 250 pounds. Her book, "Sweet Grace: How I Lost 250 Pounds and Stopped Trying to Earn God's Favor", is the number 1 Christian Weight Loss Memoir on Amazon. Her other books include: "Sweet Journey to Transformation: Practical Steps to Lose Weight and Live Healthy", "Sweet Freedom: Losing Weight and Keeping It Off With God's Help", "Sweet Change: True Stories of Transformation" and "Sweet Hunger: Developing an Appetite for God".

She also offers Overcomers Christian Weight Loss Academy and VIP one-on-one coaching program, both available under the weight loss tab. To book Teresa for your next event, check the Speaking tab on her website. Also check out her blog and Sweet Grace for Your Journey podcast under the tabs by those names.