Three die at Joplin church hit by tornado - Word&Way

Three die at Joplin church hit by tornado

JOPLIN — At least two Missouri Baptist churches are among the scores of institutions, businesses and homes destroyed when one of 68 reported tornadoes that swept across the Midwest on Sunday struck Joplin.

By press time Monday, news reports indicated at least 116 people had died and more than 1,150 individuals in Joplin had been treated for tornado-inflicted injuries.

Police in Joplin check through neighborhoods destroyed by a tornado at 5:30 p.m. on May 22. According to news reports by press time, at least 116 people were reported killed and more than 1,150 had been injured. (Photo by Valerie Mosley, Springfield News-Leader)

Three people died at Harmony Heights Baptist Church, located across the street from Joplin High School, according to Rick Seaton, Missouri Baptist Convention specialist for men’s ministry and disaster relief.

Empire Baptist Church also was hard hit, Seaton said. Only sketchy information was available at press time.

According to news reports, the tornado cut a nearly six-mile-long swath through the city at 5:30 p.m. Sunday, with winds of up to 198 mph. St. John’s Regional Medical Center took a direct hit, forcing the facility to move its patients to other area hospitals.

The high school also was destroyed.

Already Baptists from around the state are responding to the disaster. Seaton said a handful of trained volunteers had been sent in Monday morning to determine how best to help. A command center has been set up at the Baptist Student Center at Missouri Southern State University.

Seaton’s plan called for chaplains to be sent either Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning. Most other disaster relief units — chainsaw, feeding units and childcare — were on standby until the assessment could be completed.

“We have had contacts from all the states around us asking how they can help,” he said.

The MBC also set up a link on its website ( to accept online donations for the relief effort.

Charles Ray, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Missouri’s disaster response coordinator, went to Joplin Monday morning to check with churches, responders and other partners in the area. The Fellowship will offer assistance as soon as Ray’s assessment is completed.

Monday afternoon, the American Medical Association issued a call to available physicians across the state to volunteer their services in Joplin by registering at

Updates will be posted on the Word&Way website as information becomes available.