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This is the first time Watermark Mission has served a tornado stricken area. 

On Sunday, May 21, 2011 a F5 Tornado devastated an area of Joplin one mile wide and six miles long changing lives of thousands of people forever. Three weeks of intermittent rainfall followed to further complicate recovery efforts. Sadly, 161 people were killed. Major community infrastructure lost and businesses and homes in the wake of the tornado were severely damaged or completely leveled.You may recall the news coverage of the disaster showing the leveling of Mercy Hospital and St. Mary’s Church--where only a cross remained.  It was also the evening of the Joplin High School graduation which was, most fortunately, held at the local college…as the high school was leveled. This disaster was deemed the second most devastating disaster to occur in the United States. Four years later, tremendous recovery efforts have been accomplished and are evident as you drive through the tornado affected area; yet there are still families not in their homes.

How we came to be in Joplin:

Gary and Rosey Asher, Watermark Mission(WM) leaders made connections with various disaster recovery entities looking for a good match for our mission group’s talents and time for our second disaster recovery mission of 2015.  Upon connecting with Catholic Charities International Rosey & Gary became aware of the current needs in Joplin, MO. and were referred to Catholic Charities of SW Missouri. After months of communication and planning and through our fundraising efforts plus the generosity of benefactors, volunteers set out for Joplin, MO to do rebuilding work from October 12 through October 16.

Our Arrival and Orientation:

Over the weekend of October 10 and 11 Watermark Mission team members from three states began arriving at Abundant Life Christian Center (ALCC) on the outskirts of Joplin (three from South Dakota, five from Minnesota and 13 from Wisconsin.  ALCC became our “home away from home” for the week.  We came to learn that ALCC housed over 29,000 volunteers over the past four years in their mission to serve the recovery needs in Joplin.  Their efforts alone, speak of the commitment, love and tenacity of Joplin.  ALCC provided us sleeping quarters, showers, breakfast and supper--prepared by their iconic cook Sid.  Sid shared his culinary skills but also his quick wit and unique creativity with the art of origami. 

Sunday evening October 11

All 21 WM team members arrived safely at ALCC. After the evening meal, Deb and Gary Kenny of ALCC provided a history and overview of ALCC’s tremendous recovery work and what we could expect and our responsibilities during out stay there. Jill Bryant, representing Missouri Catholic Charities, welcomed us and gave us an update on the progress of reconstruction/rebuilding of Joplin over the past four years.  She also provided us a snapshot of the types of work we would be doing on two homes over the duration of the week. We will be working on the Catholic Charities Transition home where a needy family could live as they gain the resources needed to move onto owning their own home.  This model works with intensive initial support and coaching from case managers. The second home is a new build on the lot owned by a person whose home was leveled by the tornado.  We will call this the “S” Home.  We did meet the owner of this home in its last phases of construction. On October 15th the homeowner of the “S” home came to meet us and this is part of her tornado recovery story………………….

“S” is now a single mom. Her husband died after the tornado and she is raising her 16 year old daughter and two toddler-age children of an older daughter.  When the tornado occurred the family was just home from church services and she was preparing supper.  There was little warning that the tornado was approaching and they took shelter in the main hallway of the house just off the kitchen.  There was no basement in the home. Nor are their basements in most homes in Joplin.  The tornado caused the house to raise off its foundation four times and set back down before bringing it down.  The hood of a car lodged in the wall nearby. After the tornado passed they looked around and the only part of the house still standing was the small area of the hallway that they had taken refuge in.  “S” knows it was a “God thing" that they were saved and is most thankful. After hearing from Jill, Gary and Rosey then broke us down into two work groups and leaders were selected for the Transition house and the “S” home.  After becoming reacquainted with WM team members that we knew and meeting new team members we settled in for the night anticipating the work that lay ahead.  Beautiful, warm sunny days are forecasted for the week.

Monday, October 12

Important Notes: Prayer Service and Breakfast and group FUN

Today and each day we begin with a short prayer service that reminds us that our work here is about the survivors and not about us, we pray for our benefactors, our families, friends and their needs, and also for those we have come to serve and their needs.  Gary Asher provided leadership for the prayer service, Jenny G. played the keyboard and led us in song and various members led us in the intercessory prayers.  The short prayer service is a completely voluntary and important part of the day.Daily before breakfast we also pack our individual lunches with foodstuff supplied by Watermark Mission and the coolers with water and snacks needed at each site.  Of special interest was a five gallon pail of huge dill pickles and Little Debbie type snacks and granola bars supplied by Darlene A., who was unable to make this trip, but sent with her husband and daughter.Another keystone of the group is that we find time to have some fun and re-energize for the next day. After a big day and evening meal; for those who wish to there is always someone up for a round of cards or a group game.  One evening, on each trip, we all go out for dinner.  In the evening some will go explore the countryside or do your own thing … like Melissa and make headbands and gloves for an upcoming bazaar.


Synopsis of work accomplished:

Transition House: 

Today four men and two women worked first to clear and clean up debris left from previous work groups.  They worked on framing up three walls for the garage and consulted with building supervisors to adjust for previous plan changes so work could move along according to building code. Each new structure after the tornado must include a storm shelter.  The storm shelter for the Transition home was located in the garage and the way it was installed required careful consideration to the building of the garage. Various adjustments to the original blueprint needed to be made, but Steve, Bill, and Tom put their heads together and overcame the challenge.

“S” Home:

Christy, the Catholic Charities Construction Supervisor, met the 15 WM volunteers at the home site to tour the three bedroom home and discuss the work to be done. Work plan for the house includes:  Apply siding and soffit to exterior of home, apply exterior stone if it arrives on time.  Priming and painting all ceilings, walls in the home and in the garage, hang doors throughout the home, prime and paint doors. Five men worked on the siding and soffit on the rear of the house.  One man cleared significant amounts of large rock from the yard enabling us to more easily maneuver the premises and move ladders.  The rest of the group started prepping and priming the ceiling and walls and at break a volunteer went with the Construction Supervisor to the Catholic Charities tools warehouse to pick up the paint sprayer.  A great idea but the spray nozzle did not work on the sprayer and after a trip to the local equipment rental, a paint spray  nozzle was procured that Bob P. was able to calibrate and he, with the help of Marcia P., were able to spray all of the walls with primer that we had not already done.  It was a memorable day for Bob as he looked like a “heavily flocked snowman” except where his googles were.  We were pleased that the whole house got primed in one day through everyone’s efforts.

Monday evening, Tom and Irma L. showed us a beautiful quilt that they had purchased in Branson, MO to be raffled off for a fundraiser for Watermark Mission.  We jumped at the chance to purchase raffle tickets and know what a wonderful job that the South Dakota group does in raising funds to support our mission work.

Tuesday, October 13

Prayer Service and Breakfast

Transition House:

Six team members finished framing up the garage walls and by end of day had the walls up and fastened into the cement and into the adjoining house wall and began putting on the 4’x8’ sheeting. The weather was warm even for Missouri and we needed to keep hydrated.  

“S” Home:

Worked continued on the soffit and siding with work being completed in the rear of the house and work continuing on the two sides of the house depending on where the sun was in the sky.Bob P. graciously suited up in a Tyvek suit and, with the help of Marcia and Rosey, spray painted all the ceilings in the house. Eight women began cutting in and rolling paint on interior walls.  Robert from Catholic Charities was our site manager for the day bringing supplies as needed.

Tuesday evening after supper Gary Kenny of ALCC presented a movie of the Joplin Tornado as seen through the eyes of the survivors and the first responders.  It was a very moving experience that helped us understand how much the community had to suffer and how much they have grown in the wake of the disaster. A good question answer session followed with more stories and acts of courage shared.

Wednesday, October 14

Prayer Service and Breakfast

Transition House:

Material arrived and we finished the exterior sheeting. We began to construct the rafter system for the garage and put the 2 X 10 ceiling planks in place and applied Tyvek wrap to the exterior of the garage.Our work was interrupted briefly as we came to the aid of a woman who was in need of medical attention.  We came to learn she was a homeless person and she would sleep under porches or where she could find shelter in the neighborhood.  Homelessness whether because of the tornado or other issues is an issue here, as in many cities. 

“S” Home:

Work continued on the siding and soffit on both sides of the house with more supplies needed to continue work.  Painting continued on the interior walls until we ran out of paint.  While we waited for paint we washed windows and swept floors.  When the paint arrived we continued with second coats of paint completing all but the second coat on the living room.We were blessed with visitors to our worksites today.  Don H. and wife Kay, Watermark Mission members from Wisconsin were in the area taking care of their son’s home and came over to check on how things were going.  Dick K.’s brother and wife, who live not far from Joplin, also stopped by to meet us and check on our progress.  It was great to see both these couples.

As a Watermark Mission Group, we went out to Big R’s a rib place and enjoyed great food and comradery.  Several went from there to visit the Joplin Tornado Monument and the St. Mary’s Church site where only the crossed remained.  After a bit of searching and excitement (yes Gary there ARE one way streets in Joplin) these landmarks were visited.

Thursday, October 15

Prayer Service and Breakfast

Transition House:

It was another big day, in the heat, at the Transition House.  The team completed the rafter system and hurricane and joist hangers were attached to the rafters.

“S” Home:

Work continues on the siding and soffit with the rear of the house and the left side of the house completed. The right side is near completion.  The front and porch area is left to complete by end of day today.All interior doors where hung and finished painting the living room and entry way with second coats. We also painted several hundred feet of trim boards to be installed after the doors and flooring are installed.The owner of the “S” Home visited and was overwhelmed by the amount of work that was being accomplished. She thanked us for all the work we had done.  It was a great honor to stand with her in her home and hear her story.  Earlier in the blog is mentioned the experience of the family the night of the tornado.  Today among other things she shared with us why she had chosen the deep blood red color for her entry and living room. …..She wanted it blood red as that is the as stated in the Bible … those who had smeared blood from a goat above their door entry were spared.  She shared that she knows in her heart and soul, that God saved them from death that night as there was no explainable reason why the only place left standing in her home was where she and her family had taken refuge in a hallway. She wants never to forget that and be thankful for being spared when so many others died.Watermark Mission gave the homeowner, a garden solar light to place in her yard, to remind her of all the people who care and helped her through this difficult time and continue to shed their light through God’s work for her and her family. She stands not alone.

Friday, October 16

Prayer Service and Breakfast

Transition House:

Today we completed sheeting the roof of the garage and the gable end of the garage.  We accomplished what we had set out to do for the week. In celebration and remembrance we decided to leave a Bible verse for the next volunteers and the family that would end up living at the Transition House.  We wrote this on a board on the garage wall.  “For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “Plans to prosper you, and not to harm you, plans to give you home and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11

“S” Home

The soffit and siding crew completed what could be completed and secured the porch posts to the porch floor.The team was able to paint all interior door with two coats of paint except 3 doors that needed a second coat.At the end of the day the team leaders met with Robert the site supervisor from Catholic Charities to review what we had accomplished, supplies needed to complete tasks and next steps for new volunteers to tackle where we left off.  A group picture was taken.

Friday evening was spent together enjoying one more night of precious time together and being thankful for this productive mission trip, without accidents and a prayer that all would travel home safely.

October 17th

Heading home brings on emotions, concerns, and wondering. Feelings of accomplishment, of more to accomplish if only we had a little more time, appreciation for this opportunity, new neighbors, old friends and new ones. We look ahead. Where will Mission Trip #16 take us? We can trust in God for the answer.

We thank God for another great mission trip, Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri, Abundant Life Christian Center, all our benefactors, and Phyllis, for tracking and recording our daily adventures. And we are thankful too, for each of the Mission Trip #15 volunteers – Missy and Steve A., Myra C., Joe F., Jenny G., Bill and Gloria H., Dan K., Phyllis O., Dick and Jean K., Gary L., Tom and Irma L., Jim M., Bob and Marcia P., Joe P., Lynette W., and Gary and Rosey A.         

Thanks b


to work on flood damaged homes … April 11- 15, 2016  

The homes we worked to rebuild were affected by a flood occurring in December, 2015. This particular flood event affected several southern Missouri counties when intense rain storms caused swelling and flooding of rivers.

How we came to work in the Carthage area:

In October 2015, Watermark Mission (WM) served near Carthage in Joplin, MO working on tornado damaged homes.  Team leaders, Gary and Rosey  were aware of the December flooding disaster and connected with Jill Bryant, at Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri Disaster Relief (the same organization we worked with to serve Joplin tornado survivors in October 2015) to determine if there were rebuild needs due to the December flood event. Catholic Charities determined which homes needed skilled and semi-skilled workers to help complete rebuild tasks.  Two homes near Carthage were selected.  Through fundraising efforts including a Dad’s Belgian Waffle and Raffle event plus the generosity of benefactors WM team members headed towards the Carthage area over the weekend of April 9-10th.

Our Arrival and Orientation:

All 21 of the mission team arrived at Abundant Life Christian Center(ALCC) in north Joplin, MO by Sunday night April 20th with Tom L arriving through a storm at about 8:30 PM. The team met at Golden Corral Buffet, South Range Road in Joplin, MO for our Sunday evening meal.  Special guests were Jill Bryant, Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri Disaster Relief Coordinator.  Jill outlined the work we would be doing at the two designated flood damaged homes.  Additionally, Deb and Gary Kinney became reacquainted with our group.  They are the leaders at Abundant Life Christian Center which will again be providing us lodging and meals on our second trip to the Joplin area. On our initial trip, in October 2015, we stayed at ALCC and worked on tornado damaged homes in Joplin proper.  After a super supper…and it was really good; we returned to ALCC where Gary Kinney shared a movie telling the story of the Joplin tornado of May 2011. We all turned in for the evening anticipating a big first day!

Monday, April 11

Monday we started our day with a hearty, hot breakfast and a prayer service led by Gary A with music by Jenny G. This is an important start to everyday and grounds us in the real reason we are here.  It is not about us; it is about the people we come to serve.We prepared and packed our lunches into coolers, and then caravanned north of Joplin to Kendrickstown, a low lying area of Carthage, Missouri.There we met the owner of the home, who with his wife, have five children. The family is eager to return to their home; having been displaced since December 2015.  The owner met with the more seasoned builders/remodelers in our group surveying the progress on the home thus far and what our group would be working on.  Art M will be our general for the project to coordinate the rebuild construction.The first language of the family is Spanish. Our group lacked skills in speaking Spanish, however; communication happened with the assistance of Tim, a neighbor, and lots of hand language. 

Mission team members were then divided into work groups to accomplish a variety of tasks for the remainder of the day.One of the major tasks is to address is the roof structure. Most of the group headed onto the visibly sagging roof to remove three layers of shingles and assess the integrity of the roof sheeting.  It was decided that the roof sheeting was too degraded and brittle to use as a base for new shingles.Robert, from Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri Disaster Relief arrived with needed building supplies and was provided a list of additional supplies we would need. Additionally, the roof rafters are 24” apart and sagging badly so it was decided to replace all of them and place them 16” apart. The large dumpster for roof debris arrived and another welcome arrival was the porta potty.Removal of the three layers of shingles plus the brittle sheeting proved to be a big job; much was accomplished toward that goal by the end of the first day. Removal crew included Gloria W, Marcia P, Jean K, Roger M, Myra C, Deb and Greg W, Gary L ,  Jenny G, plus Art and Sandy M.The neighbor, Tim, who had a forklift, lifted the roof materials to the roof.  We were all grateful for this help so we did not need to individually lift the sheeting and shingle bundles to the roof.  Alleluia! We finished up our first day having made a great start on the tasks at hand. I would also like to mention that the owner of the home worked side by side with us this day and every day.  We do not always have this opportunity and even with the language barrier we came to know and admire him.Tomorrow we will also send some team members north to Jasper, MO about 10 miles north of Kendrickstown to work on a bedroom in another flood damaged home. We call this project the “Kindergarten House” as the bedroom we will be redoing belongs to the families kindergarten-age daughter.

Showers and a hot meal awaited us back at ALCC.

Tuesday, April 12

Prayer, song and breakfast again grounded us for the day.

The entire group started out by working at the home in Kendrickstown.  A group of men continued working on framing up the rafters and spacing them one by one on the roof.  The team leading this up where Dick F and Tom L measuring and cutting and Greg W, Gary L, and George W placing and leveling with the assistance of Marcia P, Jenny G and Deb W. A roll off, large dumpster arrived and a crew of us heaved in flood damaged insulation, damaged sheetrock and other flood debris. We filled it and it was hauled away.  It is starting to look much better around the home.  An additional dumpster arrived later in the day for more debris. At about noon; Jean K, Marilyn S and Ron S left for the “Kindergarten House” at Jasper, ten miles north of Carthage.  They scraped the cement floor in the basement bedroom and prepared it for sealer and then sealed it with a moisture barrier.  Later in the day they insulated the bedroom walls and cut and hung sheetrock all around the lower half of the room. Before leaving they taped the joints and applied the first coat of mud to the joints and screw holes.Meanwhile back at Kendrickstown; because the main floor of the house needed to be above flood level, the floor needed to be raised a total of three inches with a combination of sheets of underlayment, duroc, and lastly ceramic tile. So to accommodate having a space for nailing the sheet rock on the bottom plate three inches of height was needed.  Wood was cut by Tom L and began to be fitted between each stud by Myra C and Phyllis O to allow for screwing the sheetrock’s bottom edge.Additionally, Joe F our electrician began the big job of moving the main electrical service to the garage.Several sheets of roof sheeting were applied before we hung it up for the day.


Wednesday, April 13

It is another beautiful day here in Missouri and so thankful because of the roof work.  Sid, the cook, treated us to French toast, scrambled eggs and hashbrowns.  We started our day in prayer and song, remembering our own families and the benefactors who have been generous in their support of the work we are trying to accomplish as God’s hands and feet here on earth.What a big day!! We completely finished sheeting the main part of the roof and have begun work on the attached garage roof.  The team working on this were: Dick K, Roger Magnuson, Gary L and Ron S.On the east end of the house it was decided to tear off a two room addition as it was severely dry rotted and the wood was riddled by termites.  Additionally, the rafters and roof from that area were removed today and will be replaced.  The sidewall will come down tomorrow.Inside, the rest of the floor plate extenders were replaced and a team of six (Art and Sandy M, Gary L, Gary and Rosey A, Jean K, and Marcia P began the process of installing two layers of underlayment needed to raise the floor above the flood plain as required. Gloria W kept ahead of the dust and debris so that work could continue. Tonight we are looking forward to going out as a group to Big R’s. Big R’s a delightful rib joint we discovered last fall when we worked on homes in Joplin. It proved to be another great feast and fun time for the group…plus a great way to celebrate the midpoint of our work.

Thursday, April 14

Whoa!!  The pressure is on as we have some added work… and we have another beautiful day to do God’s work. 

At the home in Kendrickstown, Robert from Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri Disaster Relief dropped off additional roofing materials to finish the garage and the addition we ended up tearing apart due to dry rot and termites. Saws whirred away, drills drilling everywhere and electrical wire being run from ceiling to floor and all around the home.  Myra C and Deb W are now assisting Joe F in getting holes drilled through studs and rafters for the electrical wiring.  The floor crew is hard at it and rafters and sheeting are being applied to the roof.At the “Kindergarten House” Jean K and Phyllis O finished up the little girls bedroom.  They first sanded the joints, then primed the walls and closet and used spray texture to blend the new sheet rocked area with the existing textured walls. Jean and Phyllis presented the little girl’s Grandma with a solar light to place outside to remind the family that even in the darkest time …light .. God’s light shines through, brightens and restores hope and homes.Before leaving the Kendrickstown home today; the walls of the east end of the home were removed due to the dry rot and termite damage.  Rafter replacement for that area has begun. After supper, Art M, this trip’s general construction leader, determined the game plan for Friday our final day.  We then settled into an evening of visiting and hearty, hilarious game playing. 

Friday, April 15

Today is our last day at the Kendrickstown home. There is a nice long “to get done” list.  We eagerly anticipate a warm noon meal provided by the family whose home we are working on. No bag lunches today. Although we are a non-denominational group; we have selected a prayer by St. Teresa of Avila as part of our prayer service each morning.  Again today, we start by asking God’s help to accomplish much for the families we serve.  We are thankful for the great weather, availability of materials and everyone’s attention to safety.By now we are pretty well versed in who is needed where and have a rhythm to our work. Dick F and Tom L continue to measure and cut the rafters, George W and Greg W set the rafters with help from Marcia P and Jean K. Joe is hard at the wiring and has gotten the electrical panel moved. Deb W and Myra C continue to assist him and by the end of the day the entire house and garage are wired. Roger M, Dick K, Ron S and Jenny G apply roof sheeting and by the end of the day the entire house and garage are sheeted. Inside, under the careful eye of Art M and Gary L the second layer of underlayment is being laid to bring the floor level above the flood plain.  Their crew members are Gary and Rosey A, Jean K., Sandy M, Phyllis O, and Gloria W.  By days end all but the two rooms in the rear of the house are set for a duroc and ceramic tile. Additionally, today there was a focus on placing the sill plate and building walls on the east end of the house where the termite riddle walls were removed.  We are a humming………….

Lunch today was delightful! The owner of the home and his family provided us with a delicious chicken dinner, with coleslaw, tortillas, yummy baked beans and desert.

At the end of the day we were joined by the owner’s entire family including his wife and five children.  It was a very special time. The owner had been working side by side with us all week and he and his family were clearly moved as were we.  Gary A, WM leader presented a solar light to the family.  The solar light is a reminder to us all that even in the darkest times …light .. God’s light shines through, brightens and restores hope and homes.  Pictures, well wishes and warm goodbyes were heart-felt.Today we were 20 minutes late for supper but we had accomplished what we had set out to do. The home is in a good place for the family and next group of volunteers, to continue the rebuild.


Watermark Mission thanks everyone for their help and prayers in assisting us to continue to make a difference in the lives of disaster survivors.  

This trips mission group includes: Gary and Rosey Asher—St. Henry Watermark Mission Group Leaders,

Wisconsin members:

Dick F, Joe F, Jenny G, Dick and Jean K, Gary L, Roger M,  Art and Sandy M,  Marcia P,  Ron and Marilyn S, Greg and Debbie W

South Dakota members: Myra C, Tom L, George and Gloria W

Minnesota member: Phyllis O

We say AMEN as Mission Trip #16 has been blessed, and has been a blessing. We pray God guide us toward and bless #17 this Fall.

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