The Herald Bulletin

April 22, 2013

Local congregations blend in tornado relief missions

By Emma Bowen Meyer
For The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — Stories from missionaries who lent a hand just after hurricane Katrina rocked New Orleans compelled Don Billey, pastor of Main Street Church of God, to begin leading disaster relief trips to other areas hit by violent weather. On the scene in Joplin, Mo., and Henryville, Ind., during their times of distress, a joint group from two local congregations aided with cleanup and reconstruction.

“We were incredibly moved during the first trip and that was a launching point for us,” Billey said. “When the tornado hit Henryville, the question wasn’t: ‘Are we going to go?’ it was: ‘When are we going to go?’”

In Joplin the team focused on cleaning up the aftermath while in Henryville they rebuilt a pole barn that had been destroyed. Now they are planning a trip for this summer to any location that is in need.

“Everything was pretty much rubble,” said Emily Conner, CNA, describing the trip to Joplin. “We were taking stuff from houses and sorting it and putting it on the street for people to haul off. I was surprised to see all the hope the people still had. They weren’t knocked down. Even though they had nothing, they had hope in God that He would get them through it.”

Billey grew up in Elkhart, Ind., during the time of the devastating Palm Sunday tornadoes. He recalled how they affected family members and friends and wanted to reach out to others in similar circumstances.

“I was moved to see the total devastation,” he said. “It’s one thing to see it on TV but to look from a hill for six miles and to see everything gone — you just can’t describe it. It looked like a war zone. And hearing the people’s stories of lost lives — children torn from parents’ arms and a man who did everything he could to hold on to his wife as she was sucked out of the house.”

Also surprising Billey was the distinct line of destruction from the tornado that left one side of the street intact and the other a pile of rubble. Most notable was the response from all over the world of people who wished to help. He even met a couple from Japan who came in appreciation of the help offered by the United States during their distress.

“I learned that we can do things we think we cannot do,” Billey said. “And we developed relationships with others. We traveled with some from the Aletheia Fellowship and even though we don’t really have a connection and don’t worship the same, we now have a common bond.”

From Here to There: A Series about Madison County residents who travel to help their fellowman. If you know of an individual or civic, school or church group that has embarked on a mission trip in the last year, please email