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Missouri Family E-NewsJune 1, 2011


Convoy Brings Hope to City of Joplin


Convoy of Hope, a Christian disaster response ministry, is spearheading relief efforts for families victimized by the vicious tornado that destroyed approximately 30 per cent of the city of Joplin, Missouri.


"Thousands of survivors in Joplin are hurting today," says Hal Donaldson, President of the Springfield, Missouri-based ministry.  "Some have lost loved ones; thousands have lost their homes, posessions, and businesses.  It's heartbreaking, but it also provides an opportunity for the nation to come alongside the residents of Joplin to give them hope."


As of Friday, Convoy of Hope had delivered nearly 500,000 pounds of food, water, and emergency relief supplies to the Joplin community from its World Distribution Center Warehouse in Springfield.  Convoy of Hope is also delivering tents, cots, blankets, camp stoves, lanterns, and propane donated by Bass Pro Shops in Springfield.


"The outpouring of support has been phenomenal,"  Donaldson says.  "We want to thank all the corporations that are donating truckloads of supplies and everyone making financial contributions.  This is what keeps our trucks rolling and ensuring that the people of Joplin receive the help they need to get through this traumatic episode."


NASCAR driver Jamie McMurray, a native of Joplin, is also encouraging support of the Convoy of Hope disaster response effort.  McMurray's racing team affixed the Convoy of Hope logo and the words "Joplin, MO" to his Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Marine race car that competed in Sunday's Coca-Cola Sprint 600 NASCAR race.


"I think it's really hard for people who see all the pictures to know what the town used to look like," says McMurray.  The NASCAR driver says that not only was the house he grew up in destroyed in the tornado, but the entire neighborhood he lived in was taken out.


Convoy of Hope continues to work through churches and volunteer teams to meet the needs of those who are struggling to put life back together.  The ministry is using the site of the Faith Assembly of God Church in Joplin as a temporary base of operations.


The church building at Faith Assembly was severely damaged in the tornado, and services are being held under a large tent on the parking lot.  "People tell me our church is gone," said Pastor Larry Griffin.  "But I tell them it's not gone.  It's right here under this tent."


You can support the Convoy of Hope effort by donating online through their website at this link:

Convoy of Hope

You can also send a $10 donation to Convoy of Hope by texting CONVOY to 50555.


While we rarely agree with President Barack Obama and his perspective on life, we are grateful for the excellent Scripture-inspired message he shared at the memorial service at Missouri Southern State University on Sunday. 


The President quoted from 2 Corinthians 4:9:  "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed."


He concluded with lyrics from the song "Amazing Grace:" "Through many dangers, toils, and snares I have already come;  'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far and Grace will lead me home.  Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail, and mortal life shall cease, I shall possess within the veil, a life of joy and peace." 


The President concluded the recitation by saying:  "May Grace guide the people of Joplin home."  If there is any community in this state and nation which has long been guided by God's Grace, it's Joplin, Missouri.  We are thankful that the President recognizes that that is what makes Joplin great. 



VA Attempts to Censor Memorial Day Prayer


A federal judge in Texas has ruled that a Christian pastor can pray in the name of Jesus at a Memorial Day ceremony.  As a result of the judge's decision, Pastor Scott Rainey did just that Monday at a Memorial Day Service at the National Cemetery in Houston.


Reverend Rainey, the pastor of Living Word Church of the Nazarene, has offered an invocation the last two years at the Memorial Day observance in Houston.  But this year cemetery director Arleen Occasio asked to review his prayer prior to the ceremony.


Occasio then informed Pastor Rainey that he would not be allowed to participate in the ceremony unless he removed the name of Jesus from his prayer.  Occasio said that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which has jurisdiction over the cemetery, "cannot be exclusive at a ceremony meant to be inclusive for all the nation's veterans."


Pastor Rainey appealed the decision to the Office of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and when unsuccessful, enlisted the Liberty Institute to file a lawsuit in federal court citing his First Amendment rights.


U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes ruled that the Veterans Affairs policy was an unconstitutional infringement of free speech.  "The government cannot gag citizens when it says it is in the interest of national security, and it cannot do it in some bureaucrat's notion of cultural homogeneity.  The right to free expression ranges from the dignity of Abraham Lincoln's speeches to the rants of Charlie Sheen."


Liberty Institute attorney Jeff Mateer hailed the judge's decision.  "Our veterans fought for and many died for our religious freedom;  to have it stripped away under the facade of inclusiveness is the height of offense to those who have served our country."


Local veteran Charles Bradley expressed dismay at the controversy.  "I don't know how far they want to go with all this.  What is next?  Removing the crosses from the graves and headstones?"


 Missouri Legislature Adopts Student Protection Measure

Teachers who take sexual advantage of students would face greater accountability for their misconduct under legislation approved by the Missouri General Assembly.  The proposal, sponsored by Senator Jane Cunningham of Chesterfield, is designed to keep sexual offenders out of the classrooms and athletic facilities of Missouri schools. 


The legislation takes aim at an all-too-common scenario in the state's school systems.  A teacher or coach engages in sexual abuse of a student on or off campus.  Allegations of sexual misconduct are then brought before school administrators.  The controversy is "resolved" by the teacher resigning from the school district. 


The teacher then is hired by another school district which is unaware of the teacher's prior conduct.  No information was shared regarding the teacher's prior resignation or dismissal because of employment contracts, personnel policies, or confidentiality agreements.   The teacher or coach then engages in sexual abuse of another student.  The practice is often referred to in educational circles as "passing the trash."


During testimony before the Senate, a law enforcement officer in Miller County illustrated the problem.  Thomas Wright served as a school resource officer in the Eldon School District.  In investigating a claim that a teacher/coach was having sexual contact with a student, the officer found that the teacher was involved in sexual relationships with several students on and off campus.  The employee resigned, no charges were ever filed, and the teacher was hired by another nearby school district.   


Should the bill become law, school districts which share information with other school districts concerning the employment record of staff members will be immune from civil liability for the release of the information.  Any school district which dismisses an employee or allows an employee to resign because of sexual misconduct allegations, and fails to disclose that information when furnishing a reference, would have major legal liability.  The school district would be liable for damages to any future victim of sexual misconduct by the former employee, and would also bear third-party liability to the district that newly employed the teacher.


Senator Cunningham's bill, Senate Bill 54,  was adopted by the Missouri Senate on a unanimous vote of 34-0 and then by the Missouri House with another unanimous vote of 154-0.  Senator Cunningham has promoted the legislation for several years, but has repeatedly run into obstacles because of resistance from teacher's unions and fiscal concerns.  This year she was able to forge a consensus with all parties representing educational interests on the final language to be included in this child protection measure.


"This bill is vital to protecting public students from sexual predators in the classroom, " says Cunningham, who is a former school board member. "Studies show that Missouri is the 11th worst state in the nation for educators losing their licenses because of sexual misconduct.  This is unacceptable.  Senate Bill 54 would bring a peace of mind to students and their parents, knowing that state schools are safer."



Senator Cunningham named the bill the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act.  The bill takes its name from a woman who was the victim of repeated sexual abuse by a teacher and coach during her junior high years.  That teacher went on to serve as an instructor in other Missouri school districts for several years, and only recently retired.  Hestir said the passage of the bill was a "healing" moment for her.  "It doesn't fix what happened to me, but if it changes what might happen to one of my son's classmates or someone else down the road, it will make the best of a bad situation."


While advocates for state school boards and teacher organizations claim the issue is overblown, there seems to be no letup in news reports of sexual predators in the teaching profession.  A teacher at Troy Buchanan High School in Lincoln County was recently arrested on charges of child molestation involving a student at Troy Buchanan High.  In another case, a former substitute teacher and girls basketball coach at Parkway Central High School in St. Louis County was charged by federal authorities with statutory rape, sodomy, and child pornography offenses with two teenage girls. 


An investigation by the Associated Press in 2008 found that 87 licensed teachers in Missouri lost their teaching credentials over a four-year period due to sexual misconduct.  A study conducted in 2004 for the U.S. Department of Education found that 1 in every 10 students in the public schools is at some time a victim of sexual abuse.


Should the bill be signed by Governor Jay Nixon, as expected, allegations of teacher sexual misconduct will be investigated by state child abuse and neglect authorities.  School districts must forward complaints of sexual abuse to the the Children's Division of the Department of Social Services within 24 hours.  If the investigation by state authorities substantiates the allegations, the school district must immediately suspend the employment of the alleged abuser.


The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education would be required to conduct an annual check of every person holding an active teaching certificate against federal and state criminal history records, and the state's sexual offender and child abuse registries.  Teachers would also be forbidden to create a non-work-related internet site which provides exclusive access to current or former students.


We commend Senator Cunningham for her valiant efforts to address this issue over the years almost singlehandedly.   The Amy Hestir Student Protection Act is one of the most significant child protection measures passed by the Missouri Legislature in several years.  We pray that Governor Nixon will gladly put his signature to this bill in short order.





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