Kim Plummer Krull
Volunteers are urgently needed to help “muck out” and “button up” flood-damaged homes before the fast-approaching winter deals Minot, N.D., area families another harsh blow.
“Over 900 homes still need to be mucked out and cleaned out,” said the Rev. John Fale, interim executive director with LCMS World Relief and Human Care (WR-HC). “Within five weeks the snow is going to start flying and it’s going to start getting cold around here. The need for volunteers is critical.”
During a trek Sept. 21-22 that included meeting “family after family” hit hard by this summer’s unprecedented flooding of the Souris River, Fale assured disaster-weary homeowners and area church leaders that “the LCMS wants to bring the needs of Minot back before the larger church community.”
Those words, Fale said, “moved people to tears. They said it was so comforting to know that they haven’t been forgotten.” (See pictures of Minot flood damage and video interviews at www.Facebook.com/LCMSWRHC and www.youtube.com/mercytubewrhc.)
More than 220 LCMS families lost their homes in flooding that, according to news reports, displaced some 11,000 city residents and damaged more than a total 4,000 homes plus businesses and schools.
The floodwaters also destroyed the homes of some 60 staff members of the Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch (DBGR) and two of the LCMS Recognized Service Organization’s Minot area buildings. DBGR serves youth with emotional and behavioral challenges.
While the flooding was called historic when the Souris River crested in late June, many North Dakotans say the disaster faded from the national news even as they struggled to find temporary housing and deal with severely damaged — if not destroyed — homes.
“People here are very aware they got little coverage from the news media, less attention and offers of support than some other disasters have drawn,” Fale said. “If not for the local churches stepping up to the plate, the loss would be even greater.”
“I tip my hat to the pastors, vicar and congregational leaders of Our Savior, St. Mark, and St. Paul,” said Fale, referring to three LCMS churches located in Minot. “In the midst of regular, ongoing pastoral-care needs, these folks are working double duty as they tend to their flocks and community members with compassion, a listening ear and a word of hope from Scripture. They recognize that the stress of the flood is taking its toll on everyone, and they are responding with a huge heart.”
That “double duty” continued this week as the Rev. Paul Krueger, senior pastor at Our Savior Lutheran Church, fielded yet another call for assistance. One of the most recent came on behalf of an 80-year-old man “sleeping in his car” because he didn’t know where to turn for help. The congregation connected the man with Federal Emergency Management Assistance (FEMA) and Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR) representatives so he would have a place to sleep.
“We knew where to get him some help and how to get him going,” said Krueger, whose congregation continues to work with St. Paul and St. Mark Lutheran churches, among others, to help families who lost homes and, in some cases, livelihoods, too.
Evacuees, for the most part, are living in FEMA trailers, with friends and relatives or are making as long as 90-mile commutes between temporary homes and Minot jobs.
They include Bob and Carol Timm, one of the 87 Our Savior member families who suffered severe flood damage. Floodwaters destroyed Bob’s office and filled the family’s home for more than a month, dissolving the drywall off the wooden studs.
“They had to gut out everything down to the wood studs. They lost pretty much the whole interior of their home,” said Al Dowbnia, of LCMS Communications, who met the Timm family as he traveled with Fale.
This marked WR-HC’s third trek to Minot since June to work with congregations and ministry partners to assist flooded families. WR-HC already has provided a total of $74,200 in grants to Minot congregations, the Synod’s North Dakota District and DBGR for emergency and recovery needs. In addition, the Synod’s mercy arm is committing another $200,000 for ongoing support in Minot, Fale said on Sept. 23.
Today, the focus is on volunteers to help evacuees clean out homes before the winter cold exacerbates flood damage. “Lots of help is needed to clean up, cover doors and windows and get a heat source in basements before the extreme cold sets in,” said Fale, adding that furnaces are extremely scarce in Minot.
Volunteers are asked to register on the Our Savior Lutheran Church website, www.oslcnow.com. “The quickest and easiest way to volunteer and get connected with LDR [Lutheran Disaster Response] is to go to Our Savior’s website and access the volunteer form. LDR will get back to you and line up a time for you or your group to come and help,” Krueger said. (Volunteers without Internet access can call LDR at 218-443-4970.)
As LCMS ministries call for volunteers now, they also are looking ahead to assist with cleanup and rebuilding that will continue in the spring. A proposal is in the works to establish a volunteer camp on Our Savior Lutheran Church property.
“That’s a big need that also demands a considerable amount of additional gifts,” Fale said. “We understand and appreciate our LCMS supporters have been very generous in the midst of this busy disaster season, but we hope they understand that needs here in Minot are monumental.”
In the midst of challenges, Krueger says the Minot community appreciates the church’s response — from the local congregations that helped families evacuate and served emergency meals through the support of WR-HC and LDR in providing financial gifts and coordinating volunteers.
Krueger said in a video interview, “It’s a phenomenal thing to see when the body of Christ steps into a disaster and says, ‘Here we are, Lord, use us.’ ”
To make a gift to help WR-HC assist families suffering from historic floods:
- Mail checks (noting “Spring Floods 2011” in the memo line) to LCMS World Relief and Human Care, P.O. Box 66861, St. Louis, MO 63166-6861.
- Call toll-free 888-930-4438.
- Make an online donation at www.lcms.org/disaster/flood.
Any funds not needed for this relief effort will be used for other disaster purposes as determined by LCMS World Relief and Human Care. Your gift is tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.
Kim Plummer Krull is a freelance writer and member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Des Peres, Mo.
Posted Sept. 23, 2011