By Linda C. Hoops
More than 220 LCMS families lost their homes in June due to historic flooding in Minot, N.D. –- a disaster that has so far affected more LCMS members than Hurricane Irene, Hurricane Lee and the tornadoes in Missouri and Alabama combined.
“I urge that we not lose sight of the tragedy there,” said the Rev. Glenn Merritt, director of Disaster Response for LCMS World Relief and Human Care (WR-HC), who visited the city in early September and was “stunned at the number of people homeless or living in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) trailers with winter coming on.”
He, along with the Rev. Darrell Howanitz, who is assisting Merritt with the effort for WR-HC, met with pastors of three congregations there:
- Our Savior Lutheran Church, which reported that 87 families lost their homes;
- St. Mark Lutheran Church, where more than 80 families lost homes; and
- St. Paul Lutheran Church, which reported 47 families losing their homes.
In addition, the Rev. Daryl Rothchild, pastor at three congregations in the area surrounding Minot, lost his home in the city. After he receives aid from FEMA and other sources, his loss will still amount to more than $60,000.
The Souris River peaked the weekend of June 25-26 at four feet over its record 1881 level. Floodwaters did not leave buildings for three weeks, causing many homes to be declared uninhabitable.
“Most of the people had no flood insurance to cover their loss because they were told that the dikes and barriers built would prevent the town from ever flooding again,” wrote Howanitz in a summary of the two-day visit.
This was his second visit to the area. As the river was cresting in June, he and the Rev. Carlos Hernandez, WR-HC director of Districts and Congregations, arrived in the city and preached at Sunday services at Our Savior Lutheran Church and three rural congregations.
“On that first trip, what we sensed was an enormous load on the pastors worn from fielding pastoral concerns by their people and the community,” said Hernandez. “We assisted not only by providing a listening ear, but by sharing the Word.”
The home of Peggy Trondson, Our Savior’s administrative secretary, had seven feet of water in the garage and more than five feet covering the main-floor level. After moving into a FEMA trailer, all of her spare time is spent on trying to “muck out” the house. Bonnie Rennich, the church’s director of Music and Congregational Ministries, is doing the same task but she has to drive 100 miles each way to do so every day because there is no housing available in the city.
The vicar at the congregation, Ben Carnahan, was forced from his apartment because the owner of the building needed a place for his family to stay. He is now living in a travel trailer.
“When we asked Rev. Paul Krueger, pastor of Our Savior, what the biggest need was, he replied, ‘Volunteers, volunteers, volunteers!’ ” wrote Howanitz. “Yet he and the other pastors realize that Minot, N.D., is not a place where volunteers will want to come, especially in the winter months. They also realize that many people are already volunteering at other disasters.”
Two of the congregations –- Our Savior and St. Mark — are adding RV hookups in their parking lots, in hopes volunteers will arrive this fall to help with cleanup and sanitizing. Most of the rebuilding will begin next spring. Individuals and groups may sign up to volunteer at Our Savior’s website, www.oslcnow.com.
The Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch in Minot, an LCMS Recognized Service Organization, re-opened its doors to some 70 young people Aug. 24 but more than 60 staff members were displaced from their homes and are commuting long distances. The ranch’s building used for the Men’s Rehab Center for Chemical Dependency was destroyed as was its Minot Community Youth Home, located near the downtown area. The youth were evacuated to the camp’s Bismarck and Fargo locations prior to the flooding. The ranch continues to have problems with its water supply, but anticipates all buildings will be restored by the end of October.
“The three congregations there are mobilizing to meet the needs of the people,” said Merritt. “We worked with them to develop a good action plan for the future but without additional funding, World Relief and Human Care is limited in how it can help. We approved another $30,000 in grants last week, in addition to initial grants totaling $43,200, but that won’t even touch the surface.”
Merritt indicated that he plans to return to Minot Sept. 21-23 as part of a three-person WR-HC team, to discuss coordinating relief efforts with district and congregational leaders.
To make a gift to help WR-HC assist families in Minot suffering from historic floods:
- mail checks (noting “Minot Flood 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.
- donate online (click here).
Note: 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.
Linda C. Hoops is a freelance writer and a member of Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, Sunset Hills, Mo.
Posted Sept. 9, 2011/Updated Sept. 10, 2011