By Kim Plummer Krull
It’s been about two weeks since three families — some of the thousands of flood evacuees forced out of their Minot, N.D., houses by the swollen Souris River — moved into campers parked near the home of Rev. Arie Bertsch.
Another couple — members of St. Paul Lutheran Church, where Bertsch is pastor — continues to stay with their daughter’s family in her two-bedroom house. The couple’s home is underwater, and they wonder if anything can be salvaged. The husband “said he made it through the last flood 45 years ago, but he was a younger man then,” Bertsch said of the 69-year-old parishioner. “So many people don’t know the extent of damage. There’s a lot of anxiety.”
As historic floodwaters slowly recede, LCMS families are among those scrambling to find housing in a city where “about a fourth of the population is evacuated and unable to go home,” said Rev. Paul Krueger, pastor at Our Savior Lutheran Church, also in Minot.
“The water is dropping, but it’s still more than 12 feet above flood stage,” Krueger said on July 6. Adding to the crisis is the lack of homes for sale or rent. “About a fourth of the population is homeless,” he said, without housing readily available to relocate.
To assist evacuees with emergency needs, both St. Paul and Our Savior Lutheran churches applied for and received grants from LCMS World Relief and Human Care (WR-HC), made possible by LCMS donors.
Our Savior is using a $9,600 grant to provide gift cards to evacuees who include 80 member families with flooded homes and businesses. “Each family is contacted personally, and a calling team from the church delivers the cards with care and prayer,” Krueger said.
A previous $5,000 grant from WR-HC assisted the congregation with a community food program that served more than 100 meals during the flood’s earliest days.
At St. Paul, where about 56 families are evacuated, a $4,400 grant from WR-HC is helping families with basic living necessities. Many families already were “financially strapped,” Bertsch said, and unexpected flood-related costs bear “quite a burden.”
WR-HC’s Rev. Carlos Hernandez, director of Districts and Congregations, and Rev. Darrell Howanitz got the ball rolling on the grant support when they helped assess needs, provide pastoral care and preached at Minot-area congregations last month. Howanitz is contracted to assist Rev. Glenn F. Merritt, director of Disaster Response.
Because many Minot child care providers are flooded, St. Paul opened its doors so two programs can continue to serve families. While the providers are thankful they can continue their businesses, Bertsch says the relocated child care services give non-members “a connection” to the church.
Others impacted by the disaster include members at St. Mark Lutheran Church, where the basement has been flooded, and North Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch, which evacuated about 70 youngsters from its Minot programs to Bismarck and Fargo campuses. The LCMS Recognized Service Organization’s Minot Community Youth Home, which serves youngsters with addiction issues, is flooded, and the main campus northwest of Minot also has water issues, according to the organization’s website at www.dakotaranch.org.
With massive cleanup challenges looming, Minot congregations are participating in plans to mobilize volunteers. Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR) in North Dakota will coordinate volunteers, said Krueger, who took part in a July 6 conference call with LDR, fellow pastors and other relief partners.
Volunteers will be needed to “cut and muck” — remove ruined Sheetrock and debris — beginning in about a month when floodwaters are expected to recede enough so that most evacuees can return home, Krueger said.
“We plan to use caseworkers to match needs with volunteer teams, targeting at-risk people first, such as widows, single mothers and people who have no other options for help,” Krueger said.
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 credit card donation at www.lcms.org/disaster/flood.
Kim Plummer Krull is managing editor of WR-HC’s Caring magazine and a regular contributor to Reporter and The Lutheran Witness.
Posted July 8, 2011