Minot flood impact on MB congregation is “huge”

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Bible Fellowship Church members, church buildings hit by record flood

by Connie Faber

“This flood reminds us that our stuff is just that, and our treasures are really found in Christ,” says Duane Deckert, pastor of Bible Fellowship Church in Minot, ND.

Deckert and his family are among the 11,000 residents of Minot, the state’s fourth largest city with a population of 41,000, ordered to evacuate their homes June 22 in the Souris River valley. At that time the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers predicted that the cubic feet per second of water flowing would increase by nine feet, cresting at 1,564.5 feet above sea level by early Sunday morning.

Record rains in Saskatchewan that flooded four reservoirs, one at Lake Darling in North Dakota and three in Canada, caused the flood. The excess water was released into the Souris River that loops down into North Dakota before flowing back into Canada.

Deckert says residents were given 48 hours, then 40 hours and finally just 30 hours to leave their homes. His family was able to move out 95 percent of their belongings. For the most part, the evacuation was completed under sunny skies. “The sunshine was a blessing,” says Deckert.

Four other families in the small Mennonite Brethren congregation of 53 have also evacuated. “In a smaller church like ours, that's pretty huge,” says Deckert. “One of the houses survived, with the water coming up to the house right beside it.”

Deckert and his family live in the church parsonage and so the congregation also worked to prepare their church building for flooding. Volunteers moved the church furnishings from the basement to the main floor, placing things on the stage and on other temporary elevated surfaces. Read an essay by Jessica Vix about the evacuation.

Deckert estimates that the parsonage and church are standing in six feet of water, which means the congregation will have some decision to make when the waters recede. He thinks the main floor is likely underwater but is not sure where the water line is in relation to the pews.

Meanwhile, Bible Fellowship Church has made arrangements with Immanuel Baptist Church to use their church building through July. The MB congregation will hold worship services Sunday afternoon at 4 pm. Bible Fellowship will also be able to use the Baptist church building for Wednesday night activities during the summer. “We have good relationships with the other churches here in Minot,” says Deckert.

While waters have begun to recede, Minot residents know that it may be a while before they return to their homes. Estimates of when residents can go home vary, says Deckert, and have been as much as three weeks. Reports are that only 220 people are living in the city’s emergency shelter, says Deckert, and that statistic is a tribute to the care residents of this city have for one another. Deckert and his family are living in the basement of another family from the church.

Knowing that the U.S. Mennonite Brethren family is praying for Minot is making a difference, says Deckert. “I have sensed those prayers,” he says. “I have a different outlook on the situation—it doesn’t bother me like you’d think.”

For more information on the reasons for the Souris River flood, read this Grand Forks Herald article.

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