Minot needs flood of workers to help clean up

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MB congregation cleaning up after waters damage church, parsonage, homes

By Myra Holmes

Flood waters in Minot, ND, have receded; now what?

Flooding in late June forced the evacuation of some 11,000 Minot residents, including seven families from Bible Fellowship Church, a Mennonite Brethren congregation of about 60. Pastor Duane Deckert and his family were among those displaced.

The Bible Fellowship church building and parsonage were flooded with about 10 feet of water, reaching to within inches of the back of the church pews and covering countertops in the parsonage. Despite efforts in the hours before evacuation to move everything from the church basement and stack items as high as possible, very little stayed dry: a copier, a piano and a drum set.

As if to add insult to injury, mold invaded as soon as the waters retreated, encouraged by damp, warm conditions. Deckert says he could literally see the mold’s daily progress on the wet walls of the parsonage.

Community members and volunteers have begun the urgent work of gutting damaged buildings—including the church and parsonage—in order to inhibit the mold’s growth and salvage as much as possible.

The church building will be gutted; the parsonage is already stripped down to the studs. Decisions about rebuilding and next steps will come later, after sites dry out. In the meantime, the congregation is meeting on Sunday afternoons in the facility of Immanuel Baptist Church. Deckert and his family have been living with a family from the congregation; they will be moving to a house on an acreage that they consider God’s provision in a suddenly-tight housing market.

Workers needed

Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS), the disaster response agency supported by Mennonites and Mennonite Brethren, responded quickly. An MDS investigation team traveled to Minot to begin organizing clean-up following the flood. Deckert says he was impressed by how well-organized MDS has been, “but MDS needs workers. We can’t do it without workers.”

According to the MDS Web site, the need for workers is quite urgent, and the organization will begin scheduling volunteers immediately. Initial work will consist of mucking out homes and removing damaged carpets, flooring and drywall. Further opportunities will come later, as the community begins to rebuild. To volunteer, contact the MDS office at 800-241-8111 or the MDS point person in Minot at 701-509-4966.

Bible Fellowship's insurance does not cover flood damage and since the church is a non-profit organization they are not eligible to receive any assistance from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency). "My understanding is that if we had a community soup kitchen or something community service-based, there would be some assistance from FEMA," says Deckert. "Since we do not, they will not help."

Donations to assist the Minot MB congregation in their rebuilding efforts are being channeled through MB Foundation, the U.S. Conference stewardship ministry headquartered in Hillsboro, Kan. Donations can be sent to MB Foundation at PO Box 220, Hillsboro, KS, 67063. Checks should be made payable to “MB Foundation” and reference “Minot Bible Fellowship Church Rebuilding Fund.”

Deckert points out that “when God allows adversity, he always provides opportunity.” The flood provides an excellent opportunity to reach out to the Minot community, he says, but more help is needed to take advantage of that opportunity. The sheer number of damaged homes in the community is more than the local congregation can assist with. Meanwhile other organizations, including a large group from the Mormon church, are actively helping. “The urgent need is now,” he says.

Feeling helpless and hopeless

Not surprisingly, the flood has taken a spiritual and emotional toll on the congregation and community. “Times like this, you find out how strong your faith is,” Deckert says.

To some extent, the urgency of the work keeps discouragement at bay as the community pulls together to tackle the big job of cleanup. “You just dig in and start fixing what’s broken,” Deckert says. He attributes a generally positive spirit in the congregation to prayer support.

At the same time, so many in the community feel helpless and hopeless. The sheer numbers tell a story: If 11,000 people had to evacuate, but only 250 or so found refuge in emergency shelters, where did the rest go?

Deckert says most moved in with friends or family, but as days stretch into weeks, conflicts spark and tensions rise. Only a small percentage of buildings were covered by flood insurance, so financial strain adds to the stress. Deckert knows of at least one suicide, one attempted suicide and scores of marital conflicts. “People just don’t know where to turn.”

He says he often feels torn: “I feel I need to be helping these people with their homes physically, but there also a real emotional and spiritual need.”

Deckert says he and the Bible Fellowship congregation are trying to be mindful of the spiritual opportunities opened by the flood, even as they scramble to meet the physical needs. “Sometimes we tend to value all the stuff and not realize how valuable salvation is.”

He asks the larger MB family to support Bible Fellowship in prayer, listing several specific requests:

  • For physical strength for the cleanup work that needs to be done.
  •  For spiritual boldness to make the most of opportunities that arise.
  • For unity as the congregation begins to make decisions about their future.
  • For effective outreach.

For local news, coverage of the Minot flood and its impact on Bible Fellowship Church, read this article from the Minot Daily News.

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