ELCA NEWS SERVICE
June 19, 2012
A year later, ELCA members remain committed to restoring Minot, N.D.
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Souris River began rising June 22, 2011, in Minot, N.D. Five days later it would crest nearly 13 feet above the flood stage, driving 12,000 people from their homes and damaging more than 4,100 homes and businesses, including four church buildings of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) -- three in Minot and one in nearby Burlington, N.D.
One year later, ELCA members and congregations there are still in the process of rebuilding. ELCA Disaster Response remains in the region, coordinating volunteers and meeting both short-term and long-term recovery needs.
"We're ecstatic to be able to talk about the outpouring of support from around the country," said the Rev. Mark E. Narum, bishop of the ELCA Western North Dakota Synod, but, he admits, "A year later lives are still pretty bruised."
Of the six ELCA congregations in Minot, three were harmed by the floods. In the flood's immediate aftermath, affected congregations were paired up with the unaffected congregations for support and assistance in rebuilding and recovery.
"Right as the flood waters were approaching, Bishop Narum called the six congregations together," said the Rev. Michon Weingartner of Augustana Lutheran Church in Minot.
Augustana lost the use of their building entirely. The congregation is currently paired with Bread of Life Lutheran Church in Minot, where they share office space while they hold worship services at Minot State University in Minot. Weingartner calls the partnership "very helpful." The congregation plans to hold services back at its building on June 24.
Members of Christ Lutheran Church in Minot have just recently moved back to their space, but Narum said, "They're using folding chairs. The building is really stripped out."
First Lutheran Church in Minot, where damage was less extensive, has moved entirely back into their building.
Peace Lutheran Church in Burlington is also back in its space but is unable to use its basement where youth events and Sunday school were held. Mission Builders, an organization dedicated to constructing and rebuilding ELCA facilities, is on site there to construct an above-ground addition to house those events.
According to Narum, the two biggest needs in the rebuilding effort now are "prayer and finances."
When donated funds were distributed to congregations at the ELCA Western North Dakota Synod's recent Synod Assembly, "there were a lot of tears in the eyes," Narum said. "I think that the members of those congregations would say the money is great. It makes a huge difference, but I would also say that it's the partnership and the love and the care that's expressed through that money that is equally important."
Narum estimates that the floods caused nearly $3 million in damage to the four affected ELCA church buildings. In addition to the church buildings affected by the flooding, ELCA members are also working to rebuild their homes and lives. About 10 percent of the households affected had flood insurance, making financing a hurdle in the reconstruction, said Narum.
ELCA Disaster Response has also continued to be active in the area. In collaboration with Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota and other faith-based and secular organizations, it is still working in the region to provide long-term support and services.
The ELCA is playing a vital role in Hope Village, a one-stop service center where volunteers can eat and sleep and access supplies, assignments and transportation as they continue mucking out flooded homes and working to eradicate mold.
The ELCA Western North Dakota Synod is also active in Camp Noah, a day camp for first- through sixth-graders that helps children work through their feelings about the disaster experience.
To commemorate the anniversary of the flooding, all of the ELCA congregations in Minot will be holding special services. The town will also be hosting the Weekend of Hope, a celebration culminating in the reopening of the area's largest public park.
It is estimated that the complete redevelopment and restoration of the area could take nearly nine years to complete, and ELCA Disaster Response remains committed to meeting those needs.
"The whole city is seeming to come together this coming weekend to celebrate where we have come and where we hope to go," said Weingartner. "There's a lot of excitement and energy about moving forward."
For more information about ELCA Disaster Response, visit www.ELCA.org/disaster.
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About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with 4.2 million members in 10,000 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of "God's work. Our hands," the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer, Martin Luther.
For information contact:
Melissa Ramirez Cooper
773-380-2956 or Melissa.RamirezCooper@ELCA.org
Living Lutheran: http://www.livinglutheran.com