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A year after Minot flood: ‘Faith thrives’

"Where were you?"

That's a popular question for people who live and work in the Souris Valley of North Dakota.

Like any major event - such as the Challenger explosion or the death of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. - most people around Minot, N.D., will mark this anniversary by sharing stories of where they were when the Souris River overflowed its banks on June 24, 2011. They'll say, "I was madly deciding what to take and what I could leave behind, knowing I would never see those belongings again." Or they'll say, "We were helping in Joplin! Who knew we were going to be in it ourselves in Minot?"

The story I tell is that Faith United Methodist Church had evacuated our Lord's Cupboard food pantry, distributing the commercial-cooler food to other programs that would feed people during the evacuation period. Exhausted, I headed home. The emergency siren blew as I was on my cell phone with my husband. I was relieved he was already at home, but both of us were anxious that our younger son was not.

No one will forget the early days of actual flooding. We lost 4,100 homes and 24 churches, among them Faith's lovely building. The Souris Valley became the third-largest Federal Emergency Management Agency trailer event in U.S. history. The Dakotas Annual (regional) Conference, in collaboration with UMCOR and its ecumenical partners, provided case management and worked to rebuild homes. We call this ecumenical effort "Hope Village."

Faith's feeding ministry continued in two locations, thanks to another area church and a business owner. The flood taught us that we could probably be more effective in our ministry by working with other like-minded organizations.

For several months, Faith United Methodist Church has met weekly with other parties to create "The Welcome Table," a one-stop shop for free medical care, meals, pantry, case management and interim shelter services. The goal is to have all services of The Welcome Table under one roof. This would extend our feeding ministry of nearly 22 years with much-needed, value-added ministry. Now we are attempting to find an affordable location and writing grants to fund this ministry.

'New vision ... new ministries'

And Faith United Methodist Church? We'll never again use our flooded building for worship. The cost to redeem it from the Souris proved too expensive - between $1.3 million and $1.4 million. However, Faith lives! The resilience of the congregation has been utterly amazing!

Provided with temporary worship/program space by our gracious neighbors, Vincent United Methodist Church, Faith has developed a new vision and worked through our financing. Now, a new location of 14.1 acres - located out of the flood plain and in a newly developing housing area - may house Faith for the future. The cost is less - $1.1 million. The new building will be accessible to people of all ages and physical abilities.

Faith is rising from the floodwaters! While we certainly will miss our former building, we look forward to raising the funds necessary to purchase this new building. To help us reach our goal, we will have a Miracle Sunday and pledge drive on July 15.

Meanwhile, our congregation continues with its historic mission of feeding. Last year, people received nearly 47,000 meals through The Lord's Cupboard and pantry. Our new location will allow new ministries of radical hospitality to emerge.

As friends and neighbors ask me, "So, Debra, where were you when the sirens went off?" I tell them my story. I listen avidly to theirs. However, I look forward to sharing sometime in the future, "Faith thrives in a new location, where a new vision is guiding us to new ministries, making disciples for Jesus Christ!"

*Ball-Kilbourne is pastor of Faith United Methodist Church, Minot, N.D.

For more coverage of the Minot flood, go to www.umc.org/minot.

News media contact: Barbara Dunlap-Berg, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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