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Hope rises above flood damage in Minot

Volunteers gather in prayer inside the sanctuary of Faith United Methodist Church in Minot, N.D., following the flooding of 2011.  UMNS photos by Doreen Gosmire.
Volunteers gather in prayer inside the sanctuary of Faith United Methodist Church in Minot, N.D., following the flooding of 2011. UMNS photos by Doreen Gosmire.

Recovery from last summer's massive flooding in Minot, N.D., has been painstaking, but hope for the future builds each time a volunteer steps forward or shares material resources.

In June 2011, the Souris River overflowed its banks, destroying or extensively damaging more than 4,100 homes. Some houses were repaired; others were gutted to prevent decay. Still others stand untouched, abandoned. This city of about 41,000, located in an oil-rich area of the state, was already dealing with a housing crunch that has filled nearly every house, apartment and motel room in the region.

A recent survey of displaced residents found fewer than 18 percent of the flooded homes occupied. The remainder of the people surveyed indicated they stay in trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, with family or friends or in new residences, or they move out of town.

However, hope is rising in Minot.

FEMA has obligated more than $201.7 million for 3,553 infrastructure projects in North Dakota. The United Methodist connection has responded with resources and volunteers. The United Methodist Committee on Relief has provided $473,000 for disaster relief efforts throughout the Dakotas Annual (regional) Conference. Individuals, congregations and other conferences have donated more $150,000 to the effort.

Bob Lower coordinates United Methodist disaster relief efforts in Minot, N.D.
Bob Lower coordinates United Methodist disaster relief efforts in Minot, N.D.

Hope Village provides food and housing

Beginning on April 1, United Methodists heading to Minot to volunteer can count on Hope Village for food and housing. Located on the Our Savior Lutheran Church campus, where Lutheran Disaster Response currently has a four-member staff working out of a mobile unit, Hope Village will provide mobile bunkhouses and recreational vehicle hookups for work teams that rotate in and out of the city. The site will include shower houses, restrooms, a laundry unit, a meals-preparation unit, a dining tent and campfire grounds.

Some observers view Hope Village, the first ecumenical, cooperative venture of this scope, as a possible model for future disaster response across the United States.

"This will be such a great resource for teams coming in," said Bob Lower, the new associate coordinator for disaster relief in Minot. "We can house and feed 250 people each day. The cost is only $20 a day per person."

United Methodist Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey of the Dakotas Area recently traveled to Minot to present a check for $45,000 to the Rev. Paul Krueger. The pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church, Minot, Krueger chairs the Hope Village board.

"Hope Village will bring more teams to Minot and promise to all who have been affected by the flood," Kiesey said. "We are honored to provide resources to this effort."

United Methodist Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey (center) recently traveled to Minot, N.D., to present a check for $45,000 to the Rev. Paul Krueger (right) who chairs the Hope Village board. Also shown is Bob Lower, associate director for disaster relief in Minot.
United Methodist Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey (center) recently traveled to Minot, N.D., to present a check for $45,000 to the Rev. Paul Krueger (right) who chairs the Hope Village board. Also shown is Bob Lower, associate director for disaster relief in Minot.

Coordinator guides United Methodist effort

Lower, a lay leader at Faith United Methodist Church, which sustained heavy damage in the flood, served as the associate director of the Dakotas United Methodist Foundation (2006-11). Lower also was a founding missionary at Spirit Lake Nation in North Dakota. He has a passion for mission and outreach, working with Faith Church food pantry and soup kitchen.

As the primary contact for all United Methodist volunteers in Minot, Lower welcomes all teams or individuals interested in rebuilding the city.

"We currently have a list of rebuilding that involves enough work for 250 people per day for 22 weeks in Minot," Lower said. "We still have more need than what we currently have on the list." Many experienced volunteers are astounded by the amount of work the community faces. Hope is rekindled every time someone steps forward to volunteer.

Work teams with construction skills are desperately needed. Prospective volunteers should contact Lower at (701) 721-0441 or blower@dakotasumc.org.

*Gosmire is associate director of communications for the Dakotas Annual (regional) Conference.

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