3:00 P.M. EDT July 18, 2011 | (UMNS)
Ada and Bob Lower’s home is submerged. Their church is submerged. But their food ministry and faith remain strong and well above water.
Less than three weeks after muddy floodwaters engulfed parts of Minot, N.D., the United Methodist couple has reopened the Lord’s Cupboard food pantry and soup kitchen.
Their motto would make Noah proud: “The flood won’t stop us.”
The ministry, which has operated for 20 years, had to abandon the waterlogged basement of the couple’s beloved Faith United Methodist Church. However, the couple has found a temporary place to serve the hungry inside a new 20-foot trailer on a dry parking lot.
“We know that these people are displaced, probably need the food more now than ever, and we have to be there for them,” Ada Lower said.
The soup kitchen was open again last week to all comers during its usual hours of 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday and Wednesday. Last year, the ministry served more than 45,000 meals.
The first day back, July 11, was “like a family reunion for our recipients to see us and for us to see them,” Ada Lower said.
As it does normally, the ministry began with a circle of prayer. Three people in the circle, including the Lowers, had lost their homes. Nevertheless, the volunteers took comfort at that moment in the restoration of routine and the strength of their relationships with God and each other, Ada Lower said.
“I just love the people’s hearts,” she said. “They are disciples for Christ.”
Faith United Methodist Church in Minot, N.D., remains surrounded by floodwater. The church’s pastor, the Rev. Debra Ball-Kilbourne, managed to retrieve many supplies before
View in Photo Gallery
The waters rose
On June 22, with the river rising and storms in the forecast, 11,000 residents evacuated Minot. The river, called the Souris in Canada and the Mouse in North Dakota, was already overflowing its banks after a heavy winter thaw and a wet spring. In the following days, the water overtopped levees and peaked at a record-breaking 1,561.72 feet, according to the Minot Daily News.
Now the residents of this city of 40,000 are trying to assess the damage and salvage what they can. A Federal Emergency Management Agency survey found 4,100 homes damaged, including 805 that were under more than 10 feet of water and 2,400 that were under at least 6 feet, The Associated Press reported.
Since the flood, the people in Faith’s congregation — about 70 — have been attending Vincent United Methodist Church, also in Minot.
The Lowers, longtime Faith members, have been living with their daughter. Ada Lower acknowledges that life likely will never be the same for the couple. The water reached the eaves of their house. The house is a total loss. Even before the flood, housing in and around Minot was becoming more expensive because of an oil boom. The Lowers face a daunting future.
Still, the two remain upbeat. Talk to Ada Lower for five minutes, and you cannot help but be inspired.
“Bob and I just say, ‘OK, this is another adventure in our life,’” she said.
And God has prepared them well for the challenges ahead, she added.
The food ministry serves as a place of reunion, aid
and prayer for those working as volunteers and
recipients in Minot, N.D.
View in Photo Gallery
After 25 years of service with the U.S. military, Bob Lower and his wife settled in the Dakotas Annual (regional) Conference as missionaries with the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries. They initially worked with churches in helping children and those in poverty, and later spent six years on the Spirit Lake Native American Reservation. Now retired, they still serve the church.
“God didn’t put us on the military road, moving a lot, (and) he didn’t put us on the reservation where we slept on air mattresses for six years for nothing,” she said. “I just love to watch him at work, and I really wish everybody could see God at work.”
Community comes together
She has no doubt that God is present in their community and their food ministry.
The Rev. Debra Ball-Kilbourne, the pastor of Faith United Methodist Church, managed to retrieve much of the Lord’s Cupboard supplies before the flood. In her house high on a hill, she piled canned goods in her garage and stuffed frozen items in her freezer “so we can start up again for the first meal.”
Bob Lower visited local businesspeople in search of a new location for the Lord’s Cupboard. A truck dealer donated the trailer.
“It won’t be satisfactory during the winter because of the snow and the ice that we have here,” he said, “but it’ll get us up and get us running while we try to figure out how this ministry’s going to continue. And they’ve just been very helpful.”
Bob Lower helps carry groceries to the car of a food pantry visitor.
He added that the donation is just an example of the generosity and neighborliness he has long witnessed in Minot. He pointed out that only 300 of the 11,000 evacuated residents spent time in shelters. Minot residents on higher ground took everyone else in. Some people have four of five families in their homes. Others converted a temporary fish house usually used for winter ice fishing into a temporary home for a family of four with cots, a TV and a one-burner stove.
“It’s just an example of the ingenuity and really, the feelings that the members of this community have for one another,” Bob Lower said.
He knows rough days of grieving and rebuilding still lie ahead.
Some people who visited the soup kitchen this week broke down and sobbed, his wife said. “I have never had to ask for help,” people told her. “I have never needed a food pantry. I lost everything.”
She and her husband want to comfort their neighbors in their struggle, and they are grateful for the chance to help.
“Out of every disaster, wonderful things happen,” she said. “And if it means serving God’s people in a parking lot out of a trailer, praise the Lord.”
The United Methodist Committee on Relief is assisting conferences affected by recent weather disasters. Donations can be made to UMCOR’s “Spring Storms 2011” response.
*Dunlap-Berg is internal content editor for United Methodist Communications. Hahn is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service.
News media contact: Heather Hahn, Nashville, Tenn., 615-742-5470 or email@example.com.