Dear Sisters and Brothers,
My name is Kevin Massey, I am the Program Director of Lutheran Disaster Response. I’ve just had a great experience meeting wonderful volunteers helping clean up in Minot North Dakota. I’ll describe my latest travels and the great work Lutherans are doing preparing for and responding to disasters.
I first traveled last week to Los Angeles California to meet with a group of Lutherans who are volunteers with a special team called the Inter-Lutheran Emergency Response Team (I-LERT). This team is made up of Lutherans from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod who all are committed to helping the Lutheran community in Southern California prepare for and respond from any disaster that may happen there. I-LERT includes Lutherans from ELCA synods and LCMS districts, Lutheran Social Ministry Organizations, congregations, schools, and other Lutheran institutions.
I shared with the I-LERT team some special training on emotional and spiritual care in disaster. I believe that the most important thing that the church does in times of disaster is simply to be the church and care for the emotional and spiritual needs of people.
I met Sheila Wenzel, who is the Vice President of the ELCA Pacifica Synod at the I-LERT meeting. Sheila grew up in Minot North Dakota and had many questions about our response there. I shared with Sheila that I would be traveling directly to Minot from this meeting, and would share updates on how response is unfolding there.
The next day I traveled from Los Angeles to Minot North Dakota. You may remember from previous LDR field reports that Minot was hard hit by flooding this summer. We asked Lutheran volunteers to head to Minot to help in the clean-up and rebuilding that must happen there. I will share info at the end of this report how you can help in these efforts.
Readers of LDR field reports met Bonnie Turner, who heads up LDR in North Dakota, last March when the Red River was threatening Fargo. I met with Bonnie and members of her staff at our office trailer in Minot. Bonnie shared that there is a good number of volunteers coming at this time, and we want to keep that interest going as long as we can. I met Becky Wynia, our volunteer coordinator. Becky is a graduate of Minot State University and was busy helping volunteers get arranged with their work sites. I asked Becky what drew her to this work. Becky shared, “It is meeting real needs for people in Minot. And it is fun to see all the volunteers come from all over!” Already, in addition to scores of volunteers from North Dakota, volunteers from places like Michigan and North Carolina and Oklahoma and Minnesota have visited.
Driving back from visiting Pastor Vold I saw something that puzzled me for a moment. I saw an apple tree in the front lawn of a flooded house. The tree had a few ripe apples in its branches, but scores of spoiled apples were strewn around the ground at the foot of the tree. It sunk in to me that no one had been home to pick the fruit.
My main goal in visiting Minot this weekend was to accompany the congregations in worship. I attended Saturday evening worship at First Lutheran of Minot. I visited Bread of Life and Augustana Lutheran congregations worshipping at Bread of Life Sunday morning. I greeted Christ Lutheran Church worshipping at Bethany, then spoke at an adult forum downstairs with Bethany. Finally I worshipped with Bethany Lutheran later Sunday morning. I felt nourished in many ways among these faithful people at worship, prayer, and service. I was even nourished Saturday afternoon with a lutefisk dinner at Zion Lutheran of Minot! These congregations are all doing wonderful ministry during these difficult times. To help them with this work, consider giving a gift to the ELCA Western North Dakota Synod Flood of Love initiative to restore the damaged churches and revitalize mission and ministry in Minot.
A wonderful group of volunteers turned out in Minot this weekend organized by Lutheran Campus Ministries and Student Government from Minot State University and the University of North Dakota. Max Buchholz of Minot State and Carter Hill from UND challenged each other in a friendly rivalry to organize as many students as they could to come and work. About a hundred students converged on flooded homes from these schools. Many people worked to make this effort a success.
Pastor Kari Williamson, the Lutheran Campus Ministry Pastor at Minot State coordinated many details with Lutheran Disaster Response for this effort. Sherie Heine, the Western North Dakota Synod Vice President organized lunches for the student volunteers, with First Lutheran Church of Harvey ND, First Lutheran Church of Rugby ND, First Lutheran Church of Bottineau ND and Metigoshe Lutheran Church of Bottineau ND all joining in with the lunch making efforts. To read an article in the Minot Daily News about these volunteers click here.
I was particularly excited to visit Lutheran volunteers from St. Philip’s Lutheran Church Disaster Relief from Fridley Minnesota, who are volunteering this week in Minot. The team from St. Philip’s travels the country responding to disasters of every kind. They give a great example of the finest efforts of Lutherans loving and serving their neighbors affected by disaster. Team Co-Coordinators Mike Anderson and Renee Johnson showed me a site they were working on. They are staying this week at First Lutheran Church of Minot, which even still recovering from flood damage in the lower level of the church is pitching in to host recovery efforts. St.Philip’s Disaster Relief organizes periodic trips of disaster response from the Twin Cities. If you are interested in learning more about St. Philip’s Disaster Relief, click here.
Volunteers are still urgently needed in Minot. We will be coordinating volunteers for muck out work for the flood as long as weather permits. We will be ramping up for the rebuild phase during the winter and spring. To learn about volunteering in Minot, please visit Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota or call 1-800-366-9841.
Above all, please pray for people all around the country affected by disasters this year. People throughout the Southeast have been affected by tornadoes and storms. People throughout the Midwest and Plains have been affected by flooding. People in Texas are affected by drought and wildfire. People along the East Coast were affected by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. Many other people have been affected by tragedies that didn’t make the news. Pray that help and hope come to those in need.