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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Glimpses of new life

Churches, people of Minot, N.D., rebuild & review mission following flood

The street outside Christ Lutheran Church in Minot, N.D., used to be a quiet residential road. Today it's a major thoroughfare with constant traffic, testament to a changing community and its changing needs.

In June 2011 the Souris River flooded and left behind destruction and loss in the Minot area. More than 4,000 homes and businesses were damaged. Ten thousand residents evacuated. Among those affected were four ELCA congregations.

Eighteen months later the community is still struggling to rebuild. Its population is simultaneously exploding as people seek jobs in the region's oil fields, one of the economic bright spots in the country. The combination means that area churches are grappling with how to minister to members while reaching out to newcomers in north-central North Dakota.

"We are literally at the intersection of flood recovery and the oil boom," said David Maxfield, a pastor of Christ Lutheran. "With it comes a bit of fear and uncertainty. There's also a lot of hope and possibility."

girl and candle
Madysen Schrum, 10, holds a candle during the blessing of her family's Minot, N.D., home in November. House blessings have become regular occurrences in Minot and nearby Burlington as more and more residents are able to return their homes or move into new ones.

The view from this congregation's parking lot gives a firsthand view of the opportunity. South of the church are homes in various stages of repair. On one lot, a new foundation is being dug; on a neighboring home, siding is being nudged into place; on another, plywood still covers windows in an abandoned home. Across the street from the church is an elementary school under construction. When finished, it will be double the size it was two years ago.

Redefining mission
After the flood of 2011, Mark Narum, bishop of the Western North Dakota Synod, asked congregations to review their ministries before rebuilding. As a result, congregations are examining who they are and what God is calling them to be in a community changing before their eyes.


"My hope is that coming out of this flood, their ministries will be Christ-centered in service of their neighbors. And they will discover what that means for each congregation," Narum said.

Nathan and Jeannine Schrum lost the ranch-style home they shared with their four children. For more than a year they lived with family and in a neighbor's camper while waiting for their house to be rebuilt. To celebrate the move into their new home last September, they asked Taryn Montgomery, pastor of Bread of Life Lutheran Church, to lead a house blessing.


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