Sunday, June 24, 2012

Well, well!  I seem to have published the week’s announcements on the Rebuild blog instead of the Announcement blog!  However, that may not be such a bad thing.  It may serve as a helpful reminder that the rebuild process is taking place in the context of our ongoing parish life; and though our average Sunday attendance is right around 40 people, we have many people in the congregation who are involved behind the scenes in the process of long-term recovery from last year’s floods.  Thank you, All Saints’ parishioners!


Deacon Alice Yeager is on vacation for two weeks. If you can VOLUNTEER with the SOUP KITCHEN the next two Thursdays, you can help this wonderful program to run smoothly even though Alice will not be there to offer her wisdom, skill, and love.  We’ve been having increased numbers—averaging more than 70—since late this spring.  Please help.  Come around 10 am, and plan to stay until about 1:30.

Wednesday noon Bible study and Wednesday Evening Prayer RESUME on June 27th, and WILL NOT take place on July 4th.  They will resume again on July 11.

All Saints’ next VESTRY MEETING is scheduled for 6 pm TOMORROW,  Monday, June 25.

Do you possess a washer and dryer? If so, please sign up to help with laundering the kitchen linens. There’s a sign up sheet on the Secretary’s Office for Sunday or Wednesday pick-up. With our many guests staying at All Saints’ this spring and summer, our kitchen is getting heavy use, and this is a simple way that you can help.
Do you have the occasional evening or Saturday to help with smaller projects as we help get people back into their homes? If so, call Paul Zaharia (720-2880) to let him know of your availability. We want to keep the work going even when there’s not a volunteer rebuilding team to work.

WELCOME to the next REBUILD VOLUNTEER TEAM, arriving this evening, from Christ Church, Kalispell, Montana.  Their rector, The Rev. Joan Grant, and Mother Mary have been friends since the 1990’s when they were both in Columbus, Ohio, in the Diocese of Southern Ohio.  This team of twelve includes youth and adults, men and women, an electrician and an architect.  Interested in welcoming them with a meal tonight?  Contact Mother Mary at 770-655-1713, or speak to her after today’s worship.


Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop Visits North Dakota

The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, came to North Dakota earlier this week to attend the 140th Niobrara Convocation, a gathering of Native American congregations from what was at the time the Niobrara Missionary District.  Bishop Katharine graciously took time to meet with the clergy of the western part of the Diocese of North Dakota last Wednesday.  We were able to share with her about the challenges of long term recovery after Minot’s flood last summer, compounded by the explosive growth and rapid social change that the Williston region is experiencing as a result of the Bakken Oil Boom.   She took our stories and wove some of them into her homily at that evening’s Choral Evensong at St. George’s, Bismarck.


A couple of months ago, North Dakota’s oil production surpassed that of Alaska, making our state second only to Texas in US oil production.  This has put enormous strains on housing, infrastructure, and social services in the western half of our state; and has certainly made the need for Minot to rebuild and recover housing after the flood more urgent. 


The Rev. Marianne Ell and I were honored to be able to welcome Bishop Katharine in a short address during Evensong that evening, summarizing our respective situations for her and for the congregation. 


I presented her with one of our All Saints’ rebuild t-shirts, and brochures about volunteering in Minot and HOPE Village. 


It was an exciting evening, and a great opportunity to give our story some “legs.”

Valorous Vail Volunteers

In the middle of May, a team of highly experienced volunteers came to All Saints’ from Transfiguration Church in Vail, Colorado.  Led by Deacon Stephen Baird, this group had cut its teeth as rebuilders in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana.  The work there for volunteers is largely drying up, so they were looking for a new challenge.  ER-D’s website led them to the story of Minot’s flood, and they decided to come soon after the ski slopes (where several of them work in “post-retirement” jobs) had closed for the season.

You can see the All Saints’ tool trailer in this picture, too.  It can be moved from site to site with all the tools needed to accomplish a job, right where they are needed.

They made major progress on sheetrocking and cleaning up the yard at the home of a Minot resident named Judy.

Karen and Judy measured and cut sheetrock.

And they had so much fun, both while working together and when their long days on the job site were over.

They stayed at All Saints’. As they relaxed and ate meals together, they got to know members of the AmeriCorps team that was arriving at the end of the week.

They admitted that they had some reservations about having to go to the YMCA for showers.

But by the end of the week, they said that they appreciated the immaculate and spacious shower facilities at the “Y” and decided it actually was a very convenient way to get spruced up after a long and dusty work day.

Tom and Steve, Judy (the homeowner), Jim, Karen, Karen, and Sarah.

Thank you, Deacon Steve and Karen Baird; Tom and Lynda Tasillo; and Karen, Jim and Sara Haeffner.  Thanks for sharing these photos.  And thanks, also, to the Mission Committee of Transfiguration Church, which offered financial support to help cover the tools and building supplies the team used!

Nashotah Seminarians rebuild over Easter Week

We were blessed during Easter Week to have three students from Nashotah House, the Episcopal Seminary in Wisconsin, volunteering in Minot.  Christian, Evan, and Caleb left Easter Monday morning at about 5 am.  For you lay people out there, having survived the emotional highs and lows of Holy Week and Easter Day, there is probably no day in the entire year when clergy and seminarians are more exhausted and brain dead and more likely to want to JUST SLEEP IN  than Easter Monday.  This was a real sacrifice.  I tried to make it up to them by a supper of homemade soup and salad, and bread hot from the oven when they arrived 13 hours later.  These three men are members of Nashotah House’s Jackson Kemper Missionary Society; and, like Bishop Kemper, they weren’t going to let a few hardships keep them from serving God’s people “in the West.”

They moved forward on Jody’s place where the Young Lifers left off.  Jim Probst,

a very young-at-heart local retiree with a lot of home handyman experience, showed them the ropes, and they were apt learners.  Jim, Christian, Evan, and Caleb worked Tuesday through Friday at Jody’s place.  By then Jim was hooked!  He’s returned to Jody’s place almost every day since.  The work our volunteers are putting in will, we hope, leave Jody with a “better than new” home.

Thanks be to God for these willing workers!  The Nashotah Seminarians, like the group from Standing Rock, had such a good time that they are hoping to recruit others to make the trip and help out.    Any way we can help you with that project, guys?

Surviving the Great Flood of 2011: Faith, Family, Friends, and FEMA

John Williams was a familiar voice on the radio waves in North Dakota for decades.  He is also a beloved member of All Saints’ Church–and you can hear that stentorian, confident voice on many Sundays as John reads lessons when we worship together.  But John was also a victim of last year’s floods.

Here is his essay about how he coped, how in his communities of faith, friends and family, and even in a federal agency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, he received the help and encouragement he needed.

If you’ve been following this blog, you’ve seen John’s picture before.  He’s one of the recipients of the Christmas trees we had to share.  The photo below was taken by Joanne Slanger, whose own home was flooded.  She and her husband George now live in the Twin Cities.


The Four “F’s”: Faith, Family, Friends and FEMA


By John Williams—Homeless for more than 10 months

and cared for by the Above

            The wailing of civil defense sirens on that warm June day came as no surprise to the thousands in Minot’s Souris river Valley who had already undergone, days earlier, the orderly evacuation of their homes as a precaution.  But today, there was a difference.  The Souris was rising frighteningly and the homes they were now being asked to flee were in real danger.  This was the real thing.

            I was among those who, until that morning, had arisen with the expectation of having until 6 that evening the last-minute chance to save belongings.  But it was not to be.

            At mid-morning, 8 hours before the previously-announced deadline, the word went out; sirens would soon be sounding and would mean only one thing.  It was time to flee our homes, regardless of whether we’d saved everything or not.

            My motorhome had been packed for the first evacuation, spent at the home of friends on the city’s more rural outskirts.  Now, it was time to lock the house—as if that would protect it from what was to come—and drive again to safety.

            I was in denial.  Not that a flood was impossible, but in my belief it could not invade my home, a west side condo, to a height greater than 3 feet.  Because of that denial, I had protected nothing higher than that level.  I would ultimately return to a home in which the water had risen to within a few inches of the main floor ceiling.

            In the more than 50 years that I had lived in Minot, this would be my third flood experience.  I had moved out of the valley to rented quarters on South Hill a year before the 1969 flood—one considered an historic event at the time, but which would be considered nothing more than a dress rehearsal for what would come in 2011.  As a radio and TV journalist, I covered the 1969 flood extensively.

            In the 2011 flood, little was said of the fight that the city had had to mount in 1976 in the face of rising waters.  I had always felt, at that time, that the railroad line, just a few feet from the condo, would be a sufficient protection.  How wrong I was.  Wiser heads ordered the construction of an earthen levee, at least five feet higher, stretching from near Perkett School, westward past the south side of the tracks and then over them to run parallel to homes along 2nd Ave SW.  We were allowed into our homes for a brief check of property on Easter Sunday.  I remember the silence of the neighborhood, the almost total absence of any human movement or activity.  After my authorized check, I took the liberty of scaling the dike and was shocked by the reality of what I was seeing.  A lake stretched from the top of the levee, southward to the golf course area and west to where the bypass is.  Water lapped just inches from the top of the dike.  I learned later that a breach in the dike had threatened my condo a day earlier, not with flooding, but with total destruction.

            We survived, thanks to the Corps of Engineers and the work of volunteers.

            But this was 2011—June—and floods don’t happen in June, or so we thought.  A hard winter had been followed by heavy spring rains in portions of the Souris River watershed.  Mother Nature conspired against all along the river, wreaking havoc from southern Saskatchewan to well into Manitoba, its exit point from our state.


I had always held the belief that God never gives us more than we can handle; but that belief would be sorely tested in the months ahead as we fled our homes.

            When a friend had phoned at mid-morning on that final day, I felt a sense of panic.  I knew the dikes were already showing signs of weakness to the west of me and had a vision of a wall of water engulfing me before I could move to safety.  And so, with a growing sense of dread, I fled.

            Was my faith sorely tested in the days, weeks and months that followed?  Actually, my faith felt strengthened, in large part by the other three “f’s” in this essay.

            My mind was numb in the early days of evacuation.  I almost felt as if I could well experience, for the first time in my life, a full blown nervous breakdown.  Going to church the first Sunday after flight, my mental misery was eased somewhat by the expressed concerns of my church family.  And, as the days passed, that cloud that had seemingly enveloped me lifted.  Questions that had smothered me: where will I live? how will I be able to rebuild my home? will I have a home to return to?—faded a little, but never completely left my mind.

            Members of my church were my rock of strength.  They prayed for me and other who had been displaced with no knowledge of what awaited them when the waters receded.  More than a dozen households of our small congregation had suffered partial or total loss of their homes; some would never return to them.

            I felt that Christmas would be my first serious test of faith.  I should never have worried.  By then I was in my FEMA trailer and one Sunday afternoon in December, several members of the congregation were at my door bearing a tree and decorations, along with some seasonal snacks.  Within an hour, a beautifully decorated tree was up—something I didn’t think I’d have room for.  Outside, the more athletic of the group had climbed a ladder, stringing lights along my trailer’s roofline.  Some colored lights on the railing outside completed the decorating.  What a lift to my spirits, one that would last long beyond the holiday season.

            Faith:  without it we fall victim to all the fears—most of them unfounded—of our situation.  Homeless we might be, but we would survive, given our faith in better days to come. 




What would we do without the love and support of family?  I had a friend who was an only child.  He had no brothers or sisters to give him nieces and nephews.  At the time of his passing, his only living relative was an elderly mother, unable to attend his modest funeral. 

            By contrast, I was almost overrun with family, and I say that in the kindest way.  My three siblings gave me a total of nine nieces and nephews, and each of them has given me the benefit of their love, and in large part an even larger gathering of great nieces and nephews.

            From the start,  I knew I had the love and support of all of them as I faced an uncertain future.  We were in constant communication.  In large part, I was able to face that uncertain future thanks to my family.

            In the months during my “homelessness” I visited the two closest branches of my family in Canada.  Being with them seemed to bring about a shedding of all the fears I had about the future.




            If “family” was at the heart of my flood survival, my friends weren’t far behind.   While the closest of my family was hundreds of miles away, the proximity of friends was a godsend.  I couldn’t have done without them.

            So far, I’ve not given the names of anyone that helped, but, at this point, I can’t continue without acknowledging the contributions to my well-being by long time friends Perry and Margo Moll.  In no way can I diminish the role played by all my friends, but in Perry and Margo, I had an everyday source of help and emotional support.

           Within minutes of the broadcast announcements that evacuation had been ordered, the Molls’ younger son, Cameron, and his friend, Josh, were at my door to move furniture and other items to upstairs safety.  Days earlier, I’d undergone surgery for a patch of skin cancer on my right shoulder and had been sent home with the admonition that I wasn’t to lift anything heavier than a hot dog for several weeks.

            I couldn’t stand by and not help, so I tackled smaller and lighter items.  It still took a toll as the work led to the popping of several stitches.

            And that’s the way it was in the days that followed, with the Moll family taking care of me through the summer and into the autumn season.  Their contributions to my welfare were numerous.  Perry’s father,  Arnold, and brother, Nathan, appeared one Saturday soon after I and my motorhome were placed on the Moll homestead just south of the city.  They had come to upgrade my electrical service to 30 amp so that the air conditioners could be run in the hotter weather of summer.

            Time and again I was part of their family at gatherings, and supper with Perry and Margo became a welcome routine—one which I’ll probably never be able to repay in kind.

            My friends helped me through a very difficult time and I will always be indebted to all of them.



            In the late days of my evacuation, I stopped to speak to those manning a flood information booth at our mall, and voiced my appreciation of that FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) had done for me, and was surprised to learn that I was the only one who had expressed that sentiment to them.

            Without FEMA, the long, hard road back would not have been possible.  Early in my evacuation, FEMA put money in my bank account to cover “transitional” costs.  But, the real financial help came during the summer.  A FEMA inspector came to my home with the aim of determining the extent of loss (all of the first floor), and the square footage of the affected area.

            Within a few days, a substantial amount of money was placed in my bank account to assist with the repair and rehabilitation of my home.  A constant question in my mind was, “What would I have done without that help?”

            But they weren’t done with me yet.  Towards fall, and with the valuable help of my “advocate,” Paul Zaharia, who just happened to be a member of my church, I secured the use over the winter of what city residents came to refer to as “FEMA trailers.”  Thousands of them were brought into the city.  Getting into one wasn’t the problem; making sites usable was.  My eventual deployment had me in a previously flooded trailer court, Holiday Village, deep in the valley on Minot’s east side.  I was just thankful to have a roof over my head for the winter.  I expected to stay in my unit until I could return home in late April, or early May.

            FEMA imposed no payment for rent or utilities.  The trailer is small, to be sure, but I have been very comfortable throughout my stay.  It will eventually be towed away to serve someone else facing a natural disaster.

            Because of infrastructure damage or loss, getting secondary services had to wait a while after my siting.  Phone service and cable television, which I, of course, was required to pay for, finally came to Lot 406 at Holiday Village. 


            It’s said that “all good things must come to an end,” and so it is, too, with adversity.  My life has seen its share of good times and bad, but I never thought I’d be forced from my home by a natural disaster.  At this writing, nine months after fleeing my threatened home, I’m still dealing with the realization that the worst is in the past, and that I soon can resume a more normal life—thanks in large part to the people and entities named in this essay.

            I know that my neighborhood will never be fully whole, that some have moved away, abandoning their homes, and even moving to other cities.  But as relocated businesses return and homes again are lit in the hours of darkness, I’ll know that  again “all is right with God’s world.”


Standing Rock Young Life sends its Advance team to help rebuild in Minot

On March 15th, Deacon Terry Star pulled into the All Saints’ parking lot with two members of the Standing Rock Young Life Club,

who gave up their spring break days to help to insulate the manufactured home of a single grandmother.  We’d all planned for about 8 students, but some ended up having to be in school, and others had changes of plans.  However, after the students who did join Terry on this trip: Christopher (Ferby) Ell and Trent Silk, texted pictures back to their friends about their experience, it looks like the Young Life group is going to make plans to take another trip to Minot and help out again.  I’ll bet it will be a larger group next time.

Jody, the owner of this trailer, had been working hard on her own for months in the evenings, when she was finished with her day job at the bakery of a grocery store.  Last June, there were about 4 feet of water in her home.  She was one of the few people in her trailer court whose home did not have to be totally demolished. Manufactured homes, especially the older ones, are often built with materials and techniques that mean they simply don’t survive flooding.  But Jody figured that the best way to stretch the dollars she had from FEMA and from savings was to try to save her trailer.  She, gutted it, taking it back to the studs, saving what little she could.   Jody and her family and friends helped her to replace and reinforce the sagging sub-flooring.  She was lucky enough to find an electrician who rewired her home for a fair price.  She was able to obtain a furnace.  She had received 40 sheets of sheet rock and some insulation from the organizations that were helping homeowners through giveaways last fall.

Construction coordinator Paul Zaharia helped Jody make sure she had the right kind of insulation, and then he showed Ferby and Trent how to install it and to cover the exterior walls with a vapor barrier before hanging sheet rock.

When the insulation was finished, they even had a chance to start some sheet rocking before they needed to get back home on Saturday afternoon.  You’ll note that Trent’s not in too many of these pictures.  That’s because most often he was the photographer.


Paul got the vapor barrier from the Recovery Warehouse.  Mary Barker, the manager of the Recovery Warehouse, said later that this was the first official use of Recovery Warehouse materials.  It may just have been a couple of rolls of vapor barrier, but it was a First to be celebrated, and the beginning of what will be a spring and summer of vigorous materials distribution through HOPE Village for rebuilding Minot’s flooded homes.

Come on back, guys–and bring the rest of the Club.  You’ll be able to show them how to do the things you learned!


Visit to Virginia

Last weekend I traveled to Aquia Episcopal Church in Stafford, Virginia to recruit volunteer groups to Minot to help with rebuilding.  The Diocese of Virginia has a Disaster Preparedness and Response Team that is doing excellent work. They invited leaders from all of the churches in this large diocese to learn about how to make their own parishes ready for a disaster in their own communities; and how to plan and execute a disaster response/rebuild mission trip.  They invited representatives from all of the places where Episcopal Relief and Development is supporting long-term recovery after disaster.  And Alison Hare, or ERD was also there.  I was happy to tell our story with a PowerPoint presentation.  I hope it brings us some skilled and willing hands!   I also created a brochure for Rebuild about  Minot that I’m putting up on this blog so that anyone may reproduce it as they consider getting a group together on a rebuild trip.

Many thanks to Dan Wilmoth and Pete Gustin, co-chairs of the Diocese of Virginia Disaster Preparedness and Response team for the warm welcome and the platform.