Minnesotans Near Red River Watch and Pray
A UMNS Report
By Victoria A. Rebeck*
March 31, 2009 - Residents near the Red River, the border between Minnesota and North Dakota, are continuing to watch cautiously for breaches in sandbag levees.
Although the river continued to recede - dropping to just above 38 feet early on March 31 as a snowstorm blanketed the region - melting snow could bring a second flood crest by mid-April, the National Weather Service said.
"Half a dozen homes of people in Grace United Methodist Church (in Moorhead, Minnesota) are in imminent danger if a levee were to fail," the Rev. Craig Haberman, Grace's pastor, told his North Star District superintendent, the Rev. Alan Bolte. "Members in our congregation [who are] affected are evacuating, either out of town or to homes on higher ground here in Fargo/Moorhead."
On March 29 - the day after the river crested - about 78 people, fewer than the usual 105, attended Sunday morning worship at Grace church. Haberman extended that morning's time for sharing joys and concerns so people could learn and share news on how others are doing.
The Rev. Duane Gebhard, pastor of Wesley United Methodist Church in Crookston, Minnesota, said that though water was receding in the Red Lake River, Crookston members were most concerned that ice jams could raise the river levels several feet.
In many riverside towns, residents who had not evacuated were urged to block household drains to prevent household flooding. Several still experienced basement seepage. Rural areas lie outside the zone protected by levees. Some farms are flooded or isolated by surrounding floodwaters. Some town and city streets are under water.
Bolte said that a number of United Methodists from around Minnesota have traveled to Fargo/Moorhead to help with the sandbagging task, including groups from Litchfield, Grace (Fergus Falls), and Alexandria United Methodist churches.
Other congregations have begun preparing cleaning buckets as prescribed by United Methodist Committee on Relief.
Making an assessment
The Rev. Heather Klason, Minnesota Conference disaster response coordinator, foresees entering the area in the coming week with the president of Minnesota Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters to make an assessment. Clean-up will probably begin in a few weeks.
"I ask for prayers for all the folks who are in the path of this flood, including our pastors, our churches and all of the communities and families who live outside of the communities, some who have already lost their homes," Bolte said. "Pray the levees hold. Pray for those all along the Red River as the amount of water increases as it flows north.
"I also lift praise to God for all the efforts of volunteers who have given their time and energy to do this massive work," he said.
Those interested in sending volunteer teams to the flood area are asked to contact Lorna Jost, United Methodist Volunteers in Mission coordinator for the North Central Jurisdiction, at 605.692.3390 or email@example.com.
Teams would not be deployed for another three or four weeks, according to Jost, but probably will be needed for many months to come. Volunteers are asked to refrain from directly contacting pastors in the Fargo/Moorhead area.
UMCOR is coordinating donations to assist communities affected by the Red River flooding. Drop checks in church offering plates or mail them directly to UMCOR, P.O. Box 9068, New York, NY 10087. Write Advance #901670 Domestic Disaster Response, Red River Floods, on the memo line. Credit card donations may be made online or by calling 800.554.8583.
*Rebeck is Director of Communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.