By: Christa Meland
“There’s no better time to be a United Methodist in the Dakotas than right now,” Rev. Randy Cross, Prairie Hills district superintendent, told members of the 21st session of the Dakotas Annual Conference.
Photo: Dancing, singing and joy as the miracle offering is brought forward to help start a new church in Kenmare, North Dakota and bring items fo the mobile thrift store in Watford City, North Dakota. Photo by Charity Kerr.
At morning worship on Friday, Dakotas United Methodists celebrated what God is doing in and through them. They threw colorful streamers in the air and sang jubilantly to the music of the praise band from Embrace Church in Sioux Falls.
They also donated $180,000 to this year’s Miracle Offering, which will go to the Bakken Oil Rush Ministry—and donations are continuing to come in. This year’s teaching session speaker, Rev. Adam Hamilton, presented a $10,000 check for the Miracle Offering from his church, Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas. Another $50,000 came from Harvey United Methodist Church, which recently closed.
“The field is ripe for the harvest,” Cross told conference attendees. There are unchurched people in our communities who are waiting for us to reach out. “Those folks need our prayers,” he said. “They need the good news of Jesus Christ.”
That group includes people in the booming Bakken region of North Dakota. The conference’s Bakken Oil Rush Ministry began in 2013 in response to the region’s oil boom, which has prompted the population to swell from 642,023 in 2000 to more than 700,000 today.
The high cost of living, lack of housing, isolation, and intense work hours have created significant needs in the Bakken region—needs for both basic necessities and connection. Dakotas United Methodists are working to meet those needs.
A Miracle Offering collected at last year’s annual conference in Bismarck, North Dakota, resulted in more than $290,000. Those funds were put to use in several ways: They launched a free mobile thrift store in Watford City that moves from place to place in the Bakken region to distribute needed clothing and household items; they started an outreach effort in Watford City that resulted in several fellowship events; and they were used to send a church and community worker to Williston to help the Dakotas Conference find effective ways to be in ministry in the Bakken region.
The mobile thrift store, launched by lay missionaries Jim and Kathie Konsor, ministers to those in the Bakken region who need assistance as they transition to an expensive and sometimes inhospitable environment. The ministry is enabling the Konsors to build trust and position the United Methodist Church for the launch of a new worshipping congregation in Watford City, which is hoped to open in 2015.
“We want to pass on the love of God,” Kathie Konsor said about the free mobile thrift store.
Part of this year’s Miracle Offering will be used to purchase 5,000 items to restock the mobile thrift store, which has already distributed 2,800 clothing and household items valued at more than $24,000; items from the mobile thrift store have been given to more than 760 people.
Another $100,000 of this year’s Miracle Offering will be used to support a vital merger between Kenmare UMC and Donnybrook UMC that will bring forth a new vision in an area that’s seen its population rapidly climb. The funds will assist with start-up costs of a new regional church in Kenmare, including land purchase, staff support, and building design.
“These congregations are willing to lay down their own individual lives and futures … for resurrection,” said Director of Ministries Greg Kroger. “Talk about fearless, Spirit-led churches!”
The vision for the Dakotas Conference’s Oil Rush Ministry is to touch lives with Jesus’ love while expanding the kingdom of God and the United Methodist presence in the Bakken region. The conference has a three-pronged approach to living into that vision: meeting human needs, equipping local congregations for greater missional impact, and developing new faith communities.
At Friday worship, Bishop Bruce Ough reminded attendees that the Bakken region is considered the largest mission field in North America. He also said there are several different ways of looking at our United Methodist “connection.”
But ultimately, “the connection is about having each other’s backs when God leads us to do bold … courageous things,” he said. “The Miracle Offering is about having each other’s backs.”
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.