I spent the summer of 1974 working as a breakfast cook in Medora, North Dakota. After-hours were spent roaming around Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the surrounding area. Hiking, picnicking, biking, swimming, and avoiding rattlesnakes were common occurrences. The North Dakota Badlands were there, and beyond it were vast expanses of prairie grasslands for miles upon miles.
I returned to the area this summer. Wow, have things changed!
In just a few years, nearby Watford City has grown in population from around 1,800 to 15,000. There are 53 man camps and RV parks in the county. Many people go there with no skills to offer. They don’t end up with the higher paying oil-rig jobs that are hoped for and instead have to be content with food service, retail, etc. After uprooting themselves (and many times, their families), they end up in a place where a two-bedroom apartment costs upwards of $3,000 per month. It costs about one-third of that to park an RV or camper. It isn’t easy to make ends meet.
Psalm 9:18 reads: “God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish.”
Jim and Kathie Konser, directors of the Dakotas Conference’s Bakken Oil Rush Ministry, live out those words every day. They are meeting the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the people who have made their home in oil field country. They provide clothing (especially winter gear) and small household items help alleviate the money pressure on people. They organize community picnics in the park, spaghetti dinners, and special events around Christmas and New Year’s Day to welcome newcomers and help make them feel at home. They provide emotional support at The Gathering Place, where devotions are shared and discussions center around a variety of topics, including maintaining hope in tough times, loneliness, keeping a vital relationship with the Lord, and how to obtain services through agencies and other support groups in town. They also have plans to construct a ministry outreach building.
This is the second tour of service for the Konsors in Watford City. Realizing its God’s call on their lives, they recently bought a home there. They have made a long-term commitment. I hope some in Minnesota will, in turn, make a commitment to their ministry.
Financial donations can be made to the Thrift Center, Bakken Oil Rush Ministry, P.O. Box 2901, Watford City, ND 58854. They also accept volunteer help on a daily or weekly basis.
People often ask me where they can volunteer “closer to home, but not too far away.” This is an excellent opportunity to do just that. Learn more about all of this at the Bakken Oil Rush Ministry website or e-mail the Konsors.
Rev. Lyndy Zabel is director of missional impact for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church