Saturday, July 21, 2012

And I was a stranger and you welcomed me...

North Dakota is home to few things but many Lutherans and here is a heart warming story of diaconia at work in a small Missouri Synod parish where the doors have been opened to people without a place to stay in a state undergoing a surprising oil boom.  You can read from the article here but I have included a few paragraphs below and some photos as well....

Each time someone new arrives at Concordia Lutheran Church looking for a place to stay, the Rev. Jay Reinke has the same reaction: “Oh Lord, not another one.”

The small Missouri Synod Lutheran church in Williston has 30 to 40 job-seekers sleeping inside the church on a typical night, with dozens more who stay in their vehicles in the church parking lot.
The practice started in May 2011 after a man from Idaho told Reinke he was going to give up and go home. Reinke invited him to sleep on the floor of the church.

After that, a second man stayed, and the numbers gradually grew. A total of 450 people — primarily men — have slept inside the church while they searched for work and housing, along with an unknown number who have called the parking lot home.

New arrivals to Williston are often unprepared for the city’s severe housing shortage driven by the influx of people looking for oil jobs. Those in need of housing quickly hear about Concordia through word of mouth.
When they arrive, Reinke gives them the same message:

“I’ll say, ‘I need to tell you that you are a gift. You’re a gift to us. You’re a gift to Williston. Welcome,’” Reinke said. “Sometimes men have just started to cry. They have been so alone, they’ve just really suffered. And they haven’t felt welcomed.”

The number of guests sleeping on cots or on the church floor peaked at 54 in one night. Reinke aims to keep it in the 30s, but sometimes it’s tough.

Here is more:

Bob Guderjohn, who has been one of Concordia’s elders for 18 years, said there were some community discussions about developing an emergency shelter or other solution, but those plans seem to have disintegrated.

“Nobody stepped up other than Pastor Reinke and our church,” said Guderjohn, adding that community members and other churches have made financial contributions.  The “overnighters,” as Reinke calls them, have created some stress for the congregation.  Guderjohn, a former deputy sheriff, said he was strongly against letting people stay overnight until he started getting to know them. “The vast majority of them are simply people trying to make it work,” he said.

Last week, Reinke hosted Bible studies for the overnighters and as many as 40 people attended and were actively engaged in the discussion. Some who have stayed at the church have become church members or are taking classes to become members. Reinke has baptized two of the overnighters.

Mercy work is never easy, often thankless, usually misunderstood... but it is one of the marks of the Church and this congregation and its Pastor stand tall in our church body as workers of mercy and servants of Christ...

For photos, click here.


Ted Badje said...

I knew Jay from college. He is a very good man. I hope his ministry is fruitful. There is a lot of personal upheaval during boom and bust times. God put him there at the right place and right time.

Anonymous said...

Hear Pastor Jay Reinke on the 7/13/2012 Issues, Etc. broadcast

Anonymous said...

Is he "too Confessional" according to the North Dakota District? If so, then don't let him become too successful. The district will have to use all means necessary to shut down Jay Reinke's ministry.

Anonymous said...

Remember Minnesota South!

Paul said...

Matthew 25:31-46 comes to mind.