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Volunteers bring help to N.D. heartbroken

 
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2:00 P.M. EDT August 29, 2011 | MINOT, N.D.(UMNS)



Roses spared by the floodwaters bloom amid debris and weeds in the front yard of Edward Ortiz. UMNS photos by Mike DuBose.
Roses spared by the floodwaters bloom amid debris and weeds in the front yard of Edward Ortiz. UMNS photos by Mike DuBose. View in Photo Gallery

View more photos of damage in Minot

On June 21, Edward Ortiz’s wife, Becky, left for a church convention in Bismarck for a week. “The dikes were holding water pretty good,” he recalled.

He went to work. Ironically, his job was hauling material to put around schools and other buildings to protect them from the impending flood.

“Someone was listening to the radio and told me the dike had broken,” Ortiz said.

The Ortiz home is a couple of blocks from the Mouse River, which rushed over its banks inflicting heavy — and possibly irreparable — damage on the neighborhood.

One week later, he climbed up on a dike a block away to look at his house. It was mostly underwater.

Another week went by, and the water was still there.

A month after the Ortizes took refuge in their daughter’s home in south Minot, ducks were swimming behind their home.

The couple was allowed to enter the house and survey the damage.

“The house was just a mess,” Ortiz said. Dikes had been constructed in front of the house to protect Minot State University directly across the street. The university sustained little or no damage.

The Ortiz home was another story, as sewage from the university was pumped out and deposited in their yard.



Ortiz describes how the floodwaters destroyed his home of 32 years.
Ortiz describes how the floodwaters destroyed his home of 32 years. View in Photo Gallery

“We bought this house in 1979,” Ortiz recalled. “It was paid for two or three years ago.” He spoke proudly of the beautiful rose bushes that had graced the front yard and of other improvements to the house over the years.

“It was a pretty house, with hardwood floors and walnut trim,” the Vietnam veteran added.

“We raised two kids here. The house was built in ’26. It’s still a good strong house.”

Helping hands lighten load

Pointing to the piles of debris along the sidewalk and curb in front of his house, Ortiz said, “This trunk and that trunk came from Norway. One contained Kewpie dolls with wings. Everything in there disintegrated in the water. We managed to save some carnival glassware.”

He said his wife doesn’t want to return because of the sewage. A health inspector will determine whether it is safe to rebuild. Meanwhile, they will live in a trailer provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Ortiz has looked into buying a lot to rebuild in Bismarck, an hour and a half south of Minot.

“You can’t even get a lot there. The price has gone from $8,000 to $9,000 to $18,000 because they added sewage and water lines,” Ortiz said.

Regardless of the outcome, the Ortizes still must clean out their house. But they’re not doing it alone.

Caring United Methodists from the Indiana Annual (regional) Conference drove many hours pulling a trailer of tools and equipment. One team ended up at the Ortiz home. They spent two days removing air ducts, heaters, tools and a refrigerator from the basement, then began dismantling the hardwood floors upstairs.

The Rev. John Windell, retired coordinator of missions for the conference, led volunteers from the Southwest District. His granddaughters, 11 and 16, live in Minot so they joined their grandfather and the other volunteers.



Members of a United Methodist Volunteers in Mission Team from the Indiana Annual (regional) Conference pose in front of the team's construction trailer. From left are: Kelly Krause, Joe Minor, Ortiz, Tim Guth and the Rev. John Windell.
Members of a United Methodist Volunteers in Mission Team from the Indiana Annual (regional) Conference pose in front of the team's construction trailer. From left are: Kelly Krause, Joe Minor, Ortiz, Tim Guth and the Rev. John Windell.
View in Photo Gallery

“My daughter recruited me,” he explained. “She goes to Faith United Methodist Church, which received heavy damage in the flood. She told them, ‘Don’t worry. My dad can bring a work team here.’ She convinced me we should come.”

Since housing is at a premium in Minot and hotel rooms unavailable, having a relative in Minot was a plus. The work teams stayed in the home of Windell’s daughter or camped out in her yard.

“Right now,” Windell said, “volunteers need to bring self-contained campers for their lodging or bring sleeping bags and find a church willing to house them.”

“I just felt I needed to be a part of sharing Christ wherever I could,” he added. “I’ve done hurricane relief and tornado relief. This is my first flood relief.” He also has taught a pastors’ seminar for the Ilula Orphan Program, a United Methodist Advance ministry in Tanzania, and helped to establish a church in Biao, the Philippines.

‘Our biggest need is hope’

Joining the veteran Windell was Kelly Krause, a married father of two young children, from Salem United Methodist Church, Evansville, Ind.

“This is my first long-term mission trip,” Krause said. “It’s an eye-opener. You see all this damage on TV, but when you get out here and look, it’s everywhere you see. I know it’s overwhelming to the homeowners. That’s why I’m here: to give them a hand.

“And I would do it again,” he concluded.

Joe Minor is another volunteer from Salem United Methodist Church.



Guth, part of the mission team, removes flood-damaged flooring from the home of Ortiz.
Guth, part of the mission team, removes flood-damaged flooring from the home of Ortiz. View in Photo Gallery

The retired John Deere industrial-equipment salesman said he came “to help people who need it. We were on the road 22 hours. But it’s worth it.

“When John called, I was a little hesitant,” he admitted. “Finally, I decided this was where I needed to be. We’re so glad we’re here. We’ve fallen in love with Edward Ortiz. He has such a good attitude about losing so much.”

How can United Methodists help?

“If they can possibly come here and do hands-on involvement, it will be a blessing to the people here and a blessing to the volunteers,” team leader Windell replied. “According to Scripture, the only thing we have to do is to love God and love one another.”

That’s what the teams are trying to do.

“They’re wonderful people,” Ortiz said of the volunteers. “They’ve really helped.

“Now our biggest need is hope.”

Ortiz said the experience has strengthened his faith. He quoted Psalm 133:1, “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!”

“To me, that means a lot. All the faith (groups) have gathered to help with flood relief.

“Sometimes it takes something like this to bring us together.”

*Dunlap-Berg is internal content editor at United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Maggie Hillery, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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