Posted 11/25/14 (Tue)
By Amy Robinson
Farmer Staff Writer
With well over 8,000 items given out to families and children in need through the Bakken Oil Rush Ministry’s thrift center just over the past year, Watford City cannot afford to lose this ministry. But the popular thrift center that has served so many people living and working in Watford City is facing troubling times unless it receives help.
The Bakken Oil Rush Ministry serves anywhere from 40 to 70 individuals, including children, in any given week. And these people are typically served during a two-hour block of time they are normally open. However, calls and messages do come in throughout the week, asking for help in a multitude of people’s different circumstances, and those situations can and do come on any given day throughout the week and at any and all hours.
Maybe it is a new family who has just moved to the area because they are trying to start over and have nothing. Or it is a single father, waiting for an entire month for his first paycheck, so he can feed and clothe his children. Every person’s situation is different and every person has a story - often untold.
“We’ve been there, we’ve been at the bottom,” said Jim Konsor, one of the operators for the Mobile Free Thrift Center Bakken Oil Rush Ministry. “People just don’t know the ‘back story’ of these people or what they’ve been through and experienced.”
The only way this mobile thrift center has been able to function and operate is because Jim and Kathie Konsor felt they had a ‘calling’ and needed to be in Watford City, helping others.
The Bakken Oil Rush Ministry started with a dream that inspired a ‘miracle offering’ through the Dakotas Conference of the United Methodist Church. The original goal of the ‘miracle offering’ was to raise $100,000. However, they raised $250,000, which they considered a ‘God-sized miracle!’ Out of that, discussions started, one thing led to another, and the Konsors started the Bakken Oil Rush Ministry in Watford City, just about a year ago.
A great deal of physical work goes into the operation and functioning of this ministry. Currently, the Konsors sort donations at one church, store them at another church, as well as three additional smaller-sized sheds, and then load the 29-foot trailer. The trailer moves from place to place to distribute needed clothing and household items to families and children. And this same routine happens every week. Every item that is given away is free and in good or new condition.
“Our family struggles to make ends meet,” said one local family member. “The mobile thrift store really helped us out.”
With the wages in the Bakken not supporting the high cost of living and the average cost of rent for a two-bedroom apartment being $2,500 a month, people struggle to get the basics. Not only do wages not support the astronomical cost of living, a large amount of people work 80 to 100 hours a week, and the chance to relax and get to know others is limited.
Oftentimes, individuals and families live in small, confined spaces like campers, and there are no places to gather and visit, especially in the colder months. These people frequently long for conversation with someone who cares. The Bakken Oil Rush Ministry not only operates the mobile thrift center, but it also sponsors fellowship events and warmly welcomes all.
“I am lonely,” said a Watford City resident. “I have a job, but feel like no one cares. Get-togethers are great.”
With an estimated 12,000 to 15,000 people in the Watford City area and a growth rate of over 300 percent since 2007, many people are coming to work in the oil industry, but cannot find a place to live. Homeless men, women, and children are living on the streets, in vehicles, or in RVs that do not have utilities.
“Living in a camper is cold and expensive,” said one Watford City parent. “We don’t have a lot of room for our family of five.”
It is the belief of the Konsors and the Dakotas Conference of the United Methodist Church that ‘God is calling them to respond to one of the greatest mission fields in North America.’ They believe that reaching out to the Watford City region provides hope, love, and support for all of God’s children.
But in order to continue this belief and mission, the need for a temporary building or space is vital. From there, the long-term goal is to achieve a ‘dream building.’ But a ‘dream building’ cannot happen without adequate funding and consistent volunteers. The ministry is desperately seeking the community’s assistance and help. The ministry they have been providing for the past year has made an extensive impact in the lives of so many, in the hub of the Bakken.
The community has started to rally together to figure out what needs to happen to keep this ministry here. If you are interested in helping or having a voice, the next meeting to discuss the future of this ministry will be Thursday, Dec. 4. The time and location will be posted on the ministry’s Facebook (Oil Rush Ministry) and webiste (www.oilrushministry.com) pages. Individuals are also welcome to call 218-422-5492 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Our desire is to be here,” said Jim Konsor. “We want to keep this ministry going. We want to make people feel like someone cares and they are a part of this community.”