“You shall love the stranger, for you were once strangers in the land of Egypt.” — Deuteronomy 10: 19
Minot has seen a LOT of changes in the past few years. One of those changes was a shortage of affordable housing in the wake of the oil boom and the flood. There were a few resources available in Minot for women and children in Minot who were without shelter on our cold winter nights, however many men were finding themselves walking the aisles of Walmart to keep warm or attempting to sleep outside on our -40 degree nights.
After getting to talk with some of these men at one of Minot’s daily free community lunch sites, it was becoming clear that many of these men had work, but simply couldn’t get enough money together for adequate housing while paying lodging costs at local hotels. With a spirit of hospitality in mind, local pastors, and concerned citizens partnered with the Minot Area Homeless Coalition to create an emergency winter refuge.
Last winter, with the generous donation of a house from First Lutheran Church in Minot, and the support of multiple congregations from multiple denominations, and after getting all necessary paperwork together and city approval, the Minot Area Men’s Winter Refuge was born and was off to an incredible start.
In its first (shortened) winter season, The Men’s Winter Refuge was open for 63 nights (756 hours). The refuge was blessed with forty-three different volunteers serving in our midst. These volunteers gave a total of 1747 hours of their time to serve their neighbors in need of a helping hand and a warm bed. In its first season the refuge served 23 men with an average length of stay at 12.5 nights. Seven were transient, spending three nights or less. And we were elated to find that 6 men had arrived with neither job or housing, and left the refuge with both.
The greatest result of that first season was that the energy has carried into this year’s efforts. This year we are in a new and larger building and have been blessed by an incredible outpouring of community support. Just this season, the refuge received 17 beds and a living room set from a local furniture store (upgrading the air mattresses we had used the previous winter), we were the recipients of a new paint job and hours of clean-up volunteers from local businesses during Minot’s Magic Day of Giving, and we have seen multiple congregations who have given generously of their time and talents as they helped in upgrading the facilities and furniture.
Since its opening, volunteers have been blessed by their experiences at the refuge. Not just in their giving of their time but their receiving of fellowship and friendship from the people they serve. It’s been said by a few volunteers, that they need this time of service more than the people they serve need them. In other words, serving is what we were made to do. We were blessed for the purpose of BEING a blessing. Serving amongst our brothers and sisters in need is one of the best ways to draw closer to the heart of God. It is in these encounters on the margins we encounter the living God. God’s work, our hands.
by Rev. Alex Hoops, Bread of Life Lutheran Church, Minot