United Methodist Church Hands Out Harry Denman Evangelism Award for 2019

The Rev. James Konsor reads to children during a Christmas season event at the Bakken Oil Rush Ministry in Watford City, N.D. The ministry provides clothing, household items, furniture and more to needy families at a nominal price. Photo courtesy the Bakken Oil Rush Ministry.

When the Rev. James “Jim” Konsor and his wife, Kathy, arrived in Watford City, North Dakota, about seven years ago, it was to take advantage of the oil boom there with a well-paying job as a truck driver.

Reflecting after his retirement last June, Konsor is amazed and thankful for all that’s been accomplished.

Not as a truck driver, though.

The Konsors leave behind a legacy of helping the multitudes that arrived to work in the Bakken Oil Fields only to find that the local economy fell short when it came to basic services.

“It was kind of like gold-rush days, only with pickup trucks and semi-trucks,” said Jim Konsor. “It was noisy and loud and chaotic and overrun.”

The Konsors are among the notable winners of the Harry Denman Evangelism Awardin 2019.

Walking for exercise through Watford City after work, Konsor noticed churches with “Everybody is welcome here,” signs, but there didn’t seem to be anything happening.

“It was like, ‘Come to us,’ you know? That bothered me,” he said.

“I’m an out-of-the-box thinker anyway. When someone says, ‘We’ve always done it this way,’ I’m just instantly irritated. It’s just the way I roll.”

Konsor — who had once helped plant a church and had a long career singing in gospel quartets with his wife — met with the Rev. Keith Nelson, then a United Methodist district superintendent in North Dakota. It was agreed that Konsor would meet with city leaders in Watford City to find out the greatest needs of the area, which turned out to be a thrift store and ways to feed people.

“We needed to help these new families coming to town,” he explained. “That was the seed of it.”

A miracle offering was taken by the Northwest District of the Dakotas Conference. The hope was to raise $100,000. The actual take was $270,000.

Real estate prices had skyrocketed, so they worked with what they could get, said the Rev. Kermit Culver, Northwest District superintendent of the Dakotas Conference, in his nomination of the Konsors for the Denman Award.

With a converted camper trailer and three storage units, the community-wide ministry has provided thousands of people with warm clothing, household items, furniture and other assistance, Culver said.

The camper was set up near an existing food pantry “so when people came for food, they could come for clothing,” Konsor said.

“We went on a rampage to get stuff to stock it with, and so it grew from that kind of beginning.”

At one point the ministry was running out of money, so they began charging nominal amounts for the clothing — along the lines of two or three dollars for jeans and shirts. No one complained. If a family can’t afford even that, they usually can get what they need for free.

Comedy Café — an annual fundraiser featuring the performance of a comedian — usually raises $35,000 to $40,000 for the ministry, Konsor said. The annual Christmas celebration to give presents to needy children generates donations as well.

Today, the Bakken Oil Rush Ministry is a self-supporting, self-funded, 501(c)(3) ministry operation set on a 1.3-acre site owned by the ministry. They have expanded into offering furniture.

Jim and Kathy Konsor have retired and a new director, the Rev. Dwayne Keener, took over on July 1. He recently retired as an Air Force chaplain at Minot Air Force Base in Minot, North Dakota, and holds credentials with the Wesleyan Church.

“I’m 67,” Konsor said. “I started this when I was 60. I drug my wife into it and it was just a do-whatever-it-takes life. It was all-consuming to make something from nothing, but the real key is God gave us great grace to be able to put in the kinds of hours do the things we did.”

The Denman Awards from the Dakotas Conference were not expected, he said. Jim Konsor won in the clergy category, while Kathy Konsor won in the laity category.

“It was a surprise,” Jim Konsor said. “You’re trying to help people and honor God, and to have others in the conference recognize it is very humbling, actually.”

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Source: United Methodist News