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Mission brings family a ‘sense of hope’

Local Lutheran church helps tornado victims

STERLING – A Lutheran group from Sterling helped members of a family of tornado victims in Moore, Okla., to fix their house last week. 

The family’s 14-year-old son, Darrian Minton, didn’t know until the last day of the mission that the group had come from out of town. 

“I took the boy to the hotel so that he could do his homework. When I dropped him off, I told him goodbye,” said Nancy Oehlert, wife of the Rev. Mark Oehlert of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sterling. “He asked, ‘You don’t live around here?’ I said, ‘We live in Illinois, and we have a long drive.’ He put out his hand and shook mine. He said, ‘Thank you very much.’”

“He couldn’t believe we came all that way,” the pastor said. 

Seven St. John’s members spent 5 days last week on a mission trip to help Pam and Mike Minton, whose children range in age from 14 to 21. Other Lutheran churches in the area – including those from Byron, Oregon and Sycamore – also took part in recovery efforts. 

The Mintons, whose home was damaged in the May tornadoes, had been discouraged. 

“The family had had trouble with the insurance company,” Mark Oehlert said. “Three contractors had failed them. The family had lost hope.”

The Mintons asked the volunteers to help in removing insulation and patching drywall damage in one of the bedrooms.

Sterling’s Abiding Word Church and other churches had gone earlier to help families clear the wreckage in Moore. St. John’s waited until it could get some of its skilled members to go along, the pastor said.

The Mintons’ house appeared in good shape from the outside. But damage to the roof had caused problems such as mold inside the house. 

By the time the group left, it had replaced half of the Mintons’ drywall and had taken care of all of the insulation.

“There will be other groups that will go there to finish the drywall,” Mark Oehlert said. 

The pastor was one of the skilled members.

“I’m a second career guy,” said Oehlert, 59, who was ordained in 2001 and started with the local church 9 years ago. “I was a farmer and a builder before.”

“He’s very skillful,” said member Karen Goss, who joined the mission. “He was our team leader.”

Oehlert said his church realizes Sterling and Rock Falls have needs, too.

“But most of us have homes and places to stay at night,” the pastor said. “Most of us don’t have the trauma of a tornado. We brought them a sense of hope.”

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