[img_assist|nid=8213|title=Black gold rush|desc=North Dakota has become the nation’s No. 2 oil producer, up from ninth place in 2006, because The Bakken and Three Forks oil fields is rich in both natural gas and quality crude oil. This oil boom has created an influx of workers and families into the state.|link=none|align=left|width=640|height=427]By Karen L. Willoughby, Managing Editor
WILLISTON, N.D. – The situation: The Bakken and Three Forks are vast, deep rock formations rich in both natural gas and quality crude oil underlying much of the western third of North Dakota.
Now in its third boom year, North Dakota has become the nation’s No. 2 oil producer, up from ninth place in 2006. Unemployment is near zero percent; more than 17,000 jobs remain unfilled.
The need: In the last two years, 480 new students have enrolled in Williston, N.D., schools; another 1,200 are anticipated for next fall. With those children come parents eager to cash in on the high wages being paid for workers – experienced or not.
Cornerstone First Baptist Church in Williston, where Ashley Olinger is pastor, is eager to minister spiritually to children, parents, families and single workers, and they need your help as they add essential staff and ministries.
“You can’t separate our normal ministry from oil field ministry because it’s all oil field,” Olinger said. “We are already about to launch a ministry using remote control cars as an attraction for teens and single oil field guys who need something to do besides going to the bar.
“Five of our men are involved in putting that together,” Olinger continued. “We’ll set up a bunch of ramps as well as a track on our new property. It will be a weekly evangelistic and discipleship ministry.”
Cornerstone Williston’s first change was acquiring new property and building on it.
“We’re planning on moving in our building the first of July,” Olinger said about a construction project that started last summer. “We’re on schedule to do that, and we’ll be kicking it off with a pretty big community event the day before.
“Our [current] building holds about 145,” the pastor continued. “When people come in and its full it’s hard for them. … We have a lot of visitors almost every week, and we’re anticipating another influx of people [to Williston] over the next few months. The new building will seat 330.”
Olinger had an associate pastor when the oil boom hit. Next on the list: adding two more staff members: a church planter to work up the Hwy 2 corridor and someone to work on the Williston State College campus and assist the church planter.
Discipleship training and leadership development are two additional needs, Olinger said.
“We are incorporating oil field guys into our church almost on a weekly basis,” Olinger said. “We’ve talked with two couples and added two [other] couples in the last two weeks. … We’ve got some home connect groups and that’s where some of these oil field guys who have families hundreds of miles away can connect with people.
“We have one family that has three or four of these guys living on their property and have integrated them into their family,” the pastor continued. “That is oil field ministry. Here’s the reality: You cannot get in your pickup and drive out to one of these oil leases and talk with people; you can’t just wander in off the highway. But there are other ways you can interact with them. There’s all kinds of man camps or rest areas.
“We’re trying to create a place where they can hang out there as well; that’s why we’re putting a coffee bar in our foyer,” Olinger said. “We’re trying to tackle this [oil boom] from a lot of different directions. The best way is to reach guys and train guys to witness where they work. That’s how we’re going to reach them, and we’ve got guys who are doing that. We’ve got guys bringing their coworkers with them [to church]. I do not separate oil field ministry from our church ministry; they’re one and the same.”
Cornerstone Williston would benefit in three ways from the help of Southern Baptists across the nation, the pastor said.
Praying that more local workers would be raised up to reach out to oil field workers; that God would provide opportunities to engage those who are coming here; for the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of those we’ll touch so they will be receptive to God’s love; for resources to be able to add staff to minister to the unprecedented influx; and for housing for additional staff and church planters.
Going: Short-term mission teams, oil field workers who are committed Christians, and Mission Service Corps missionaries all are needed to help minister.
“I want to prayerwalk every single home in the region, about 30,000 of them spread out in Williston and the surrounding areas,” Pastor Olinger says. “Short-term teams can help with that, and with the follow-up of ongoing contacts made. People to work in the oil fields and join in and help with the ministry of the church also are needed, as are MSC self-funded missionaries who will assist church planters, coordinate volunteers and that kind of thing.”
Giving: “We need your help to resource church planters and additional staff to be able to reach out in the oil field,” Olinger said. “I’d like to be able to buy a few mobile homes. We cannot expect a guy to move his family up here and plant a church and live in an RV…. Funding also is needed to help pay for events, outreach equipment, event tent, discipleship materials, advertising and promotion, and similar needs. We have an outreach trailer already, and we’re starting to put it together as we obtain outreach equipment.”
For more information contact Olinger at pastorashley @fbcwilliston.com