The Rev. Glenn Merritt, disaster response director for the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, visited Minot to aid in the aftermath of Minot's flood.
Merritt, a former K-9 police officer working in search and rescue, served as a pastor for 25 years and as a missionary before service in disaster relief. In six years, he has worked in 250 disasters including Haiti, Japan and Joplin, Mo.
"Disaster relief is a ministry of presence," he said. "Just as you are there for those suffering, Christ is there."
Rev. Glenn Merritt
Merritt spoke to Minoters who will respond with a caring hotline for flood victims who want Christian care, set up by three area churches.
"I was delighted to hear Minot's Stephen Ministers decided this caring hotline was an important way they could use their training to help. So many people need a reminder that God has not forgotten us."
"There are four steps to a disaster," Merritt said, "Rescue; Relief when FEMA, Red Cross and the neighbors come to help; Recovery and Rebuilding. A long, slow trauma such as Minot experienced is especially hard. You can come to a dead end, where you can't see a way out of your difficulties."
"It's a long process, physically and perhaps emotionally or spiritually," he said. "You will get back to normal, but it will be a new normal."
Merritt said studies have shown that 90 days after a disaster, many victims especially need emotional support. They feel they have reached the end of their ropes. If they don't get help then, if they try to "power through" problems alone, another deadline looms at 180 days when the recovery mess is still going on.
"Fears, anger and depression will resurface, often with very bad results. This caring line does not replace the work of pastors, but remember many of them are also overwhelmed by the flood.
"Local churches will still be here after the 'big boys' have gone on," he said.
He stressed faith, family and friends are the best resources.
Disaster reactions, usually temporary, may be emotional, such as anxiety, anger, depression and grief, or physical, like fatigue, sleep problems or headaches. Difficulties could be mental, such as confusion, forgetfulness or nightmares, or they might be behavioral, such as isolation or increased drug and alcohol use.
Spiritual difficulties are a strong possibility, questioning God's care, missing church, or finding it hard to pray.
The most effective way to heal is talking to friends, pastors or counselors. If that isn't possible, Merritt suggests keeping a journal.
"It's not selfish to take care of yourself first," Merritt stressed. "You must do that to help others. So rest, pray, sleep, know your limits." He suggested caregivers keep a journal, find a quiet space, a retreat, and spend time with family and friends to recharge their own resources.
He also recommended moderate exercise, rest and being patient with yourself.