Flood survivors need shelter, food, water, information and much more. But caring people recognize their needs go far beyond physical necessities.
So members of three area churches of two Lutheran denominations established an around-the-clock spiritual helpline to offer free comfort to anyone suffering emotional hurt after the flood.
"Most of the 21 people who will respond to these calls have been trained as Stephen Ministers for Our Savior's Lutheran Church or Christ Lutheran in Minot or Rose Valley Lutheran Church at Des Lacs," Bonnie Rennich said. Rennich is one of the three caring line organizers.
Eris Smith of Christ Lutheran and Shirley Oen of Rose Valley teamed with Rennich to head the program.
"This is a new program," Smith said. "It's an extension of Lutheran Disaster Relief, but they haven't done this work before, after a crisis like Minot's flood, so the major LDR contribution at this point has been setting up the telephone technology and helping us advertise."
When a person seeking a listening ear calls the hotline number, 701-204-4672, the call is automatically transferred to the responder who is scheduled for that time period. Calls may be made at any hour of the day or night.
Oen, Smith and Rennich recognized that area flood victims needed help in many areas as they recovered, in areas such as shelter, food or cleanup. But, with their families and community groups, such as churches, also devastated by the flood, they also needed a spiritual lifeline of compassionate care. The women drew on their training and experience as Stephen Ministers to develop a plan and to assemble a response team.
"We draw heavily on our lessons from Stephen Ministry training," Oen said. "The care line, like Stephen Ministry, is free, confidential and based on Christian ethics."
Unlike Stephen Ministry, the hotline is not on-going. The 35-year-old nondenominational Stephen Ministry traditionally matches one caregiver with a care-receiver for frequent scheduled visits, concentrating its work within a single congregation. Christ and Rose Valley churches are affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
The three Minot churches began the ministry programs within the last decade, sending leaders to St. Louis, Mo., for intensive training. They returned to Minot to train fellow parishioners in a 50-hour course.
Most of those responding for the care line have completed Stephen Ministry training, and Smith, Oen and Rennich have lead additional training to prepare them for potential questions.
The Rev. Glenn Merritt, director of disaster response for the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, also led a training session for responders at Our Savior's on Aug. 30, the evening prior to opening the care line.
"The immediate physical needs of flood victims are being met, but the emotional support system has been just as damaged, with churches, families, friends and neighbors unavailable to people. And these needs must be heard," Smith said. "Comfort must go on while thousands of people struggle with the long aftermath of this flood."