From Hammers to Hugs - Disaster Relief Calls for a Wide Variety of Spiritual Gifts

by Rev. Laraine Waughtal*
As important as it is to repair and rebuild homes following a disaster, it is even more important to address the emotional and spiritual care of those affected. The work of the CTC Early Response Team is always about the people first, and following a disaster, I’ve found that what people need to do before they can begin to heal and rebuild is tell their story. They need to share and talk about what they have experienced and how it has impacted their life. One of the greatest gifts we can give people is a ministry of presence and listening. Jesus, often times, before he taught or healed, listened to the person’s story. 
Emotional and Spiritual Care Teams have been a part of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) for the last decade, and the CTC Disaster Response team is excited to bring Emotional and Spiritual Care training to our conference. You do not have to be a licensed therapist to make a real difference to folks who have had their lives turned upside down. You just need to be willing to listen and to learn. UMCOR trains personnel on listening skills, how to ask the right questions (notice it is not how to give the right answers), what to say and what not to say, how to help people explore where God is in all of this and so much more.
The next “Basic Response” training is 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. May 2 at FUMC Fort Worth. Please, visit the CTC Disaster Response page for more details and to register.  The “Basic Response” course provides training identifying spiritual and emotional needs of individuals, communities and congregations following disasters and how to respond to those needs. Response structure. Additional topics include strategies for responders' self-care and understanding how care teams fit into the overall disaster response structure. Basic ERT Training is not a prerequisite for this class.
Time after time some of the holiest moments in Disaster Response has been in listening. I remember being at one disaster site toward the end of the day. We were a couple of weeks into the recovery and I had spent that day checking on work sites for the next day. I had walked to the end of the street and when I turned around there was a gentleman looking like he was a little lost. When I walked up and introduced myself I that he was a doctor from the community and he had been an integral part of the recovery. I immediately thanked him for all of his work. He then asked me who I was and what I was doing. As soon as I introduced myself, he opened up and started talking to me. This man had been so busy working and helping others that he had not had anyone help him. We ended up going and sitting underneath a tree and he talked for the next 90 minutes. It was some of the most sacred time I had ever experienced, and you could see a tremendous weight coming off of his shoulders. 
All just from listening.
As individuals and churches when you enter into the Emotional and Spiritual Care ministry you have the great opportunity to become a listener for Christ; a comforter for Christ; a hand holder for Christ. You provide the gift of time during one of those moments when life is filled with chaos. You get to bring a presence of peace and calm. You may not have the skills for rebuilding a home but you can easily have the skills of helping rebuild a life. Please consider joining us for our next Emotional and Spiritual Care training. Just go to to register. I’ll see you there.

*Laraine is the coordinator of Disaster Response/UVMIV for the CTC.