Q&A with the Minnesota Search & Rescue Team

A: Immediately after being alerted of a coming search dispatch, we usually start examining which responsibilities for today can be postponed and which ones can be handed off to others. This is when a supportive family and church becomes vital to being part of the team. After clearing our schedules, we get in contact with other team members in our area to see whether we can carpool and how quickly we can be enroute. We try to be on the road within 30 minutes from dispatch.

Because Minnesota is such a large state, we usually have several hours in transit to start pre-planning the maps and who will be filling what role during this search. Once on scene, we sign in and get out our gear. We then change attire as needed for weather and environment and listen for our team assignments. This slot of time also often provides opportunity to talk with the family if they are present and interact with law enforcement.

While we are out searching, our staging trailer often has cookies baking or food cooking so that we can refuel when we complete a segment. It’s nice to watch our tracks show up on the big screen in the staging trailer.

If a find is made, we send out an evac team while the rest of the men start packing up the gear for the trip home. If all segments are cleared without making a find, we work with law enforcement to determine if they have any further evidence to indicate other areas. If not, we prepare to close up for the day or search, if that’s the call that is made. We then sign out, quickly debrief, and head for home. Often that ride home is a second debrief as we discuss what we learned. This also helps build our team’s cohesive unity. At home again, we clean our gear and clothes, connect with our church prayer teams, and spend time with our family before heading back into work.

A: We got a call from the local sheriff, asking us to come look for a 21-year-old male who was missing for three days. The FBI, Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, border patrol, and local police were also involved. The sheriff briefed the group on the missing young man’s mental challenges and home situation, as well as the missing handgun and last known contact and points. After listening to our suggestions on how to conduct the search, they told us to take charge and started asking how they could help with their individual resources.

It felt very weighty to have all these men of responsibility putting their trust in our hands. The next day, the young man was found deceased on our first segment, making it one of our shortest successful searches. Our actions on prior searches with local community law enforcement had earned their respect, leading them to trust us during what looked like a potentially dangerous search. That is a testimony of God’s presence with us!

A: We went looking for a woman who was missing for two months. Not because law enforcement called, but rather as a ministry to the family still grappling to find answers. We came up empty after working over various conspiracy theories and covering a lot of the territory where she could have been, but most didn’t think that she would be. However, one man suggested that she could have gone farther than what others thought possible. We decided to set up a couple segments in a different location, and the body was located. It was a gruesome find.

What makes this memorable in a good way though is that there was family on the find team, and while they waited for law enforcement to arrive, our team members prayed with the family right there by the body. We found out later that those prayers and words of comfort meant the world to that family and spoke to their souls. That is why we do this. Not just to find the physically lost, but to find those who are lost and don’t know it.

A: Consider your level of dedication to this work. You may be disappointed if you are looking for adventure, as a lot of searches are just hard and uneventful. However, if you are doing this as an opportunity to show the love of Jesus to the lost and are willing to place a high priority on responding as “available” to dispatches, then you could be a valuable member of the team. It will cost you money, time, and energy, but it is worth it if you are doing it for the right reasons.

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