St. Louis Lutherans Head to Philippines to Help with Recovery and Relief

Where that money will go depends on what churches in the Philippines want.

"With Americans, we may look and say, 'You need this and this and this,' but that may not be what they need," Merritt says. "We always step back and say, 'How can we help you?'"

The church is buying and shipping vacuum-sealed packs of rice and beans, water and shelter packs -- two wooden planks, a metal roof and a heavy-duty tarp -- to distribute to typhoon victims.

Merrit wants to buy those supplies in or near the Philippines, where they are cheaper and arrive quicker, and says American donors can help most by donating money -- not food or clothes.

"Not to be crass, but what we say to folks is your financial support of the work we're doing is the most effective way you can help us respond at this time," he says.

An eight-year veteran of disaster-relief work, Merritt compares the devastation he'll face on Saturday to the earthquake/tsunami that rocked Japan in 2011, which killed 18,000. And just like there, Merritt and his team will drop everything to help victims however they can.

"We're driven by that mercy of God and Christ to reach out to others," he says. "We have to do it. We're driven to do it.

"We can't not do it."

Follow Lindsay Toler on Twitter at @StLouisLindsay. E-mail the author at

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