We belonged to a church in Summit, NJ that had a group of Stephen Ministers. I was unfamiliar with what that was or who they were or even how they got here. And so I sort of forgot about it, to be honest.


A number of years later, we moved my father up to assisted living after my mom’s passing. He had Parkinson’s and when it hit—it hit him hard. He was lonely there.


I asked our church if one of the Stephen Ministers might come over and talk to my dad.


Well, what a blessing and adventure that turned out to be. Henri Vaugle, a Frenchman who fought in the Resistance during World War II, showed up. He was a contemporary of my dad’s. He was trained and ready to take on my irascible father.


They got on as “brothers” once they discovered their overlapping war experiences. My father had been in “Bradley’s army” starting in North Africa and moving up through Italy, slowly (…painfully slowly) and then on to the liberation in France (Henri’s France) and then the camps in Germany.


They met most every week for an hour. I’m sure the time flew by- especially for my dad as he re-visited a time of great adventure and purpose.


Henri was kind and generous and soft-spoken. He knew how to listen. He had been trained to listen and to listen well. He knew how to ask questions so that my dad was able to reflect. He knew what to listen for and how to get my dad to think and be grateful for his life and to be at peace with the present.


Henri also benefited. He told me so. He was grateful to be helping my dad.


My dad passed away after being in NJ for about a year.


We had a family memorial at our church.


There was only one non-family member there. Henri.


I had never forgotten the grace shown by my church in extending one of their Stephen Ministers to my dad.


And so about three years ago I met with our BSPC Stephen Ministry leadership team to see if I might be a Stephen Minister. (Just to say “Minister” is sobering.)


I was invited to join the classes along with 5 other wonderful members. Our training was very well done. 6 months every other week, 2 ½ hours a crack. Great teachers and really sound material to use as our textbooks. Lots of practice—mostly of how one listens. But also learning to be “there”. That is the place where we all are right now. It is the place where we ask God to be with us.


God is “there”. Whoever we are and wherever we are, we just need to sometimes be reminded.


I’ll never forget Henri. He was there for my dad.



-Written by Bill McDonough

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  1. Liz November 2, 2022 at 1:19 pm - Reply

    That was a lovely reflection. Thank you Bill –

  2. Bill Kelley November 2, 2022 at 3:48 pm - Reply

    Reading Bill’s blog brought to mind a Stephen Ministry relationship I had many years ago. Middle age with a chronic health problem, my Care Receiver was stressed out about his family relationships, especially with his sister. We met at a Panera Bread once a week for a year. Our conversations were awkward, at least from my Stephen Ministry position. My line of questions and continuing conversation always seem to raised his blood pressure which made me super cautious and feeling as a failure at my SM responsibilities. My previous caring relationships had been successful so I was a little set back by this failure. Even my prayers didn’t pass muster. Ideas from other SMs didn’t help. I pressed on until the relationship ended when the Care Receiver moved half a state away. Thank goodness I was relieved, I didn’t have to sweat that CR hour any more. Those many years ago passed until three weeks ago. The CR called me at home just to catch up and have conversation. I was floored, but elated and happy! God had been at work through all those difficult conversations.

  3. Betty Lou Stull November 2, 2022 at 6:35 pm - Reply

    It is a reminder that just as we seek for ministers to have a good match with the church to which he or she is called, so Stephen Ministers need to have a good match with their care receivers. It can be tricky as there are such a variety of care receivers with many different issues. For example, my first care receiver was a college student with roommate issues. She was not from our congregation and simply wasn’t what I had pictured during training as a care receiver for me. But it seemed to work. I’m a retired Stephen minister now, but future care receivers ran the gamut agewise into their 80’s. I wish more folks at Broad Street would request that listening ear. Maybe Bill’s blog will generate more interest. I hope so.

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