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
Enjoying the Broad Street Blog? Be sure to subscribe so you never miss another post