Tag Archive | ministry

Henry’s Story

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHenry is one of my heroes. I knew Henry for a total of about twelve years, starting in 2000. He wasn’t a perfect person. He had one significant flaw that I knew of – not being punctual. He lived by his internal clock, not his watch. But he taught me more about forgiveness, kindness, and absolute commitment to serving God than anyone else I’ve known in my 66 years of life. (Well, maybe my mom taught me more about those values, but Henry taught me the second most of anybody.)

Henry, who died a few years ago, was a Methodist minister who was called in 2000 to be pastor of Willerup United Methodist Church in Cambridge. Henry was a second career pastor. In his previous career he had worked in sales and marketing for a publishing company. He was about 60, divorced, and the father of two adult children. He was also the legal guardian and caregiver for Bob, a developmentally disabled man in his 40s.

I met Henry and Bob when they moved to Cambridge for Henry’s call to Willerup. Mim and I were living in our farmhouse at the time and we welcomed guests into our home as Country Comforts Bed & Breakfast. Henry wanted Bob and him to stay with us for the first few days during their move into the Willerup parsonage. He thought the move would be less disruptive for Bob if they could at least sleep in an environment that wasn’t as chaotic as a place filled with boxes in the process of being unpacked. However, when Henry and Bob arrived in Cambridge, they discovered that the parsonage wasn’t ready for them. The parsonage was in need of some minor repairs and major cleaning before they could move in.

Henry Hall and Bob SpauldingSo Henry and Bob ended up living with us for a couple months. During that time, we became good friends. As a B&B, we always served them breakfast, but as they were becoming friends, they often ate dinner with us too. Sometimes we’d go into the living room after dinner and gather around the piano for a sing-along, especially on days when my sister Nancy and her husband Clark had also joined us for dinner.

Willerup Sketch-BWUnfortunately, it became clear early in Henry’s time of ministry at Willerup that some members of the congregation were not pleased that Henry, a divorced, second-career pastor, was their minister. The congregation, in general, was quite conservative, and Henry and Bob didn’t fit their image of a traditional pastor and his family. Matters got worse when Bob, who spent his days at a sheltered work environment did some acting out to get more attention. Bob observed that another worker got extra attention when he told stories about his guardian being sexually inappropriate. So Bob tried to tell similar stories about Henry. Bob was right – he got lots of attention when he told these stories. A social worker and even the police got involved.

Word quickly got back to the congregation about these allegations, and certain members of the congregation demanded that Henry be forced to leave the church. Henry tried to continue to minister to the congregation, but stress was beginning to take its toll on his health. Furthermore, one of the social workers believed Bob’s stories without question, and managed to have Henry’s guardianship of Bob terminated, breaking up a healthy “family” relationship that had existed for many years. She also did everything she could to be sure Henry would spend the rest of his life in prison.

That’s when Henry taught me one of his most important lessons. I asked him how he could stand the prospect of spending years in prison because of Bob’s sensational but untrue stories. Henry said, “If I go to prison, it’s because God has a ministry for me to do there. It’s all up to God, and I’ll gladly do whatever He calls me to do.”

The legal case was eventually dropped, but Henry’s reputation was too badly damaged for him to be able to effectively minister at Willerup. He agreed to move to Madison and begin a part-time clown ministry. Being a clown had been a hobby of his for years, and he saw the potential to develop it into an intentional ministry. Henry also needed some less stressful time to regain his health. With all the turmoil, his body had really suffered, and he was put on a waiting list for a heart transplant.

In less than a year of Henry arriving in Cambridge, he was preparing to leave. He decided to take only a few things with him and to move into a small apartment in Madison. He called upon an auctioneer friend of his from his previous congregation to help him get rid of all the rest of his belongings.

Peter Rooster against condoBefore the auction, Mim and I talked with Henry about how hard it must be to give up most of his material possessions. We talked for a long time. He showed us some of his most treasured items that would be in the auction and told us stories about some of them. “Peter” was the name of a life-size cast iron rooster. A member of a previous congregation had given that to him as a gift because of how personally meaningful Henry had made the story of Peter’s betrayal of Jesus, of Jesus’ forgiveness of this betrayal, and of Jesus’ continuing love for Peter and for all of us.

The next day, Mim and I went to the auction. Henry was there. We asked him how he could bear to watch all his treasures being auctioned off. He responded, “I’m delighted to see who is bidding on what. It’s great to see who God has in mind to be the next caretaker of each item. Everything belongs to God anyway. There is no change in ownership.” That was another lesson Henry taught me.

Mim and I really wanted to get “Peter,” the 26-inch tall cast iron rooster. I got into a bidding war over him. I persisted, and “Peter” now stands proudly on the big rock at the corner of our condo – a reminder of Peter’s betrayal of Jesus and Jesus’ forgiveness and continuing love, and also a reminder of all the lessons we learned from Henry.

Peter Rooster against postAbout a year after Henry left Cambridge he got his new heart. The donor was a young man who died in a motorcycle accident. Henry’s recovery was long and hard, but he was determined to recover and continue to develop his clown ministry. He had a new focus for clowning – to comfort people who are involved in heart transplants – the families of donors, the recipients and their families, and the medical and nursing staff who work with everyone involved. He served in clown ministry for about ten years.

I’m very thankful that Henry was called to ministry in Cambridge, even though it was for a short time. By his example, I learned a lot about forgiveness, kindness, and absolute commitment to serving God. Henry is truly one of my heroes.

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Henry brought along some of his clown gear the last time he came to visit us in our home.

 

 

Helping Someone

Last Thursday I participated in the worship service in the County Jail again. There were 11 of us women sitting together in the circle – the chaplain, myself, and nine inmates. The New Testament reading was the last chapter of Romans. We went around the circle, each of us reading one verse. Here’s how the chapter starts.

open bibleI have good things to say about Phoebe, who is a leader in the church at Cenchreae. Welcome her in a way that is proper for someone who has faith in the Lord and is one of God’s own people. Help her in any way you can. After all, she has proved to be a respected leader for many others, including me.

 Give my greetings to Priscilla and Aquila. They have not only served Christ Jesus together with me, but they have even risked their lives for me. I am grateful for them and so are all the Gentile churches. Greet the church that meets in their home.

 Greet my dear friend Epaenetus, who was the first person in Asia to have faith in Christ.

 Greet Mary, who has worked so hard for you.  [Romans 16:1-6 Contemporary English Version]

The next ten verses were similar personal greetings from the Apostle Paul to all kinds of good people in Rome, people who had helped Paul or other Christians over the years as the first Christian churches were being formed. Then Paul gives his final words of advice and blessing, and the letter to the church in Rome ends.

I’ve never really thought much about the last chapter of Romans. As we read the verses, one by one, the most notable part of the chapter seemed to be how hard it was to pronounce some of the names, especially as we were reading out loud. But then the chaplain said something that made me realize – that’s why these verses are in the Bible! She said, “As we give our testimonies today, think about what your ministry is, or what new ministry you may be about to begin. For example, your ministry may be a ministry of kindness.” That’s it! These people in the book of Romans were examples to us that we each have a ministry that we are called to, regardless of what our circumstances are.

One of the first inmates to give her testimony set the tone for this time of sharing. She said, “My daughter is dying. I know the pain of losing a child. When I get out of here I want to go to support groups to help others going through this pain.” There were tears in her eyes.

Another inmate said, “My ministry is singing and teaching. My parents are pastors, and we’re always singing in our house. Even things like, ‘where’s the cell phone?’ – we don’t say it, we sing it. I love to sing and to teach. My ministry is doing that – singing and teaching.”

The woman sitting next to me said, “I used to volunteer with helping people in domestic abuse situations. Actually, I used to be a case manager. I don’t know if I’ll be able to get a job like that again now that I have a criminal record, but maybe I can still volunteer. That’s my ministry, helping people who have been abused.”

A young woman said, “I used to work in a nursing home. I really liked that – caring for people who need help. I couldn’t work with hospice, with people dying all the time. I get too attached to them. But I loved working in a nursing home where I could help people.”

There clearly was a common theme among these testimonies – helping others, just like the people named in the book of Romans.

Would you care to join us in our circle and give your testimony – what ministry has God called you to?

Nurse Holding Elderly Patient's Hand

Remembering My Mom – and Yesterday’s Sermon – on Memorial Day

My earliest memory of Memorial Day is going to the cemetery with my mom to put flowers on the graves of my grandparents. I remember asking her, “Why are we putting flowers on their graves? They weren’t soldiers.” And she responded, “Memorial Day is for remembering everyone we love who has died.”

Letter my mom sent to me 35 years ago

With that conversation in my mind this week, I went to a box full of old letters – correspondence that my mom had kept dating back to the 1920’s. I had wanted to share some letters between my mom and her brother in this week’s blog, but I guess the letters I’m thinking of are in another box. Instead, I came across a letter my mom had sent me, postmarked October 6, 1977, only 35 years ago. Mim and I lived in Chicago at the time. As I re-read this letter yesterday, I gained new insights into my mom’s attitude toward life, particularly in the context of the sermon I had just heard in church earlier in the day.

In the sermon, our pastor quoted Helen Keller. “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”

My mom wrote this letter when she was 69 and my dad was 73. The letter is a snapshot of their normal routine in their retirement.

Tuesday p.m., October 4, 1977

Dear Marian,

It’s so long since I’ve written to you I had to look up your address – isn’t that awful? … Last week we had special meetings at church every night – and he preached about 1-1/2 hours each night, so we got home around 10. The week before was prayer meetings in homes every night. And we did get awfully tired.

I thought this week we could relax a little. Ha! Sunday we went to Richland Center [to visit a retired pastor in a nursing home] – got there in time to go to church. Got home about dark. Monday morning Nancy [my sister] and I went to the woods to pick hickory nuts. In the afternoon I made the deposit [my mom was church treasurer] and then dug carrots and juiced 4 pints of juice, and pulled weeds. This morning I went to a Women’s Aglow breakfast in Fort. This afternoon Stella Jarlsberg and I went to Verona to see Stella Lillesand [in a nursing home]. Tonight I’m going to get Sally and take her to the Women’s Society (I have to help her dress) to hear about Dagmar’s travels [a retired missionary]. Tomorrow I take Donna and her baby to Milwaukee to visit her sister who is expecting a baby any time. Thursday morning I take Sally to get her hair fixed. Thursday afternoon we are probably going to Stoughton to help look for a car for Danny [my brother]. Friday I may take Sally to Madison to the Eye Clinic so she can order another pair of glasses. Friday afternoon Nancy’s 4 kids come for the weekend. (My blood pressure is rising just writing this – maybe I’d better quit!) I do have to go now, but at least I got a start. Will finish it later…

Wednesday a.m.

Didn’t get home until 10:15 and then I didn’t feel like writing. Now I have half an hour before we go to Milwaukee… Daddy just came in now. I told him not to talk so I can finish this. But I guess I ask the impossible.

Wednesday p.m.

Well, we went to Milwaukee today – left at 10 and got home about 5. Then I went out and harvested some garden as it is supposed to freeze hard tonight. I picked some little tomatoes (red) for you. Are you coming to get them?

Sally called me tonight that she has an appointment to see a skin specialist on the Square in Madison (she had skin cancer once) on Friday at 11 a.m. So we’ll go there and the Eye Clinic. Evy Fossum is going along to help her as I know there’ll be parking problems. Then I have to take Evy to Fort when we get home to see her mother who is in the hospital…

Thursday a.m.

It’s morning but I don’t have time to write more as I want to mail this. Daddy wants to go to Stoughton this morning before I pick up Sally. I got dinner in the oven – scalloped potatoes and meatloaf…

You should see the flies upstairs – hundreds! So I’ve got to clean up there today.

Next week I have Reading Circle here – we’re reading The Bible and the Bermuda Triangle.

See you soon, I hope.

Lots of Love,

Mother

My mom didn’t have a spectacular ministry, but she did what she knew she could do to help meet the needs of the people in her life. What a model for us to remember on Memorial Day.

As Mim and I walked Abbey this morning, we walked by the gazebo at Whispering Winds to check on the robins that hatched last week. The robin parents were out gathering breakfast for their babies, and the babies were eagerly awaiting their return. The adult robins aren’t going to change the world, but they can keep their babies fed. We all have our own ministries.

Hungry baby robins in their nest near the gazebo at Whispering Winds