In his book, In the Name of Jesus, Henri Nouwen describes becoming keenly aware of the fact that Jesus did not send his disciples out alone to preach the Word, but instead sent them two by two. Realizing that he seldom asked anyone to join him when he spoke at various functions, Henri decided to take Bill, one of the residents in the center for the mentally handicapped where Henri now served, with him on his next engagement.
In the days leading up to their departure Bill would regularly ask, “We are doing this together, right, Henri?”
“Yes, we are doing this together,” Henri would reply. “You and I are going to Washington to proclaim the gospel.” While Henri’s primary thought was that the trip would be a nice experience for Bill, Bill was convinced that he truly was going to help Henri share the gospel.
The day came for Henri’s engagement in Washington. As Henri began speaking, he noticed that Bill had left his chair. Moments later, Henri became aware of Bill’s presence behind him. As Henri finished each handwritten page of notes, Bill took the page and turned it upside down on a nearby table, from time to time injecting a few words of commentary on Henri’s message.
At first, Bill’s actions made Henri anxious. Soon, however, he realized the normality it was bringing to the room. When Henri finished, the crowd applauded. Bill wasn’t finished helping, however; he told Henri he had something to say. Though Henri was a bit uncertain, he allowed Bill to speak.
Taking the microphone, Bill said, “Last time, when Henri went to Boston, he took John Smeltzer with him. This time he wanted me to come to Washington, and I am very glad to be here with you. Thank you very much.” The crowd applauded. As the two men walked away, Bill asked Henri, “How did you like my speech?” Henri affirmed Bill, and they left for the airport.
When they arrived home, Bill asked Henri, “Did you like the trip?”
Henri responded, “Oh yes! I am so glad you came with me.”
Looking at him intently, Bill said, “And we did it together, didn’t we?”
Last week I was in Missoula, Mont., with the Great Northern District pastors. I was reminded once again of the words which have filled my heart over and over the last few weeks, as I’ve visited district offices around the country: “We’re better together!” The laughter, the tears, the affection for one another, the spirit of unity and encouragement among this group… what a joy to experience. I’ve heard similar reports from every district fall conference to date. I get a sense that when we all get “home” from this life’s assignment we will most likely have a “Henri and Bill” kind of conversation: “And we did it together, didn’t we!”
Prayer Focus: Let’s pray for the remaining fall conferences that every district will experience this same spirit of unity. May great grace be upon every gathering.
By: Tammy Dunahoo, interim general supervisor