On Jan 25, 1997 Leonard Wilson and Palmer Hutcheson were taking a training ride for the MS 150. Leonard’s ride was cut short when he turned in front of a car travelling at 55 mph. He was struck and severely injured. Leonard survived his injuries with the help of excellent medical care. He survived the psychological and spiritual trauma with the help of a community of prayer and a Stephen Minister.

It’s amazing how we go through our lives taking everything for granted, that we’ll get through every day with nothing adversely affecting our lives. I arrived home [from the ride] not in a few hours, but three weeks later after being life flighted to Hermann hospital, with a week-long stay in the intensive care unit. These things aren’t supposed to happen to us. They happen to other people.

Despite all this bad stuff, I either received or became aware of several gifts. I lived. I wasn’t paralyzed, in spite of two fractured vertebrae in my back. I would walk and run again, in spite of a severely broken ankle and leg. I lived in a city with excellent emergency care and had a superb group of surgeons assigned to me, one of whom was a member of St. John's. The final gift, which was really the blessing, was an incredible amount of support and prayer I received from many friends as well as many members of St. John’s church, many of whom I didn’t know or didn’t know very well.

It’s very difficult to do something that almost kills you and not want to blame it on somebody else. It was mostly my fault. Eventually I had to come to grips with that. I had a lot of time to think about things, being home for eight weeks.

I was initially assigned a Stephen Minister to bring me communion at the house. One of the qualities of a good Stephen Minister is to be a good listener and help a person get through their situation. Mac [Burgher] was a very good listener. When you have someone with you to listen to you and talk through these issues – I found this being a Stephen Minister myself – if people talk enough about things, they will eventually fix their problems for themselves. It’s not the job of a Stephen Minister to fix the problem. It’s to just get them through it.

I became a Stephen Minister as a way to give back to the church by something I was good at doing. When I became involved, I started thinking about what Mac had helped me get through. I’m in sales, and I’m supposedly good at listening and ascertaining people’s needs. I felt I’d be able to listen to people and ask questions and help them get through situations.

Most of the Stephen Ministry training classes are large. People have a lot of opportunity to do role playing and have more participation in the process. I learned to listen, and not try to solve the person’s problem. The key to being a good Stephen Minister is to have a lot of empathy, being able to listen, not really helping the person solve the problem, but getting them to the point where they solve the problem and reach some conclusion or some way of dealing with the situation themselves as opposed to me telling them ‘Here’s what you need to do and here’s what you do to get there.’

A Stephen Minister should let their care receiver know that they can count on us to listen to them, treat everything they tell you in a confidential manner, and build a trust with them that helps them get through their situation, whether it be the loss of a job, a death in the family, a divorce, etc. I feel like I’m doing some good. It’s human nature to want to help people get through situations, and if I can do that for someone and make their life easier – help them work through an issue.

Almost anyone with a good degree of maturity and common sense can do this. I would encourage people who are called to serve and want to be a blessing to people, be a blessing in someone’s life, and help them get through something, and we’re all going to go through these events sometime in life, to consider being a Stephen Minister. If you can help people get through these situations and return to a normal life and get over the grief, the setbacks they go through, it’s a form of doing God’s work and it’s very rewarding.

  • Are you called to care for your church family? A new Stephen Ministry training class begins January 13, 2020. Please contact Leonard Wilson, wilsonl@toddorg.com or 713.806.7900 by December 1.