Chapter 3, “Ministry to a Hopeless Man” pp. 47-80
Nouwen observes that in all walks of life people lead others. In the simplest form, leadership may be a one-on-one encounter. These simple interactions may be key to understanding more complex relationships.
Nouwen builds a case study involving a patient and a chaplain. The patient is frightened and essentially shuts down conversation. The patient is scared of the impersonal, technological surroundings in the hospital. He was fearful of death but the chaplain did not perceive this. The patient has nothing good waiting for his recovery so does not really know what to desire, not to mention how to express his desires.
We think about these conditions, as does Nouwen on p. 62. “What could or should John have done for Mr. Harrison? But this question is really not fair. For the condition of Mr. Harrison was not immediately clear and comprehensible.” Possibly the theology student could have recognized the impersonal surroundings and given a personal response. This moving forward to make oneself known and knowable is an important step in ministry, especially in a largely impersonal world. The Christian can promise to be present, whether in life or in death. This is a great comfort. We minister through showing “first, personal concern, which asks one man to give his life for his fellow man; second, a deep-rooted faith in the value and meaning of life, even when the days look dark; and third, an outgoing hope which always looks for tomorrow, even beyond the moment of death” (p. 71).