the privileges of pastoral ministry is to sit with people as they share
their stories. It is through stories that we express who we are and mark
out our place in the human journey. Through stories we create our identity,
mark our place and build both memories and present meaning, both as individuals
and as a community. Being allowed to tell our story, and being heard as
we do so, validates our journey, and affirms our humanity.
Both the Jewish and Christian faith are founded on key stories: the journey of people of faith and their encounter with God. As we remember the stories of the Exodus and the Easter story – amongst others – the sense of christian identity is shaped. We grapple with the stories, realising that they are replete with imagery and ragged edges, raising as many questions as they answer.
To listen to another as they “tell their story” is an important demonstration of care. Our stories humanize us, providing opportunity to introduce others to our life journey: we are no longer an anonymous and unfamiliar face, we are more than a name, we are a person with a history, with hopes and dreams, challenges and resources. Given the chance to tell our story, we unfold this in part. By listening, we affirm another’s humanity.
This was sheeted home afresh to me in the past week as I listened to Mark Holt sharing his experiences in the tsunami-devastated region of Banda Aceh. Mark took three months away from pastoral ministry to serve as World Vision’s shelter manager in this area, overseeing part of the reconstruction work. But Mark found a greater need: people wanting someone to listen to them as they told of their experiences. While the work of rebuilding the infrastructure continued, so many people wanted someone to listen to their story, so that they might begin the work of rebuilding their lives.
Mark’s story was so compelling, I have asked him to share it with us, which he will do next Sunday night. While the tsunami story has passed the media by, with much more interest in Schapelle Corby, the tragedy of Boxing Day 2004 continues to reverberate through the communities as they seek to make sense of what happened and find some hope for the future.
Mark reflected on the power of listening as local Indonesians shared their story. The healing power which comes through listening is far greater than we realise. In our busy lives, it is something too easily forgotten.
June 12, 2005