Book review by Christine Guth
In Souls in the Hands of a Tender God, Craig Rennebohm draws on thirty years of ministry on the streets of Seattle to bring us into the world of street people who live with a mental illness. As Rennebohm introduces us to his characters with gentle respect, he enables us to look past the presenting signs of illness to see the humanity we share with them, always present and always potentially accessible.
Rennebohm teaches the ministry of companioning by example. His stories illustrate how he slowly builds trust with someone who presents an illness self that is withdrawn, terrified, or belligerent. He invites readers to experience the tender mercy of God as he leads us to identify with the fear, anger, and vulnerability of people we ordinarily keep at a safe distance. We receive in his stories the blessing of God for the weakest, most vulnerable parts within ourselves.
I commend the book to anyone seeking to understand a loved one with a mental illness and to all who are involved in ministry among people who are homeless, mentally ill, or otherwise deeply vulnerable. Beyond these audiences, I believe the book has much to offer readers seeking to understand how God is present in a disturbing and broken world. I join with the authors in their hope that these stories "will help demystify mental illness and encourage efforts to build communities of openness, understanding, and care, with active participation and leadership from local congregations."
2023 Update: Rennebohm's practices
of companionship inspired the Companionship
Movement, which includes a half-day training to learn how to put our
concern for another person into practice through companionship.