Published at the Garden Grove Journal
Of all things, a wounded heart is the most difficult to heal. No medicine can save it, nor diagnoses cure it. Medical technology will never find a way to sew together the pieces of a broken heart. The answer lies behind a locked door inside each of us: Only we have the key to cool the anger, or stop the hate within ourselves.
Knowing how to use that key, however, is an ability few of us have mastered. For 13 years, Merle and Alice Hower have shown hundreds of people the way to open the door, and gain freedom from the torments inside themselves. The Garden Grove couple operate a Healing Hearts Ministry, in conjunction with St Columbans Church. Either through seminars or private sessions, the Howers offer strength through prayer for those suffering from “inner hurts.”
“Both of us believe it is what the Lord wants us to do,” Merle said. “We’re pretty gentle – our ministry is not about preaching, it’s about healing.”
The foundation of the ministry lies in psychiatry and and spiritality; the Howers use both in healing people, and at times, insist that people with serious problems see a therapist as well. Though small, the ministry has put on seminars such as “Healing the Family Tree,” and “Healing the Inner Child.” Today the Howers concentrate on private sessions, as well as getting the word out about the ministry.The 68 year-old Merle works as if it is his full-time job; even though he suffers from multiple sclerosis, Merle is in the process of writing his first book on healing through prayer.
“We’re not a big ministry right now,” Merle said. “We are more of a private ministry. That doesn’t mean that there is less of a demand, however. Sometimes I think its growing.” As the need grows, so does the Howers commitment. With each parcel of sorrow left inside their doorstep, the uncommon strength the Howers possess builds strength. “Some are absolutely dysfunctional,” he said. “They don’t even recognize that they aren’t supposed to be unhappy.”
“Most of the people who come in have suffered from some type of sexual abuse,” Merle said. According to Merle, 80 to 90 percent of the people who come for help are women.
Their stories range from a 1mily’s troubles with alcohol to a woman’s feelings of rebellion toward her mother. The start may be different, but all those who genuinely seek help through Healing Hearts end up with a better understanding of their past, and a helping hand toward the healing process. “It’s rewarding, to see people we know are suicidal get better, or people who couldn’t keep a job get their lives back on track,” Merle said. “One gal we helped looks ten years younger today than when she came to us. And that was eight years ago.”
The problems the Howers welcome into their home extracts a toll that only the strength of 39. year marriage could withstand. Still, both see a therapist, and until recently, counseled with a spiritual director. “A lot of people keep an eye on us, we have a lot of people praying for us, coast to coast,” Merle said. “We’ve had to grow a lot. I had to learn to have some fun.”
“Sometimes, we have to back off a little,” he said. “I remember, at first, there were many nights Alice cried herself to sleep on my shoulder.” Those nights have passed, and Alice and Merle have become a tandem in helping, and praying, for another person’s healing. Together, they put together an effective ministry. Alice is emotional, the extrovert of the couple. Merle balances his wife’s emotional support with a rational outlook. Where Alice tells stories, Merle paints a neat, logical picture of the problem.”I look at the world in two ways,” Merle said. “There are poets, who deal in the emotional side, and engineers. I am an engineer.” An engineer who has put together a way to help cure inner ills.
A poet and engineer, sowing seeds of spmtual inspiration and bringing forth the beauty of a mended heart.