By Brenda Cannon Henley
My profession has given me many opportunities to meet and work with people from all walks of life. I appreciate the fact that my employers have trusted me and that I have proven myself not to be a disgrace or shame to them in meeting people, listening well enough to get their stories, and to hear their hearts. Don Dodd has sent me to the streets of Beaumont, Texas famed Death Row, Austin, hospitals, nursing homes, care centers, to board ships, meet people at the docks and ports, sporting events, rodeos, active scenes, to cover murders, rape, incest, political arenas, on helicopter and airplane rides, and countless other places over this decade and a half that I have worked for him. Someone asked me the other day how I managed to go to all of these places and get the stories I was sent to capture. I thought about my answer for quite a while and then I said simply, “By faith.”
“Were you ever afraid,” asked the kind friend. Thinking again about my answer, I finally said honestly, “No, I was never afraid. I felt that if God wanted that story told, He would protect me while I gathered the facts. I simply prayed and went by faith.”
Now, I was skeptical at times. I had to be cleared by federal and state rules and I remember when I visited Death Row the first time. I did fine through the first locked door and the second and third, but, as we entered the fourth area, I remember we had a terrible Texas thunderstorm going on, and I realized that all of those gates and doors were locked by a sophisticated computer system. I ran the thoughts through my mind, and finally asked the warden’s assistant what would happen if the power went out suddenly. He smiled and assured me that the prison had generators to meet that need. I did not always know if the way we were approaching the story was the very best based on the information we had at the time, and there were times we had to change our approach. I remember clearly interviewing 52 families that had lost children to the horrors of consensual teenage sex in our state and going to several funerals with the families whose child did not survive.
“What is faith?” Mitch Albom asked me that question one night in the green room of the Julie Rogers Theatre when I was assigned to host his visit before and after he spoke to a sold out crowd. He is a phenomenal speaker and the packed house of attendees saw every single person remain in their seats for several minutes when his message was concluded. They seemed completely stunned. Finally, one lone man stood and began to clap and there followed one of the longest and most profound standing ovations I’ve ever witnessed.
Mitch was writing another book on faith after his very successful “Tuesdays with Morrie,” “The Five People You Meet in Heaven,” “The Time Keeper,” and “For One More Day,” among others. I wrote on a scratch pad on the table, “Forsaking all, I trust Him.” He seemed fascinated at the phrase and as he tore the page off the pad, he said, “OK by you if I use this in the book?” I, of course, said, “Yes.” I like to think I made a new friend and we have communicated several times since that night in Beaumont. By the way, he is a legend in the sports world and can spout statistics for hours.
There are many definitions about faith and the importance of it in our lives, but I like the one I chose best. “Now, faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) How do we get this faith operational in our lives? We simply step out on faith, believing that He who saved us, can and will keep us, and that He will provide whatever it is that we need for the job we are called on to do at the time.
When I was sent to do a difficult story, with sometimes very difficult people, lots of hurt and pain, and no real idea of how I would cover it, I simply told God that as I drove to the scene. “Lord, I have no idea how I am going to do this story and capture what You want the people to know, but I trust that you have it figured out and that you will share the plan with me when You are ready.” He has never failed me in these fifty years of living by faith.
It is one of my very favorite of the fruits of the Spirit of God.
Brenda Cannon Henley can be reached at (409) 781-8788, or