Homage to a Broken Man: The Life of J. Heinrich Arnold — A True Story of Faith, Forgiveness, Sacrifice, and Community

homage to a broken manBy Peter Mommsen

Without your wounds where would you be? The very angels themselves cannot persuade the wretched and blundering children of earth as can one human being broken in the wheels of living. ~ Thornton Wilder

People who knew J. Heinrich Arnold (1913-1982) say they never met another person like him. Some speak of his humility, sensitivity, and compassion; others of his frankness and earthy humor. In his presence, complete strangers poured out their darkest secrets and left transformed. Others wanted him dead.

Writer Henri Nouwen called him a “prophetic voice” and wrote of how his words “touched me as a double-edged sword, calling me to choose between truth and lies, selflessness and selfishness. Here was no pious, sentimental guide; every word came from his experience.”

Few knew Arnold’s past, or could have imagined the crucibles he had endured. Until now.

Three years ago, Peter Mommsen, 28, set out to uncover the story of his grandfather’s life. This is what he found: A boy who faced down Nazis and hunger, growing up on potatoes and radical ideas. The son of a famous intellectual, determined to drop out of school and take to the road. A young lover fleeing his homeland. A new father losing his first child. An unlikely pioneer in the heart of South America.

There, in the jungles of Paraguay, the religious community his parents had founded was twisted by legalism and power-hungry leaders into a cold and lifeless caricature. Arnold was betrayed by those he trusted most, separated from his wife and children, and exiled to a leper colony.

Often his life hung on a knife’s edge. But he couldn’t die yet, because he hadn’t fulfilled his calling, or the promise he had made as a child.

Homage to a Broken Man is a remarkable story of betrayal and forgiveness. Read it, and you’ll never look at your own life the same way again. (Publisher’s description)

Available at Cokesbury

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