Response to "L’Abri" by Edith Schaeffer

Written for Dr. Richard Horner, Church and the World, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, November 2003.

This book is the tale of the Schaeffers’ nearly forty-year endeavor to demonstrate, through their lives and work, that the God of the Bible existed in the twentieth century and that his word is true. They did this by opening their home to “give honest answers to honest questions” to seeking people and in doing so “by living on the basis of prayer,” trusting God to provide for all their needs. Edith Schaeffer, in her homespun manner, provides detailed and copious evidence of the hundreds and thousands of lives who were touched by their ministry beginning in Switzerland and extending nearly world-wide over the many years as they sought to fulfill the calling to provide spiritual (and physical) nourishment for the hungry persons that God sent to their door.

But she doesn’t gloss over the many trials that attended their way. They struggled through “sicknesses [from the the polio that afflicted their son Franky to Francis’ eventual death due to lymphoma], accidents, depressions, discouragement, frustrations and exhaustion.” Prayer was the source of their strength and sustenance. They committed to prayer right from the beginning for all of their needs, and though they experienced lean times, God provided for their daily needs and for gradual expansion of the ministry into a large, though still family oriented, organization, through the prayers and financial support of the many people who believed in what they were doing without so much as a request.

Like some of her other books, this one included more detailed names and stories than I generally care to explore, but she succeeded grandly in demonstrating the value of living a life based “in reality” in dynamic relationship with a watching and listening world and dependent on God through prayer. Their extended L’Abri “family” is a testimony of God’s faithfulness to provide for a ministry that He has established and their faithfulness, in God’s strength, to follow the call they had received in spite of many setbacks, detours, trials and testings. She shows that ministry is a surprising and disappointing combination of excitement and pain, joy and sorrow, because we live in a fallen world. I loved the testimony of their children who thanked Francis for having long prepared them for the eventuality of his untimely death by “stressing the Fall and the abnormal history that will continue until Christ’s return.” We all place our ultimate hope in That Day, but in the meantime, we are to stand strong (and weak) in the calling we have received, in full dependence on him who called us and Who will bring every detail of our lives and ministries to fulfillment in His time.

Categories: Church and the World, Seminary writings

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