Latest News Letter:
As I write, we are being cloaked in a thick white blanket that has silenced the outside world. Billions of unique snowflakes have covered everything in a cold white fluffy wool. Just yesterday it was warmer and we were entertained by a ‘gang’ of 6 young deer on the front lawn exploring, head to head, the rope swing with their mouths, while by the garage there were 4 large turkeys strutting their stuff. How we laughed when they charged at the deer, sending them off! Who knew they were such bullies?
We are privileged to live on this beautiful oasis here in the city of Rochester and we are happy to be welcoming folk from across the country here next week for the annual L’Abri Conference ‘Finding Truth’. You can find out more about it at www.labri.org . Once again we have many fine speakers. Please pray that the snow will be held at bay next weekend and all travel will go smoothly, and pray also that the truth will be spread and honored and that the ripples would go out into a world that is losing its way.
We are just north of Iowa and the political waves of this election season were felt strongly up here - and while there is much to be encouraged by, there is also much that is far from the foundation of ‘In God We Trust’. With ‘wars and rumors of wars’, the temptation is to trust in our own strength, jettisoning principles for the ideal of safety. The challenge of living in the tension between freedom and justice, unity and individuality, prosperity and generosity can only be met by rooting all these things in the person of God himself and living by the truth of his word. Our prayer is that this conference will engender open discussion, encouragement and the challenge to grow and learn.
This last Christmas I was overjoyed to have my 2 sisters join us from Australia, and was relieved that snow fell right before Christmas so that they could have their first white Christmas. Times with family are a rare and special treat for us and we all had a wonderful time. We also were encouraged by the progress at Ebenezer Retreat Center in MO, with the external siding being completed. We are thankful too, to have received multiple applications to take Tabby’s position and we are seriously considering taking on 2 people. We like to joke that it will take 2 to replace Tabby. Seriously though, we would appreciate prayer for this decision, as it will involve an increase in salaries when we are only just scraping by. Jock and I are not getting any younger and we do feel the need to share more of the load.
We would also appreciate prayer for the students who are coming to L’Abri with significant addiction issues. We are seeing these problems escalating across a broad spectrum of the culture. There are several that have left here that we maintain a relationship with and we would appreciate prayers for them and for wisdom for us. We are living in a broken world, and Christ was most concerned for the broken. As we endeavor to be salt and light, we ask that the Lord would continue to send the people of his choice and to provide us with the practical and spiritual resources to help. What we lack in strength or wisdom, God promises to provide, ‘sufficient for the day’.
With thankfulness in Christ,
Previous Prayer Letters:
It is hard to believe our last Prayer Letter was in July. Definitely time for a newsy update, but also testimony to just how busy this Summer and Fall has been. The summer months are always a bigger draw to our students and our long, two-month student terms are a wonderful blur of students coming and going, intense one-on-one tutorials, endless discussion meals and lots of outdoor work on our property. Thankfully, we had wonderful helpers. Hannah Hodge, who followed us home from the January Retreat in St Louis, came originally for just two weeks, but L'Abri opened up new doors of hope after years of philosophical despair, and she decided to spend the summer, blessing us with marvelous meals and very useful painting skills. Tim Hogue, from California, was also a great help (when he was not swooning around Tabby - but more on that later). In fact, we got a good number of summer projects done, clearing buckthorn in the woods, restoring the path between the houses, repairing and painting the garage and finally repairing the main sewer outlet (Thanks Tim!).
But the Fall has been no less busy, starting with a very full Fall Retreat at the Ebenezer Retreat Center outside St. Louis, where some 14 folk came through. And then our fourth St. Louis L'Abri Conference, this time held on the campus of Covenant Seminary. Turnout was somewhat disappointing but the content was excellent and well worth putting on. Development at Ebenezer continued with a two-week working Retreat in the Summer and more construction in the Fall. All the windows are now in and all the indoor framing is complete. I finally finished the external soffits and so, as I write the contractors are putting on the siding. Contractors will continue the work through the winter and we hope to complete the building by the Spring, which will then allow further ministry in that area.
Right now we are in our Fall term back in Rochester with a small but stimulating group of students, including the group that John and Day Hodges bring up every year. Their Center for Western Studies is an excellent gap-year program for developing a Christian world view. Our Fall helper, Mercy, is a local lass who grew up on an organic dairy farm nearby, and we were able to enjoy a wonderful excursion and home-cooked lunch at her farm.
I was very excited to finally get the brochure out for next year's Rochester L’Abri Conference in February. The theme will be "Apologetics in a Secular Age" with speakers like Nancy Pearcey, Douglas Groothuis, Greg Jesson, Andrew Fellows, Bruce Little, AJ Poelarends, Ron Lutjens and many other L'Abri workers and regulars speaking. This year we will not be at the Kahler Hotel, as they have sadly priced us out, so after 20 years we will be in a new venue - the Mayo Civic Center. There will be adjustments but many advantages and we will be able to keep the Conference affordable. You can download the brochure at www.labri.com/brochures Hope to see you there!
But our greatest news comes with the very recent announcement of the engagement of Tabby! Tim Hogue hails from California and is a doctoral student in Ancient Near East Language and Culture. He is a lovely, Godly young man and we could not be happier for Tabby. She is, of course, happily busy with wedding plans and they plan to marry in late June in Florida. Happy as we all are, this does also of course mean that Tabby will be leaving us in March. After three very good years working together this will not just be a very sad parting, but also a massive adjustment for our small branch. Over the years we have seen God provide us with a string of remarkably wonderful colleagues, so we are not panicking, but it does warrant concentrated prayer.
Thank you for your support and prayer over the years,
Yours in Christ,
Thoughts after Paris
Recent events have shocked us all. With the Middle East continuing to degenerate into chaos, human depravity in the shape of ruthless terrorists, and human misery in the shape of desperate refugees, are spreading further and further abroad, and the Western world is reeling under the challenge. What should be clear by now is that military solutions or political solutions can take us only so far – what we are dealing with appears to go much deeper.
The religious and ideological radicalism that is driving all this is not, I believe, primarily rooted in unemployment, depressed social conditions or political alienation. Yes, living under autocratic governments or struggling with lack of opportunity does generate deep discontent, and the various popular movements around the Arab Spring are certainly testimony to that. But what we are facing in radical Islamic extremism is an alternate vision of this world and how we are to live in it. It is as ideological as it is religious and it is captivating growing numbers of radicalized young people. It is a set of ideas about what is wrong with the West and what is right about a very narrow form of Islam. It is a worldview. As long as we view it as rooted in bad social or political conditions rather than dangerous and wrong-headed ideas, we will underestimate it.
Ideas have consequences – and very bad ideas have very bad consequences. What possesses well-educated people to strap on suicide vests and kill themselves? What possess them to do it in a way that slaughters as many innocents as possible? This is not just anger or resentment, but deeply held conviction, and commitment to a deeply perverse view of the world. That is why the role of the internet and social media has been so important in amplifying this radical vision. It is the perfect media to propagate poisonous ideas – free from rebuttal. Until the West realizes that this is an ideological struggle, a battle of ideas, it will have very little hope of stemming the tide.
But here we face another challenge. How can the West possibly engage in this conflict of worldviews, when it is so deeply ambivalent about its own vision? Yes, Western values of Freedom, Democracy and Human Rights are still widely popular and much cherished, but the West has long since lost confidence that these can be rooted in anything deeper than the whim of the populace at any particular moment. And, to the degree that the West still reflects a coherent worldview, it appears to be little more than a self-indulgent Humanism resting on a stark and barren Materialism, and who has the conviction to fight for that?
Never has it been more important for the West to reclaim its true heritage, to recognize the true roots of these values and principles that are being so sorely contested. Without a doubt, it is the Biblical worldview of Christianity that has most shaped the West and made it largely a force for good in this world. No fair history of the West can fail to acknowledge the seminal ideas that Christianity contributed in shaping our culture. Yes, the West has been far from perfect and the Church has too often been complicit in that, but from the scientific method to the rule of law, from human rights to free enterprise, from universities to hospitals, so much of what has been Good and True in the West is the fruit of Christian thinkers and Christian thought. Unless it stands on this strong foundation, I cannot see the West prevailing in this battle.
But, there is something far more important at stake here than the survival of the West. We may have forgotten our heritage, but our enemies have not. It is not out of simplistic ignorance that these Jihadists refer to us as the 'Christian' West or ‘Crusaders’. They know that their real adversary is not Western Liberal Democracy, nor indeed even Israel, but Christianity itself. And what is at stake is not one political system over another, one culture versus another, but what is at stake is the Glory of God and the well-being of all Mankind. The real question is, what worldview, what vision of life, is ultimately true and good and life-giving? In Scripture, the Almighty God himself has given us Light – and in Jesus Christ He has given us Life. Whatever the West may choose to do in the face of this new evil, we know what we must do! Scripture makes it clear…
“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…”
2 Cor 10:3-5
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said:
“Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5: 8-20
We are living in ‘interesting times’. There has been much in the news that is discouraging, from the Supreme Court rulings, shootings of marines in Chattanooga, to the deaths of African Americans in Church, and now the sale of aborted baby body parts. The question ‘What in the world?’ rings from our hearts, but in our grief and anger we should not be surprised – “because the days are evil”- Eph 5:16. As I have been praying and reading, I have been reminded that we are in the midst of a world where there is both light and darkness, grief and hope, sin and redemption. The God of Heaven and Earth is at work in us and this world, he is patient and just, there are times of judgment and times of forgiveness, and though we see things that are dark in this world, we should also see the good, truth and beauty and be giving thanks. We are always called to “Live as children of light.”
In this work we are often exposed to many dark things in the lives of those who come. Horrific stories, terrible sin and profound brokenness, are often shared in the one-on-one moment as trust is gained. Along with this darkness and tears we also see light, hope and love and this complexity stretches us personally as we struggle to be wise with the trust that is given. We know that we are not equal to the task and we share in these struggles ourselves, but our hope is not in our own strength but in the strength of Him to whom we are working to bring people to. We need your prayer for the Holy Spirit to always be at work in our midst so that we will live in all goodness, righteousness and truth. We are so thankful that we can look back and see so many answers to prayer and evidence of his activity, including the generosity of many, but we cannot be complacent. Paul reminds us in Eph 5:20 to be thankful in everything and we pray that even in the face of dark things, we will not lose sight of the goodness of God and to always have thankful hearts.
This last Summer term was a full and busy time. We had 33 adults and 4 children come through, some staying the whole term, but most for a shorter time with much coming and going. The last few weeks of term saw all the beds full and term ended with a bang, literally, as we had an open house for the 4th of July fireworks. 50 people came, many for the first time and the point where we have the best view in town was looking lovely. Jock has done a lot of clearing and we now have a 180 degree view of Rochester and the surrounding countryside. It provided front row seats for the city fireworks which were let off a few blocks away. We are privileged to have such a beautiful property but it does take quite a lot of maintenance. Mason Hodges was a great help with this for 6 months but do pray for him as he has returned to Chattanooga. Emily Hoffman was another helper who we had known in England as a child. She did a great job with a lovely attitude but also needs prayer as she returns to many challenges. We also were privileged to have Andy and Lindsay Patton for a few weeks helping out, before they returned to be workers in England. They will be a great addition to the team there.
All in all there were 5 couples and 2 with children this term and it was good to have some mature folk as well as babies in the mix. Though we love being busy and full and we have much to be thankful for, we are tired. I have been taking this month to rest and recuperate, Tabby is on vacation, but Jock has carried on working on the Ebenezer lodge in Missouri. He is experiencing the overload of fruitfulness, with many responsibilities in L’Abri and our local Church. I am thankful to be able to get him away on vacation for a few days later this month.
We are surrounded by beauty, we are not hungry, we are not persecuted and we receive much love. For supper I have been eating fresh warm tomatoes and kale from the garden with lovely eggs from the chickens. We are surrounded by wildlife here in the city (some more welcome than others) and the gardens are overflowing with bee balm flowers, full of bees and hummingbirds. We are privileged and we pray that on the 31st of July when we open again that we will be rested, well and ready to receive a new group into our homes. Please pray that we will have more non-Christians, as this culture needs the gospel so dearly, pray that we would have wisdom and strength, that the practical needs will be met and above all, that the Spirit would be at work in our midst.
Yours, with love and thanks
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
It’s May in Minnesota, and the weather is finally starting to warm up a little. The bluebells and daffodils have faded now, but the peonies and irises will soon be bursting into bloom. So far, we’ve seen no signs of baby deer, but given the numbers of deer that treat the L’Abri property as their private sanctuary, it’s likely we’ll see some frolicking across the lawn in the future.
We are a week into our first Summer Term, and so far things have been going smoothly. We are very well supplied with helpers, as Mason has been with us since January, and Emily has come from England to be with us for the term. Also, Andy and Lindsey Patton, whom Jock and Alison met at the Missouri retreats years ago, are here helping us out for a few weeks before they head off to England to be workers at the L’Abri in Greatham. It’s been lovely to get to spend some time with them before they head off across the pond. Several of our students are wrestling with questions of calling and identity – “Who am I?” “What should I be doing with my life?” and “Where is God in the midst of the difficulties and suffering I experience?” are big questions to be thinking through, and though there are good answers, working those answers out practically in a satisfying way requires hard work and perseverance.
Last month, we held a well attended two week retreat down in Missouri, which was lovely with all the dogwoods and redbud trees in bloom. We had a number of repeat visitors as well as several new faces; people really seemed to appreciate having a place to get away from the grind and the pressures of their daily lives and talk through their questions. We were also happy to see the rest of the windows going in to the Retreat Center building as construction now finally moves towards completion.
In the midst of the work here, I have been thinking through what we should be communicating to those who come to L’Abri. One of the things that prompted Dr. Schaeffer’s early struggle with doubt and questions when he was in Switzerland was the lack of love he observed among members of the church. And undoubtedly, Love is a key component of Jesus’ and the apostles’ teachings – love not in a sappy, sentimental sense, but love that is robust, comprehensive, and genuinely concerned for the good of the other. I have been thinking lately about how real love grows when we cease to be overly preoccupied with ourselves, neither puffed up with pride nor wallowing in self-deprecation, but instead charitable in the way that we view ourselves and others, recognizing that we are flawed and broken sinners, but also made in the image of God and deeply valued and loved by Him. True love is also grounded in truth. Francis Schaeffer often spoke of “true truth” – his way of emphasizing that Christianity is built upon something solid, real, and universal, something grounded in reality.
In continuing the work of L’Abri, our hope is that those who come will experience a love that is firmly grounded in reality, and that they will be able to find a sense of lasting value as they come to the One who has loved us with an everlasting love.
Yours in Christ,
“I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart; before the "gods" I will sing your praise. I will bow down toward your holy temple and will praise your name for your love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.” Psalm 138
Once again here in Rochester we are starting a new term. This year already seems full as we have the January St. Louis Retreat and the February Conference behind us and we are now welcoming new people through the door. We have a few folk from all over, bringing a diversity of questions, but all are asking “what should I do with my life”? As L’Abri offers a much needed space for reflection and growth, please pray that they learn and grow under the Lord’s direction and that they would put their full trust in Him.
February is Conference Month for us and this year we enjoyed another wonderful time of fellowship with colleagues and like-minded folk and were able to share their teaching with 470 people. The weather here was wonderful and everything went very smoothly. As Jock wrote to thank the speakers he said ”Thank you all for your contributions and the truly excellent job you all did - not only in the high quality of the teaching but also in the wonderfully engaging spirit you all demonstrated. One of our first-time attendees commented that she was overwhelmed to meet so many really, genuinely 'good' people all at once. In our increasingly coarse and conflicted culture this simple human kindness really stands out. And of course many, many commented on the outstanding quality and pertinence of your teaching. The subjects were serious and sobering but folk were never left without hope. There was great appreciation also for the wonderful Hymn Sing that Tabby and John Hodges arranged - and that really helped us focus on our singular consolation in this darkening world”. Through all this we have had wonderful help with Mason and Hannah who came up with us after the Retreat. They have filled the main house with music, laughter, and hard work and have been an encouragement to us all, especially Tabby who is glad to have some more youthful company. Our Retreat also went very well in January and we were mostly full for the two weeks. It is a busier, intense student time there, as we pack a lot into a short time, but it is always encouraging for us all. Jock also fitted in some more work on the building with the students often joining in.
In regard to this building work, I am very happy to say that our big news and greatest encouragement to report is that, after a long and very circuitous series of events, we have now received enough money to probably finish the Retreat Center. A very large gift has come in, in a fashion that is very much like the L’Abri story itself. We are deeply encouraged and relieved; God’s timing and provision has left us in awe and we cannot praise and thank him enough. It is all only just sinking in, but we are now getting ready to make all the small and large decisions needed rather rapidly, where until now it has been a long and slow process for many years. Our prayer is that the Retreat Center will be used for extending the ministry of Rochester L’Abri into the St. Louis area; for the use of existing like-minded ministries in the St. Louis area and also to provide a future for the L’Abri Retreats. This wonderful story itself is a testimony to the present reality of an active, faithful, and loving God who does answer prayer.
We do pray that the joy of this moment strengthens us all in a world that is full of hard things, as well as joys. With the realities, expressed so clearly at the Conference, of the continued attacks on the value of life and dignity, and as we hear the gut-wrenching news from the Middle East, and then troubling stories of racial tensions closer to home, our prayer is that this confirmation of the present gracious involvement of God into His world would keep us persevering for all that lies ahead.
With many thanks for your support and love in Him,
“I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.” Psalm 116:1-2
Now that we're in the thick of winter, outside the weather is cold and snowy, but here in the L'Abri house we are warm, well fed, and thankful for God's faithfulness, made tangibly manifest through a full retreat in Missouri last month and the provision of two very capable helpers. In December, Jock and Alison and I enjoyed time away with our respective families in Virginia and Florida, following which we went down to the retreat center in Steelville to host our annual January L'Abri Retreat. We had a number of new faces at the retreat, as well as several “repeat customers”, and it ended up being a wonderful time of fellowship, discussion, studying the Word, and going for walks to enjoy the beauty of creation. For our guests, it was a welcome time of respite from the pressures of their daily lives, for which they were very thankful! The work of L'Abri is not always easy, but it is wonderful to see God using it to benefit those he brings to us.
Additionally, after our November term where we did not have any help, it has been a great answer to prayer that the Lord has provided us with Mason Hodges and Hannah Hodge (no relation to one another) to help us with some of the practical aspects of the work. When not serenading us on his guitar, Mason, son of long-time friends of L'Abri John and Day Hodges, has been hard at work shoveling snow and helping us with some home improvement projects, while Hannah's culinary gifts and cleaning prowess have been a boon to Alison and myself!
February is a busy time as we gear up for this year's conference and work out all the logistical details for that. We would ask that you pray that the Lord brings the people of His choice and that the Conference will bless and edify all those who attend. We will be dealing with some pretty heavy-hitting issues – how to live as believers in a world in which abortion, euthanasia, and surveillance are increasingly common. Please pray for wisdom for our speakers and that conference attendees might come away thinking seriously about these issues and how we can actively address them, but also feeling a strong sense of confidence in the Father's loving and sovereign working out of his purposes in this world.
Recently I have been reading Edith Schaeffer's book, The Life of Prayer, and one thing she says which I think is particularly relevant to the issues the conference will be addressing is: “God's fighting for us does not exclude the responsibility for battle both in the area of strategy and in equipment. Trusting God completely in prayer, believing that He is able to do all things, does not remove the need to pray for His strength in our weakness and then to do, to take action in His strength to accomplish what He has prepared us to do! We are to do what He is unfolding for us to do, fulfilling what God is giving us strength to do, acknowledging that it is His strength and not ours. It is a truly active passivity, not a false whining humbleness that says, 'I can't do anything; I'm too weak.'”
Please pray that we might have strength to do that which the Lord has set before us, to labor for justice and mercy while at the same time fully depending on Him and His strength. We are thankful to serve a God in whose wisdom, power, and love we can have absolute confidence!
Yours in Christ,
“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:10-12
This year finds Thanksgiving and Christmas both a heartbeat away from each other and it is as though we are packing too many good things into a small package of time. We just finished celebrating Thanksgiving together with JoEllen (Borgos) and Miguel Park and their kids and today the first advent candle was lit at church. It is fitting as thanksgiving and joy do go together as we remember this time in history in the Middle East over 2000 years ago. Into this momentous time God, the Creator of the Universe, came as we all did, into a human family in the form of a human child. The Alpha and Omega, angels singing in the heavens, and a baby in an animal trough, greatness and humility bound together. This is a great mystery yet also a great hope for us as we wrestle with things too big for us with frail hearts and minds.
Here in Rochester L’Abri, we are ending the year with a deep sense of thankfulness for all the Lord’s provision. We are humbled and grateful for the many answers to prayer, knowing it is not because of anything we have earned, but because he is merciful. These are such an encouragement as much of the Christian life involves waiting, but as we wait we are not alone, we have the Spirit to comfort, guide and teach us patience. Just as the Israelites waited for the long expected Messiah, we are waiting for his return in triumph, but until that day his Spirit is a generous treasure that we carry in cracked hearts and as we plod with feet of clay, with one eye on the skies.
As the year draws to an end we inevitably have our minds on the February Conference as well. The speakers are all lined up and we are anticipating a fascinating two days. By now you should have received the Feb 2015 ‘Defending Life and Liberty in a Brave New World’ conference brochure and again you can register online or by mail. All the information is at http://www.labri.org/conferences.html.
Looking back though, this has been a busy and full year, with an added conference and 3 retreats in St. Louis, and many students as well as church activities. Tabby plays the piano in many of the services, and Jock has been busy with elder responsibilities in our growing church. The Ebenezer Lodge where we do the retreats now sleeps 8 comfortably and has seen much progress, with Jock doing much of the work along with volunteers. The goal is to have a place to house the retreats as well as to be available to groups in St. Louis. As I write Jock is headed to the UK for the annual L’Abri trustees meetings where the international work will be discussed. Fruitfulness brings business though, and we would appreciate prayer for all that we juggle.
Our most significant need is for help to do all that needs to be done. Logan was a great asset to Jock with his many skills in repairs, building and cooking, and we feel his leaving keenly. We also need more help with the meals, as Tabby and I have been carrying the meal load. We are thankful for all that we did get done with the students this year, and for their kind and willing attitudes. We have had folk from various demographics, ages and nationalities including a Russian and a Taiwanese this week, all making for a fascinating diversity of experience. Recently John and Day Hodges came with their students from the Centre for Western Studies, and we had a lovely time together, including a night out at Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion live show in Rochester. It was a great show and we now feel more truly Minnesotan.
As we look back on this year there are a number of folk that come to mind that are still struggling with addiction and health issues. Please pray for those who have come and gone and are still far from where they need to be; we cannot mention them by name but they would appreciate your prayers.
This Christmas we will rest and enjoy time with family, Tabby in Florida and the McGregors in Virginia with Jock’s sister. We pray that this Christmas, together with all Christians, we would remember with wonder the Christ child whose meekness and majesty brings light to the world.
Yours in Christ,
“Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” - Psalm 103:2-5
In this season we have much to be thankful for, not least of which is the arrival of an unexpected and very generous gift from the parent of a previous student, who graciously donated a large sum of money to cover the cost of replacing the roof of the L’Abri house, which was badly in need of repair. It was wonderful to see how God provided, in his timing and his way, in response to our prayers, as the roof had been getting more and more weathered and had just begun to leak a little before this much-needed gift arrived!
We had a good second summer term; our group of students were serious about their studies, and it was lovely to see them growing in knowledge and insight and benefiting from their time here. As we had a number of guys staying with us, Jock was able to complete some projects around the property, like staining the deck and also painting some of the siding on the McGregors’ house. My sister Julia and a good friend of mine from college were able to come visit near the beginning of August, and it was lovely to see both of them. Julia is a professional cellist, and she and I had the opportunity to play a short concert for the students, which was a lot of fun.
Toward the end of the term, I was able to give my first in-house lecture since becoming a worker. I presented on the topic of a biblical doctrine of Scripture, drawing from Kevin DeYoung’s book Taking God at His Word. After preparing for the lecture and realizing how much work had to go into it, I must say I am much more appreciative of the lecturers who come in on Friday nights to present on various topics! I am thankful that the students seemed to enjoy my talk and were able to glean something helpful out of it. What people think about the Bible and its authority can be a hotly debated topic, but it is certainly a very important one in our day, and many students come to L’Abri with questions surrounding this issue.
We’ve been pleased with the Friday lecture series this term, which was generally well attended. Our speakers covered a wide range of topics, from a Christian perspective on organic farming, to global movements of Muslims to Christ, to an update on the pro-life movement in Minnesota.
Now that the term has ended, we have a few days to catch up on administrative work and rest a little before going down to Missouri to host our two-week Fall Retreat at the Ebenezer Retreat Center outside of St. Louis. At the end of the two weeks, we will be putting on a one-day conference at Westminster Christian Academy in St. Louis, essentially a shorter version of the February conference we held in Rochester earlier this year. Please pray that a good number of people will register in the coming weeks. We have had some registrations come in already, but would love for there to be a fuller turn-out.
In the midst of the good news, there have been some sobering reminders of what it means to live in a fallen world; several people I knew from growing up in my church in Florida have experienced devastating and unexpected losses recently, and I am reminded that in the face of loss and sorrow there is a real longing and ache for the permanent joy, peace, love, and fellowship we will experience only in heaven. We long for the day when God will wipe away all our tears, when we will see Him face to face and no longer deal with the struggles of living in a world broken by sin and its consequences. But in the mean time, the Lord comforts us with the assurance that as He has not spared his own Son but gave Him up on our behalf, therefore will he not graciously provide for us all that we need? So we walk by faith, trusting that He is with us, that He knows us, loves us, and is for us.
We are thankful for the very real, practical examples of His care we have experienced at the Rochester L’Abri this term. Please pray that we will walk more deeply trusting him and being bold to share His truth and love with those the Lord sends us.
Yours in Christ,
"So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. .......... These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ." - Colossians 2:6-8,17
Like many who come to L'Abri, I grew up in a Christian family and with many Christian traditions. While many were good, some were not and when they became legalistic my rebellious nature swung the other way. But at L'Abri I found a reality that I had been looking for, not based on tradition but on Christ. And now, many years later we also long to welcome those who are looking for ultimate reality, even if they are not aware of it.
There is much in this world that is unreal it seems to me, when so much emphasis is placed on image rather than substance, on impressions rather than actualities. Virtual reality, 'reality TV', Twitter, Facebook and the list could go on - all these things rob our daily life of long and thoughtful conversation, substitute real relationship with passing connection. Disconnection can be a way of life that we are too distracted to notice. The church too can sadly feel unreal at times, when struggles and challenges are hidden behind a façade of clichéd looks and pleasantries. Relationships can be superficial at church, just as in social media and we need to not have a blind eye to our own practice of unreality. It is easy to rely on the legalistic practice of tradition rather than the living God. In all aspects of life we can become captive to 'deceptive philosophy and human tradition' if our actions are left unconsidered in the light of Christ's life. Schaeffer too felt this at one time, as he writes of his 'attic experience' in True Spirituality:
"Gradually, however, a problem came to me – the problem of reality. This had two parts: first, it seemed to me that among many of those who held the orthodox position, one saw little reality in the things that the Bible so clearly says should be the result of Christianity. Second, it gradually grew on me that my own reality was less than it had been in the early days after I had become a Christian. I realized that in honesty I had to go back and rethink my whole position."
Then in 'Two Contents, Two Realities'; "It is the central things of the Word of God which make Christianity Christianity. These we must hold tenaciously, and, even when it is costly for us and even when we must cry, we must maintain that there is not only an antithesis of truth, but an antithesis that is observable in practice. Out of a loyalty to the infinite-personal God who is there and who has spoken in Scripture, and out of compassion for our own young people and others, we who are evangelicals dare not take a halfway position concerning truth or the practice of truth."
At L'Abri when people come to stay we find that they are often disconnected from the present time and space and the people around them. We are always fighting the battle to get them to disconnect from their smartphones and to be present in the community, and though this is a challenge we find that the longing for reality is still there and deeply felt. Without Christ reality is often illusory, it is logically so. Yet with him we can engage reality, with clear vision, honesty, courage and truth. Truth and reality must go together otherwise things become meaningless. In a fallen world this is our challenge to keep checking to make sure that we are connected to Christ and His reality, His Truth.
Our times of prayer together on a Monday are often a good time for this as we share, reflect on a scripture, and come into the presence of God as a community. We often hear of answers to prayer, but we also are called to forebear when we need to wait patiently as well as groan with longing. A few weeks ago we experienced a rather dramatic answer to prayer as Jock mentioned that we were going to have to take a large pay cut for June and then after the meeting went to check the mail and found a check that covered our expenses and meant we could be paid in full. God’s timing reminds us clearly of his active, engaged reality. There are also things that we are still praying for, such as the ability to do much needed but expensive building repairs. We are also longing for change in the hearts and minds of students who have spent some time with us and are still yet to acknowledge Christ as Lord. Having strangers in our homes is a joy and a challenge, and we are recouping from a challenging term. Numbers were lower than normal but many of the few we had staying had significant issues. We are thankful though to have had Mark and Terri Ryan (from the Francis Schaeffer Institute) stay for a week at the end of term and for a great 4th of July celebration on the property as we had at least 30 come for s'mores and watching the Rochester fireworks from our fabulous viewpoint which I recently landscaped. Jock has done a great deal in preparation for the Feb. conference and will announce the theme soon. We also have a good line-up for the Friday lecture series for the term starting in August and we are thankful all the interest there has been for these.
Please do pray for us all to have the courage to live in the light of Reality, being honest about all that is truly good and beautiful, and honest about our sinful, weak and insufficient behaviour, bodies and minds. It is only in Christ that we have hope, but it is a hope that is real, and true.
Let me close with this further reminder from F.A.S;
"There are indeed many reasons why we should go on living, and the largest one is that God really is there, He really does exist, and He made us for Himself. Knowing that He is there, and therefore that we do not live in a silent universe, changes everything. To know that we can speak and that there is Someone who will answer fills the vacuum of life that would otherwise be present. And then, when we realize His love for us as individuals - that Christ really did die for us as individuals, for us personally - life is entirely different.
It is wonderful to know that because He is infinite, He can care for us as though no one else was present in the universe. Because He is infinite, He never gets confused. And as Jesus so beautifully put it, the Good Shepherd knows His sheep by name."
With love from,
"For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good."
- Titus 2: 11-14
I wish you could have a soundtrack along with this letter, as I am sitting outside listening to the birds loud songs of joy that Spring has finally arrived in Minnesota. This has been a long hard winter and everybody is ready for some warmth in this fifth month of the year. I often feel that this place would be perfect were it not for the weather - but no place gets to be exactly what we long for, not in the 'not yet' time in which we live. The bird song carries with it the longing we all feel as we wait, with glimpses of glory being a foretaste of all that is to come. Even the chickens at my feet are looking for something more, with each tasty morsel only increasing their desire.
In a few days we will be once again opening our doors for another 2 month Summer Term. It is good to be back home and in the old routine, as the last month has been very busy - with going to England for the Members Meeting in Greatham and then after returning, heading to Missouri for our St Louis Spring Retreat and more work on the retreat center. Returning home on the 9 hour car ride I was reflecting on what lay ahead and how so much is dependent on how the Lord leads and provides. Going down the freeway, hurtling forward while sitting still, I realized that it is similar to traveling into an unknown future - time rushing forward even if we just sit and reflect. With time we do not know what lies ahead and we look, hoping to get a glimpse of what will unfold, aware of many things on our hearts and our complete dependence on our God who is in the driving seat of time and history.
We would ask you to pray for the students that are coming this term, as a number have quite serious issues with histories of addiction. In L'Abri we are finding this to be a growing problem for the folk who come and we spent time discussing this issue at the meetings in England. Just this week the increase in drug addiction was addressed in the headlines of the local paper, as cheap heroin is flooding into the cities and is the drug of choice after prescription painkillers. Users are often kids from the mainstream, upper-middle class, and these folk are making their way to L'Abri . We are on a steep learning curve and as we have prayed that the Lord would send the people of his choice we are trying to serve these folk with love, wisdom and a great deal of supernatural dependence. Can I ask you to pray specifically for us in this? For protection, wisdom and strength. Only the Grace of God is sufficient for these young folk and we pray that they will turn from self-destruction and enter into the hope that only Christ can offer.
Please Note: Now that most of you have access to the Internet, we would like to be able to send our newsletter out electronically so as to save on printing costs. If you would like to receive our newsletter via e-mail, please send us your e-mail address. It is important that you respond one way or the other. You will also be able to access the Rochester newsletter at the L’Abri website, www.labri.org.
We have also been waiting on several things in the 'pipeline' that would help the work significantly into the future and we are so aware of our needs and the gap in our resources, both physically and financially. These things are somewhat out of our control and we are waiting on the way forward to open. If we look back 'down the road' we see that God in His grace has already provided us with so much over the years and so we trust that this place of dependence is a good place to be and we are also very thankful that we have so much to share. The property may need repair in places but hopefully our homes are warm with love and care and the presence of God himself. The beauty of the woods, the wonderful view downtown, the birds and myriad creatures around, are all balm for the soul of those he brings and we, along with the birds, sing our thanks.
Please pray with us, that as we meet each week on Monday to pray with the students, that they themselves would see real, practical answers to prayer, for themselves and for L'Abri and in so doing learn that we do indeed have a God who truly hears and answers prayers. We constantly need the reminder to keep God in the 'driving seat', asking him for leading and direction as we endeavor together with the students to act faithfully, with obedience to the life he has called us to.
With thanks in Christ,
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." 2 Corinthians 4:7-9
As I sit writing this letter, it’s a beautiful sunny day in Minnesota, and outside, everything is blanketed in white after a blizzard last week that dumped 10 inches of snow and knocked out power in a number of places around town. We’re thankful the blizzard came Thursday and not over the weekend of the conference, although bad weather in other parts of the country that weekend did make traveling for some of our speakers and attendees difficult.
We experienced a number of “bumps in the road” in the week leading up to the conference, as one of our scheduled speakers, Doug Groothuis, wrote saying he would not be able to come, due to his wife’s poor health, and several other speakers experienced delays in their travel plans due to snow on the east coast. Additionally, the Wednesday before the conference, the septic system at the L’Abri house backed up and flooded part of the basement, which meant that in the midst of last-minute conference preparations, Jock and our helper Logan were wading around downstairs in their boots, cleaning up the mess.
Thankfully, despite the craziness, the Lord nevertheless blessed us with several dozen more attendees than last year, and many commented on how much they had enjoyed and been edified by the talks and the fellowship. One attendee expressed this well when she wrote, “In spite of weather, changed plans, and hundreds of details unknown to most of us, it seems like truth was spoken, relationships grew, and I think/hope God’s kingdom was honored and built.”
We were happy to have a few new additions to the group of conference speakers this year, including Dr. Zack Eswine, author of Sensing Jesus: Life and Ministry as a Human Being, and senior pastor at Riverside Church in Webster Groves, Missouri, and also Ellis Potter, a former worker at Swiss L’Abri, whose new book, Three Theories of Everything, was much appreciated by conference attendees. In addition, Dr. Bill Edgar, professor of apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary, gave a plenary and several workshops, and performed a lovely jazz concert on Friday evening, along with a number of other talented musicians, including the wonderful jazz vocalist Ruth Naomi Floyd.
Jock and Alison and I enjoyed seeing a number of familiar faces over the weekend. I was especially glad to see my friends Phillip Johnston and Laura Neef, who were helpers with me during my time at English L’Abri. Phillip recently spent six months as a short-term worker at Southborough L’Abri.
Our spring term will start up in less than a week, and we have a small group of students booked in so far. Please pray that they will benefit from their time here, and that the Lord will give us wisdom to know how to help them. I find that one of the challenges as a worker is to find a balance between expending oneself on behalf of the students while also making time for personal rest and reflection. It’s important to avoid being overly self-protective, while at the same time not shouldering more than one can carry. Thank you all for your prayers and support as we engage in this work; it is encouraging to know that we are not alone, and that in addition to a Savior who knows and cares for us, we have a network of brothers and sisters in Christ who are interceding before Him on our behalf.
Yours in Christ,
"And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" Philippians 1:6
With a new year before us, I thought a more 'newsy' prayer letter might be in order.
Last year was a very full year, and one in which God graciously re-affirmed that what he had begun in Rochester L'Abri, He clearly wants to continue.
Some of you may remember that the previous few years had seen a drop in the numbers of those coming to L'Abri (probably a 'lag effect' of the economic downturn and increasing student debt) but last year saw us return to good student numbers - the greatest number ever, in fact! And whilst L'Abri has always been a ministry of small things committed to serving the 'one's and two's' that God sends, and it has never been about numbers - yet, to see this beautiful property buzzing and the continued interest in folk seeking out our small shelter, is enormously encouraging for the future. God can use us yet!
2013 also saw God's continued provision. Foremost, in our delightful colleague Tabby Yang. She has been with us over a year now and has filled the L'Abri house with her quiet, gentle spirit and her beautifully creative presence. Students love her sense of fun and her ready ear - not to mention her delicious cooking. Good colleagues to help shoulder the burdens of L'Abri ministry are priceless - but it is good also to see young folk growing in their delight and love of this precious ministry. Finances were also much better last year - still bumping along - but not as nerve-wracking as the previous year. In this respect, our supporters (you very much included) are an ever-present and tangible part of this work.
One of the highlights of the year was our annual February Conference. The theme (the equal dignity of all people) was highly relevant and our speakers did a terrific job tying everything together and leading us wisely and Biblicaly through the minefields of diversity, race, gender and (most topically) sexual-orientation. Once again, we reprised this Conference in the Fall down in St. Louis and, although numbers were disappointing, it had a wonderful impact on those who came (a good number of Gays included). Ann Mobley's workshop on 'When someone you love is Gay' was especially helpful and I'm delighted that her book "If I Tell You I'm Gay, Will You Still Love Me?" has now been published (available through Amazon). With 'Gay Marriage' now the latest 'civil rights' issue, it has never been more important for Christians to speak into this issue with clarity, with conviction and with compassion.
2013 had its low moments too. Dear Mrs. Schaeffer ended her race in April and left a huge hole in our hearts and in this ministry. Thankfully, her example lives on and we were very grateful for the beautiful Memorial service in her honor. Alison's MS continues to provide a daily challenge - but one she bears with grace and spiritual maturity and one that provides a wonderful example to many of our students who have to struggle with illness and suffering. Thankfully she continues to be able to contribute fully to the ministry and even a bout with breast cancer at the end of the year was happily resolved. Of course, we do rely a great deal on good helpers, especially when these medical issues weigh heavily, and here too the Lord marvelously provided - especially during Alison's Radiation treatment, where a string of very able young gals made all the difference.
And so with thankful hearts we look forward to what 2014 will bring.
The February conference is looming, the brochures are out and the speakers are preparing. Over the past year many of us in L'Abri have re-visited Dr. Schaeffer's seminal work "True Spirituality" and then, when I heard that Bill Edgar had just written a book on Dr. Schaeffer's sprituality, I knew what the theme should be. So, on Feb 14 & 15, we will gather at the Kahler Grand Hotel in Rochester to hear some 20 speakers on the topic "To Walk Humbly with your God: True Spirituality in an Age of Counterfeits". The full brochure can be downloaded at www.labri.org and this year we are pleased to offer on-line registration and payment by credit-card. Although this costs a little more, many people have already signed up in this more convenient fashion. Even if you cannot come, do put the word out as I think we will have another great Conference this year.
We are also looking forward to another good year of ministry in the St. Louis area. Construction of the Ebenezer Retreat Centre continues slowly as funds allow, and has now reached the stage where we can host our L'Abri Retreats there, since the North wing of the building is finished and has enough space for us to function well enough. Thus last year we held three Retreats there and will do so again this year. These L'Abri Retreats are an extension of the Rochester work and enable us to give a 'taste' of L'Abri to those in the St. Louis region during the times when things are slower here in Rochester. Our many friends at Covenant Seminary and the Francis Schaeffer Institute are valuable co-workers in this aspect of our L'Abri work and we usually see one or two of them during a typical Retreat. Needless to say, with Larry & Nancy now living in St. Louis we can now also count on their support in these activities. They both played a key role in organizing the last St. Louis Conference and Larry's construction skills have already been well used on the Retreat Centre!
For the rest, there will be our usual student terms up here in Rochester (the dates are on the website), the regular Friday night lectures, the Tuesday evening film discussions and then the never-ending stream of guests, helpers, former students, and others from the local area that always seem to keep our home life full even during the 'breaks'. All of which, though small and 'bitty', God seems more than able to use for His Glory and towards the 'completion' of that good work he is doing in us and in the lives of those he sends.
Thank you for your faithful and generous support in all this.
Yours in Christ,
“Whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Gal.6:8,9
Life here at L'Abri has provided a rare moment of space for catch up as we regroup and prepare for our November term. The August/September term feels a long time ago, but it was a wonderful time of encouragement that I would like to share. We had a good number of students, some for the whole term as well as two Swiss and a Moldavian, along with folk from all over the country. We felt in particular the hand of God orchestrating the folk who came as they were a real blessing to each other. Many were musical and impromptu singing was often heard along with jamming and sharing compositions. The Spirit was at work with the timing and teaching and all left having tasted the reality of a good God. I personally felt this as well, as I was having to undergo radiation for very early stage breast cancer. We had two very mature, experienced helpers who filled in cooking my meals, as well as serving with sweet spirits and willing hearts. This was a great encouragement to us as humanly the term seemed before time to be very daunting but it was in reality a blessing. I remember fondly the last evening of term in my kitchen as all the remaining students jumped in to do the dishes together and sang a song which had become the anthem for the term. Such love and laughter filled our home and I felt as though it was Jock and I who were receiving abundantly from those we were serving. There was little time at the end of term before Jock, Tabby, Liz and Logan headed down to the Ebenezer Retreat Centre in Missouri to run a 2 week L'Abri Retreat. As Tabby and Liz cooked, Logan used his building experience to help Jock with moving the building along. Students came and responded to their time with great encouragement. As soon as it was over it was time for the second L'Abri Conference in St. Louis, which was a repeat of many of the February conference talks. It went very well, helping those that came but the numbers were a little disappointing. Larry and Nancy helped with many aspects using their years of experience and it was lovely to have that continuity.
Meanwhile I was carrying on with my seven weeks of radiation treatment here, being providentially cared for by a student, Naomi who stayed on and became a great blessing to me. She found the time a real help for herself too as she was able to concentrate on her studies. It does feel as though these last few months have been a vivid experience of receiving as well as giving. Often I think that I should chose between the two but the Lord has us live in a more active tension. It seems as though the healthy dynamic is one where we are both giving and receiving, living with open hands. Rather than being depleted and left empty, (which is what I always fear) the Lord provides with "streams of living water" and I am reminded again and again that rather that holding on tight in fear of losing I need to hold out my hands always open to receiving, holding loosely to the need to be self protective. God's Grace is a real practical reality that is not limited and is to be shared. Just when I feel that I have nothing to give, he gives generously and these last months have been a true blessing in a challenging time. Thankfully, in regard to the cancer, I have a great long term prognosis (98%) and hopefully I can now put this treatment all behind me.
As we look forward to the November term we are anticipating very full houses with 14-16 coming in the first 2 weeks. Logan will stay on as a helper and Liz will help part time as well. We honestly don't know how we will manage but we feel a sense of the Lord's faithfulness in providing. He doesn't always give us what we want but He provides sufficient for the day and we know that we are safe in His hands. We would appreciate prayer for the giving to this branch as funds are very low. Please pray that new folk would join the regular donor community and for Jock as he is frequently having to juggle and many larger expenses have been put off for years. Jock should attend the Trustees meeting early December and will need to buy a ticket soon.
We would also appreciate prayer for a number of former students, whom we have gotten to know well, who are in vulnerable situations and are not doing well. We have an ongoing relationship with folk who are needing help to break free of unhelpful situations and behaviours. They need prayer for the supernatural activity of God to change what humanly seems impossible. Thankfully our hope is not bound by human limitations. And also, do please pray for the November term. We have such a diversity of students coming and humanly it seems unlikely that they would get along, but God always shows us that he knows what he is doing and the diversity of age, experience and issues is one of the very things that makes this community work.
We do thank you for your prayers; this is still very much a community that carries on the Schaeffers' principles of faith. The supernatural is real, and prayer makes a difference and as the students witness this we pray that both their faith as well as ours would increase.
With very many thanks from us all,
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” - Phil. 2:3-4
As I write this prayer letter to you, I feel very thankful for the way the Lord has opened the door for me to serve as a worker at Rochester L’Abri, something I believe He laid on my heart to do after being very much blessed, encouraged, and challenged myself, as a student and then helper at L’Abri. I grew up reading some of Francis Schaeffer’s books, and knew that L’Abri existed, but had no personal desire to visit until five years ago, when a friend told me about her experience as a student at Swiss L’Abri. The concept of a Christian community that spent time discussing big ideas, that wasn’t afraid of people’s questions, and that sought to live out Paul’s admonition to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn,” was very appealing to me. I quickly booked a ticket to the Netherlands, and spent 10 wonderful days at the Dutch L’Abri in Eck en Wiel. I loved the fact that what I found there were Christians who were engaging with culture and with questions about God and the meaning of life. The people I met were thoughtful, caring, and a lot of fun, and the warmth and kindness that I experienced was just what I needed at the time – so much so that I found myself in tears on the plane on my way back to the States.
Three years later, having finished a masters degree in biblical counseling at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, I flew out to the Rochester L’Abri to ask Jock McGregor how I could go about becoming a L’Abri worker and whether he thought it might be a good fit for me. Today I am eight months into life as a L’Abri worker here in Rochester, and have really enjoyed it overall, although it is not without its challenges. One of the struggles that I experience is expressed well by the verse in Philippians that I opened with, which encourages us as believers to “in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.” This is so counter to the culture we find ourselves in, a culture in which self-promotion and selfish ambition are par for the course. And I think it is a real challenge to take Paul’s admonition to heart and practice living in a way that truly values others, seeing them as creatures made in the image of God and worthy of dignity, respect, and love, no matter how different they may be from ourselves. It requires a daily dying to the self, which is not easy, and done only by surrendering our wills before the Lord. And we need many reminders that our way is not always best (and even if in some cases it is, all we have is by the grace of God and therefore not something to boast about).
I have been thinking about this recently, both as I’ve been interacting with students and as I’ve been reading Edith Schaeffer’s book What is a Family? I think Mrs. Schaeffer and Dr. Schaeffer had a wonderful vision of how we ought to treat one another, given that we are human beings made in God’s image, and how we could encourage love, continuity in relationship, creativity, and thoughtfulness in how we interact with one another.
To that end, I think our students this term are doing well in cultivating such a spirit among the small group we have gathered in our late summer term. They are asking good questions about such topics as the goodness of God, the Bible as God’s Word, and the relationship between living life as pilgrims and sojourners in the world, yet also putting down roots and contributing something to the culture and the economy of the world that we live in. I have been encouraged to see how among a group that comes from varying backgrounds and experiences, the students are finding ways to care for and support each other. Please pray that the Lord will meet them in the places where they have experienced hurt, broken trust, and other struggles.
Alison has experienced some set-backs in her health recently, but we are thankful for the good care she has available to her at the Mayo Clinic, and also for able helpers like Liz, Sarah, and Heather. Jock continues to be busy tending with the practical details of caring for the property, as well as planning for future L’Abri conferences, serving in the local church, and organizing our Friday evening lecture series. We had a good visit earlier this month from Dr. David O’Hara, a philosophy professor at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He gave some very good lectures on the Epicurean and Stoic philosophies that were common in the Apostle Paul’s day, and relayed how the impact of some of those philosophical ideas is still being felt in our culture today. He also showed how the Apostle Paul subtly engages with some of those ideas in his epistles, particularly the letter to the church in Philippi. I am grateful for Christians like him who are engaging with philosophy at a high level and who can help us understand how ideas really do have consequences.
Jock and Alison and I are very thankful as well for your faithful prayers and support, without which this work could not continue. Please pray that God will help us to be faithful to Him and will increase our love for the Lord Jesus and for the students who walk through our doors.
Yours in Christ,
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lam. 3:22-23
The first summer term is over and it feels a relief to come up again for air. 2 months makes for a long term for us as we have just a small team. We ended term with a very full house with many coming and going. There was such a diversity of people including some non-Christians for which we were thankful. I am fortunate in that I now get to be at home resting, but Jock, Tabby and Liz are in Missouri heading up another working retreat on the farm. Various folk have joined them to help and progress is being made. They return early next week when hopefully they will get to rest some as well.
After a long and very rainy Spring we are finally able to enjoy the outdoors and nature seems to be reacting with joy. I am sitting on the deck and baby chickadees, house finches and nuthatches are hopping around, while a few young squirrels, bunnies and chipmunks romp around the lawn. Recently our Friday night lecture was interrupted by cavorting twin fawns on the front lawn (daily visitors) and then again as a racoon climbed up the bird feeder with difficulty. This is a beautiful property, especially in July and nature provides such a wonderful, tangible taste of the goodness of our creator. The students are now better able to enjoy the view as we have opened out the point and now have good views of Rochester from the house. God is indeed good, providing for our needs this year with good numbers of students and Jock has been able to pay the bills at the end of each month. I have been able to cook fewer meals thanks to our wonderful helper Liz and am now doing more of the tutoring, which has been needed with a full house.
We do frequently feel inadequate for all that needs to be done, but particularly for meeting the students in ways would take away the scales and help them to have a substantial and tangible taste of the reality of God. It is a comfort to know that no degree of human talent or winsomeness is effective without the work of the Spirit and that he willingly uses the weak things of the world to accomplish his purposes. Many of the students come with heavy burdens and painful stories and we long for them to experience the love and comfort that Christ extends, it is good to know that even a simple cup of water can be sufficient for a thirsty soul and that is something we can offer. Please pray with us that we would be responsive to the Spirit's leading in meeting the needs of these folk - that we would not give in to a feeling of helplessness. We cannot solve all of people's problems but we can love and care for them and give them a safe space in which to come to God.
We are encouraged by our church, they are a wonderfully supportive body and often help us with practical needs. Someone has offered to pay for the truck repair while another has gone to Missouri with a truckload of furniture to help Jock. This Sunday we are thrilled to be moving into our lovely new church building; our pastor Chris Harper has been preaching the Gospel of Grace each Sunday and the church is growing rapidly. Jock is currently on the session, which keeps him busy but also connected. We also appreciate the faithful support of many around the country that give regularly and are as much a part of God's work here as we are. We are all members of a body, each part is essential as we follow Christ's lead as the head. Please pray that we will stay close to him; listening, following and obeying in the large things and the small, knowing our part to play. Jock is carrying many responsibilities both in the wider international L'Abri work, here in this branch, in our church and in Missouri, please pray for the strength and help he needs with juggling so many things. I would appreciate prayer for my health as I am dealing with non-MS related challenges and am having many medical appointments. This is tiring but I am glad to be receiving such high quality care at the Mayo Clinic, it still amazes me that this is where I get all my medical treatment. Tabby has been keeping a lovely atmosphere in the house with fresh flowers and her high teas have different themes and are wonderfully creative. Please pray for her encouragement as it is never easy to be a single worker and she is overseeing many responsibilities in the main house.
“The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” Lam. 3:25-26
With many thanks,
“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I say? I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock”. Luke 6:46-48
As I write this, we are still processing the death of Mrs. Schaeffer this past Easter. In many ways, though death is of course never good, for her it was a mercy to be united with her Lord at Easter time, but for us it is a sadness to find ourselves without her friendship, love and support. Tears flowed on Easter Sunday as we celebrated the Resurrection and the sure hope that she will be enjoying. Now, as we move forward without the Schaeffers in this work that they founded and loved, I am reminded of their admonition that it was to be the LORD’S work and not their own. They always called us to be dependent on the finished work of Christ alone, acting with faith in the here and now on the foundation that he laid down in himself and his own death. As Luke 6:46 points out, we are to be those who come to Him, hear his Word and put it into practice. The Schaeffers made this the foundation, not having mere orthodoxy of belief, but also seeking orthodoxy in practice, in order to demonstrate to this generation and the watching world the reality of Christ’s finished work for here and now.
This is a high calling for us all and were it not for his work in us we could never aspire to such heights. But our saviour descended and became man, knowing our frame and making himself sufficient for all he calls us to. My prayer is that we would remember this “moment by moment” in our own unique lives, that those who come would still see and know that the Lord is Good and True. Edith has already had her funeral in Gryon and burial in Rochester, and on May 11th the Rochester L’Abri will hold a Memorial Service in her honor. We need to be holding up the family in their grief at the loss of their mother, grandmother, and great grandmother, as well as the many that held her dear, and pray that we would all have courage to live by faith in the manner that she showed us. I have been re-reading the L’Abri story at this time and was struck again by the amazing story of the days that led up to the start of this work. Edith’s courage to not give up and to travel alone to find a house in Huemoz, and the miraculous gifts of money that confirmed her decision, are an inspiration to not despair when we face life’s hurdles. Since that time, there have been countless stories of miracles and it is a precious heritage to share in.
Next week we are opening again for students, having recently attended the members meeting in Switzerland and led another L’Abri Retreat down in Missouri. Our small lives are stretched wide in this work but we see God’s hand in it all. We would appreciate prayer for the students that are coming, that the Lord would prepare them and that we would provide them with what they need to find here. Many folk who come have serious challenges and if it were not for God’s help we would feel at a loss. We would also appreciate prayer for some of the ongoing practical challenges, as we need to replace a portion of the L’Abri house roof and we also need to replace a sewer pipe so that the basement does not flood anymore and we need to fix the truck. We have put these off as long as we can but they will not last much longer. Jock juggles many hats - in our church, in the wider International L’Abri, and here with the running of this branch, and the practical needs of this large property are an added burden. My health continues to be a bit up and down, but that is to be expected. I am currently recovering from shingles, another glitch in daily life. Tabby has been a great help and she is a pleasure to work with, but she would appreciate continued prayer for her important role in the L’Abri house.
We do so appreciate all the prayer and support we have received from each one of you, each with your own story of how you came to know L’Abri and how the Lord is working in your life. It will be wonderful to share these all in heaven one day, to get a good bird’s eye look at the tapestry that Edith loved to talk about. We are all a part of God’s story that is unfolding even as I write. I am glad that even though we face uncertainty in what will happen next in this fallen world, we know for sure that the story has a wonderful ending, when death is swallowed up in victory. “Oh death, where is thy sting?”
Yours, in Him,
“Rejoice in Hope, be Patient in Tribulation, be Constant in Prayer” Romans 12 : 12
With the annual Rochester L’Abri Conference behind, us there is indeed much to rejoice in. Some 430 folk and some 20 speakers gathered in the Kahler Hotel for a wonderful two days of rich teaching and fellowship. With Immigration and gay ‘marriage’ much in the news, our subject matter was really pertinent and the speakers did a terrific job balancing fidelity to Scripture with respect for those that differ. No one has a more solid basis to ground the equal dignity and worth of all people than the Christian and there is such freedom and comfort in worshipping a God for whom there is no partiality. Would that we, God’s people could express that better in the way we treat people. But the atmosphere throughout the conference was such an encouragement, as truly difficult issues were wrestled with, with grace and integrity. Less important, but equally a matter for rejoicing was the fact that, though attendance was somewhat down and the cost of flying speakers in had soared, we nonetheless were able to break even financially (ending just $210 in the black, to be precise) God is indeed faithful!
And now we are in the midst of our Spring Term, and very thankful for the small group of students that has gathered. They are as diverse a group as one could imagine but wonderfully settling into the community of L’Abri and really learning to care and support each other. Already we see significant progress but of course still much need for prayer. Some are just coming to faith, others recovering from deep wounding, or wayward behavior and yet others seeking direction in ways that would honor God.
And, this being the first student term with Tabby, our new colleague, we are rejoicing in once again having an energetic and gifted co-laborer to help shoulder the work. For Alison especially this is a great reprieve. Do pray for Tabby as she continues to settle into the work as well as the local community.
But is it all rejoicing? Is there any need for ‘patience in tribulation’? Well, how about the transmission on the L’Abri snow-plough packing in just before the worst snow storm of the winter? Or the septic system backing up into the basement just before the first public Friday Lecture of the term? And I wish these were the worst of the challenges that we face. But no work of God is without significant opposition, and that is why Paul’s short formula ends with the call to ‘be constant in prayer’. And that is where you, our ‘praying family’ form such a vital backbone to this frail ministry. Without your support, we really could not soldier on.
So thank you - and may God bless you even as you bless us.
Yours in Christ,
“…to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Eph.3:18-19
I am writing this letter basked in full afternoon sunlight, from the apartment in the retreat building in Missouri. We have just ended our first January L’Abri Retreat here in this new building and it all went well. Jock is currently busy wiring in some lights and Tabby is painting, so the work on the building is still carrying on, but at this point we have enough done to enable people to stay in reasonable comfort and for this we are thankful. It is hard to believe that another year has just passed and soon we will be hosting the annual Rochester L’Abri Conference. Jock is glad for access to email as he carries on with handling details here, but when we arrive back home the last push will begin. We would appreciate your prayers for all that needs to be done, for the speaker’s preparation, safe travel and for the logistics - oh and for good weather!
Our good news is that as of the 1st of January, Tabby Yang has joined us on staff as a worker. She was a helper at both the Canadian and English branches and has her masters in theology and counseling from Westminster. She is from Florida so Minnesota may be a challenge, but she brings a warm spirit and a kind smile and is already proving her worth. We are still in need of a helper as well so we do hope that someone materializes to help with all that is ahead.
Our recent terms were fairly full and we found that many who have come have been struggling with shame - even after many years as Christians. Again and again we find ourselves discussing the power of grace and the depth and breadth of God’s love and for our students, who as sinners that have been wounded by living in a fallen world, it can be hard to believe. The eyes of faith are what help us to see, but this does not come easily. Living in community and experiencing love is a simple thing, but it can work deeply in broken hearts to start binding the wounds. We have been privileged to see something of this change, like water on a withered plant and we thank the Lord that he has blessed us with His presence in order to bring this change about.
Jock has been reading to us from Ephesians each morning, and it has been a good reminder of the power of the resurrection that has been made available to us through Christ and the Spirit - and it is a comfort in the face of the gap between our strength and all we are called to. Today I was struck by Eph. 3:17-19, that this is what we are called to pray for each person that comes. It can be so hard to grasp the enormous extent of Christ’s love for us personally, that it is a gift of grace and not something that we earn. May we all be reminded of this afresh in the new year. Blessings and love,
In Him who holds us in his loving arms,
“Do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God.” Mic 6:8
Here we are already in the midst of our Fall term, thankful to have full houses and an interesting array of students. John and Day Hodges are here with their students from the Center for Western Studies as well as others, including another Russian and a former Ethiopian refugee.
Looking back, our second Summer term in Aug/Sept went very well, with signs of significant change in the lives of the many students that came. It comes at a price though, as we were alone as workers for the 2 months and like most of L’Abri, our finances have been thin. Nevertheless, we were aware of the Lord’s sustenance and goodness and we were grateful to have Karen and Tabby so ably helping us. Unusually we had more guys than girls, so our basement was mostly full, but Jock was able to get a lot of grounds work done, both removing dead trees as well as buckthorn. We also, unusually, had a number of Europeans with us, probably a sign of the low dollar, but we enjoyed the diversity.
At the end of term we headed to St. Louis to put on our first L’Abri conference there. It was a one-day event, designed as an abbreviated repeat of our February conference, and we had over 100 attend. It was good to stay with Larry and Nancy who helped with the organization and hopefully there will be many more of these St Louis Conferences in the years to come. We then headed out to the farm and the Ebenezer Retreat building project where Jock carried on with dry walling and electrics and we hosted another working retreat. We were thankful for the many volunteers who came out to help, including a couple who drove down from Chicago just for the week-end.
So we have been juggling many things and often feel hard pressed. Please pray that the Lord would send the help we need, especially as we recently said goodbye to our faithful helper Karen, who is now back in Texas. Thankfully Tabby is staying on and is doing a wonderful job. But at these times it does seem that we often fall more heavily on the Lord in our weakness. This work has always centered around the truth that we live in a supernatural reality and it is prayer that helps to orient ourselves aright, both in the times when we are told to trust and hold back and wait, and when, at others, we are to press forward, even when facing insurmountable obstacles. We are always to turn to the Lord and to trust him in all things; we are never promised an easy life, but we are promised that he will walk with us as we depend on him.
The Lord’s grace in all this makes us feel gladness, and walking this road has been sweet as we are frequently surprised and encouraged by His very personal care and provision. And this includes the people who are sharing life with us here in the L’Abri community, as they have many struggles too. This wrestling that we do together bears fruit, as the Lord does indeed hear and answer, and for them this is an important experience.
We do continue to ask for your prayers for this branch, that we would have the right workers to work alongside us, and for the finances to pay them. Please also pray for the students of his choice to come, for them to find the things here that God has brought them for, and for good helpers in the face of many needs. Please pray for my health as it can be very up and down and please also pray for Jock and his many responsibilities. He is thankful to finally get the February Conference brochure finished and in the mail. Pray that these get into the hands of folk for whom the Conference will be a blessing. (You can download extra copies from our website at www.labri.org )
“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Rom 12:12
With many thanks,
Last Friday I did a lecture on the legacy and influence of Francis Schaeffer. This was my contribution to his centennial year. He was born on January 30th, 1912 and died in 1984, over a quarter of a century ago - more than enough time to relegate most to history. But Dr. Schaeffer continues to have a wide and ongoing impact, particularly in evangelicalism, and thereby on into the wider American culture. The ways in which he has influenced evangelicalism for the better are surprisingly numerous and I found it a deeply inspiring exercise to simply list them. Consider the number of Christian academics who cite the inspiration of Schaeffer in their own decision to follow their vocational calling. Schaeffer affirmed the mind and elevated the importance of Truth, he showed that Christ was Lord of all of life and no area of reality was off-limits. In addition, He showed the value of analyzing our culture in terms of the flow of ideas and how these shaping ideas can be seen as worldviews. He led evangelicals back into a real and thoughtful engagement with the wider culture, put pro-life issues on the front burner for evangelicals and gave impetus to a new generation of Christian activists. But he was no less concerned for the Church and his struggles for biblical orthodoxy helped solidify most evangelicals around an inerrant Word of God. Then too, his embrace of the Arts was a breath of fresh air and is now a commonplace, as is the practice of hospitality and community living in evangelism and discipleship. Of course, he was not the only one to emphasize these matters and his legacy has certainly not been uniformly embraced. There were also many other concerns of his that went largely ignored, but can we doubt that so much of what is good in contemporary evangelicalism is to a large part due to his tireless efforts.
As encouraging as all this is however, I confess that as I looked back on his legacy I was disappointed to note two singular exceptions where his voice has not been heeded. From the very beginning of his ministry to the very end, Schaeffer railed against what he called the ‘middle class’ values of personal peace and affluence. One still hears this phrase parroted but can we really say that the Church has been weaned from these idols? Still more concerning is the almost total neglect of perhaps his greatest concern – namely a radical dependence on God. This is the central conviction of his book True Spirituality and the collection of seminal ideas in that book were of such significance to him that without them, he often declared, there would have been no L’Abri. Even many of Schaeffer’s most ardent fans value him either for his emphasis on Truth or for his emphasis on Love, but seldom mention his emphasis on the Reality of living in dependence on a Supernaturally active God. It is of course no coincidence that these two blind spots are intimately related! We are extraordinarily good at keeping our need for personal security uppermost in our planning – and trusting God gets harder and harder, even as our practical need for him gets less and less.
In L’Abri however, depending on God continues to be an unavoidable part of the work. The finances are in fact the least of it. Looking back at this wonderful legacy we have from Dr Schaeffer only reinforces our own inadequacy. There will never be another like him, but we all feel a responsibility to do at least some partial justice to this remarkable inheritance – and who is up to that? And then there are the students! Countless numbers of wonderfully diverse human beings, each on their own unique journey, and each with huge questions and issues to be dealt with. Who is up to that?! None of us, of course, and without a deep conviction that this is the Lord’s work and that He is enabling what good there is in it, none of us could go on. We have to depend on God and we have to look to him for the increase, even as we faithfully plant and water to the best of our abilities.
Right now we are deeply thankful for God’s faithfulness through a stretching time of transition. The Summer term is up and running with good numbers of students coming through – and it’s all going well. Karen and Tabby are doing a wonderful job in the main house and Alison and I feel gradually able to breathe again. The students have been so considerate and grateful and we see God at work every day. Depending on him is never easy – but seeing his hand like this does make it easier. And looking back at the extraordinary way that Francis and Edith depended on God is equally encouraging - as is a consideration of the extraordinary fruit that they bore.
Just yesterday, I took one of Schaeffer’s great-granddaughters to see his grave, as he is buried nearby. It was moving to once again read the inscription on his gravestone – They go from strength to strength - from Psalm 84, which he was quoting as he died. A small apple tree was planted next to the gravestone when he was buried. It is now very large, with sweeping branches and is producing the most deliciously sweet fruit. I like to think Dr Schaeffer would be pleased. It is certainly fitting – for this small man, who, in the grip of God, cast such a long shadow.
Yours in Christ,
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Cor 12:9
BJ & Jess moved out this week and it was very sad to see them go – they leave a big hole. This past year they made a wonderful contribution, filling the L’Abri house with all the warmth and delight of family life – and they and little Matthew, Henry and Hero will be sorely missed. It was always going to be something of an experiment to fit a family with toddlers in the confines of the L’Abri house but with the addition of dear Hero it just proved too much. Though they certainly gave it their all, raising three children three-and-under in any circumstances is challenging enough – but doing it in the open-house context of L’Abri, and with limited private space, just did not allow the kind of family situation they need. Thankfully we all remain the best of friends and we are so glad they have found good temporary accommodation with family nearby, so we will continue to see them. But do pray on for BJ as job hunting in this economy is not easy.
As they moved out, we have been busy reconfiguring the house for our second summer term which starts this week. We are very thankful for a good number of students booked in – some with a very critical need to be here. Please do pray for the new term – that the students would settle in quickly and make good use of this place. And pray for Alison and I as we will carry a big load in terms of teaching and tutoring – for deep Godly wisdom in all our interactions with these precious souls that the Lord sends.
We will have good help – and for that we give thanks to the Lord for his truly amazing provision. Karen Robare, our wonderful Texan helper will stay on and is excited about doing more meals and taking on more responsibility. And then we will be joined by Tabby Yang. Tabby is a Westminster grad with extensive experience in both the English and Canadian L’Abris. Do pray for her as she settles in here at Rochester - that she will find her gifts well used and enjoy all that this new location has to offer. And then, in addition, Gretchen Haughey will come up from St Louis for a few weeks to help in the transition, as she did last summer. Even after 25 years in L’Abri it never fails to amaze me how faithful God is in his provision. There is so much obvious uncertainty in times of change, but we really can have a quiet heart when we look to our gracious Father. But please remember this branch in your prayers as we seek the Lord’s provision for the right coworkers into the future.
In other encouraging news, we now have all the arrangements for next year’s Rochester L’Abri Conference finalized. We meet as usual at the Kahler Hotel on February 8 & 9, 2013 under the theme “Every Tribe and Nation…” and will be looking at the things that divide in light of the gospel of reconciliation. As usual we will have some 20 speakers coming in from all over and have a wonderful program of lectures and workshops outlined. Please pray for the preparation of the brochure and that as word goes out we will get a good response again this year.
Thank you for your support and co-laboring in this work – without you we would feel very alone.
Yours in Christ,
It is with great sadness that I share with you the news that Jessica and I have decided to move on from L’Abri. Our decision has come as we have reflected on the reality of the needs of our rapidly growing family and the limited space available for us at Rochester L’Abri. Jock and Alison have been very gracious about our decision and we are discussing the details of our departure, but I want to assure you that L’Abri will always be a part of our hearts. We have felt insufficient in many ways, but we take comfort that his “power is made perfect in our weakness.” God’s grace has been evident in every step of our journey, and this last year has been an indispensible time of training and growth for us. We do ask for your prayers in this challenging time of transition.
We also ask you to share in prayer and praise for this branch. Jock announced at our last worker meeting that we were in better shape financially this month. Things are still tight here, but this is an encouragement. We deeply appreciate the sacrificial support by you all which has helped us through this time. We are grateful to God that he has continued to provide for this ministry through difficult economic times.
We are also grateful for a growing group of students here this term. We have had students from Iowa, Nebraska, California, England, as well as a local boy from Rochester who just finished a week here. This term we have had some students dealing with particularly critical decisions of faith, and we are poignantly aware of the need for God’s spirit to open eyes and ears to His gospel. That being said, we are deeply encouraged by their positive response to discussions, lectures, tutorials, and community life here at L’Abri.
Other areas for prayer and praise: Jock is beginning plans for next year’s conference, and has just lined up all the main speakers. We are excited about the theme which will be disclosed shortly. Also, things are coming along with construction at the Ebenezer Retreat building in Steelville, MO. We have made a number of work trips already this year and plans are in process for the next L’Abri Retreat in October. Also, a note about Alison’s health. She has gone in for annual testing for her MS this past week, and we desire prayer concerning the forthcoming results and peace for the McGregors in these things.
Finally, please do pray for all of us over this coming period of transition – for the Rolands as we seek God’s leading for our future – and for the Rochester branch as they seek God’s provision for this busy ministry.
B.J. Roland for L’Abri
"Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke”, we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God." 2 Cor 4:13-15
Alison and I have just returned from Holland where we had the annual leadership meetings for L’Abri International. What a joy it was to meet with all our colleagues from around the world. It always amazes me to see just how God has used this tiny ministry in such a global way. It was so encouraging to get reports of the great work being done in the newer branches of Korea and Brazil. There is a real thirst for the Christian Worldview in these developing regions. But the older branches also remain strong with large numbers still visiting England and Switzerland. Of course, all the branches do also have struggles of different sorts - shortage of suitable workers, space issues and so on. God’s work is never without challenges – and everyone (including us) has felt the financial strains of our present economy. Overall, however, we came back deeply encouraged to be a part of this precious ministry that God has grown so organically over the decades. Seeing the dedicated faith-walk of our fellow-laborers is also deeply inspiring and spurs us on.
And now we look ahead to our first Summer term. Summers are the busy season here in Rochester and we are so glad to have two able helpers joining us this term – Karen from Texas, who has already been with us since last summer and Taylor, coming up from St Louis for the summer break in his college studies. Give thanks for God’s provision of these wonderful young folk who add so much life to the community. Do also please pray for the Lord to send the people of his choice as our summer students begin to gather. Each comes with a unique story and we count it a real privilege to become just a part of what God is doing in their lives. Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 4 that we are in this ministry ‘for their sake’. Though in our weakness we feel our ‘clay’ natures all too keenly, yet what we have in these earthern vessels is indeed an immeasurable treasure – the light of the Gospel. Pray that we may speak into people’s lives in ways that commend God’s truth in love. Please also do continue to pray for the Roland family, as the challenges of raising three little ones in the community of L’Abri will not get easier in the busy summer months. We are so glad for all they bring to our small branch.
Finally, please do pray for our finances. God is faithful and every month we see minor miracles of loving provision – but the coffers have been very low of late and we have had several months of salary cuts, struggling sometimes even to pay bills. Pray with us that this is just a ‘bump’ in the road and that God will continue to grow and establish this branch as a real shelter where grace may ‘extend to more and more’.
Yours in Christ
“All this is from God who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespass against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”-2 Cor. 5:18-21
This year has got off to a very busy start. In early January we headed down to Missouri for another L’Abri Retreat - but this one was very different than the previous 14. For the first time we actually stayed in the new building which was a wonderful step forward! Of course it is still some way from being completed and so this was a working retreat and we focused on getting the apartment dry walled. Many folk came and helped, but the highlight was a visit from an old friend from Australia who is a master builder. He was here for a few days while on a ski trip and was able to give invaluable advice and assistance. Then two weeks after we returned we held our annual Rochester L’Abri Conference. We are so thankful that it went very well, as it was our first time running it without Larry and Nancy - though we were glad they could attend and relax and enjoy it for once. We had about 600 attend and the lectures were well received. It was wonderful to catch up with so many people and to see many new faces and we were thankful that there were no snow storms to deal with and everything went smoothly. We are thankful for how the Lord has built the conference up over many years and we pray that it will continue to be a blessing into the future.
Now we are gearing up for our Spring Term on the 1st of March. So far we have a few booked in, including a girl from the Netherlands. Please pray that God will bring the people that need to be here and that we will quickly understand their issues and help them to find their solutions in the God of Grace who is reconciling them to himself. Living in this public way can be daunting and we would appreciate your prayers. With a young growing family in the main house there are many adjustments and challenges for all, not the least for BJ and Jessica. We are so thankful for them and the children are a delight - they are very affectionate and Hero is full of gurgling chatter and smiles, but we would appreciate prayer for their protection and for wisdom for BJ and Jess as to how to juggle family and L’Abri, as many other families would attest to the unique challenges that L’Abri life brings. We would also appreciate your prayer for health. I am thankful that the MS has not progressed for a few years now and I can still keep up, but there are many ongoing health issues.
Today as we prayed together we were aware of God’s presence and encouragement. We are looking forward to see how this term unfolds as we often see his hand revealed in the lives of the students as he works in their lives. Please pray too for our helper Karen, as she had to head home for her grandfather’s funeral. She returns today and we hope that she will find comfort and encouragement in her time with us this term. She has been invaluable. We are all aware of how much we are dependent on God’s grace and our need to be led by His strength and not our own. He has given us reconciliation to himself and it is a precious hope that we have to share with others. Thank you so much for your faithful part in God’s provision, we are deeply grateful,
Yours, In Him,
We want to let you know how very thankful we are as we end the year here at L’Abri. First of all, we are so thankful that the Lord has met our financial needs after a difficult summer. As you know, Rochester L’Abri faced several financial challenges adjusting to financing a branch with a family with three children. At the same time we had other expenses including an expensive tree removal. The Lord has continued to work in various ways to meet these significant needs. Of course no small part of the Lord’s provision was met through your prayers and generosity. So we also say a big THANKS to you as well. We know many of you are struggling with finances during a difficult economic situation as well. And we trust that the Lord will meet all our needs abundantly even as we bear one another’s burdens in various ways.
Also, we are grateful for finishing a wonderful Winter term. We were full for the entire term with students who booked in for the entire term instead of short stays. That made for one of the most solid terms this branch has had in many ways. And while the numbers are wonderful, more importantly, we saw God work in people’s lives! Our young man from Canada was very encouraged to find a community where Christians take questions seriously. As a result, he told us his younger brother was looking at visiting a L’Abri branch next year! Similarly, we felt all our students made significant progress in finding Biblical answers to their questions and real Hope in the Gospel.
In other news, Hero just got her final cast off in the process of correcting her club feet! The doctor gave us a good report on the progress of correction. Now she will have to wear special shoes to maintain the correction until she starts “toddling.” Our little family is adjusting well to life at L’Abri! The boys are growing and developing more all the time! Matthew wants to read at 3 ½ and keeps asking me what certain words mean. Henry is working on his verbal language skills, and keeps bringing me little word books. Jessica and I were just talking about how he is both the active one and the “cuddler” in our family, as he is so full of life he usually won’t even sit still for a movie break!
Karen, our helper, just headed back home for Christmas and will be back for the January L’Abri Retreat in Missouri. We have been so thankful for her. She has been a real Godsend and a friend, a great help with meals, as well as helping the students develop a real sense of community during their time here.
Jock and Alison are gearing up for the January Retreat as well as continuing the Ebenezer building project - and then rolling right into the February conference. Please pray for their rest and rejuvenation in the brief down time before these begin.
Finally, please keep us in prayer as we anticipate a challenging new year as we expand our term lengths (see http://www.labri.org/minn/dates.html). We are excited about this step in our branch as we have been growing in our residential work! Also, please pray for the finances as we have been living on miracles from month to month. It is wonderful to be a part of an organization which God has sustained like this for 55 years and we pray He will continue to use this organization as long as benefits His glorious Kingdom!
God Bless and Keep you during this Blessed Season!
B.J. Roland for Rochester L’Abri
Today we start our Fall term and we are expecting seven students who will stay the entire term. It’s unusual for us to have so many stay for the full term rather than for just a few weeks at a time and so we are delighted to be able to look forward to a lovely group spirit developing. It is exciting to look forward to these dear folk that the Lord is sending and to anticipate what their time here may mean. Each undoubtedly comes with a unique story and different set of issues they are grappling with, but what confidence we can have that it is the one true and living God who is calling us all deeper and deeper into the transforming power of his Grace and Truth. Pray that we may be able to reflect that in our lives together this term.
We are also delighted to tell you that the Roland’s have had their little baby girl! On October 18th, Jessica safely delivered little Hero Kathleen Roland (named for the Shakespearean character) after a very short labor. She was in fact born just 20 minutes after arriving at the hospital – which was a great relief to poor BJ. We are also so happy to report that she is responding excellently to the treatment for her club feet. This involves wearing casts that are changed every week - but should last only until she crawls and will leave no lasting difficulties. Please continue to pray for a full recovery for her. Please also pray for the Rolands as they adjust to the larger family - managing Matthew (3) and Henry (1 ½) as well as the new-born. We are all very thankful that Karen Robare from Texas is here as a helper and able to fill in very well while Jessica is on maternity leave.
We are truly thankful to the Lord for sending us the Rolands during this year of transition - as we continue to miss the Snyders, recently retired and relocated near family in St Louis. Throughout the nearly 57 years of L’Abri, God has not only sent thousands of individuals our way seeking light and life in the safety of this small ‘shelter’, but he has also always provided workers willing to live sacrificially and dedicate themselves to the needs of others. The Rolands have deep roots in this part of the world and both fell in love right here at the Rochester L’Abri, so there is a certain ‘coming home’ for them as they start their ministry here. Their gifts of loving hospitality and quiet commitment to the Lord have already been a wonderful blessing to the student life in the main L’Abri house.
The Apostle Paul in the second letter to the Corinthians refers to Christian ministry as being the ‘aroma’ of Christ. It is a beautiful image of the multifaceted way in which we are called to reflect Christ before the watching world. Indeed it is Truth that sets us free, but demonstrating that truth in community is what creates the beautiful ‘fragrance of the knowledge of God’. Paul rightly asks – “Who is sufficient for these things?”. Indeed we often feel that way – but we have also so often seen Him work powerfully, even through this small work. Pray with us that we might see His work continue this term.
Yours in Christ,
P.S. Download the brochure for the 2012 Rochester L’Abri Conference (Feb. 10&11) at www.labri.org
Here we are in the Northland! Moving back to Rochester has been a blessing for the Roland family in many ways. First, we love that we get to work with L'Abri Fellowship. Jessica and I met at the English branch and both volunteered at this branch 6 years ago and began dating here. We both appreciate the care we have received from L'Abri in the past and we are deeply pleased to have the chance to join the work here.
Also, it has been wonderful to reconnect with family and friends in the area, as this is Jessica's hometown. The church community has been very kind to us with offers of meals and childcare. And we love getting to spend our days off with family. We are very aware that most L'Abri workers around the world (as well as most traditional missionaries) must endure long periods of separation from their families, so we feel very blessed to live within 5 hours of my family in Iowa as well. Coming to work here really is coming home for us!
In addition to these items of thanksgiving, we also have some practical prayer requests. Jessica is due with our third child (a girl) later in October, and the strain of pregnancy and working and cooking is becoming more of a challenge. Also, the doctors tell us that this baby is going to have club-feet. They say this is a very treatable condition, but we will need to work with special equipment for a couple of years (as well as at least one minor surgery) to get her feet trained correctly. So, please pray for our energy and patience as well as for our little girl's quick healing.
We also have some pressing needs as a branch. Like everyone else, the Rochester L’Abri is having to tighten its belt with the economic downturn. And aside from the normal concerns of paying bills, paychecks, etc. we have some significant upkeep issues - including a dead Elm tree on our property which is hanging over a neighbor's house. Because of how it is situated, removal could be extremely expensive.
Last week we watched Babette's Feast with the students and I noticed a refrain throughout the movie which is taken from Matthew7:9 "Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?" In the story the passage is used as a device of irony as the Puritan characters learn that righteousness and joy may thrive together as they hesitantly enjoy a sumptuous French meal. But it has stuck in my mind this week as a reminder that God still cares for His people and desires to give them good gifts. Most of all, he wants us to seek His Kingdom as the passage also emphasizes, and he also promises to care for daily practical needs. He lifts our eyes to Him in eager expectation that He will delight us with His love and care.
With Love from Rochester,
B.J., Jessica, Matthew, Henry, and Baby Girl Roland for L'Abri
We do thank you for your faithful support. We are very aware that we are now turning the page on a new chapter in the life of this branch. It is the same story, but also something new as we have said farewell to one family and welcomed another. We enjoyed such a wonderful day to mark this change as we opened our doors to over 80 adults and countless children at the end of June. Friends were able to say farewell to the Snyders and able to get to meet the Rolands. As the house teemed and the lawn was full of playing children, we were so thankful and moved as we embarked on this new beginning.
We are very aware of our dependence on the Lord for all things and in this, nothing has changed. We were so thankful that our last term was mostly full of students with burning questions, eager to study and to talk late into the night. It was one of the best terms that I can remember in recent history and we were glad of it’s encouragement. We are about to embark on our first term without the Snyders and as Jessica is in her third trimester we were a little concerned about how we would manage, but we are thankful that the Lord has provided a helper in the last few days, it is such a relief and it came about in a providential way!
In the break things continued to be busy; Jock left for England the day after the end of term, and taught for a week for Ranald at Christian Heritage in Cambridge. Then on his return we left for MO, where he is busy building a retreat center. We also stopped by to see Larry and Nancy in their lovely new home. Then last night we entertained 11 of our neighbors for National Night Out. We are so thankful for the good relationships we have with them. The retired couple on the west side are Christians and staunchly supportive. We returned from MO to find our lawn mowed, a tree that had fallen in the woods cut up, my wilting tomatoes re-potted, and the garden watered. We also have very friendly contact with the family on the other side, and though they are a bit bemused by what we do, they are very warm. These relationships are so important as we are living in the middle of a suburban neighborhood. At the same time BJ and Jessica have been ‘nesting’, getting the upstairs finished and ready for the arrival of their little girl. It is so good to have a family able to take on the care of the house and grounds and BJ brings 4 years of experience in working on the grounds and maintenance for Covenant Seminary.
So as we embark on this new chapter, not knowing the twists and turns ahead, we know that we move forward in continued dependence and expectation for the future. Please continue with us in prayer for the people of His choice to come and for them to find the help they need. Please also pray for our finances as our expenses have increased with taking on a growing family and we are impacted by this poor economy. Give thanks for the helpers who have offered to come and pray that their time would go well for them. Give thanks that the speakers are all lined up for the Feb. conference and pray that we would be able to get the brochure out soon. It looks like a great lineup. Please also pray for our strength to meet all the demands of the new term and for health for Jessica and the baby.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 2 Cor 4:7. We are always aware of the gap between our limitations and our high calling, but this is for His glory so that people may see the present reality of our living Lord. We depend on your prayers and support and thank God for each one as our lives are woven together into the Great Story.
With thanks in Him,
Dear Friends of Rochester L'Abri,
The new brochure for the Rochester L'Abri conference should be in your mailbox soon. The theme for the 2011 conference will be When Things Fall Apart: Living with Hope and Dignity. Ever since L'Abri began in the home of Francis and Edith Schaeffer over 55 years ago, there has been a consistent emphasis on the Lordship of Christ over all of life, a confidence in Biblical truth, a devotion to Christ and the reality of prayer, an appreciation of God's gifts in all of life, and a commitment to encourage Christians to make a contribution to the wider culture. It is our prayer that this conference will foster a renewed commitment to our high calling as Christians to proclaim and exhibit and demonstrate to the world the glories of the Christian faith. I trust that the conference will be an encouragement to all who are planning to attend. Remember that bulk mailing always takes longer to get to your mailbox, so you might want to go online and view the brochure at www.labri.org. As always, it is very helpful to us when folk send in their registrations in good time.
One reason that I am writing this brief update is to ask for your prayers as next year will be a year of transition for this branch. Though I will be 70 next November, all the pieces are seemingly falling together for Nancy and I to retire a bit earlier, probably sometime during the summer months after the student terms. It has been 44 years since Nancy and I took a taxi from the train station in Aigle to L'Abri in the little Swiss village of Huemoz. We lived in Chalet Beau Site that first year with 30 girls, always with a few extra that we would squeeze in somewhere, and made do with two bathrooms, one for the girls and one for us! Three of our four children were born in Switzerland, and those years are full of good memories, some difficult times, but again and again we saw the Lord's faithfulness and goodness to L'Abri and our family.
When we moved to Rochester 22 years ago, Edith was living here and it was a great joy to be able to work with her for many years until she moved back to Switzerland. Shortly after we arrived the Lord provided the wonderful L'Abri property at 1465 12th Ave. I remember vividly the day when I took Betty Phillips to see the house and property. After some hours looking over the property, while we were walking on the front yard and looking out over Rochester, to my great amazement and surprise, she simply said, "This is the property for L'Abri!" Her gift to buy the property has made it possible for Rochester L'Abri to be an oasis for many students and families and friends over the past 20 years.
We will be moving to St Louis to be closer to family, and are in the process now of buying a house with our daughter Katie and her husband Jacob. Nancy and I will be renovating over the next year the large, unfinished basement into a separate apartment. There will be lots of work to do, but I am eager to begin; building walls and partitions, replacing some windows and doors, laying down floor tile, and putting in a kitchenette and proper bathroom.
In the meantime we have accepted BJ and Jessica Roland to become workers in the Rochester branch beginning shortly after he graduates from Covenant Seminary in the Spring. Both BJ and Jessica have had a heart for L'Abri for many years, and I am sure that they will be very hospitable hosts in the big house. They have two small children, Matthew who is two and Henry who is 9 months, so pray for them as they look forward to moving to Rochester after BJ's graduation. Until they arrive, Kara from England who was a helper last year, will be coming back for three months at the beginning of the New Year to help with the L'Abri Retreat at the Kramer farm, the Rochester Conference and our spring student term.
As you know, Jock and Alison joined us in the Rochester branch 10 years ago and have contributed to this branch in so many different ways. When the Snyders leave next year, Jock will become the director of this residential branch and will continue to organize the yearly conference into the future. So, please be in prayer for the McGregors in this new role, and also for the Snyders as we begin this year of transition. We go forward in faith, trusting that the Lord to guide us each step of the way.
Under His Mercy, now and forever,
Larry & Nancy Snyder
L’Abri Fellowship Rochester
1465 12th Ave. NE
Rochester, MN 55906-4383