Newsletter January 2020

January 2020

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it”.

Dear friends,

We recently said goodbye to another wonderful group of students, including nearly twenty long-termers who spent two months together. 

Many of the rhythms and characteristics of L’Abri stay quite consistent, and yet each term, the particular combination of students, helpers, and workers provide a unique personality and flavor. And in profound as well as subtle ways we are impacted, maybe even transformed, as we engage our minds, hands, and hearts together.

Ideas: Intense discussions and deep conversations continue to reverberate throughout the campus of L’Abri, interwoven amidst our daily activities – whether during formal lunches or while preparing meals, after thought-provoking lectures or while weeding in the garden. I’m thankful for this safe space to ask the hard questions about life – questions about God’s character, about what following Him really looks like, about our place in the world, and about how to navigate through the pain, adversity, and complexities of life.We don’t always come away with clear, succinct answers, but we can glean insights through studies and conversations which can provide a larger scope and a helpful framework from which to continue to grapple with these issues.Sometimes it’s helpful simply to know we’re not alone in wrestling with all of this.

Work: Not only are our daily tasks necessary to keep our living spaces welcoming and our bodies nourished, they also provide the opportunity for personal growth, experiencing the challenges and joys of team work, and finding resourceful solutions when faced with adversity.  It’s a chance to offer our strengths or be stretched by new experiences. Working on meals together, I was repeatedly grateful for the collective team effort, proud of those taking on tasks outside their comfort zone, and encouraged by how meaningful and grace-infused even a cooking shift can be.

Community: Such a key underlying piece to this whole experience is sharing life together. Sometimes it’s difficult living constantly in such close proximity, and we can easily bump against each other’s inner wounds and insecurities.  Other times we can more directly see the beauty in community life – drawing out creativity, adventure, vulnerability, and even playfulness from one other. I appreciated a variety of student-initiated activities this past term which contributed so much to that. During creative writing evenings, students crafted pieces that ranged from the profound to the ridiculous, and revealed skill with words but also tenderness of heart.  Poetry evenings were a great venue to share these with others – prompting laughter and tears.  I was touched by the trust and courage demonstrated by poignant writings revealing raw pain, honest anger, and even the re-discovery of joyful child likeness.  

Here is an update on members of our team:

Richard lecturing on “Doubt”

The Bradfords are doing well.  They have had a great Christmas with both kids around.  Alexis is entering her final semester of a Creative Writing degree in Galway, Ireland.  She has loved her experience there and is looking forward to doing some different things once she is finished.  Simon has kept very busy making music with his two bands, one of which is releasing their first album at the end of January.  In a week or so he will be starting his Swiss military service which will last 4 and a half months.  This is mandatory for all Swiss males and so he is looking forward to getting it done.

Amelia and Per-Ole are enjoying the current age of their kids while struggling to balance warm (but firm) parenting and encouraging good manners.  Juggling work and family life continues to be a challenge.  Amelia is active within Rena and Peter’s classmate community in nearby Villars — getting to know parents and making connections in the area (and often making attempts to use her French).  She continues to thrive off of a meal shared with students, conversations over coffee, and hearing people’s stories.  PO has been spearheading a redesign of the new LAbri.org international site, due to launch in April.  He’s also been encouraged to consider working his Word & Image series on Revelation and Albrecht Durer into book format.

This January marks the beginning of the second year that Aaron and Katrina have spent living in Chalet Les Mélèzes, with heavier tutoring and teaching roles which has been great. Aaron’s written new lectures on a theology of technology, sanctification, and metaphors, and has been supporting Catherine as she does our finances.  Katrina has enjoyed meeting with a greater number of students for tutorials and learning to care for the yard and garden. She has taught several Bible studies on the Psalms as well as teaching students how to study the Bible inductively.

Marnie’s daughter Brier in New Zealand only has 12 weeks left until her baby boy is born. They’ve decided on the name Elijah.  Marnie and her mum are looking forward to meeting him at the end of this term.
Marnie has provided a consistent presence in Bellevue this past year, while a variety of us have joined her throughout the year: Lee and I in winter term, Lee and Steve in spring term, Ana in summer term, and Melody Hoppe (it was a delight to welcome her to the team in October) and I in fall term.  Steve also helped out for several weeks this past term before returning to the US for the arrival of his first grandchild.  

Many thanks to our guest lecturers in recent months. This fall term we had Luke Martin and Dick Goodwin sharing their time and thoughts with us.  Dick also lectured in the summer term along with Jessica Todd Harper, Jon Callow, and Matt Bohlman. We’ve begun having evening lectures once a term so it is easier for people in the surrounding area to join us, and the response has been very positive.  In November Richard lectured on doubt, which also sparked discussion amongst the wider expat community.

As we wrapped up the fall term, we celebrated Thanksgiving followed shortly after by a day of prayer and fasting, prompted by our financial struggles.  It was a reminder of the rhythms of feasting and fasting in life, of seasons of abundance and of lack, experienced personally but also as a community. May we look to the Lord with gratitude for His many good gifts and with trust in the midst of our every need.  

Winter term 2020 is just underway, and we need the Lord’s continued provision and equipping for this good but difficult work.  Thank you for your support and partnership with us.

Blessings to you all in this new year!
Cindy Saum

Sea of clouds

The valley below has filled up with clouds the last few days – tonight there was a magical glow by Dent du midi.

Recipe: Final High Tea gravy

By request, we unearth the mash associate, the taste bud zinger, the sauce to end a term: the Final High Tea gravy:

Reduce Balsamic vinegar and Jamaican Rhum with Bay leaves in browned butter. In a separate pan, fry red onion (more butter), garlic and finely chopped carrot with fresh or shelf thyme and rosemary. Mix with balsamic reduction. Add soy and let it steam.

Add cream, cherry jam (or red currant) and ground pepper. Add stock and a bit of Miso paste for Umami goodness. Let simmer. Add cornstarch if needed.

Ingredients: Cream, garlic, carrots, red onion, Soy sauce, cherry jam (or red currant), Stock, Bay leaves, Thyme, Rosemary, Miso paste.

November prayer letter

We are coming to the end of the term, and we are soon saying goodbye to students. We have had a really great term, and it has been really encouraging for us. We have seen so many people grow and change. It has been a real privilege. Please pray that these last days will continue to go well and that the students who are soon leaving will be able to take away lasting experiences. Pray also that they would be able to continue on the path that they started here.

Please pray for us as it relates to numbers for next term. Things were nice and quite full this month, but we have some really low numbers for parts of next term. This is hard for us. In part because often it is the students’ relationships to each other that God really uses in the work here, but also because the lack of student fees adds financial stress. This kind of thing happens, but still please pray that the money that we need comes in. Also, we are having a day of prayer and fasting this Monday. This will be a time where we will offer up these concerns to God. Feel free to join us in this in your own contexts.

Of course this is not the only concern that we have, and we will trust that God will continue to provide. Please join us in thanking Him for His continued provision, and for the people that keep choosing to come here. We have just enjoyed a nice Thanksgiving meal and it was really special time for us.

Also join us in thanking God for a very generous gift that came in this month for the Bradford’s boiler. It will cover a chunk of the expenses, but still we are short of what we need. Please continue to pray for this need. Being without properly working heat is a bit of a struggle.

It is a comfort to be able to reach out to all of you. Thank you for your prayers. Even with the focus that we have always had here on prayer, it is easy to turn more to our strength than God’s. Pray that we would keep our eyes on him. Having all of you as a praying community helps us to remember where our strength really comes from.

Summary for your prayer lists

• Give thanks for the richness of this term.

• Give thanks for the growth in students lives.

• Please pray for the students God wants to come next term.

• Please pray for our finances.

• Please pray the God would be close to us who work here.

Thanks,

Aaron Fortune

Evening lecture fall 2019

Richard Bradford lectured this Friday on a topic relevant to many of us. When we express doubt to fellow believers, this is often met with pat responses, for various reasons. This seems to be a pity, when doubt can play a part in reasonable  questioning.

Doubt is not in contrast to belief, but an intricate part of it. As a eyewitness responded to Christ: “I believe. Help my unbelief”.

Evening lectures are held once each season, to open our door to the wider community in our region. Next event will be held in the winter term of 2020.

#labri, swisslabri, #apologetics, #doubt, #francisschaeffer, #christianity, #faith

Insulation project in one of the old chalets

Exposed outer wall – cracks filled with organic fibre. Insulation measured and mounted.

Old compromised wind paper being removed. Notice the gate beam spoke on which a barn door used to turn.

Old newspaper used to fill cracks and block draft. Dated 1942.

Birds, mice and here wasps penetrating the old wind paper.

Hydrometric wind blocker mounted.

Refitting the inner wall. Three more rooms to go.

Nashville L’Abri event

This coming July, our dear friends Dave and Anna from the Southborough L’Abri, will be lecturing at the Nashville L’Abri conference!

If you’re unable to take time to visit L’Abri for a longer time, this conference (plus the one in Rochester every February) is a great opportunity to get a feel of what it’s like.

If you’ve been to L’Abri before, this is a great chance to revisit the salty atmosphere of engaging discussion on contemporary, difficult topics.

It’s also a chance to meet and talk with some current L’Abri heavy weights. See a line-up of the topics below.

Conference site here. Facebook page here.

Subjects:

  • Sexuality
    • Bodies with Meaning: Christianity’s Liberating Sex Ethic
    • What Does the Bible Have to Tell Us About Sexual Harassment and #MeToo?
    • Cultivating a Hopeful Imagination in a Pornified Culture
  • Relationships
    • Becoming Less Fragile: Self-control as Inner Dominion
    • How to be a Better Lover: Attention in a Distracted World
    • Staying Human in a Smartphone Culture
    • Living with Loss, Legos, and Laundry
    • Living with Contradictory Expectations: A Meditation on “Let it Go” and Other Inspirational Breakup Songs
    • Grief and Anger: Appropriate Responses at the Tomb of Lazarus, in Dylan Thomas’ Poem “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”, and in Our Own Lives
  • Community
    • America’s Polarized Politics: Can Christians have a Redemptive Role?
    • The Ark of Speech: How Far Does Our Hospitality Go?
    • Pursuing Freedom in a Culture of Choice
    • Early Peacemaking: Can Conflict be Outmaneuvered Before it Starts?