Hi! … It’s been a while. Sorry about that. It’s been tumultuous lately.
As most of you now, Amelia and I are living in a small study center in the Swiss alps called L’Abri. People come to study philosophy and Christianity on a personal level, while living community. Many come to get a break from it all, and figure out what life could be about.
Imagine, that you had more than three hours every day of undisturbed time, where you could finally read those books that’s been staring at you from the shelf. Or, plunge into vast archives of recorded lectures on most of the harder issues in life, while watching the alpine landscape in all it’s glory.
If you think that sounds dull, don’t worry. The other half of the day, you actually take part in keeping the place running: Keeping the gardens, cleaning the living spaces and cooking for others.
Many who come through struggle with whether faith makes sense, others hardly know where to begin. Since belief can be a sensitive thing, even though the framework is Christian, we are careful not to force anything on anyone. We are being criticized for not being more direct in pushing the gospel. But let others see to that. We’re more interested in providing a space for people to search and discover on their own.
In the Chalet Amelia and I are in now, our tasks have changed a bit. We open our house 3 times a week for ‘formal’ meals, which means an open forum for any topic people would like to discuss. Often, questions are hard and often takes effort on the group to grasp and navigate. People are very gracious are with each other – atheists and believers alike. People really want to talk. Off course, many have been hurt by life and need time to get used to that sort of activity. And that’s okay. There’s room for that.
It’s fair to say that L’Abri is a shelter. Not in the political correct sense however – everybody is challenged by conversations and community life, even the quiet folks. When you come to L’Abri, you kinda prepare yourself to enter into dialogue concerning life as it is. It does takes a little time to adjust. When I came here the first time, I had a lot of opinions about most. Dialogue, however is an entirely different matter. Conversation is an art form after all.
A great inspiration of mine, Marleen Rookmaker of Artway.eu (who does weekly studies of art pieces, check it out) encouraged me to to explore the “word and image” format. Basically doing a Bible study while exploring a work of art. It’s not for everybody, but it’s an alternative format with potential. I have to say, that I am thrilled to be on this particular journey. A world is opening up. Wisdom pops up in the most surprising corners.
Our little daughter is now 2 years old and doing so well. She’s got character! (said the parent). She really seems to enjoy people – a helpful gift, when you’re surrounded daily as we are here. We are, by the way, pregnant with the next, due 2nd of November.
I’ve realized, that many people feel a little mixed about our work here. Many of my Danish friends are quite concerned. For them, I am thankful. It’s the silence that hurts. But maybe, we’ve been slack in communication ourselves. I’ll adjust that. I know we have. Please accept our apologies. No really, we are sorry.
Living with a view to the Swiss Alps is a blessing. No doubt. Fresh air, a house to care for and a garden to tend are all things we are grateful for. But it comes with a cost. We love this place and the doors it open, but we miss – you – we miss friends and family. We miss being teased by people who know us well. The distance (in miles and kilometers as well as worldviews) – isolates us more than we like. But with any crazy endeavor, there are always sacrifices to be made. In any life, there is. But just know, that you are missed.
For friends of ours who are familiar with believing that the supernatural is a fair possibility, L’Abri makes pretty good sense. For others, it’s often misunderstood as a Hippie-Christian commune. It is a community, and it was established in the 50’ies and 60’ies, but it’s not hippie. It’s better described as a safe framework for living / thinking / searching / breathing. Okay, a few of the workers love to walk barefooted when the weather allows it. Sure. But even though I’m not one myself (I used to be an anarchist), I thrive better being around people who are different than me.
The Christian core is not to be discredited, however. But it does not seem to be a stumbling block for atheists and agnostics who come through. If you’re hyper-allergic to prayers and occasional references to the Bible and Jesus Christ, then this place is probably not for you. But I’d be happy to challenge any of my atheist friends to come check it out. I wager, that you would go back with a more nuanced view of Christianity – perhaps even religion in general – which is not a bad thing in these troubled times.
Yeah, actually. We’d love if any of you would come by. I know that Amelia and I are not the only workers who thrive by hearing other perspectives than the Biblical one. With our respective backgrounds, we’re very aware that Christians need to keep their ears open in order to stay between cultures. Come by. We’ll bake fresh bread and serve you some very nerdy coffee. Or tea.