Chapter 4
The Framework in Practice At L’Abri

"And L’Abri students grow in wisdom"

1. Living the Intellectual
    a. Mealtime Discussion - Introduction
    b. Mealtime Discussions - 1978
    c. Mealtime Discussions - 1996
    d. Saturday Night Discussions - 1978
    e. Tuesday and Friday Lecures - 1996
    f. Study At Farel House - 1978
    g. Study At Farel House - 1996
    h. Storytime - 1978
     i. Storytime - 1996

"And L’Abri students grow in stature"

2. Living the Physical
    a. Serving L’Abri
    b. Serving the Community - 1978
    c. Serving the Community - 1996

"And L’Abri students grow in favor with God"

3. Living the Spiritual
    a. Personal and Family Devotions
    b. Prayer Day - 1978
    c. Prayer Day - 1996

"And L’Abri students grow in favor with man"

4. Living the Social
    a. Church - 1978
    b. Church - 1996
    c. Creativity and Thursday Nights - 1978
    d. Creativity and Saturday Nights - 1996
    e. Washing Dishes - 1978
    f. Washing Dishes - 1996

Prepared by Allan L. Winger, 1996

Chapter 4

The Framework in Practice At L’Abri

The purpose of this chapter is to discuss how L’Abri Fellowship puts into practice what the Bible teaches concerning Christian growth. For this consideration the daily regimen of the ministry itself has been chosen. It was chosen because (1) it shows how the love of Christ and the unity that that love brings really can work, (2) it contains all four areas of Christian growth, and (3) it contains several elements that are simple to develop and therefore may be adapted for Christian living.

Edith Schaeffer (1969, pp. 15-16) wrote the following about the stated purpose of L’Abri:

We have established our purpose as this: "To show forth by demonstration, in our life and work, the existence of God." We have in other words decided to live on the basis of prayer in several realms, so that we might demonstrate to any who care to look the existence of God. We have set forth to live by prayer in these four specific realms:
1. We make our financial and material needs known to God alone, in prayer, rather than sending out pleas for money. We believe that He can put it into the minds of the people of His choice the share they should have in the work.
2. We pray that God will bring the people of His choice to us, and keep all others away. There are no advertising leaflets, and this book is the first to be written about the work.
3. We pray that God will plan the work, and unfold His plan to us (guide us, lead us) day by day, rather than planning the future in some clever or efficient way in committee meetings.
4. We pray that God will send the workers of His choice to us, rather than pleading for workers in the usual channels.

In 1955 Swiss L’Abri began on these principles and is still running. With these principles, based on prayer and a God who is there, English L’Abri was founded. Then Dutch L’Abri was begun. In 1979 the Southborough, Massachusetts L’Abri was born. Then came the Swedish L’Abri, the Rochester, Minnesota L’Abri, and then finally the Korean L’Abri. All are still running. Swiss L’Abri still has members of the Schaeffer family in residence (son-in-law John Sandri and daughter Priscilla). English L’Abri is led by son-in-law Ranald Macaulay and daughter Susan. The other branches are run by "spiritual children" of the L’Abri work, all natives of the country in which their particular branch is located (Holland, Sweden, America, Korea) (also see Appendix A). Edith Schaeffer is still active in the Rochester L’Abri (Schaeffer, F.A.V, January 25, 1996).

The above details were presented to show that if Godly principles are established and consistently followed, positive long-term Christian growth occurs. This long-term growth usually includes, but is not limited to, the transferring of that growth to the next generation in one’s own family. It is a legacy passed on of the highest order.

If this transferal of growth is true of L’Abri Fellowship, then there must be meaning to the specific daily regimen that is followed at each branch of L’Abri. Everything that they do must be important. Also, it should be emphasized that the rewards that will come from living this regimen will not be man-made. They will be a result of an active interaction between the seen and the unseen world. Only then will it be said that one’s purpose has been "To show forth by demonstration, in our life and work, the existence of God." The regimen then becomes something that is never forced on anyone. It never becomes dogmatic in any way. It is a lifestyle that is willingly accepted because the existence of God really is being demonstrated.

Many students who experience the L’Abri lifestyle do not realize while they are there that what they are experiencing is a concept as big as the existence of God. For some, all they know is that what they are experiencing is something they have been looking for all their lives. After reflecting on their experience later, and comparing it with other Christian experiences, they realize that what they have seen, and heard, and felt, really was the existence of God. It becomes a concept that they want to continue to experience. It may even become an object of further study.

Grammatical Diagram of the Regimen

In keeping with the structure presented previously, the grammatical diagram above is an overview of the chapter written. This particular diagram will be used in upcoming sections to identify the specific area of Christian growth that is being discussed as part of the existence of God in the daily regimen of L’Abri Fellowship.

In addition to the use of the diagram, each major area will be discussed in two ways. First, a general overview of each section will be given. Then secondly, two or more elements of the L’Abri regimen that reflect that area of Christian growth will be presented. Each element presented will include three possible facets.

First, (and where material is available), each element of the L’Abri regimen will be introduced with what others have written. Second, each element will then be discussed more in depth based on personal experience in 1978. This writer has stayed at English L’Abri and at the Southborough L’Abri. But the observations in this work will be from Swiss L’Abri where he was a formal student and was able to stay the longest (25 days straight and then several 3 and 4 day weekends).

The third facet (also, where material is available) will be current information on Swiss L’Abri. This was provided by two sources. The first is one of the ministry’s principal leaders, J. Sandri (personal communication, June 4, 1996). The second is a recent student of both Swiss L’Abri and Philadelphia College of Bible, B.Dickinson (personal communication, June 6, 1996).


Living the Intellectual

There are several aspects to intellectual growth. Reading is one. Studying is another. Both of these are found in an academic environment as well as in life away from the classroom. Growth intellectually may be seen in how well one is able to decide between right and wrong. Being involved in the issues of the day and being knowledgeable of world events is also important. In the daily life of L’Abri Fellowship, the student grows in this area in several ways.

Mealtime Discussion - Introduction

Edith Schaeffer, in speaking about this side of L’Abri, was quoted in a personal interview as saying the following:

When Franky (their son) went to boarding school at 11 for a period of time, he would come back home and say, "Oh, it’s so good to come back to where people talk about ideas. Most people don’t talk about anything interesting." They (their children) were accustomed to having world affairs, issues of the moment, politics, music, movies, modern music as well as other music, the words of whatever the modern songs were- all kinds of things- being talked about. Conversation was interesting at the table. It wasn’t just a show being put on when quests began to ask serious questions at L’Abri began. This was our life; this was our family conversation (Wilson, August 1982, pp. 18-19).

Mealtime Discussions - 1978

Mealtimes are very special at L’Abri. First of all, the student does not eat at the same place every meal. Breakfast is eaten at the chalet where the student is staying. Lunch is eaten at a second chalet. Dinner is eaten at a third chalet, except for Sunday and Monday nights which will be discussed later. By eating at the home chalet each morning, the day is begun with those who know the student best and who know where that student’s focus should be. By eating at different chalets for lunch and dinner, everyone gets to know everyone, and thus real community is maintained. The student is not just a member of one family but of a fellowship of believers.

Second of all, meals are not something to be devoured in a hurry and then forgotten. Breakfast can be an hour and a half. Lunch and dinner may be as long as three hours. This is because of the discussions mentioned by Edith Schaeffer in the quote above. The word discussion as it is used here means the conversation of one student with the leader of the chalet, who sits at the head of the table, while all others at the table sit still and listen (and eat). In this way every student knows that they are an important and vital part of the ministry. Also, each student has come to L’Abri for some reason. This gives them an opportunity to discuss that reason with friendly faces that they know will be honest with them.

Mealtime Discussions - 1996

One notable change in structure since 1978 occurred about ten years ago. All the students now stay in one large chalet (Bellevue) which was a pension and then a home for cerebral palsy children. With this change came two types of meals. One is the formal meal where the discussions previously described are still conducted. The second is the informal meal, where either the students cook for themselves, pack lunches are prepared, or more casual discussions take place. Also, instead of being fed in all the chalets like before, the students are divided between two chalets at a time for those meals that are eaten away from Chalet Bellevue. These details are given to show that structure is not everything. "Structures come and go, but the mentality of being open to people’s questions is even more important" (Sandri, 1996).

Saturday Night Discussions - 1978

If it could be said that L’Abri has a motto, that motto would be "Honest Answers for Honest Questions." All the questions cannot be answered at mealtimes. There are many people who come to Swiss L’Abri only for a weekend. There are others who live nearby but are not as active a part of the ministry as the students. Also it is important for the whole Fellowship to gather together as one group in a setting different from a church service. This is where the Saturday night discussions come in.

They take place in Farel House which is also where church is held on Sundays. Dr. Schaeffer (when he was alive and not somewhere else in the world) or one of the other principle leaders of Swiss L’Abri would lead the discussion. It is begun with prayer. Then the person leading the discussions asks, "What are your questions?"

The questions vary from person to person for a time. Once the discussion is really going, the questions seem to stay in one or two very general areas. The person leading the discussion answers all the questions. The answer may take anywhere from two minutes to twenty minutes, but answers are given. It is always remarkable to witness the expanse of knowledge that the leader has, whether it was Dr. Schaeffer in the past, or one of the other leaders now. These are men rich in wisdom and really experienced in answering questions in such a way that all can understand and learn. However, one thing needs to be emphasized. The discussion begins (and ends) with prayer. Therefore the interaction between the seen and the unseen world is constantly there. God’s Holy Spirit is truly at work in the discussion.

Tuesday and Friday Lectures - 1996

The Saturday night discussions of previous years have evolved into lectures that are presented each Tuesday morning and each Friday afternoon. They are usually presented by one leader in particular (Jamie Shivers) and the subjects may vary from week to week. Again, the structure has changed but what the student needs is still presented - honest answers to honest questions.

Study At Farel House - 1978

Below the large room where the discussions and church are held is a study area. It is made up of desks with their own individual light and tape player. There is a library of books and audio cassettes. Most of the time there is someone on duty to help those who are studying. The windows overlook the Rhone River Valley that is 3,350 feet below so it is sometimes easy to be distracted and to daydream. Here in this school, however, that is alright.

The program of study is developed when someone first comes to L’Abri. The reason for being there is established first by the worker who conducts the entrance interviews. From that, and in consultation with other workers, the new student is assigned to a specific chalet. The leader of the chalet then sits down with the person and discusses more in depth the reasons for being at L’Abri. Certain books and tapes are suggested for study. The student decides whether that study will be done in the morning or afternoon. A schedule is set up and the program begins.

Students that might be going through an identity crisis, for instance, may study a series of five audio tapes with the general title of Identity by Dick Keyes. By the time students are done with these tapes, clear reasons have been presented as to why their particular personality may be the way it is. A foundation of information has been given that is biblically based, that helps them to accept themselves, and then teaches them to go on with their lives in a Christian way.

For those students who are seeking to improve their Christian walk, there is the twelve tape series by Dr. Schaeffer entitled Christian Life Forms. This is the foundational material that later became the book True Spirituality. Many of the books by the Schaeffers and other members of L’Abri Fellowship were first presented before a live group of people with the presentation recorded on audio tape. In this way basic ideas were discussed and refined, with the assistance of those who needed the book, long before a manuscript was ever begun.

When a student had the opportunity to talk alone with Dr. Schaeffer for instance, the answer to the student might include directions to read a particular book written by him, or maybe only one chapter of a book, or a particular tape or tape series. In this way the student was given a complete answer in a small amount of time. The student could then study the answer in depth at his or her own speed, and read or listen to something over again if it was not understood the first time. Then what they had learned in the Farel House study center was refined and given deeper roots in the discussions at mealtime and on Saturday night.

Study At Farel House - 1996

Study at Farel House is still basically the same today. The work/study program has not really changed either. The only differance it seems has come from the change to one chalet for the students. Before, the leader of the chalet the student lived in helped them with their studies. Now a tutor is provided to each student depending on which subject they are studying. "For instance, if you do a study of the Christian’s place in the arts, you would be given Jamey Shivers as a tutor. You meet with your tutor once a week and that meeting generally is for about two hours or so" (Dickinson, 1996).

Storytime - 1978

Edith Schaeffer (April 1984, p. 4) wrote the following on the subject of reading to children:

To chip away at marble and turn it into a marvelous piece of sculpture takes work, constant and patient. To "sculpt" a life, in the midst of life itself, takes more work, is for longer periods of time, and needs more patience. And reading is a "tool" we ought not to ignore as well as a means to fulfillment at the same time.
I could not wait to begin reading to my first child, Priscilla. I am afraid I started before she could possible understand what it was all about, but she enjoyed being talked to just the same.

On Sunday night in every chalet is what they call "High Tea." Instead of the normal dinner meal there is something to drink (like tea or coffee) and some kind of finger food (like cookies, cake, or muffins). Monday night is what they call "Family Night." The normal dinner meal is lighter and the discussion time is shorter. Both nights are spent at the student’s home chalet instead of at another chalet like other evenings. Both nights are especially different because they include a storytime.

The man (or woman) of the house takes about an hour and reads a story. It could be from Animal Farm by George Orwell, Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, or from All Things Bright and Beautiful by James Herriot. Whatever the story, a student soon learns to be a willing and captive audience. They soon learn that listening to someone read a story is much different than television or the movies. The "screen" for the story that is read to someone is not in front of them. It is inside them. It is their own imagination.

If someone wants to be truly honest and really listen to the person reading, they have to shut everything else out. Once that is done the mind slows down, relaxes, and all of a sudden the stress of the day or week is gone. Television or the movies may do something similar, and neither is being condemned here, but there is a difference. They give you images from your outside world. Listening to someone read a good story soothes you into developing images from your inside world. You sleep better. You wake up refreshed. Your morning devotions of Bible study and prayer are more alive. Monday and Tuesday mornings at L’Abri become exciting times with the Lord. This eventually leads to many more of your mornings with the Lord being exciting.

Storytime - 1996

There is still High Tea on Sunday nights and the students are spread out among the various chalets, more or less just like it was before. There is still an informal meal on Monday nights, but now all the students are at Chalet Bellevue. There is still storytime at High Tea, but now select videos from the ministry video library may be shown. Recently, on Monday nights, the students have been watching the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice on television at the Sandri’s Chalet TziNo. This can be a very positive experience if the subject matter is carefully chosen, presented in the proper environment, and which includes an opportunity for questions and answers.

Living the Physical

There are many activities that can lead to physical growth: Keeping in good physical condition is one. Maintaining proper body weight is another. Both of these can be accomplished by eating a well-balanced diet and getting proper rest and exercise. That growth can be further enhanced by not contaminating the body with any destructive force. In the daily life of L’Abri Fellowship, physical growth is accomplished in several ways.

Serving L’Abri

It has never been the intention of L’Abri Fellowship to charge students anything for their stay at L’Abri. The intention of Swiss L’Abri, as well as the other branches of the ministry, has always been to be a Christian home with an open door to anyone who God would send their way. When the people of a ministry set out to demonstrate, by their life and work, the existence of God, it is that God who is asked to provide. From the beginning of L’Abri until now God has always been that great Provider.

Over the years there has been established a small fee for those students who feel they can pay something, but it has never been mandatory. In other words, it falls into that category of God’s provision that was spoken of earlier in this chapter when Mrs. Schaeffer was quoted as saying, "We believe that He can put it into the minds of the people of His choice the share they should have in the work". When a student cannot pay, the monies miraculously come from somewhere else at exactly the time that they are needed.

The above details were presented as background to another larger part of the daily life of a student at L’Abri. Whereas it has never been mandatory for a student to pay for the stay at the ministry, a work program has been established that the student does agree to participate in. This work program is established between the student and the leader of the chalet where he or she stays, in conjunction with their study program. It is decided then whether they will work in the morning and study in the afternoon or vice versa. If the student needs to change their schedule later to be the opposite from when they began, then that change is arranged through their leader.

There are schedules posted in each chalet where there are students staying. This schedule informs them of where they will eat lunch and dinner as well as where they will work that day. There are a large complex of chalets to take care of as well as Farel House. The work involves all the common chores that one would find in any home and around any church. This includes mowing lawns, weeding gardens, and doing the laundry. It may encompass the sweeping and mopping of floors, the cleaning of windows, and the dusting and polishing of furniture. The work may entail the setting of tables for meals or the pruning of trees and bushes. There are things to be painted and there are items that require simple repair. For those that require a skilled craftsman, that craftsman is provided with a helper. The student could be asked to clean ovens or peel potatoes. The list is endless.

There is a difference in this work, however, as compared to working for money in a business or some other concern. It is a labor of love. It is a work done for people who care about you (not to say that normal employers do not). But it is (or it eventually becomes) a work that is done as if done for the Lord. This work ethic that a student learns at L’Abri does not stop when he or she leaves the ministry. Because it is taught that it is biblical and that it should apply to all areas of life, it is a work ethic that will be carried home with the student and into their profession.

Serving the Community - 1978

Swiss L’Abri is located in a mountain village named Huemoz. It probably has an overall population of about 200-300 people. The native language is French. A few speak German and Italian as well as French. Some speak English which is the language of choice at L’Abri. There is one Post Office, one small cafe, one bakery, one village store, a laiterie where they process milk, a village school, and one village church.

When Farel House had a fire and was partially burned down in 1978, the village people came to the rescue. There had been interaction with the villagers before, but this was a special time. Until the fire damage was repaired, the doors of the local church were opened for L’Abri services. The local public school was opened for the Saturday night discussions and other group activities that would normally be held in Farel House. Through the fire at Farel House there was a bonding of the village people with L’Abri like never before. But then God has always had a purpose for affliction in people’s lives.

The above short story leads into another aspect of the daily life of a L’Abri student, and that is the way they are taught to interact with the local community. For one thing, the village is so small that everyone knows everyone. So a student soon recognizes that respect goes both ways. This lesson in mutual respect is carried even further when the student is actually scheduled to spend some of their work hours helping the village people.

An example of this would be in helping the Ruchet family to fill their barn with hay. In addition to running a pension where people visiting L’Abri could stay, the Ruchet family raised cows. The husband and wife were in their 70’s, but a student soon found out that Mrs. Ruchet could toss a bale of hay better than any man, let alone a student who was not used to this kind of work. Mr. Ruchet only spoke French and Mrs. Ruchet only spoke French and German. For a student who knew only a little German for instance, the work could be very interesting. But from this work came another smile, another handshake, another "Guten morgen" ("good morning" in German) as you walked through the village. There was a standing invitation for coffee or tea and a warm bowl of soup. There was also a warm bed when you came back to visit L’Abri for a weekend (at a modest fee of course).

Physical growth for L’Abri Fellowship comes in many shapes and sizes. What starts as something physical may actually develop into a mixture of all four aspects of Christian growth. In this way physical growth may not be seen so much as being healthy and getting the right exercise. It may mean a more total picture of just becoming more mature.

Serving the Community - 1996

Serving the community at Swiss L’Abri still includes respect for others. One of the handouts given to students that was written in May of 1994, but is still current, states the following:

If you are out in the village after dark, please be very quiet. Speak in a low voice as any noise (including most normal voices) carries for an incredible distance. This is a dairy village, and the villagers go to sleep very early. As well, be aware of private property, particularly the fields. Be sure to stay on the paths (Dickinson, 1996).

Living the Spiritual

There are several activities that can be added to the daily regimen that can lead to spiritual growth. Spending time with God in prayer is one. Bible study is another. Both of these may be enhanced by writing about them in a personal journal. In the daily regimen of L’Abri Fellowship there are some activities that are personal and others that are done as a group.

Personal and Family Devotions

If there is one thing in abundance at Swiss L’Abri, it is the number of places where a student can go and have personal devotions. It all depends on what part of the day those devotions are accomplished. If it is early in the morning before breakfast, then the living area of each chalet is usually empty. If someone is using that, then there is Farel House. If the weather is nice, there are an abundance of benches along many mountain paths that one can spend time with the Lord.

Family devotions are an important part of the breakfast meal. Certain passages of Scripure are read. They may be part of a daily reading of a whole book of the Bible. They may relate to the time of the year, like Easter for instance. The passage may relate to a particular need or trial that the family or the Fellowship is going through right then.

The scripture might be given to one of the students to read. This builds their confidence concerning doing certain things in front of others. The same principle is true for prayer. Most of the time the chalet leader will pray, but sometimes the prayer is given to one of the students. It is surprising how self-conscience a person can become when asked to read the Bible or to pray. However, once the student learns to focus on what is being said in the passage or how he or she should relate the prayer to the Scripture reading, self-consciousness eventually goes away.

Prayer Day - 1978

Once a week there is a particular day that is chosen for corporate prayer. This day is specifically designed for praying for the personal needs of others as well as the needs of L’Abri Fellowship as a whole. There is a designated place in each chalet where that prayer is done. But this place is set aside for that day only for two reasons. One is so that there is a place where the prayer list can be located. The other reason is so the person praying knows that he or she will not be disturbed. If they want to pray in another place, however, and they already know what they need to pray about, that is alright as well.

Each person who lives in the chalet, staff and students, sign up on the prayer sheet for a particular time period of the day, usually for one half hour. The person prays through the list provided and then for other needs that the Lord may have placed on his or her own heart. Students and staff may also add items to the preprinted list as the need may arise and depending on how open that person has become with the chalet family as a whole.

Fasting is also another form of personal worship that students and staff go through. It is never a subject of public conversation that someone is fasting or not. So you do not necessarily know when someone in particular is fasting. But because it is a subject that is taught in Sunday sermons and mentioned in lectures that it does go on, you know that it does.

Dr. Lane Dennis (July 1984, p. 3) wrote the following concerning the prayer life of L’Abri:

Francis and Edith’s prayer life was a tremendous example to their own children and to all who visited L’Abri. The entire family set aside time for daily prayer and a special day of fasting once a week. Sometimes the needs were enormous and the answers dramatic- with serious financial obligations being met to the exact dollar just before crucial deadlines. But equally important was the daily practice of committing everything to the Lord in prayer and trusting Him to meet even the smallest need.

One time this writer was assigned to work inside the Schaeffer home. For some reason he had to take something up to one of the rooms upstairs. As he put whatever he was carrying into another room, he could hear Dr. and Mrs. Schaeffer talking quite plainly in their bedroom. They were discussing certain particulars that needed to be done that week. Then something strange at the time happened. In the middle of discussing one particular item, Mrs. Schaeffer just matter-of-factly said, "And Lord, will you please take care of this for us."

To the Schaeffers, as it should be for all Christians not only when they pray but at any time, God was sitting right there in the room with them. He was an active participant in their discussion. This too is a part of the gospel that is to be shared with others. This too is a part of the gospel that Christians are not to be ashamed of. God is there whenever and wherever we are. The unseen world really does exist and there is an interaction between it and the seen world.

Prayer Day - 1996

Now there is a formal Prayer Meeting. It is on Mondays at 8:45 in the morning. All the students and many of the workers are present. It is still one of the most vital elements of the L’Abri ministry.

Living the Social

Social growth can involve many aspects of the Christian life. Being with people and giving your life in a witness and ministry to others is the biggest part of that growth. This can be broken up into smaller pieces such as being an active part of a local church or other type of ministry. It also includes using leisure time and recreational activities to the maximum benefit. Something very common today is to be involved in social action issues.

L’Abri Fellowship, over the years, has been very involved in the abortion issue, as well as euthanasia and other issues that are clearly unbiblical and morally wrong for anyone to participate in. But these are issues that are largely fought "outside of the home" so to speak. They may be discussed at mealtimes or on Saturday night, but there are other "closer to home" activities that lead to social growth in L’Abri Fellowship.

Church - 1978

It is probably more crowded at Farel House for church than at any other time during the week, even more than the Saturday night discussions. The place is packed, with people sitting along the walls and even out onto the balcony. It is a typical Presbyterian service, although being a part of any particular denomination is never stressed at L’Abri. Anyone is welcome.

All the L’Abri students are expected to be there but there is no attendance taken. Students want to be there and want to be a part of the worship. There may be an exception to that from time to time but it is very rare. Others in attendance include some from the local area. There is a large ski resort not far away (Villars), so there are people from there who are seeking an English language service. There are a few pensions in the village and the local area for single people as well as families. So many come on the weekend to visit L’Abri which includes Sunday church.

There is the normal singing of hymns, the reading of Scripture, and prayer by members of the congregation as well as the speaker for the day. That speaker is either one of the leaders of Swiss L’Abri or a visiting leader from one of the other branches of L’Abri. No matter who the speaker, the message is well prepared and well presented with a period of time at the end to personally reflect on what has been presented.

Down below in the student study area is a program for the children. The drawing below is an example of how Edith Schaeffer (1971, p. 62) would illustrate sermons by Dr. Schaeffer for their grandchildren. Dennis (July 1984, p. 4) wrote the following concerning the importance of children in the L’Abri community:

Dr. Schaeffer considered his children and grandchildren as gifts of infinite value. Because of this, he encouraged them to be full and responsible partners in the family and to share their deepest doubts and questions without fear of rejection. As they grew into adulthood, each of the Schaeffer children sensed a care, commitment and consistency that helped them through some very difficult times. That has, in turn, enabled them to make Christ the center of their own homes.

When Dr. and Mrs. Schaeffer first came to Europe as missionaries, their primary emphasis was the development of Sunday Schools for children. So it might be said, taking all of this into account, that the Sunday School in the student study area is something very special.

Church - 1996

Chapel is still held in Farel House at 10:45 on Sunday mornings. The speaker now is usually Greg Laughery. After church is a Visitor’s Lunch in Chalet Bellevue. Pack lunches are provided for the long-term students (Sandri, 1996).

Creativity and Thursday Nights - 1978

Dennis (July 1984, p. 3) wrote the following concerning the subject of creativity at L’Abri:

...(Dr. Schaeffer) believed Christians have a special responsibility in the arts. Through him and the work of L’Abri, many young artists found support and encouragement. For example, when someone would call himself a poet, Dr. Schaeffer would say: "I would like to hear your poems. Could you read some at our next discussion so we can talk about them?" Or when he saw a particularly good painting, he would tell the artist, "You have a real gift. I would encourage you to develop your gift and use it for God’s glory." Because of encouragement given at L’Abri many painters, poets, sculptors and writers around the world have become renowned artists.

Another example of this kind of encouragement came when Edith Schaeffer had to go in the hospital for an operation of some kind in the summer of 1978. A student wrote a poem, went to the hospital to visit her, and read it for her. She encouraged him to keep writing.

Thursday nights could be called "creativity nights" at L’Abri Fellowship. There are many talented people on staff. There are many who visit either as students or as guests who are also talented. There are families who come and play instruments for example. One may play violin, another piano, and a third the cello. They could probably play in any orchestra. But God has chosen them to provide another service to mankind. So the music is a way that they not only have a private "discussion" with each other and relax. The music is also given as a gift to any and all who have the opportunity to be present when they play.

There are others who have the gift of song. It may be opera-type arias or simple Christopher Robin songs sung for the children in all of us. There has even been a collection of L’Abri music recorded and later produced as a record album. Much of the music for the film series Whatever Happened to the Human Race? was original music written by L’Abri staff and students. Thursday nights were often something to look forward to at L’Abri.

Creativity and Saturday Nights - 1996

Now, instead of Thursdays, "creativity night" is on Saturday. It is held at Chalet Chesalet which is the home of Jane Stewart and Betty Carlson. Jane is the music (retired professional opera singer) and Betty is the words (professional author). Both of them have been there almost from the very beginning forty years ago. After a very casual dinner attended by all the students, there is a creative sharing time. Poems are shared. Literary passages are read. Songs are sung or played (or both) (Dickinson, 1996).

Washing Dishes - 1978

There are many important discussions that occur at mealtime at L’Abri. One type of discussion has already been defined, that of each student around the table with the head of the chalet while the others listen. There are also the discussions around the kitchen sink. Washing dishes at L’Abri is another "art form" which God uses to create heavenly masterpieces.

When the leader of the chalet brings the mealtime discussion to a close, then there is the cleanup of the dining area to be done. Washing dishes is not something that is part of anyone’s work schedule. It is something done by students who volunteer to do it at the end of the meal. Because there are so many dishes to be done, that can usually take anywhere from two to four people. The kitchens are medium sized. So once a student has been at L’Abri for a while, he or she knows the routine of how the dishes get done.

People who wash dishes at L’Abri usually start off not liking it because that has been their experience in the past. However, once they discover how many other people they can get to know over the kitchen sink, washing dishes becomes a game that is fun to play. This is where relationships have begun that in some cases have lasted for a lifetime. Many, including some of the Schaeffer children, have met their future spouses at L’Abri, probably over the kitchen sink.

Washing Dishes - 1996

This "chore" is still a big part of Swiss L’Abri. In one of the student handouts at the very end it says the following:

Additionally you are expected to wash dishes after a meal at least once each day. Do learn where they should be put away. If you are uncertain, ask (Dickinson, 1996).

The Daily Routine of Other Branches of L’Abri

Research for this chapter included contacting all branches of L’Abri Fellowship for current information regarding the daily routine of the students. Most were able to respond to the request for current information. Through the information provided it is plain to see that each branch has a personality distinct from the others. Each also has many aspects in common with other branches.

One difference is size. Swiss L’Abri involves several chalets and a study center/church building (Farel House). English L’Abri and Southborough L’Abri have one large house (mansion or manor house) that is also the study center along with one or two smaller homes. These two branches house not only the students in one building but two or more families of workers as well (R. Macaulay, personal communication, June 13, 1996 and D. Keyes, personal communication, June 11, 1996). Rochester L’Abri, on the other hand, is basically one house with one family with room for only a small number of students who can only stay a maximum of two weeks (N. Snyder, personal communication, June 12, 1996).

The aspects that each branch has in common with the others, however, far outnumbers what may be seen as differences. All the elements of the regimen that have been presented in the previous sections are in each branch of L’Abri in some form or fashion. The faces and personalities may be different, but the Body of Christ as it is reflected in L’Abri Fellowship is the same throughout.


L’Abri Fellowship puts into daily practice what the Bible teaches concerning Christian growth. The stated purpose of L’Abri was presented. Then the personal observations of this writer and others were given in support of the belief that that stated purpose is being lived out in the daily regimen of students and staff at L’Abri. As in the last chapter, the reader is invited to more fully explore the subject presented by utilizing the larger bibliography provided. In addition, it is also suggested that the reader utilize the information provided at the end of this study and visit one of the branches of L’Abri.

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