September has arrived with a flourish and I (Phillip) find myself asking, ‘Where did the English summer go?’ We finished a bustling summer term on 6 August with around 150 guests by the time the final count was made. We thank God for sending each one in answer to our constant prayers that he would ‘bring the people of His choice to us, and keep all others away.’ In the same way, we are grateful for a break between terms to rest and refuel for the work ahead. The dusty silence that settles over the Manor during the break is quickly coming to an end.
The term started this week with a short yearly visit from a Christian college in Norway. Our worker team looks quite different from years past and some of us who are new workers spent time preparing lectures to present core L’Abri ideas to the group. In my own preparation, I was struck by these words from The L’Abri Statements:
In contrast to Western Civilization's crippling uncertainty about the meaning and purpose of human life, we affirm that Scripture provides a simple definition of humanity within its opening sentences. “So God created man in his image... male and female he created them" (Gen. 1:27).
This means, using the alternative description within the same verse, that all human beings are made "like God", reflecting God, both in what they are and in what they do. … God creates, they create; God loves, they love; he is moral, rational, aesthetic, social, so are they; he communicates in language, so do they.
This is the primary calling of every human person: to reflect into the world the image of God in all of their being and all of their doing. It’s easy to forget this in a world of ‘crippling uncertainty’ where sin and its effects are so pervasive. But Francis Schaeffer constantly reminded us that every human person is a ‘glorious ruin’: ruin because of the sin that scars us, but glorious because of the ineradicable image of God that defines us. So much of our vocation as Christians consists in calling people back to the glory of image-bearing through faith in Jesus Christ who is ‘the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature’ (Hebrews 1:3).
This return to glory is painfully gradual. We are keenly aware of this, particularly when we see students leave L’Abri with a fledgling faith only to return a while later feeling more ruined than glorious. This is one of the hardest parts of life in L’Abri and we need your prayers for it. It is daunting to realize that God has placed us here to offer support and to encourage those he sends us to put their hope in him.
We must never forget that being a Christian is a constant process of turning our ruin to God, our creator and redeemer, and committing to him what we received from him so that what is decayed in us might be made whole. In the mystery of God’s love, we can look to Jesus in all his risen glory and know that all of our ruin will be glorious once more.
Here are some updates from various corners of the Manor:
Perhaps the biggest change for English L’Abri since our previous newsletter is the addition to our property of the Church Field across the street from the Manor! The Church Field was up for auction toward the beginning of this year and rumours of some potentially substantial housing developments brought concern to us and to the village at large. These rumours found their way to the ears of a generous donor who gave us the money to purchase the field. This leaves us asking, ‘What shall we do with these five-and-a-half beautiful acres which now belong to us?’ Please pray for wisdom and that our use of the field will be a positive reflection on the work of L’Abri in Greatham village.
In July, we had the privilege of welcoming a working party from The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) to the Old Church behind the Manor. The Old Church was built in 1262 and has come into disuse since the 'new' church came along in 1875. It was a delight to see over fifty skilled craftspeople and enthusiastic volunteers pour their energies into this beautiful old structure. We also had many chances for cups of tea and games of volleyball with the work crew in our back garden during the week. It was encouraging to hear about their interest in L’Abri and to get their suggestions regarding how we can better care for the Manor.
We’ve undertaken some restoration of our own in recent months as well. The sunken garden pond has been resealed and can now consistently hold water—enough even for student baptism in April! The Back Flat bathroom was also renovated last week with new tiling on the floor and walls. Work is never finished at the Manor House, though, and we would appreciate your prayers for the means to make changes when necessary.
The autumn term brings with it many special days including our yearly film weekend on 28-29 October. We’ll be exploring the theme of ‘Exclusion and Embrace: Films about Us and Them’ through narratives and documentaries from various corners of the world. We will also have our yearly apple harvest day in September, a Thanksgiving celebration in November, and a book launch for How Do You Know That?, former L’Abri worker Ellis Potter’s second book. Many of us will also be doing outside speaking during the term: Edith and Marsh for the Royal Air Force academy and Jim and Marsh (along with local friends Barry Seagren and Nigel Halliday) for an Arts Centre Group day conference in London focused on L’Abri’s influence on Christians in the arts. Feel free to contact us for more information about any of these events.
We are all trying valiantly to maintain the L’Abri office this term due to the absence of Sarah Liechty who is on sabbatical. Sarah’s contributions to L’Abri are invaluable, but we are excited that she gets some time away to visit friends and family around the world. Additionally, the library cataloguing system spearheaded by Sarah and Marsh Moyle is now complete! Who would’ve ever thought that L’Abri would be so organized?
We close this newsletter on an even more hopeful note. As a team, we are utterly pleased to announce that Josué and Lili Reichow will be joining us from Brazil as workers in the spring of 2017! With warm hearts, sharp minds, and smiles that remind you of the goodness of God, Josué and Lili will continue as helpers in the autumn after being helpers with us us this summer and students in the spring. Pray for them as they apply for their visas and make the long move from Brazil to join us as workers in 2017. With the Reichows in the Top Flat, English L’Abri will be fully staffed with ten workers for the first time in many years.
Thank you so much for your prayers for us.
In hope, Phillip Johnston (on behalf of English L’Abri)