L’Abri means the Shelter in French. A fitting name for a ministry that God used as a spiritual shelter for many people searching for truth, as the author herself explained in this book.
I just finished reading it a few days ago, and I am still savoring the details in my mind. The book is an autobiography written by Edith Schaeffer, the wife of Francis Schaeffer. The Schaeffer family was actively involved in their local church in the United States when one day, they felt God call them away to start a ministry in Europe that would address the postmodern thinking assaulting Christianity during the 20th and 21st centuries.
Mrs. Schaeffer tells of how they moved to Switzerland, a very unlikely but ripe mission field.
There, in a beautiful little village in the mountains of Switzerland, this family with four children was used by God in amazing ways. Not because they were some special Christians – but because they allowed the Lord to lead them according to His will.
The Schaeffers practiced hospitality in their home (a Swiss chalet) while sharing the good news of Salvation with anyone who came to their home to ask questions about the meaning of life, theology, philosophy, art and anything in-between. As the years went by, their ministry grew into a community where people (especially students) from all over the world and all walks of life came to have their questions answered in a comfortable family environment…and many of those people subsequently became believers. The stories of how God brought each person there can fill up other books in themselves.
The book introduces a variety of individuals who came in contact with the Schaeffers, and shows how God transformed their lives when they arrived at L’Abri. Of course every ministry also has its challenges, and the Schaeffers were no exception. From illnesses, to nearly being expelled from the country…they had to rely on God every day of every hour- and He showed Himself powerful in amazing, amazing ways. I literally cried reading this book. I cried because I read how the Lord turned trial after trial into astounding miracles. When everything seemed impossible, when they were ready to give up, when there was absolutely no human solution, when there was a dead end- God would rescue them in the most unbelievable and exciting ways! Reading the book I almost felt like I had lived through all those years there in Switzerland watching the L’Abri ministry unfold.
Mrs. Schaeffer wrote the book while the ministry was still ongoing, almost like she wanted to keep a journal to remember all the milestones of their work (although it is written in an autobiographical style). So she often gives background history about their lives to help readers understand how things developed to their present state. It’s sometimes hard to keep track of all the names presented in the book, but it feels like you’re constantly meeting new people, which helps readers visualize the dynamics of the ministry.
The L’Abri ministry grew to international levels, and it is still functioning today. By God’s grace Mr. Schaeffer also contributed greatly to apologetics and theology with many valuable books. I heartily recommend his writings and this L’Abri autobiography to everyone. I borrowed a copy from the library, but I want to buy one for myself. I dearly cherish stories that display God’s omnipotence and faithfulness.
Although I feel my review of the book doesn’t do it justice, I know the story really impacted me and it is a very unique illustration of what God will do if we submit to live in His will and let Him write our story.