I had several reasons for why I came to Swiss L’Abri. The number one reason is I was searching for direction in my life. I had been attending a community college taking basic courses but I did not have a goal in mind. The second reason but no less important to me was I lost several friends to tragic accidents in 1978. Some of them were people I knew but were not close and others were close friends. Every one of these friends lived no differently than I did. I began to wonder when my time was up and how would it happen. I asked the universal question, “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?”
My desk in Farel Center on the right with the blue pack.
My first day as a student, I talked with one of the leaders about what I wanted to accomplish at L’Abri. He prescribed a “path” for me to follow to reach the goals I sought. The way the school was set up, you would check out cassette tapes on topics that related to your field of study as well as books. There were no tests, your only responsibility is what you wanted to learn in the Farel Center and attend the various lectures throughout the week. The tapes were of previous lectures from notable people like Dr. Francis Schaeffer, Edith Schaeffer Udo Middleman and many other lecturers. I recall one evening while attending a lecture that Dr. Scheaffer was giving, his material seem to go over my head. Apparently I was not alone because someone near me raised their hand and asked for clarification and what he just said. Dr. Schaeffer rephrased and it became crystal clear to me as well as others in the room.
There was a week where we saw the “dailies” of what they were filming in the series of “How Should We Then Live”. Frankie Schaeffer was presenting these with Dr Schaeffer in attendance most evenings. There were a lot of laughs watching the unedited film. I recall one time when Dr. Schaeffer was talking from a car on the autobahn while someone else was driving, the camera was in another car next to them. Since the camera shot was wide the camera car was two lanes over. While this was being filmed another car got between the two cars and blocked the shot of Dr. Schaeffer as he was talking. Of course, they had to do another take to get it right.
After watching these dailies and talking with Frankie I felt like maybe film/video production was what I wanted to do. Frankie recommended a small University in Northwest Arkansas called John Brown University for a Broadcast TV degree.
Each morning I would get up early, usually before sunrise and hike up the mountain from Chalet Bethany to a bench that overlooked the Rhone River Valley. One particular day it was very clear in the valley and I could see the city of Bex, Switzerland in the distance. As I looked at that small city I asked God how you tell the good news of Christ to cities, towns and villages around the world. At that moment something caught my eye, something on most every roof of the buildings. The sun glistened off of TV antennas. It was at that moment, I knew I was going to go into Broadcast TV as a career. Those early morning hikes up the mountain to spend quiet time with God meant so much to me.
When I returned to the States, I applied to John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. I was accepted but since I had applied late in the year, there was no dorm rooms available and a requirement for JBU was first year students, whether freshmen or not was you had to live in the dorm. The one exception was if you were married however. I had to wait for the spring semester before a room became available. I started my undergraduate work in the spring of 1980 and graduated in the spring of 1983 with a Bachelors of Science in Broadcast Television with a Minor in Bible.
As for the question of “why bad things happen to good people”, the closer I grew to God, the more sense it made to me. I cannot explain it any other way. Those who are called home, whether it is early in life or later, they are the lucky ones. It is the most difficult for those of us who are left behind. For a Christian, the body may die but their life is eternal. I do not claim to know all of the answers but this one thing I know.
One important aspect of living at L’Abri as a student is the evening meals. This was a time of fellowship and conversation on any topic that started. Sometime the Chalet “Parent” had a topic they wanted discussed, but most times the topic was whatever someone brought up. The meals were sometimes simple and other times elegant, but the conversations for the most part were always first class. Many times the meals would last several hours into the night, depends on how deep the topics of conversations went. One thing I loved about the meals and conversations is that around this one table were people from all over the world and many times of different beliefs other than Christianity. One thing that was expected was respect for everyone there. Every conversation that included other beliefs from around the world, only convinced me more of the true nature of Christianity.
I recall Dr. Schaeffer telling us about a Buddhist Priest who came to L’Abri to convert him to Buddhism. They had many discussions about Buddhism and Christianity. Both were set in their beliefs and it got to the point that Dr. Schaeffer tried to avoid the priest. There is a trail that goes from one side of Huemoz to the other and in the middle was a rise where if you were walking one way you could not see who might be approaching from the other direction until you were close to them. Dr. Schaeffer said that one afternoon as he reached that point of the trail, right in front of him was Ellis, the Buddhist Priest. Ellis said “I have one final question and I will leave you alone. Why is God?” Dr. Schaeffer responded, “I don’t know” and walked away. Ellis said it was at that point he became a Christian, because all religions in the world have a reason for God except Christianity, but Christianity has a Faith like no other religion. Ellis and his wife lived in Chalet L’Argentine at L’Abri when I was there. Ellis told this same story.
The trail that Ellis met Dr. Schaeffer where he
asked his life changing question.
One evening meal at L’Agentine, Ellis said many people come to L’Abri searching for something or to convince others of something. Everyone leaves either a Christian or angry.
I left L’Abri with a closer walk with God, since I was already a Christian but was in search for answers and for a direction in my life.