I have been at L’Abri Fellowship for exactly a week and I am enjoying myself here. The first few days were hard. I don’t think that before now I’ve ever felt homesick in my life, but I’ve never really had the opportunity either; I’ve never been away so far for so long. I look out my window (or look anywhere) and see before me the beautiful Swiss Alps which are equally both wondrous and strange. They’re a constant reminder of where I am… and where I am not. For the first few days, these mountains were an ever-fixed symbol of the ghastly, insurmountable, unmovable unfamiliarity I must face and cannot avoid. (And even if I could avoid sight of them, there’s the constant clanging of the cowbells which serves as an incessant reminder too.) But I’m feeling more comfortable now and I expect things will continue in this direction.
I’m surprised by some of the dynamics of people here. I was expecting to encounter lots of new perspective, some perhaps even hostile towards Christianity. But, though there is a variety of perspective, each is mostly contained within Western Christian thought. However, leaning on the Holy Spirit for guidance about different persons’ actual, as opposed to proclaimed, relationship with God. I was excited about meeting people from all over the world, but most of the students here are American! I was also thinking a place like this would attract more men than women, but not this term. However, my fears of reliving the past several years of women’s dorm-life have not yet actualized.
One aspect I am especially enjoying is our routine. A typical day for me here at L’Abri consists of breakfast, which is promptly at eight, where we usually have cold milk and cereal and toast (no hotdogs yet!). There is coffee, tea, and hot milk available every morning. After breakfast, dish volunteers are asked for and everyone is preparing for his or her day. This is where it gets fun. At least for me because now that I’ve been up for over an hour, I’m awake and willing to smile and talk to people in actual words and sentences rather than grunts and grimaces. For the next three hours we are all busy either working or studying. Each student is assigned a household chore from laundry to yard-work, cooking, cleaning… The schedule is different each day, so the night before or sometimes after breakfast I look to see when my chore is (morning or afternoon) and what my chore is.
I enjoy chores in part no doubt because of the novelty of being at L’Abri, but also because it is done in community. Even if I am working by myself picking weeds or secluded in the basement doing laundry, I am never completely removed from the reality that others are working around the grounds too. And simply being a part of that dynamic, that is, a community working together, each member contributing to the good of the whole, is gratifying. It’s also neat to think we’re all (potentially) studying unto the same end, the good of the whole. I should add, it is gratifying to the soul only in Christ, when community includes and derives from relationship with Him. Having never really been too far outside of such Christ-centered communities – home, then DBU, now here – I’m not sure how to test such a statement, though I know it to be true regardless. However, I do know how out of joint my contributions have been in aforementioned bodies when I forgot the Head as the Source of Life in the body.
There are tea breaks both in the morning and afternoon (“More hot tea, please.” I really can’t get enough of it, delicious!), but I only go during work and not always then, only when I feel it won’t hinder my progress. Lunch is at one (sharp). We are divided into two groups, each group meets with one or two workers (full-time staff) often for the purpose of a “formal lunch”, though not always. During formal lunches the worker facilitates student-led discussion. Discussions might be about something a student is studying or it can be anything we’ve been wrestling with doctrinally, or philosophically, ect.
Dinner is at 6:30 and then we have the evenings free. We hang out and chat, play games, read “books we brought just for fun” (light reading). The Internet is available for 0.14 Swiss Francs per minute from 7pm-midnight and there’s always a line. For time’s sake they ask we not upload pictures to the computer here… So though I hope to post some pics, I’m not sure when I’ll have the chance. Here’s hoping.
I know you’re all dying to know about my “great question” and what I’m studying, but you’ll just have to wait a little longer. Though she/he has been assigned to me, I don’t know who my mentor is yet, and that dynamic will undoubtedly impact the direction of my studies. So that I can write about my studies more entirely, I will wait until my next opportunity to blog.
Some people have been asking for my address here, and in the spirit of giving and receiving, I am most happy to oblige and give out my address in order to receive gifts from you!