Friday, May 29, 2015

Jubilee celebrations reflections day 2

Today was the first full day of L'Arche USA's 50th anniversary jubilee celebration. The highlight for me had to have been the party we had this afternoon. As part of the celebration, representatives from each community paraded around carrying banners with the names of the community and the year it was founded on them. Alex, one of our core members, and I were the representatives from L'Arche Heartland.

It sort of reminded me of the Olympics when they have the parade of nations. The different athletes parade behind the flag of their countries. Each athlete comes to exercise their talents in their sports with the hopes of winning a gold medal.

Of course, our parade was a little different. We come, each with our own gifts, but not to compete. We come together because we are on the same team and we want to celebrate our shared journey together in L'Arche. We come to build one another up, to celebrate the great things we have done together, and to hope for and envision the great things to come.

As we walked around the group that was gathered, we were all singing the song "This Little Light of Mine." I thought that was fitting. L'Arche is a light in the world, shining hope and love into dark places. As we walked, carrying the banners from our respective communities, we were bearing witness to the lights that we are shining in our own little corners of the world.

We also had a solidarity fair, where our communities sold handmade arts and crafts to raise money for solidarity, so that we can be in relationship with and continue to support L'Arche communities throughout the world.

For 50 years L'Arche has been a light throughout this world. My prayer and my hope is that we might continue to be a light in the dark places for many, many, many more!!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Jubilee Celebration day one reflections

So today, after a 21 hour, 2 day van ride from Kansas to Washington DC, we are now participating in L'Arche USA's celebration to mark the 50th anniversary jubilee of L'Arche Internationale.

After eating dinner (because that's important to us in L'Arche) and singing songs together (because that's another important thing to us) we were blessed with the opportunity to hear from Eileen Glass, the Vice International Leader of L'Arche Internationale. She started out by sharing with us some of her memories from the early days of L'Arche when she was living at a L'Arche in Winnipeg in the 70's and two people from L'Arche Erie in Pennsylvania came to visit them. At that point, L'Arche Erie, which is the oldest L'Arche community in the US, was only two years old. She shared how at that time there were only a couple of L'Arche communities in the United States.

As we gathered in that room today, 50 years after Jean, Philippe, and Raphael moved in together to start this movement we call L'arche, it was filled with representatives from the 18 established communities in the US, as well as some of the 3 emerging communities.  It was so full we were even asked to squeeze together so more people could have places to sit.

To me, that was a sign of hope, which is the mission of L'Arche. It's a sign of hope that in the midst of this world that can so often be filled with things like hatred, violence, racism, sexism, and that can leave people feeling unwanted or unloved, that there are still people in this world that believe in community and acceptance and love and compassion and kindness and joy.

This makes me thankful for Jean Vanier, and for Raphael and Philippe who were brave enough to step out of their comfort zones to attempt a different way of life 50 years ago. It makes me thankful for all of the people who have come since then, to live in communities that have already been established, and to bravely step out and start new ones in places where the witness of L'Arche is greatly needed. It makes me thankful for Henri Nouwen and others who have shared stories of life in L'arche with people who might not have heard of it otherwise. It makes me thankful that I read that book by Nouwen that sparked my interest in L'Arche and began the journey that led me to living in L'Arche. It also makes me thankful for opportunities like this, to gather together with so many wonderful and beautiful and amazing people who believe that the mission and vision of L'arche are important in our world and strive to live it out everyday.

I am eager to see and experience all of the fun and joy and celebration and love that these next few days hold for all of us!!!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Someone loves you!

Here in our community we have the tradition of gathering weekly in one of our homes for a time of fellowship and prayer. We call it Prayer Night, and the assistants take turns cooking a meal for everyone, and we spend some time together in fellowship, talking and socializing. After the meal, we have a discussion or an activity led by an assistant based on a particular theme. For a few weeks we are focusing on the theme of "Looking forward with trust and call in the mission."

At one of our recent Prayer Nights, one of our assistants was leading a discussion about our future and we were thinking what that might look like for each one of us and for our community. We drew pictures of how we see ourselves today and what we hope to be in the future. As a way to wrap it up the assistant was sharing how each of our futures might be different, and might include different things, but there is one thing that is consistent in all of them and that is that there is someone who will always love us, no matter what. Then she asked the group who that someone might be.

One of the core members who was sitting close to me answered the question with a loud, "MARK LEPPER!"

Now, I know this isn't the answer the assistant was hoping people would say. She was expecting them to say God, or Jesus, and several of them did. And while I laughed at the humor that I saw in the particular core members answer, I was actually touched by his response.

In the Bible, there is a lot of talk about love. Jesus tells his disciples numerous times that they are to love one another, love their neighbors, love their enemies... pretty much love everybody. The second most important commandment, next to loving God, is that we are to love others.

I know that I fall short of this command pretty often. I can sometimes be impatient, unfriendly, short-tempered, and even rude. But at our Prayer Night, this core member's answer helped me to see that I must be doing something right.

"We are not called by God to do extraordinary things, but to do ordinary things with extraordinary love." - Jean Vanier