Southborough L'Abri

Southborough L’Abri Spring 2017 Newsletter

Greetings from the Southborough L’Abri,

In the last year we have gone through several significant transitions in Southborough. We are now entering our third term without Joe and Sue Morrell on our team. Nickaela and I are also entering our third term as co-directors since Dick stepped down from that role. We are still adjusting to these new realities, but we already have a short history of God’s faithfulness to encourage us. We add this to the much longer history of God’s faithfulness to L’Abri over the years. As a team we are praying that God would guide us toward new and fruitful ideas for the work. But we also pray that He will preserve and strengthen the good things He has already established here. We are utterly dependent on the Lord in both senses; for the ‘already’ and the ‘not yet’ of this ministry. This kind of double dependence is captured by the imagery in Psalm 127:

Unless the Lord builds the house,
the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain.
In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves.
(Psalm 127:1-2 NIV)

The twin images of the builder and the guard complement each other. They symbolize two very different kinds of human effort and two corresponding kinds of dependence on God. The builder is constructing something new and as yet unseen, giving physical form to a mental vision. While Solomon’s construction of the Jerusalem temple comes to mind as the context, the builder’s labor can be understood broadly to mean any human endeavor that aims to bring about something new. All the designs, planning, labor and finishing touches of every human project great and small are ‘in vain’ if the Lord is not at work in them. It is the Lord who brings new life and enables new ideas to take shape. Whatever plans we make that dishonor God or reject him as architect and builder are in vain. Even if they seem to succeed, they have no eternal future.
It is extremely easy (almost without noticing) to treat God as our assistant who exists to help us achieve our goals. We set the agenda and then ask God to come along to ensure our success. Psalm 127 offers a stern warning to this mindset. The love of innovation for its own sake, the vain desire to be on the cutting edge of whatever field we work in, the longing to bring about newness for our own glory, are all ways of excluding the Lord from the building process. The only building projects worth working on are those in which God is the planner and architect and we are participants. If we are participating in God’s work we can be encouraged that all of our ‘rising early’ and ‘staying up late’ (v. 2) will not be in vain. We will be working on a building that will actually last. The Apostle Paul links this great hope to the resurrection of Jesus Christ: “Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Cor 15:58). This will be true even in situations that by human standards look like fruitless failures. We may not be able to see what God is building, even if we are participating in the work.

The guard, in contrast, is not building something new but protecting and preserving something good that he can already see. He is a soldier stationed on a city wall keeping watch for an approaching army, ready to give the warning signal. Even though the city is well established and surrounded by a high and thick wall, the guard is just as dependent on the Lord as the builder. Despite all his efforts the city will never be safe if he trusts in his own alertness and strength. Almighty God who never sleeps must be the watchman or the city will fall.
The image of the watchman is challenging in a different way. Many of us experience our need for God most acutely when we want guidance for the future. We turn to God to give us a vision for the future and open new doors. While this is good, it is easy to forget that God is not just the Creator of new things but also the sustainer of all things. When we forget this we delude ourselves into thinking we have most of life under control. This is a kind of functional Deism in which God initiates new things but then stands back, uninvolved. In reality none of God’s gifts are safe in our hands unless he continues preserving and protecting what He has given.

We will still be called to the task of building and keeping watch, but always with an awareness of our dependence on the God who creates and preserves; God the builder and God the watchman. We see these two aspects of our dependence in every sphere of human life, every vocation, every family, every church and every culture. God calls us to a radical trust in him to guide and protect His own work in the world. The end result of this trust in God is that we can rest: “For he grants sleep to those He loves” (Ps 127:2). May God help us to find this rest!
News and Prayer

We have had a good ‘time between terms’ with a mixture of rest and productivity. Spring has truly arrived along with all of the accompanying outdoor work. Please join us in thanking God for his provision of a new roof for the 43 Lovers Lane house. As I write this, I hear the pounding of the roofers above my head! This is the first necessary step in getting solar panels installed. Please pray for this process to go smoothly.
We thank God for a volunteer work crew from Trinity Church in Bolton that came to help with some large projects on the property this week. We appreciate the help and value the long-term connection with this local congregation.

Dick, Ben, Nickaela and Mary Frances all went to the members meeting in early April, which was held in England this year. It was a joy to gather together with our colleagues and be reminded of the work God is doing in the different branches.
Dick is enjoying (a bit) more free time and as a result has been able to accept more speaking invitations this year. He will be speaking on The Imagination and Heroism at two upcoming education conferences, one in Louisville, KY (June 15-16) and another in Redlands, CA (July 20-22). Please pray for these two events. Mardi has recently joined a community choir (the Assabet Valley Mastersingers) and will be performing a concert with them on May 13. This has been both a joy and a challenge given the difficulty of the music. Both Dick and Mardi are still quite involved in L’Abri life, tutoring, teaching, and coming to meetings.

Joshua and Sarah Chestnut are doing well in the big house. Please pray for their church (Redeemer Community Church in Needham) as it is in the midst of merging with another church congregation. They are thankful for this development. Both Sarah and Joshua have been able to offer their teaching gifts to the church through this time. They are thankful for this opportunity.

Mary Frances would appreciate prayer for her church (Park Street Church in Boston) as it navigates a search for a new senior minister. Park Street is one of the oldest churches in Boston and has proclaimed the gospel faithfully since its founding. Please pray that this will continue under new leadership and that the transition will be smooth.

Liz Snell will be joining us for one more term before returning to the Canadian L’Abri. This winter God answered the many prayers of people around the world and enabled the Canadian L’Abri to buy a new property on Vancouver Island which is ideally suited to the work. We will be sad to see Liz go in August, but are deeply thankful for her contributions in Southborough.

Thank the Lord that Ben and Nicki’s Church (Trinitarian Congregational Church in Wayland) has called a new head pastor after a year-and-a-half long search. This is a particular relief to Nicki who served on the search committee. The new pastor was an Old Testament professor at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. He is a wonderful preacher and pastor. Please continue to pray for Nicki’s mother Linda who continues to battle cancer. 

Please keep the ‘children of L’Abri’ in your prayers. Jacob Chestnut (grade 1), Ellie and Abby (grade 3) and Noah Keyes (Pre-K) have all had a good year at the Imago School. Lily Chestnut (age 2) is talking up a storm and is a source of joy and laughter in the house. Please pray for a good end to the school year as well as a fun and fruitful summer.

We are deeply thankful that for the last two terms we have had very good student numbers (a full house much of the time). For this upcoming term, we still have some space. Please pray for more students to book in for the summer term, particularly during the month of July. Also join us in praying for the right combination of people; that God would bring those of His choosing and keep others away.

We so appreciate you joining us in prayer. It is a huge encouragement for us to know that we are being lifted up before the Lord.
Thank you!

God Bless you,
Ben Keyes and the team at Southborough L’Abri