Just yesterday I went out for coffee with a friend from my university (Tyndale) who told me that already she has seen a change in the way I think, approach life, and include people with disabilities in worship and she attributes this (as do I) to the growing and mentorship which is happening within my community.
The core members (adults with developmental disabilities) are truly my greatest teachers, confidants, and counselors. They are wise and provide great insights into myself and the world around me which I seem to have been blinded to before this year.
This year L’Arche Daybreak asked me to write a short reflection piece about my relationship with one of the core members. The article I submitted for our Advent booklet and the one I read at our weekly Dayspring chapel service differ slightly as I realize I’ve spent too much time in the academy so my original vocabulary was not suitable. However, what I offer you here is the original manuscript before editing:
“Come and see”’ this is a verse that is often repeated in the Bible to connote a certain sense of urgency for one to take action rather than passively accept a statement. These three words are also how I would choose to sum up my time at L’Arche over the past 6 months especially as I give thought to this year’s theme “Light for Our Journey.”
When first asked to reflect on one core member I found this task to be very challenging. In all honesty, every single core member at Brookwood has shaped my life in some profound way and allowed me to “come and see” with new eyes as I look at the world through new lenses and with a renewed passion and excitement that seemed to have been dwindling as a result of emphasizing academics more than spirituality in my own personal life.
From Mary-Anne I have learned the importance of prayer. This may sound ironic because many of you may be aware of the fact that I was in the seminary and still aspire to one day be a pastor. Yet, so often, those of us who have spent any significant amount of time studying Theological education find it difficult to discover the balance between the hermenutical aspects and devotional aspects of the Bible. From Mary-Anne I have learned to see prayer time as sacred and enjoyable once again.
One of my favourite memories from this fall was starting up a small Bible study group with a few other L’Arche assistants. On one occasion, Mary-Anne had come back from work early and came and joined us at our table. As we went around the circle sharing the insights we had gathered from the Scripture, Mary-Anne kept making comments like “this is great”, “I’m learning about Jesus”, and “I’m really happy now.”
Mary-Anne’s genuine commitment to know Christ was very refreshing to me. For years, I have seen the Bible only as a textbook and until recently hadn’t picked up the Bible for pleasure in about 4 or 5 years. Mary-Anne provided something new that day for me. She showed me how the Bible can still speak to all of us personally. In many ways, Mary-Anne proved to be wiser than anyone I have met in four years in the academy.
We are nearing Christmas time. Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, each one of us is searching for something. It could be searching for acceptance, meaning in your life, or what your true calling is. I have found that the core members at Daybreak are some of the most patient teachers as those of us who are still wrestling with these questions walk alongside them.
Every day that I spend with my Brookwood family helps me refine who I am as a person and begin to develop some of the weaker areas in my personal life. I love how with our core members being passively available is not an option. They call us into deep communion with them. They truly call us to “come and see”.
Deborah Ferber is a Field Associate and blogger for ADN. This post first appeared December 7, 2013.