I first met Edith Schaeffer in October 1974. I had heard about the powerful ministry she and her husband Francis Schaeffer had started in the mountains of Switzerland to give answers to those with burning intellectual questions about the Christian faith.
They started L'Abri Fellowship in 1955. "L'Abri" means "the shelter" in French, and that is what I was looking for. I was 19 and had finished one year of college in Minnesota where professors challenged everything I held dear about Christ and the Bible after becoming a Christian when I was 15.
Those professors doubted the miracles in the Bible, scoffed at its historical value, and questioned the intelligence of anyone who actually believed what it taught. My faith in Christianity teetered. I searched for help. I heard that Francis and Edith Schaeffer had answers at their "mission to intellectuals" in the mountains of Switzerland, so I left for Europe.
My first encounter with Edith Schaeffer showed that L'Abri offered more than just intellectual answers supporting the truth of Christianity. I came to the Schaeffers' house on a snowy afternoon where they had invited new L'Abri guests for a reception. I entered their large living room, where about 50 other young people milled about.
Edith greeted each of us with a huge tray of cookies and steaming cups of tea. Her bright smile and gracious words welcomed me to the oasis I was seeking. She complemented the cool, methodical intellect of her husband, who had us sit on the floor and answered our questions. My hand shot up repeatedly, asking questions that deeply challenged my Christian faith. Francis gave strong answers. Edith demonstrated that Christ was real and his love genuine.
I got to see and talk to Edith and Francis Schaeffer several times during the three weeks I stayed at L'Abri back in 1974. I remember vividly how Edith showed genuine interest in everyone she spoke with. I marveled at her ability to connect with each person in a joyous and personal way, discovering some important fact or treasure or challenge that God had placed in their life. I recall each encounter I had with Edith made me feel significant-that she viewed all I encountered as having eternal import from God the Creator because each of us is on a unique, wonderful adventure that He had ordained for us.
Years later, I saw the Schaeffers frequently while I attended law school at the University of Minnesota. It is located in Minneapolis, about 90 miles from the Mayo Clinic where doctors treated Francis for cancer, which eventually took his life in 1984. During that time, the Schaeffers spoke at many L'Abri events in Minnesota. Sometimes advertised only by word of mouth, their events attracted huge crowds (which is amazing considering that these were the days before the Internet, Facebook, Twitter, and flash mobs).
At one of those packed events at a church in Minneapolis in early 1982, I remember Edith answering a question prophetic for our day: "Homosexuality disrupts human ecology," she said, as she explained how men and women were created to relate naturally. I am sure when Edith met advocates for homosexual conduct, she undoubtedly treated them with dignity while not refraining from urging them to refrain from behavior that "disrupts human ecology."
And that is an example of what I remember the most about Edith Schaeffer. She treated everyone with great respect because she understood they are created in God's image and have significance in all that they do. Edith Schaeffer's love for life, for the arts, for beauty, and for every person will live on in the many people she encountered and impacted during her life well lived.