A L’Arche Community A Community Of Pure Love

Have you heard of L’Arche? I had not heard of it until I read about it recently in a book I picked up along the way: Why Good Things Happen To Good People By, Stephen Post, PhD and Jill Neimark. (2007)

Here there is a very pure love you don't experience in other places in society. Here you learn that innocence is beautiful, that the disabled can be like living prayers. a L'Arche assistant

One thing I have learned for sure is that a L’Arche Community is a community of pure love. L’Arche is French for “the ark,” a reference to the floating refuge Noah created at God’s command. It began in 1964 when Frenchman Jean Vanier opened his home to two developmentally disabled adults.

To work for community, is to work for humanity. founder of L'Arche, Jean Vanier

He had no grand plan. Vanier simply believed people of differing physical and mental abilities could live together, respecting the capabilities of one another. What began as an informal invitation from the heart has grown into the world-renowned International Federation of L’Arche Communities, a network of more than 6,000 individuals in 140 communities and 31 countries. There is even a L’Arche community in my hometown of Decatur, Georgia, which opened its doors in 2012. Born in Switzerland in 1928, Vanier is a devout Catholic, but these communities welcome all, regardless of their race, culture, abilities, or disabilities, as well as people of all faiths, including atheists. In each community, the healthy (called “assistants) and disabled live together.

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When Jean Vanier was asked to share one of his most memorable L’Arche stories, this is what he said:

“I will never forget Eric, whom I met in a local psychiatric hospital where he had been abandoned since he was four years old. He was then a blind, deaf young man of 16 who was unable to walk or speak. I had never met anyone so filled with anguish. Even the nurses and helpers found him too difficult to be with. He came to our L’Arche community in 1978, and I had the privilege of living with him and a few others for a year: dressing him, bathing him, helping him to learn to feed himself. Little by little, he began to discover that he was loved and seen as a person, unique and important. He gradually grew more peaceful. During the evening prayer we had in our little home, he had changed, and I too had changed. Eric, above all, make me realize that each person is important no matter what their abilities, disabilities, religion, or culture.”

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In 2015, Vanier was awarded The Templeton Award, one of the most prestigious awards in the world.

The whole pain of our world is the pain of walls. We've had enough of loneliness, independence, and competition. We all begin in weakness and end in weakness. We are all broken in some way. The only answer to life is to love each other.

Perhaps it is my personal experience of growing up with Robin, my first cousin who was born with Downs Syndrome, or perhaps it’s my own growing awareness of my weaknesses and brokenness, or maybe it was the example of compassion shown to me by my loving parents, but my heart is soft towards this ministry of L’Arche communities. I hope to visit L’Arche Atlanta, in Decatur in the not too far off future.

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What do you think about the L’Arche concept? What are some other ways we can continue to break down the tall walls of discrimination that are based on race, culture, economic circumstances,religion, and/or disability?

Other related Pages From Joan posts you may have missed:

Common Warriors: Part One

Common Warriors: Part Two

Have A Care Kit Party

What Feeds You And Me? Let’s Follow Our Heart Song.

Aimee Copeland: Living Life

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Common Warriors Part Two

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Common Warrior, Maryanne and Rachel express pure JOY!

I hope by now, you will agree with me that the description for parents of special needs kids: Common Warriors, is perfect. They truly are warriors as they live day in and day out meeting the ever-growing needs of their loved ones. My friend, Maryanne, author of the blog Sweet Surrender knows only too well of the challenges that have come with raising her daughter, Rachel. You see, Rachel and her twin, Adam were born early and Rachel experienced either a brain bleed or O2 deprivation leading to Cerebral Palsy.

Four things Maryanne has learned while raising Rachel into adulthood:

  • I have had to really learn to lean into grace and forgive myself for growing tired, weary, discouraged, angry, and frustrated. I have often felt my capabilities as it related to Rachel’s care and the responsibilities of my other children were sorely outmatched. A mother of a disabled child must trust God’s grace to cover the bare places.
  • It is very important for a mother to take care of herself by taking breaks, filling her soul with inspiration, beauty, and recreation. If a mother’s heart runs dry, she has nothing to impart to her children. This is especially true with the ongoing needs of a disabled child. I struggled here and often felt guilty for wanting time away.

If people offer to help- let them. Find time for your spouse even if it is taking a short walk or sitting outside on the deck enjoying time together.  Live in FAITH and not FEAR!

Don’t get so caught up in the “what ifs” that you miss the sweet moments in the present.” Angie Beighley, Tim Beighley’s Mom

  • I found it important to surround myself with safe people who were supportive and willing to give me the latitude to express my feelings. No mother should go this journey alone, especially the mother of disabled child. She needs support and additional help.
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A “snow angel”, Rachel  with pups!
  • Lastly, I have had to give myself permission to grieve the loss of the hopes and dreams I had for my daughter. This can be hard for parents to admit or articulate. This grief is an ongoing lifelong journey. I have found that the only way I can keep my heart open to the possibilities and blessings of Rachel’s life is to acknowledge my sadness, process it with God, and then surrender.
  • I think Rachel has taught me more than she will ever learn from me. She is open and happy. I see absolutely no bitterness in her because of her condition. Sometimes I miss blessings because I am so hyper-focused on what’s wrong.” Maryanne Abbate, Rachel’s Mom
  • Surrendering expectations was and continues to be a difficult part of this journey for me.

Another Common Warrior whom I have

met along life’s pathway is Amy, Mom to Jonah and Lily.

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Jonah!
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Jonah!
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Jonah!
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Cousin, Bella and Jonah play on the beach!

The main issues with Jonah are his cognitive ability not matching up with his verbal ability (expressive language). As Jonah’s Mommy, one of her main concerns now is the gap between the two…especially with a major heart surgery right around the corner, in summer 2016. How do you prep a by then, 4-year-old?  Amy feels he has already been through so much, however she is also ecstatic that he is a fighter.  Amy prays that he will be like David the rest of his life. Amy wants others to know that they were “blind” to this world once too.

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Big Sis, Lily kicks while Jonah plays “goalie”!
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Lily is so proud of her little bro, Jonah!

Until you are placed in a situation … You can never really understand.  But he chooses us all for different reasons. Amy considers the truth that perhaps God gives us more than we can handle so we fall on our knees in prayer to Our Mighty Father. We all mess up. There is no perfect parent. We are all just trying our personal best to make our children their personal best!

My sincere thanks to these three families for sharing their precious and personal journeys with each one of us.

In case you missed my other two posts, please click here (Tim Beighley’s Story)  and here (Common Warriors: Part One) to read them.

What is one thing you have learned about raising a

special needs children that you may not have realized before?

How will YOU be the one to lift up

the parents of a special needs child in the future? 

Let’s all offer a smile of encouragement to those in our path.

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Special Needs? Tim Beighley: Wonderfully Made

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Tim and his service dog, Ringer.

Our family first met The Beighley Family when they joined our church in 1996. Tim would’ve only been about three years old and I remember watching Doug carry Tim into church for the next several years while Angie followed behind pushing Tim’s chair. Doug and Angie consider it a true honor and a blessing to be Timothy’s parents, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been without challenges. In the past 22 years of Tim’s life, he has had approximately 15 surgeries. Tim has cerebral palsy, hydrocephalus, and scoliosis, and has done PT and OT most of his life. I’ll let Angie’s voice take over from here…

“With Tim having turned 22 recently, it really is a good time to reflect on his 22 years of life.

For people reading our story for the first time my son, Tim was born at 28 weeks while we were on vacation in Destin, Florida in 1993. Doug and I were on our anniversary trip, it was supposed to be the last trip before the baby came but to our surprise Tim decided to join us early. Tim had a great 3/4 brain hemorrhage within the first 72 hours of life. Our “roller coaster” ride had just begun. We had an extended stay in Florida-about a month before we were able to bring Timothy home to Georgia. Around Timothy’s delivery due date we were able to bring Tim home from the hospital. The magical number that we were waiting for was for Timothy to reach 5 pounds. At birth he was only 2 pounds and 7 ounces, when we were released from the hospital we were told that Tim could be blind, deaf, he may or may not walk, he may or may not talk, he could be mentally challenged…we just did not know what the future would look like. The one thing that I held onto was the fact that I did know and still do not know to this day what the future holds but I do know Who holds the future.

My faith in Jesus Christ has carried me every step of the way. The “Footprints” verse is near and dear  to my heart. God has truly carried me when I could not walk.”

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Angie and Tim

“There are cycles in life where things go smoothly for a while and then something comes up and you go through a process of researching options/solving problems / meeting challenges. Smooth sailing and another cycle comes. Kind of like what Pastor Ike says in that you are either coming out of a storm, in a storm or getting ready to go into a storm.

 You know God never left us. Time after time as I look back I see God’s hand. While I was pregnant every morning when I drove to work there was a song that played on the radio. In the verse were these words… “right there on your knees is where you are going to win the fight”. My defining moment when I felt God was telling me things would be ok was when I walked into the NICU and Tim was was laying there on his knees with his little butt stuck up in the air. “

“I want to be a hospital chaplain. With as much time as I’ve spent in a hospital, I should be pretty good at it 🙂 I’ll require assistance and therapy the rest of my life, but I believe there is nothing that I cannot overcome. As Randy Pausch said “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.”  Timothy Beighley 

The nurses called it “positive tush” syndrome. I called it my Heavenly Father letting me know that everything will be ok.

Doug and I heard David Ring speak at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church before we were even pregnant with Tim. David is a Christian Evangelist who happens to have cerebral palsy. He is married with 5 kids and oh, what an inspiration. As I look back I think God was preparing my heart…We had Tim’s baby dedication on Mother’s Day 1994, and he accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior on Mother’s Day 2004. I have always said that he could not have given me a better gift. Tim is now a student at Reinhardt University. “

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Tim and his family

All of our family agrees that knowing Tim and his parents has inspired us all to be the very best we can be. Recently Tim was honored by singer/songwriter, Matthew West when West wrote the song Wonderfully Made about Tim. Click here to read more. And finally, EVERYBODY HAS A STORY.  Click here to check out a devotion penned by West about Tim’s story.

In my next post, I will introduce you to a Guest Blogger, Cindy Crook, the author of g.p.s. rerouting: God’s Purpose for Special Needs. With Cindy’s help, we will take a closer look into the lives of a few families with wonderfully made children.