11 The Letter
The Letter

After Outward Bound I spent my junior year at the University of Exeter in England. I thought living in another country would give me perspective on the turmoil in the States: the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr, and Robert Kennedy, protests for civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, and the war in Vietnam. My experiences at Outward Bound made me physically strong and bloated my self-confidence. I thought if I could just get away from the people and places that defined and restricted me, I would discover my true identity and become fully actualized. But instead of being released into self–fulfillment, I was a helium balloon cut loose from its tether. I was lost and unmoored, adrift and confused. My thin self–knowledge dissipated and I withered into an empty shell. There were other Americans studying at Exeter but we had a mutual disdain for one another: they clung to the conservative edge of culture while I teetered on the opposite brink. I didn’t fit in anywhere.

My parents rarely wrote to me when I was at summer camps or boarding school, so I was thrilled, soon after I settled into my new life at the University of Exeter, to receive a letter from Suzanne Lewis, an older woman whose cottage was a few doors down from ours at Mullett Lake. She was articulate, intelligent, and eccentric. I enjoyed talking with her, especially when I was high on marijuana. She had recently become a Christian through volunteering with Child Evangelism Fellowship and told me about a theologian she admired named Francis Schaeffer. In her letter she insisted, “Before you return you MUST visit L’Abri, Francis Schaeffer’s study center in Switzerland.” She didn’t give any details, just told me to ask my theology professor or find Schaeffer’s books at the bookstore. I was pleased to have an adult take an interest in me, and so I asked Canon Balmsforth at the Exeter Cathedral if he knew of Francis Schaeffer, but he didn’t. I inquired at the local bookstore, but no one had heard of him or his books. I was disappointed but didn’t know what else to do.