A week ago we celebrated the life and legacy of Henri Nouwen, a man who gave up a life of prestige and respect working as a professor for institutions such as Harvard and Yale to live and work among people with severe mental and physical disabilities. He left behind a life of recognition and honor in the world’s top academic institutions to work with the disabled folks at the L’Arche Daybreak community in Ontario, Canada. He was heavily influenced by the founder of the L’Arche communities, Jean Vanier.
I was first introduced to Jean Vanier by Aaron Mansfield, a former pastor at The Rock/La Roca UMC. He suggested that I read Vanier’s book, Community and Growth, when I was the youth pastor at the church. At first glance I thought the book looked rather boring. Don’t let the title or cover fool you; this book has impacted the way I view church and community perhaps more than any other book I’ve read. The biggest lesson I’ve learned through reading Vanier is that a Christ-centered community must place the most vulnerable and marginalized at the center of its life. Jesus always placed those on the margins of society at the center of his life and mission.