Daybreak, Henri Nouwen, and Me Pt 2

This is part 2 of 7 of a sermon given 4/11/15 at Westminster Church in New Brighton, PA. In it, I share about my recent trip to L’Arche Daybreak in Canada to research author Henri Nouwen. The sermon can be heard on itunes or at

When I first arrived I met with Toni from the office who had coordinated my visit. We stopped off at New House. This was the house I would have dinner at the first night. I was greeted by John—an older man with Down Syndrome. John has been a core member at Daybreak for a long time. John said hello and then asked me for a business card. I stood there a little shocked by the request. I did not expect to need to show my credentials to anyone living there. Besides, I had been driving a few hours and did not have a business card. I was informed that John collects business cards. I went back to my room before dinner and looked through my stuff. I was determined to bring John a business card, even if it was not mine.

It was a special dinner that night. It was Saint Patrick’s Day and one of the staff members was actually an Irish priest who was there on sabbatical. We had a party complete with wine and a little Guinness. When I showed up for dinner I gave John my business card. He was so excited. Throughout the evening he showed his business card to every person in the home. Everyone had to look at it but no one was allowed to touch it. I think the staff of that house learned my name better than the other houses because of how many times John made them read it to him.

Stephen, another man with Down Syndrome, was also shown the business card. My business card has a generic picture of a drop of water hitting some water with ripples coming out of it. Stephen looked at it and said, “You’re a plumber.” I explained that I was a pastor not a plumber. I have wondered since if perhaps I am somewhat of a spiritual plumber.

That first night was very special for me. I learned quickly that this was a family. That everyone pitched in, helped out, and did things together. It also became clear that I was welcome at the table. They did not care who I was. They were just happy for me to be present. That I was a pastor or a plumber did not matter to them. That I was a doctor of ministry student or had a G.E.D. did not matter to them. I was welcome.

This is a little challenging for many of us. It was for me. It is challenging because we spend a lot of time fronting. We put on masks to hide our weaknesses. We often have trouble just being ourselves. We hide behind what can impress others. I do this all the time. I can play the pastor’s part. But I could not do that there. But while that was a little scary it was also quite refreshing and freeing. I felt welcoming to just simply be myself and be present.


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