Daybreak, Henri Nouwen, and Me Pt 3

This is part 3 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

I got to see that first night and live in those 4 days a deep community. Life was so shared. It was intimate. Everybody was authentic. They were just themselves and shared their life freely with others. They lived life together and not just next to each other. Everyone was vulnerable and raw. There was such a deep level of sharing, caring, and being open to one another.

When Henri Nouwen came to that community, he worked in the same house that I had dinner in that first night. His job was to take care of Adam. Adam was one of the more significantly disabled people in the community. Henri had to take a couple of hours to get Adam ready in the morning. Get him up, showered, dressed, fed, and to his day program.

At first, Henri struggled to relate to Adam. He was not sure what to say or how much would get through to Adam. But as Henri worked with Adam over time he began to call Adam his teacher. Adam taught Henri how to be himself and how to slow down and be really present in the moment. If Henri rushed and was not really focused on Adam, then Adam would often have a seizure. Over time, Henri began to feel honored that he was trusted with the most delicate person in the community.

As Henri got comfortable at Daybreak, it became home for him. Henri was a person who wanted to please others and was very sensitive about what other people said about him. He had some things about himself that he was not always comfortable with. As he relaxed in the Daybreak community and felt comfortable enough to be himself, he became overwhelmed with what he found. He ended up needing to leave the community for a little while to deal with some of the personal wounds that had been exposed during his time there.

We all have disabilities. We have places in our thinking, in our behavior, and in our lives that do not work the way they are supposed to. Some are very visible, others we can keep hidden. Sometimes when we are around people with more obvious weaknesses that are comfortable in their state, it makes us more uneasy about who we are. While being in this deep of a community can be challenging and can expose our weaknesses, it can also life-giving in that we can find in the community the strength to live with our disabilities.


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