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Edith and Francis Schaeffer, Witness’ to the Lost

Edith and Francis Schaeffer in their home in Switzerland

Many of you have probably never heard of the Schaeffer’s.  During the 1960s to 1980s way too many of the young generation (those in their 20s and even 30s at the time) were spiritually lost.  They didn’t know what to believe in, or what the purpose of their lives were.  Students were hiking around Europe, spent their nights in hostels and trying out Hinduism, Buddhism, or whatever else they found.  It was during this societal unrest that the Schaeffer’s had a residence in Switzerland after moving there in the last 1950s.  Francis Schaeffer was an intellectual and knew how to answer the toughest questions inquisitive students have.  He was an apologist, similar to the apologists that work for RZIM (Ravi Zachiarias International Ministries).  RZIM speakers travel the world speaking and defending the Christian faith.  The Schaeffer’s found themselves being the apologists to the lost students in Europe.

The Schaeffers

Francis Schaeffer and his wife Edith were born in the early 1900s.  Francis grew up in Germantown, Pennsylvania and attended Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia where he graduated magna cum laude.  Edith was born and lived in China until the age of six, where her parents were missionaries with China Inland Mission.  She then moved back to the United States where her father worked as a pastor.  Her parents eventually moved to Germantown, Pennsylvania where she attended high school.

Edith and Francis met each other at a local Germantown event where an atheist was doing a presentation on why he didn’t believe in God.  They dated each other for three years and then married once Francis graduated from college.  By this time, Edith had completed two years of college at Beaver College (now called Arcadia University).

Francis went onto complete seminary and then the two of them began working together in pastorates in Pennsylvania and Missouri.  In 1947 they moved their growing family to Switzerland to work as missionaries for the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions.  Several years later in 1955, they split from this missionary board and moved to Huemoz, Switzerland where they began the work they were known for, L’Abri.


Edith oversaw the hospitality, serving tea, meals, seeing to the care of her children, and greeting visitors who came by.  Eventually four types of people would find their way to L’Abri: short-term guests, students, members, and workers.  Sometimes they would have as many as 100 houseguests in a week’s time.  Francis would spend time each day with everyone who came by.  Discussions were held with anyone who was interested in various topics, which would range from Christian apologetics, philosophy, theology, art, history, etc.

L’Abri was a community of seekers who were looking for the truth regarding their religious beliefs.  At L’Abri these seekers found the truth as it was also wrapped up in open arms, warm hospitality and an open,non-judgmental discussions in regards to their questions.

L’Abri has reached thousands of students, seekers for Christ.  Student upon student has shown up wanting answers to their questions and they were given housing, food and served tea as they unloaded their questions, seeking answers to their intellectual dilemmas.  Francis and Edith would meet each of their visitors where they were and show them Christ’s love.  Francis would answer the questions of each of the seekers with the wisdom which God imparted to him.

Using Their Spiritual Gifts

Were Francis and Edith using their spiritual gifts, were they serving others in the manner that the Lord wanted them to?  You bet.  Francis used his gifts of intellect and wisdom, Edith used her gift of hospitality.  With their working as a team, they reached thousands for Christ.

The Schaeffers set up home in Switzerland and began ministering to students who were wandering Europe looking for answers to their questions.  They called their home L’Abri.  It wasn’t long before more and more students would show up asking questions of relevance, theology, philosophy, etc.  Many weeks, Edith would find herself with 100 houseguests.

Students were coming to a belief in Christ because of the Schaeffer’s ministry.  Eventually L’Abri planted similar ministries in several other countries.  Their daughters with their spouses became the host/hostess’ of these newly planted L’Abri homes.

Francis and his son, Franky worked together to make a documentary, How Shall We Then Live.


Between Francis and his wife they wrote and have published numerous, numerous books.  Francis became known as the intellectual’s pastor, because his ministry reached out to college students and other intellectual seekers.  He answered the tough questions of the Christian faith and showed how it was relevant and needed in our present society.

Francis died of lymphoma in 1984.  He had returned to the United States to receive treatment at the Mayo Clinic.  Edith died at the age of 99 in 2013.  She had always been concerned about her son, Franky who had walked away from the Christian faith.  But she didn’t give up on him.  At her funeral, her son finally realized the truth and returned to the faith of his parents.

Do you see wisdom in the Schaeffer’s lives?  Do you see how Francis used the knowledge of Christianity he had learned to make it relevant to the student’s who were asking questions?  Being able to take knowledge and then apply it to a situation is the essence of what wisdom is.  This is a skill that you can learn, if you chose to do so.  So go for it!

Below is a short video on L’Abri:

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