Best Vacation Ever?


It was Easter morning, the first time I’d ever decided to “get up and go to church.” I wasn’t sure I belonged, but when the preacher said, “He is risen” I joined in on the reply, “He is risen indeed!” I wasn’t certain it was true, but I wanted it to be. Did that count?

I’d made a leap of faith, yet still had doubts. So the following year I went on a pilgrimage. After leading a field study program in England, I hitchhiked to the Swiss Alps. To be clear, I booked a ferry across the Channel (hitchhiking on the ocean is iffy), then hitchhiked to a Swiss learning community called L’Abri (“Shelter”). Why? Because Francis Schaeffer, famous for his rigorous, intellectual approach to faith, lived and lectured there, along with a number of other well-regarded teachers.

I arrived, hungry to have my doubts assuaged. Instead, I learned the community was on its annual housekeeping retreat. The charming chalets were closed, and all of the teachers, including Dr. Schaeffer, were gone.

I was disappointed, to say the least, and quickly running out of money. So I rented a mattress in a hayloft at a nearby farm. No Heidi, no adorable goats, just pigs. But the smell wasn’t bad. Until they opened the sliding doors to the pigpens. Then the piggy perfume permeated every pore of my body, making me want to jump off the nearest cliff mid-yodel.

So that night I huddled in the fresh alpine air at a bonfire along with the dozen or so other spiritually hungry intellectuals who’d arrived the wrong week. We began to share our stories of yearning and doubt. An Iranian agnostic, a dissatisfied Turkish atheist, an Indian from a town founded by St. Thomas, a self-loathing Scottish teacher who alluded to having committed some “unforgiveable act,” a depressed Japanese grad student… All had questions, none had answers. Except, it seemed, me.

To my surprise, I had honest, if imperfect, answers. I told the Scot about the heinous crimes of King David, “a man after God’s own heart.” I spoke to the Iranian about the character of a God who not only could be known, but wanted to be known. I seemed to have responses that made sense to them. Ones I hadn’t even realized I had.

So I spent the next two nights leading an ad hoc seminar, surrounded by breathtaking examples of God’s artistry: mountains and souls. We argued, laughed, bonded, and worshiped in completely unorthodox ways—God’s favorite form—until late each night.

Three days later, I left feeling strangely satisfied. Not all of my questions had been answered. But somehow, the one that really mattered —

That one had.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Humor, Memoir, Religion/Faith and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Best Vacation Ever?

  1. WOW. Amazing how much we learn answering other people’s questions. This is a good argument against waiting until you know it all to start sharing what you do know … (Ignorance never stopped ME, lol.)

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Niki Flow says:

    Cool story, Mitch. Did you keep in touch with any of the other adventurers? ♥.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. ruthsoaper says:

    They say the best way to learn something is to teach it. Great story!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. boromax says:

    This is a wonderful story well told, Mitch. Thank you for sharing it! L’Abri always makes me think of Larry Norman’s song, “Fly, Fly, Fly”… in which he sings, “…we’ll honeymoon in Haifa, have lunch in Galilee, we’ll hitchhike up to Switzerland and stop in at L’Abri…”

    Liked by 2 people

  5. revruss1220 says:

    What a wonderful story. My best learning almost always happens when I am teaching.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Andy D. says:

    I love this. You are right, the most important question is “Am I acceptable to God”. Does my faith even with all my doubts and failings count? Whats more amazing is we often don’t realise how much we believe till we share. I guess that’s why community and service are so important.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Heidi Viars says:

    No Heidi? Oh well, there are enough of those over here 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The best answer is a really good question.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. gracespeaker says:

    What a great memory!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. smzang says:

    Things like that don’t just happen, they are orchestrated by His hand.
    You have been blessed in many ways.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. This is wonderful, so uplifting!!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Yesss!! Teaching teaches US!! And in giving we receive!! You were born to teach!! That exhilaration was you walking out your God given purpose!! What a wonderful God appointment!!

    Thank you for sharing this!


    Liked by 1 person

  13. Stefan says:

    ‘L’abri’ actually means shelter or home.
    Freedom in french is liberté.
    It seems to me “shelter or home” goes better with your story than “freedom”.
    Welcome home.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I love the descriptive words you use. Isn’t it marvelous how we uniquely connect with God?!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. gpavants says:

    Hi Mitch,

    What a great experience. Isn’t that awesome how we get direction and our hunger of the Lord satisfied when we let Him use us? I hope those awesome days will bring much fruit.

    In Christ,


    Liked by 1 person

  16. Pingback: “Coincidence? I Think Not!” | Mitch Teemley

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