In the photo on the left, Francis Schaeffer is show seated in discussion with his hand outstretched, wearing a turtleneck shirt, sporting his trademark chin-beard.
Our research thus far has not been able to determine the exact promotion for which this photo was used, however from the dating on the back of the photo, stating that it was used during 1979, it can likely be placed in promotions related to the book and film release of Whatever Happened to the Human Race? However, there is reason to allow for the possibility that the photo may have been taken up to a few years prior. The photo, containing brick walls in the background, and Schaeffer in a turtleneck, could potentially have been a shot taken while Schaeffer was on location on the earlier film How Should We Then Live? and used later promotion-ally. Many of his location shots on that film show him wearing a turtle neck shirt and jacket. However, this is not to say that he never wore one again!
Either way, to understand 1979, it is important to grasp the prior year. 1978, was a significant year in the shaping of the latter years of Schaeffer's life. Early in the year, work on the script for Whatever Happened to the Human Race? was ready and Edith had finished perhaps her most significant work, perhaps second only to L'Abri, called Affliction. It was to be released in August and contained a substantial message on the subject of suffering. Yet, as if on cue, various trials would beset the Schaeffers requiring them to live out in greater depth the principles in that book. Just as the book was to be released and filming on Whatever Happened to the Human Race? was all set to commence, Edith would have to have an operation to remove an ovarian cyst. She remarks in her family letters the following:
Is there an element to Satan's attack in here, of having to make a "barb" concerning what I have said in Affliction, and of trying to make the beginning work on the film harder for Fran? Perhaps, but there is also the promised "sufficient grace," and His strength made perfect in weakness so that counter-victory is not just a vague possibility but something we are given to expect. The doctor says I will be needing to be eight days in the hospital, and then will need three more weeks of rest! - April 13 Letter, Dear Family, pg. 287.Nevertheless, filming did commence and continued on through October. The film crew, Dr. Schaeffer and Dr. Koop filmed in the United States, Israel, Austria, and finally Switzerland. They had been scheduled to film in Greece, but due to cancellation of permission by the government, they were actually a week ahead of schedule. Toward the end of filming in Israel, Francis had expressed to Edith that his fatigue was growing hard to deal with. They both thought that it was due to the extensive travel and pressures of filming. Upon returning home to Switzerland to film the rest of the forth and fifth episodes in their chalet, the work was still weary for Francis and one of the workers had commented to family that his jackets were too big, yet others noted that they were the same ones he had worn. One evening, on his way down to the next shot Francis stopped and weighed himself and realized that he had lost twenty-five pounds. An earlier consultation with his doctor that week had revealed that he likewise had an enlarged spleen. Thereafter, it was suggested to Edith that she look up the doctor at the Mayo Clinic Francis had been providentially corresponding with about Francis' books The God Who Is There and Escape from Reason. She was surprised to be able to contact him that same night, and his remarks to her were:
Come as soon as possible. Finish up the film, if it's only a couple of days, then come next week. I'll meet your plane. ~ Edith Schaeffer, The Tapestry, pg. 609.Edith comments in the Tapestry that when remaining mountain shots were needed, "As Fran walked up the hill, he puffed, not his usual way of walking." We know from those who have commented on Schaeffer's walking, such as Dr. Calhoun, despite his smaller frame and stature, Schaeffer generally walked rather fast and effortlessly. Yet not this time. Nevertheless, in spite of the physical problems of the moment, Schaeffer knew that the completing of this film was a like reaching a peak. Edith further remarks,
For Fran, a job had been completed, and the future history of his own life was a question mark. What would be found in the complete examination in Mayo Clinic? His verbalization at that time consisted mostly of, "well, whatever happens, I've finished this job anyway."~ Edith Schaeffer, The Tapestry, pg. 610.At the Mayo Clinic on October, 17 1978, the diagnosis finally came, explaining that Francis had lymphoma and that he had a large mass the size of a watermelon in the back of his intestines. Edith writes in her letters several meaningful observations from the time that shows their state of mind and the truth they were seeking in the midst of the earthly situation:
We need to realize that there is danger in wasting precious time in simply agonizing, rather than using well our opportunity to feel and see things in a perspective closer to heaven's perspective. ~ Edith Schaeffer, November 12 Letter, Dear Family, pg. 293.
We are to live on the edge of time with today as the day Jesus might come back, but with today;s creativity and care for each other as urgently important as it would be if we knew we had a long time to prepare for right here. ~ Edith Schaeffer, November 12 Letter, Dear Family, pg. 295.Providentially, Edith had a section of scripture placed upon her heart for Fran, Psalm 71:17-20. It became for them the fulfilled promise for the next year.
O God, from my youth you have taught me,In answer to prayer, Francis would be quickened again to proclaim God's power to the generation. After the various treatments at the Mayo Clinic, Francis' cancer would go into remission for a time and Fran was discharged. The time at Rochester had however not been at all unprofitable either. Schaeffer spoke many times while he was there and in fact the seeds were planted for a future L'Abri Conference (and eventually a L'Abri branch). It seemed that God was expanding L'Abri to the states. As also during this time God was already working miraculously in the formation of a L'Abri in Scarborough, Massachusetts to be headed up by L'Abri workers Dick and Mardi Keyes (watch our interview with Dick Keyes here). Edith comments on Schaeffer's convictions after his recovery:
and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
So even to old age and gray hairs,
O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
your power to all those to come.
Your righteousness, O God,
reaches the high heavens.
You who have done great things,
O God, who is like you?
You who have made me see many troubles and calamities
will revive me again;
from the depths of the earth
you will bring me up again.
(Psalm 71:17-20 ESV)
When Fran was asked to say something for the radio concerning this news, he felt strongly the need to point out that it is not a demonstration of greater faith when an answer like this comes. Many whose faith is just as great as ours who have been praying for this "longer time to make Your Truth known to this generation" for Fran, have been praying for someone just as precious in the sight of the Lord, just as dear a child of His, and have been praying with as great or greater measure of faith. ~ Edith Schaeffer, November 12 Letter, Dear Family, pg. 303.In fact several friends of theirs were suffering with such illness during this time, and it was not uncommon for Schaeffer to be calling to encourage them while he himself was undergoing treatments.
Consequently, Francis Schaeffer did not take the opportunity for granted and wasted no time in "continuing the proclamation" and soon thereafter embarked on a 20 city seminar tour promoting the book and film in 1979. Upon returning back to Rochester at their completion, they would meet with the newly formed L'Abri Conference Committee to plan the first L'Abri conference in Rochester and then return home to Switzerland.
Looking at the photo, one has to reflect on Schaeffer's intense desire to communicate on the matters of importance of life to our culture. He is intent on making a significant impact and accomplishing the calling to which he has been directed. It is up to that generation and ours to consider the proclamation given and either reject it at our peril or receive it to our edification. Listen to these words from the closing work on the film,
As Fran walked up the hill, he puffed, not his usual way of walking. But the words were clear and important. "Each man, woman and child is of great value.... We know our origin.... As I look at myself in the flow of space-time reality, I see my origin in Adam and Eve, the parents of the whole human race--and in God's creating man in His own image. At this point, words such as sanctity of life, justice, fulfillment, truth, beauty and love begin to make real sense again." ~ Edith Schaeffer, The Tapestry, pg. 610.