The Francis Schaeffer Collection - The L. Rush Bush Center for Faith & Culture The Schaeffer Legacy Project - An Interview With Dr. David Calhoun of Covenant Theological Seminary True Spirituality Class Francis Schaeffer at International Congress of World Evangelism, Lausanne, Switzerland, July 1974 Whatever Happened To The Human Race? - Playlist The Mark of A Christian Class - Playlist The Question of Apologetics A Christian Manifesto - Playlist

Saturday, March 30, 2013


Edith Schaeffer
Photo by Mustapha Ashrad
 “How I hope we may have many years of service together, and finally entrance together into eternity.” ~ Francis Schaeffer to his wife Edith, 1935.

As we reflect on the passing of Edith Schaeffer, who went to be with the Lord in the early hours of March 30th, 2013, it is worthwhile to note the events of her life to get a sense of who she was. It is a most distinct providence that guided such a couple as her and Francis together. Both whom were avid defenders of the faith, who were passionate about people and truth. Yet, as we reflect, consider the story, but also consider Edith's passion. She was passionate for Christ, for ministry, for children, and especially her dear husband "Fran" whom she loved and served with side-by-side for so many years.

1914 - “Edith Rachel Merritt Seville was born in Wenchow, China on November 3. [1]” She was the fourth child of missionaries, George Hugh Seville and Jessie Maude Merritt Seville. [2] They served in what was formerly known as the China Inland Mission, founded by Hudson Taylor. Edith had a wonderful family Christian heritage and was well educated and highly artistic and loved the arts greatly. She and her family had tried to learn Chinese culture and even adopted some Chinese dress. Edith was known as Mei Fuh during their time in China. Edith notes in her children’s book by the same title that because of the time difference, her birth was recorded officially a day earlier in the United States as November the 2nd. [3]

1920 - Edith’s family would move back to the states when she was six years old. When her family relocated to Germantown, she began attending Germantown High School (Fran's former school) in her senior year. [4]

1932 - Fran met his future wife on June 26 at the First Presbyterian Church in Germantown, Pennsylvania in the defense of the faith. Edith had just graduated from Germantown High School [5]. Fran had just returned home from college. They both were at a Young People’s meeting, where a former member, now a member of the Unitarian church, was lecturing on the topic, “How I know that Jesus is not the Son of God, and how I know that the Bible is not the Word of God.” During the lecture, Edith jumped up and began to make a reply, when across the room Fran, who was already standing began to speak. Edith sat back down and listened in amazement. Edith asked her friends, “Who’s that boy?” She was not aware of anyone in the church who knew any replies against Modernism. Edith soon rose to make her points, quoting from J. Gresham Machen, and Robert D. Wilson. of Westminster Theological Seminary nearby. Schaeffer likewise asked his friend, “Who’s that girl?” Fran was impressed and was not aware that anyone attending the church was familiar with Old Princeton Apologetics (In fact, Edith would first introduce Fran to J. Gresham Machen’s book, Christianity and Liberalism early in their friendship). Thereafter, Francis would ask Edith if he could walk her home, to which Edith replied, "I have a date." Schaeffer looked at her calmly and simply said, "Break it!" Thus began their life together as defenders of the faith. [5]

Edith would go on to enter Beaver College [6] for a degree in home economics that same year. Edith was highly trained in foods, dietetics, dressmaking, interior decorating, and art appreciation. All of which she would put to good use eventually at L’Abri.

1935 - Francis Graduated from Hampden-Sydney College in June and graduated second in his senior class, magna cum laude. [7]

Fran & Edith's Wedding
July 6, 1936
Francis and Edith would be married on July 6th. They were married at Wayne Avenue United Presbyterian Church, by Edith’s father George Seville. Fran was twenty-three and Edith was twenty. Fran and Edith saw their relationship as rooted in ministry. He remarked to Edith in a letter, this wonderful thought: “How I hope we may have many years of service together, and finally entrance together into eternity.” [8] They would spend their honeymoon working at a Christian camp. Immediately, they would discover that they contrast each other, as Fran was intense, passionate and sometimes overly driven, while Edith could be romantic and idealistic and prone to flighty thoughts of the ideal. Yet they would also discover that they complemented each other as well. Edith was cultural and refined, gifted in the formal aspects of hospitality and Fran took great interest in personal relationships, and they both grew to have strongly convictions about the personal aspects of hospitality. Both of them stood passionately together for Biblical Truth against Liberalism and where avid readers, and eventually would be great writers, speakers and teachers.

Fran would enter Westminster Theological Seminary in September of that year.  Edith discontinued her education at Beaver College only completing 3 of the 4 years, to support Fran in seminary, but it was no passive support. She was very purposeful and took time to share everything with him. She made him lunches, but she also made a second, and tried to eat at the same time he ate so that she could be aware of how hungry he might be when he came home. She studied alongside Fran and received a seminary education right along with him from home. She stayed up late with him and shared in the discoveries of theology and philosophy, and learned some of the Greek and Hebrew words he was studying (although Fran needed a considerable amount of time alone studying Hebrew due to his battle with dyslexia). She learned the faculty names and took great interest in the happenings of the seminary. During the day she worked from home as a leather-worker and seamstress working on numerous projects. Fran had received a small grant from Westminster, but Edith was the primary source of income during this time.

1938 - Fran Graduated from Faith Theological Seminary on Willmington, Delaware [10]. “Francis is ordained as the first pastor of the Bible Presbyterian Church denomination. Francis began serving as senior pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Grove City, Pennsylvania. [11]”

The Schaeffers started a large Summer Bible School program that grew and grew. These were formative years in the ministry work of Fran and Edith. Fran persistence and tenacity are well noted, he once squeezed twenty-one boys into a car! Edith’s creativity, on the other hand, broadened the programs available for the summer school. Francis regularly made house calls to every member of the church as well as many of the parents of the children that attended the Summer Bible School.

1943 - After serving as an associate pastor of the Bible Presbyterian Church in Chester, Pennsylvania (1941), God would lead the Schaeffer's to pastor a church in the Midwest. “Francis began serving as the senior pastor of the Bible Presbyterian Church in St. Louis, Missouri. [11]” The Schaeffer’s picked up where they left off as senior pastors at their first church, creating and establishing ministry with a particular emphasis on children and youth. Several months after arrival, the Schaeffers founded Children For Christ which in a very short time would develop into an international ministry. All of this was based on their earlier work with children in Grove City.

As we consider the early story of the life of Francis and Edith Schaeffer, we can see the youthful passion that they had for both beauty and truth. Edith the creative, and Francis the strong teacher. They were young, idealistic, and full of life. They realized very quickly as a young couple that there were limitations in each other. Yet they learned also that God had given them gifts, that they could use, and that complimented each other. They did not yet know how God would use all of them, but they applied their gifts in each new setting and grew together through good times and tough ones. They felt in many ways like they were on an escalator, quickly moving forward in greater service together. They had just began to settle in toward a long term ministry, and the future looked stable and bright. Edith envisioned a life for them in the home where they lived in St. Louis. It was beautiful, and conventional. But in a five short years their idealism would be tested by living in a fallen world, impacted by a post-war climate of hurt and needs. They would be asked to reconsider the nature of Truth, and the nature of beauty in a quest to find answers to the question of “reality.”

1947 - Fran was asked to travel throughout Europe for three months to evaluate the state of the church in Europe as a representative of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions and as the American Secretary for the Foreign Relations Department of the American Council of Christian Churches. Schaeffer toured 31 cities (many more than once), in 13 countries in just 90 days. He slept in 56 different places in that period of time. This trip was both incredibly stimulating and yet deeply exhausting touring in war-torn Europe, just two years after the war, which was still under rationing and with many travel restrictions and a broken infrastructure. It was both psychologically and physically draining on him. The highs and the lows of the events during his travels would catch up to Schaeffer when he got home and he would experience a bout of what some have described as depression and fatigue that fully immobilized him. Edith, carefully nursed him back to health. Edith believed that he was in many ways just short of an absolute physical and mental collapse. She was a solid strength in Fran's life and was his consummate helper, friend and source of encouragement.

This trip would result in them being called by the missions board to be missionaries to Europe, with the specific calling to, “strengthen that which remains.” They would have a particular emphasis on spreading their work of Children For Christ there.

1948 - The Schaeffers move to Lausanne, Switzerland with their three daughters to be missionaries to Europe. Their primary work involved their Children for Christ ministry, and helping with the formation of the International Council of Christian Churches. Their first home would be the Chalet Bijou. Eventually their prayers would be answered to stay in Champery and they would move to Chalet des Frenes. [12]

1951 During the early winter months, Fran would begin to go through a spiritual crisis. Edith would prayerfully support her husband as she always had and in this time with much prayer. As a result of this crisis, Schaeffer recognized that something was deeply wrong and he carefully reconsidered his Christian commitment and the concepts of truth and reality. Schaeffer emerged from this experience with a new certainty about his faith in True-Truth, and a new emphasis on sanctification and the work of the Holy Spirit, and a new direction in his life which would unfold over the next four years. 

Edith’s Begins Writing Her “Family Letters” - Edith begins to write her letters in August. [13] These were sort of a family newsletter that recounted what they were going through and the various happenings. They were not filled with promotional or advertising content, but just family news. Edith was a wonderful and honest writer. She was the other voice of L’Abri, and it is very easy to fall in love with her wonderful creative spirit. People connected with her words, and attitude of prayer. God used these letters in many ways to work through His people miraculously and naturally in a very organic way. People would often give timely gifts that were direct answers to prayer, and very often they did not even know the need. As Edith wrote their story, people responded not out of compulsion, but out of the good of their heart in both prayer and giving.

1953-54  - The Schaeffers return to the US with family on furlough, and Fran began an extensive speaking and traveling schedule. Schaeffer traveled across the country speaking 346 times during 515 days, sometimes three times a day, about the deeper spiritual life. 

As the family returned to Champery, Switzerland in September. It was on the deck of the of the USS Ile de France that Francis first told Edith of the desire to use the word "L’Abri," for their ministry and thought of changing the name of their chalet in Champery. [14]

1955 - In the following year, on February 14 the Schaeffer received notice from the Swiss government on that they must leave Switzerland permanently within six weeks for their “religious influence” in the Catholic canton. Each Swiss canton are member states within the federal state of Switzerland. The word canton is a French word that more literally means “corner” or “district.” The Schaeffers were at this time living in the Roman Catholic bishopric of Valais.

The Schaeffers, by April 1st would move out of this canton and into another. Their new home would be Chalet Les Melezes in Huemoz, Switzerland. God brought about a series of miraculous circumstances which would open the way for a new beginning in ministry. The circumstances that surrounded this event are numerous and amazing all recounted in Edith's book entitled L'Abri. Edith's strong faith and conviction in the matter proved to open the door to the new location, as at just the right time God would provide both the location as well as the provision through a gift in the mail to start L'Abri.

Edith’s March 7-9th family letter makes the official announcement of the work of L’Abri. “L’Abri is what we feel the Lord would have us add to the work He had given us here in Switzerland. L’Abri means “shelter” in French, and our thought is to have a spiritual shelter for any who have spiritual need. [15]”

In her May 30th family letter, written just after they had completed their move into Chalet les Melezes, Edith remarks, “And so literally L’Abri began in Chalet les Melezes immediately upon our arrival--with a German musician, a Swiss peasant, and an English ex-Wren and ex-nurse for our first guest.

The Schaeffers officially resigned from the Independent Board of Presbyterian Foreign Missions on June 4, marking the final commitment to L'Abri Fellowship.

1955 - Following the resignation, in her June 17th letter, Edith explains in a bit more detail how L’Abri will operate. “And so we face a busy summer as L’Abri Fellowship begins, and such a thing as a vacation must be put off again. But the Lord is sending those who need a time in L’Abri, and he can just as easily provide an opening for a vacation when He knows it is necessary.  
       There are a few things you should know about L’Abri Fellowship. The material needs of the work, and ourselves, will be met as the Lord sends in gifts in answer to prayer. We believe that if He sends the people to us who need to be here for study and asking questions and prayer, He will also send in the means to feed them.” Edith goes on to explain the garden and matters with the appliances, the states, “Each need will be prayed about and we will wait for guidance to proceed according to His specific answers in sending the means.
Finally, and most important--L’Abri Fellowship may seem very small--but we know there are many who are having a daily part in the work here through your faithful prayers. The ones who are working here through prayer we wish to speak of as the Praying Family of L’Abri. You yourself know whether you are one whom the Lord has joined to us in this way or not. May L’Abri truly be a shelter in a weary land for those who will find Christ their shelter here. [16]”

Edith clarifies in her work L’Abri that L'Abri Fellowship became official in July when her father, Dr. George H. Seville, former missionary to China with the China Inland Mission took on the work of creating a home office in the states for them. He had just retired from his teaching position at a theological school and wanted to work as their “home secretary” as his contribution to the work of L’Abri. While he assumed legal roles and the handling and sending of gifts, Edith’s mother duplicated and mailed the family letters to their family. These letters, with family members in mind would become “Dear Family” and would grow as God brought people to follow the work of their ministry. [17]

1959In November of 1959 a journalist from Time magazine, showed up at L’Abri, who had been tipped off by a journalist parent who had a daughter in school with Deborah Schaeffer. The following day a photographer would also drop in to shoot the photographs.

1960 - The Time magazine article was published entitled “Mission to Intellectuals” in the January 11th publication.[18]

1964 -  It was about this time that Betty Carlson is convinced that the Lord is leading her to give a month’s wages to send Edith away to write the story of L’Abri. [19] Edith in fact does write her book on L’Abri. It however sits as a completed manuscript under the Schaeffer’s bed for the next five years! During which time Betty remained confident that it would be published at the right time. [20] 

Probably one of the first converts from the reading of the book, and in this instance, in it’s pre-published state, was Larry Snyder, future leader of the Rochester branch, who ran the branch with his wife Nancy. Larry and Nancy have now since retired. Larry came to L’Abri searching for answers when he met a person in a youth hostel in Europe who that told him, that he seemed confused and that L’Abri was a place he could go to get his questions answered.[21] Many others in Larry’s situation would find their way to L’Abri under similar circumstances. Larry was quite intent on finding answers and immediately inquired about them. As Edith describes it, as soon as he had heard the person say L’Abri, he felt driven to go there, and began working in order to do so. Finally, he arrived late one night on his motorcycle and wanted to know all that he could so that he could start studying the next day. Edith apparently saw how intent he was and let him read her manuscript. He read it that night and started study at the Farel house the next day. Although Larry noticed something happening, he could not quite grasp it yet, and he was not an immediate convert. Larry would have further discussion with Dr. Schaeffer, in which he told him flatly that he did not want to discuss his God or his religion. Yet much to his surprise, Francis did not see that as the end of the conversation, but rather encouraged him to stay and keep asking his questions. Edith notes, “As time went on, Larry became an understanding Christian and the problems he had in philosophic areas and areas of doctrine cleared up. He not only studied hard, he was an outstanding help...” During his time as a L’Abri worker he would become convinced that he was being led into further Christian ministry. He would leave in the following summer for Covenant Seminary.

1968 - Fran's first books, Escape From Reason and The God Who Is There are published.

1969 - Edith publishes her first book, L'Abri.
Fancis and Edith saw L'Abri as a witness of living by faith and prayer before the watching world. Their work was always seen as being in tandem. Here Edith sets out to chronicle the early history of L'Abri. Edith here writes a very personal and "real" work that recounts the history of L'Abri thus far. It is a testimony of the hand of God at work in their lives "before a watching world" as thousands of visitors journey to their house from all over the world.

As we mentioned before, L’Abri had actually been written five years earlier. Betty Carlson gave Edith a gift which allowed her to get away for a time and write the work. The manuscript would sit under the Schaeffer’s bed, until Francis published his first books. The timing of the printing would allow the book to become very popular along with Francis’ books.

1969-2000 - Edith would go on to publish 20 books, and her works would be popular in their own right, with a unique and endearing writing style. Perhaps her most notable works are L'Abri, The Tapestry, Hidden Art, and Affliction.  These last two books won her the Gold Medallion Award from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (in 1979 and 1982 respectively).

1984 - Fran and Edith had relocated to Rochester, MN for Fran to receive treatment. From there she continued a busy speaking schedule and wrote further books.

[READ THIS SPECIAL SEGMENT FROM RANALD MACAULAY for more information on this time period.]

2000 - Edith moved to Switzerland to live with her daughter Debbie and husband Udo Middleman.

2013 - Edith passes into eternity to be with Fran and her Lord Jesus. 
[1] Lane T. Dennis. The Letters of Francis Schaeffer. 
Westchester, IL, Crossway Books,1985. 25.

[2] Ibid., 29.

[3] Edith Schaeffer, Mei Fuh, Memories from China, 
Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston 1998.  1-2.

[4] Colin Duriez. Francis Schaeffer: An Authentic Life. 
Wheaton, IL, Crossway Books, 2008. 29,30.

[5] Ibid., 30.

[6] Ibid., 32.

[7] Ibid., 33.

[8] Lane T. Dennis. The Letters of Francis Schaeffer. 
Westchester, IL, Crossway Books,1985. 25.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Colin Duriez. Francis Schaeffer: An Authentic Life. 
Wheaton, IL, Crossway Books, 2008. 45.

[11] Lane T. Dennis. The Letters of Francis Schaeffer. 
Westchester, IL, Crossway Books,1985. 25.

[12]  Schaeffer, Edith. The Tapestry: The Life and Times of 
Francis and Edith Schaeffer, Waco, Tx, Word Books. 308.

[13] Schaeffer, Edith. With Love Edith. 
Harper & Row, San Francisco, CA. 1989. 5.

[14] Ibid. 402.

[15] Ibid. 308.

[16] Ibid. 332.

[17] Schaeffer, Edith. L’Abri. Tyndale House, USA. 1969. 135. 

[18] “Mission to Intelectuals,” Time, January, 11, 1960.

[19] Carlson, Betty. The Unhurried Chase that Ended at L’Abri. Good News Publishers. Westchester, IL. 1984. Forward by Edith Schaeffer.

[20] Ibid. 12.

[21] Schaeffer, Edith. Dear Family. Harper & Row, San Francisco, CA. 1989. 98-98.