Yesterday my business partner Kevin and I spent about eleven straight hours with Sylvester Jacobs and his wife, Janet. Janet is English; Sylvester, American. Janet is white; Sylvester, black. Both spent a year at L'Abri, the Christian community founded by Francis and Edith Schaeffer in Huemoz, Switzerland, in the late 1960s. We were interviewing the Jacobs for the autobiographical project we are working on, The Tapestry Project, where ultimately we seek to tell the story of the Schaeffers and L'Abri and the unique impact they have had on the world.
That impact is evident in the lives of this couple. Sylvester went to L'Abri shortly after dropping out of Moody Bible College in the mid-1960s. Already having suffered a great deal under the scourge of racism where he grew up in Boynton, Oklahoma, he was discouraged by what he found at Moody. Along with a number of public pledges you had to make if you attended Moody (no dancing, smoking, etc.), he was required to sign a secret pledge that had to do with interaction with white students. He was not supposed to speak to white women on campus, for example, and yet in evangelistic work they did in the black neighborhoods of South Chicago he was required to mentor these same women that, when they arrived back on campus, he could not interact with. In trying to make sense of things --- in trying to determine if God was real --- he ended up at L'Abri, where, as he said, he was treated as a human being, as one with dignity, where he came to feel at home in his skin.
Sylvester went on to become a photographer in London and, then, to work with the worst of the worst kids in a school with Muslims, Hindus, Christians, and kids speaking 52 languages. He saw fruit from that work, a result he says came out of the way he was treated at L'Abri --- with love, with dignity, as a human being made in the image of God.
For Sylvester, racism in his past, after his inter-racial marriage, even today is an affliction but one that is light and momentary. It is, as the Apostle Paul says, a "light and momentary affliction. . . preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison" (2 Cor. 4:17). I'll write more about my interview with Sylvester and Janet and others on The Tapestry Blog when my trip is complete in a day or so. But for now it struck me that his life, one God has given him much grace to view with a forgiving spirit, show that this treasure we have in jars of clay is from God, not man. For that, we can rejoice.