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The Francis A. Schaeffer Foundation

Long Letters


Udo and Debby Middelmann:

Dear Friends,

Many of you may have wondered how we survive in the 'Blizzard of 96' up East. It has in fact been a wonderful time for us, with unusual depth of snow, times to go sledding and then to shovel some more. One drives a little more carefully, but it is no panic. But these were also times of wonder at the details of creation, the shapes in the world of God, the delights that satisfy our need for variety, surprise and discovery. Rather than a burden, it has been a great pleasure in spite of the added work and heating bill.

When the weather turned warmer for a day, however, snow melted and mixed with buckets of rain. It ran down the hillside in streams and flooded the furnace room more than a foot deep. The little pump I had bought just days before could not work fast enough to reduce the level until the temperature outside dropped and the melting ceased. But the furnace was safe in the end. A larger hose on the pump will do the trick next time.

How often we face similar situations, which, like floods, threaten to drown us and extinguish our little flame. But we know and worship a God, who has divided the waters at the right time in the past, and who has promised to be a sufficient help with his powerful word and work. We can be overwhelmed with uncertainty, but then He encourages and gives strength for the task at hand.

I have been back since the end of November from the last lecture series for the Foundation in Russia. It has been a good two month to focus on the work here. Besides much correspondence and preparation for an audit by the IRS on March 12, it also gave me time to work on the Carriage House, where the Schaeffer papers wait for some more scanning of the documents.

I was able to prepare the large room for the first lecture series of the Francis A Schaeffer Foundation, held there in January. Using some of my late brother's furniture, his kitchen block as a lectern and a variety of odd chairs to seat people, I gave lectures for the more than twenty people from here and the city, who showed up for the series I had called "Building Blocks for a Biblical World View."

There was a good response in interesting discussions following the lectures. For me it was a great pleasure to address the need for a substantial world view in a time of increasing political, moral and social fragmentation. From childhood on , the stress is so much on having an opinion, that we are now awash with opinions, distilled into sound bites, but rarely substantiated and almost never a part of a larger comprehension of what is involved in human life. In the church as well, there is no recognition of the information aspect of the Bible, telling us about God and Man, life and purpose, salvation from and for what. Where the Bible is still honored, it is more as a source for moral teaching and as a quarry for passages which makes us feel better, loved and hopeful.

Yet when Paul taught in Thessalonica for example, he addressed issues as far ranging as God and the idolatry of Greek gods; he gave a view of history, a morality and practical things that make up the scenery of life: Intimate and social relations, work habits and a call for a constructive criticism about all of life in the expectation of the real return of the Lord.

That same breadth of knowledge we also find in the Reformation or the Puritan emphasis on the sermon being the source of the framework for all of life: from meaning to marriage, from work to worship, from the arts to personal virtues as a response to God's wonderful word. Perhaps it is a mixture of democratic pluralism and demand for privacy which bring together that failure to search for and the lack of certainty.

In the absence of sufficient and convincing knowledge of the real world, we withdraw each into our own world of faith, experiences and interest groups. Whether in churches around here or on the exposure to many of the Western Christians on the Russian trips, the focus is almost always more on a "personal relationship" and "what I have experiences" than on "Thus says the Lord". Personal convictions reveal more what kind of a person I am than what I know about the real world from both science and God's word.

Such a shift is well discussed in Getrud Himmelfarb's excellent and scholarly presentation of The De-Moralization of Society , From Victorian Virtues to Modern Values. While much of the modern effort is to identify with certain values one hopes to embrace, present, and attain, the Victorians were much more focused on things they recognized as necessary to do. That started with cleanliness and punctuality and continued to honesty, thrift and hard work. Undoubtedly they also were not perfect, but their starting point was much more Christian and their world view therefore much more realistic. They did not choose a value, they chose to behave differently. For morals is not a matter of merely private opinion or preference, but of manners and practice in the real world of neighbors, work and public life.

David Wells clearly states the root of this shift of thinking in the loss of theology, not merely the formal study at a seminary, but also the informal engagement with the Bible out of a desire to understand reality. Modern man seeks to understand himself, by looking inward and figuring out how the body works, what produces moods and how loneliness or anger work themselves out in his self-experience. Biblical man receives from the creator a definition and comfort in history, some now and much later. His knowledge is based on the Word, who existed forever and was revealed, so that we would know.

Rather than looking for relief from his discomfort in groups, meetings and retreats, the Christian looks for it knowledge about God's love, character and instruction about which way life is to be chosen in order to have fellowship with others, relate to husband and wife and take charge, under God, in the tragedy of a fallen world. The experience of truth for the Christian takes place in the daily discovery that God does not lie, but is trustworthy. The modern person needs to find trust in other people, in prepared events, to experience what really he should be working to create.

We shall continue the lectures here at the Foundation House as well as in New York City in March, when I return from two more lecture trips to the Omsk region in Siberia and to Astrakhan on the Caspian Sea. But I do need your help as well.

I say this with some hesitation, as you know, since you have followed our life and work for some time. Yet at this time, there are concrete needs I want to mention to you. I do this at the urging of one of the participants in our lectures here and long-standing friend to state it directly and specifically.

We have been able to work under the Schaeffer Foundation, to lecture, write and to talk with many of you and others, because I had a salary from my teaching position at the King's College. That closed down last year. The Foundation never had enough money either to finish the work on the Schaeffer papers, the Carriage House facilities, or to start paying us a salary. Now we have come to a critical point. To continue and to use the place, to have more lectures and study sessions here, we need more gifts from partners in the work. I would ask that some of you kindly consider becoming such partners.

Specifically, I need a salary to be able to continue the work I have been doing under the Foundation for the last eight years. We have wonderfully received gifts towards the work from a number of you, which have paid for the basic expenses of the building and its outreach use, for health insurance and occasionally a contribution to our salary. But we have reached a critical point, at which I need to look for other work with much less time to devote to the Foundation, the work in Russia and here as well as the students in Europe, unless the Foundation can be supported by more of my readers and their friends.

In addition, we need donations to continue the scanning of the Schaeffer materials. We need shelves, seating, study tables and curtains. We need to paint the guest rooms/library/office upstairs and make the rooms usable. And we need equipment to read the scanned materials for study purposes.

I ask you to consider, how you or someone you know to be interested in the continuing contribution of Dr. Schaeffer's work and ideas in the current debate in our culture and in the Church might help and give to the work here. Gifts are tax-deductible, as they are used to fulfill the stated purpose of the Foundation. We are prayerfully facing a serious decision at this time.

Now that is off my chest. You know how difficult it is for me to ask for gifts, but then our friend's urging to be specific in describing our need was perhaps itself a gift from God.

On the Russian front, the last trip had taken me to Surgut and Nischnivartovsk in central Western Siberia. Both are oil and gas towns, newly planted and very much company towns. That was in November, before the elections, and the officials in town were extremely nervous. Only our personal presentation and assurances could finally persuade them to give a green light for the seminars. Then these were interrupted by political speeches of candidates, who wanted to use our audiences to present their case. I was amazed at the chatter, laughter, interruptions during the speeches. In addition, one man came to question us on our work in order to trick us. His questions and demeanor revealed the old KGB habits. But I managed to turn the inquiry around and ask him so many questions about Russia, religion and the state, that he wanted to know how we cope with religious pluralism, different ethnic groups and the workings of democracy.

In the second town, we received first a warm welcome, then an icy rejection, when the head of the education department heard that we would use the Bible, distribute it and present a school curriculum. She forbade all that, but while she spoke to our director about these limitations, I addressed the crowd and promised them all that material. That produced a ground swell of demand, and the lady had to back down. The teachers received all the material, while their head received much disdain by her teacher-underlings.

Now it shall be interesting to see, whether and how the climate has changed after the elections. My schedule is particularly heavy in the next three months, but I want to use the still open door. Then for summer, I am working on two study sessions in Russia under the Schaeffer Foundation in conjunction with an interested Foundation here. They would be like our Swiss study periods for interested teachers for a more in-depth study of Christianity, the Bible and culture. The delight of our time last summer gives me great hope to penetrate the fear, ignorance and to bring the wonder of God's truth and love to discouraged people there. Please pray for us in that matter.

As for the family, Hannah finished a good semester with excellent grades, after much discouragement in the heat of the politically correct setting of NYU. But she takes on the professors, finding scant support among some of the other students. Most of them are to uninformed to have material for a good discussion.

Naomi and Micah are in the midst of preparations for their June wedding here in New York. Naomi's work is interesting, though very tense and unusual, as she is the only American there and all the others speak Russian amongst themselves. But she is learning the language, taking evening classes each week.

Isaac is thriving in second grade. He is most lively, starling us and his teachers with the things he learns and applies. His piano playing is getting better, and he adds his own compositions often. The teacher is demanding and encouraging, a rare combination today. Debby continues to work hours in an educational book store and subverts the common wisdom with good books, the world of interactive computer games with the pleasure of discovering language, words and the mind.

We also continue the studies in the City at the home of John Edmark on Broadway at 86th. I gave a talk on the Commercialization of Jesus in the Church. Debby gave a good study of both Jane Healey's Endangered Minds and Illiberal Education by Dinesh D'Souza. Marla keeps those tapes available from her home in Pampa (Tel: 806-669 1965) out of the kindness of her heart and faithfulness to the cause.

In addition I gave a lengthy interview to a film team, which is preparing a PBS production on Evangelicals and their political influence in the last generation. They had never heard of Dr. Schaeffer, until Mike Cromartie suggested him. They became quite interested and seemed genuinely concerned about a fair treatment of the whole discussion, now summed up under the notion of the Religious Right. I wonder how they will edit the whole show. In addition, the Orthodox Activist will publish an interview with me. I wonder how they will bring some of the criticism I found in my exposure to Orthodoxy. But I am sure they will be fair.

I am off today for Russia and ask for your prayer, for safety, wisdom and rich opportunities. Pray also for the Russians, who have exposed themselves through deep commitment through the five years of the Seminars and now face uncertain times ahead. Please pray for the two Natasha's from Taganrog and their lives as Christians.

Next time I shall be able to give the times in the summer when we hope to have students with us in Switzerland. Those are good and solid times of study and discussions. Keep that in mind.

With warm and personal greetings,

Udo, Deborah, Naomi, Hannah, Isaac

Gifts to the Francis A. Schaeffer Foundation are tax-deductible and will be properly receipted.

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