This year's L'Arche@UP Christmas Celebration was a hit! Here are some photos in case you couldn't make it. We enjoyed visits from baby Jesus and Santa as well as caroling and a delicious dinner. Happy Holidays, friends of L'Arche.
“To love someone does not mean first of all to do things for that person; it means helping him to discover his own beauty, uniqueness, the light hidden in his heart and the meaning of his life. Through love a new hope is communicated to that person and thus a desire to live and to grow. The communication of love may require words, but love is essentially communicated through nonverbal means: our attitudes, our eyes, our gestures and our smiles.” – Jean Vanier
This year we lost our friend Rodney Gabriel, who lived at the heart of L’Arche Portland’s community life for over 25 years. Personally, it was a great privilege to walk with Rodney during the last 5 years of his life. He affectionately called me “Andy Pandy”, which was always a good reminder not to take myself too seriously. We also frequently shared our experiences and sad feelings about the deaths of our fathers when we were both young. I loved Rodney, like so many of us who were invited by him into friendship, and I will miss his invitation: “Come here, I wanna ask you something. Sit down, take it easy.”
There will never be another Rodney Gabriel, and it is hard to imagine another person whose life so clearly personifies the transformational power of community and relationships. Susan Mitchell, former community leader and housemate of Rodney, shared at his memorial:
“Rodney’s vulnerability and insecurity from the loss of his family in childhood and from the wounds of institutional living continued to express themselves through challenging behaviors. At the same time, his authentic self was emerging through the transforming power of love.
“My life, too, has been transformed through my friendship with Rodney. His love and acceptance of my vulnerability and challenging behaviors have helped me to become more fully my authentic self. Thank you, Rodney, for welcoming me, and so many others, into your life. Thank you for being my teacher and my friend. Your spirit and your love will live on in my heart always.”
This past year L’Arche Portland made the commitment to create more opportunities for people with and without intellectual disabilities to experience relationships that unlock our beauty, uniqueness, the light hidden in our hearts, and the meaning of our lives. Will you invest in L’Arche Portland so that more people might experience transformative relationships like those shared by Rodney, Susan, and so many others?
Henri Nouwen wrote, “In a world so torn apart by rivalry, anger, and hatred, we have the privileged vocation to be living signs of a love that can bridge all divisions and heal all wounds.” In a world divided and polarized, where otherness is often vilified, Rodney was one of our great teachers. I am grateful for the impact he made on so many of his friends, calling them to the vocation of peacemaking, and sending them into the world with the experience of building relationships and loving others beyond differences.
You can invest in this vocation of peacemaking by supporting L’Arche Portland today. We need your help to support the lives and relationships found within our current homes, our new home in Beaverton (to be opened in 2019), and the circles of friends that gather at our monthly community events: L’Arche@Tabor, L’Arche@Westside, and L’Arche@UP.
During this holiday season, I am grateful for your prayers and support of L’Arche Portland. As Rodney’s life shows us so clearly, we are making a difference in the lives of each person we encounter, and continue to be an unapologetic sign of love in a world starving for connection.
In gratitude and peace,
Andrew J Noethe
Executive Director | Community Leader
P.S. - As is our community tradition, we recently blessed a yard statue in memory of Rodney at our November L’Arche@Tabor gathering. This horse will live in the yard at our Neahkahnie home to remember Rodney and his love of animals and cowboys.