Like countless others with physical and mental disabilities, Philippe, Michel, Andre and Patrick were labeled ‘idiots’, locked away and forgotten in violent asylums, until the 1960s, when the young philosopher Jean Vanier took a stand and secured their release – the first time in history that anyone had beaten the system. Together they created L’Arche, a commune at the edge of a beautiful forest near Paris. A quiet revolution was born.
Now in his 80s, and still at L’Arche, Vanier has discovered something that most of us have forgotten – what it is to be human, to be foolish, and to be happy. Summer in the Forest, a documentary about Templeton Prize winner, Vanier and his work with the intellectually disabled, is now available for screenings around the country through Tugg, the website that allows individuals to bring movies that haven’t enjoyed a wide release to a local theater.
Most of the film is set in Trosly-Breuil, a village at the edge of a beautiful forest north of Paris, where Vanier founded L’Arche, French for “The Ark,” which brings together people with and without disabilities to live in community. Today, approximately 5,000 people with disabilities live in 147 L’Arche communities in 35 countries.
Tim Shriver, Chairman of the Special Olympics shares his thoughts on the film.
“This film represents the best of L’Arche and Jean Vanier. The people shown in this film, Jean, Michel, Patrick, Phillipe, and Andre showcase the intricacies of humanity and the beauty of the human spirit. In particular, Jean’s story of how he accepted and included the people who society hid away and forgot reminds us all to live with open hearts and minds. It was a joy to watch and get to know them.”
In 2015, Vanier received the Templeton Prize, first awarded to Mother Teresa in 1973, for his exceptional contributions in the spiritual realm. The award is valued at $1.7 million and is one of the world’s largest awards given annually to an individual. Vanier has determined that one-hundred percent of the prize money will be used to benefit people with intellectual disabilities. He sees the Kingdom of God in the people at L’Arche. “The mystery of Jesus is hidden in weak people, fragile people,” he said.
Evangelical leaders such as author and Bible teacher Priscilla Shirer and disability advocate Joni Eareckson Tada share their response to Summer in the Forest. Shirer called the film “a breathtaking reminder of what true success and achievement look like.” Tada said L’Arche has helped change “people’s perceptions about strength and weakness. Because when it comes to living in a L’Arche community, everyone claims their weakness as a strength.”
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:29-32
Love one another. God calls us to love one another regardless of our differences. He created us each with unique qualities and traits. Rather than put others down for being different, share with that person what you appreciate about them. If other people are criticizing someone or putting them down, stand up for that person.
Serve others. Whether it is at church, in the classroom or in your neighborhood, there are individuals with special needs. There are ministries and organizations that pair people together for mentoring or helping with their daily errands. For others, it might be helping volunteer with an event like Special Olympics or Tim Tebow’s Night to Remember, which enables the special needs community to have their own prom event. It might even be donating resources for those ministries and events.
Organize a movie night. Grab your friends, family or small group and watch a movie that will inspire the group. It could be Summer in the Forest, Wonder or another movie. After the movie, talk about what you watched and how the movie impacted you. Allow people to ask questions. You can even organize a screening of Summer in the Forest with your church or ministry.
For more info on how to host a screening:
Here’s how Tugg works. The organizer picks out a date, time and place for the screening. Once the theater approves the request, tickets can go on sale. If the organizer doesn’t sell enough tickets before the event deadline to confirm the screening, no one will be charged and the event will be called off. For more information, please visit https://www.tugg.com/titles/summer-in-the-forest