L’Arche Kenya from a core-member’s perspective

Reflections by Samuel Mutahi and captured by Patrick Ndahi

Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Its so heart warming that happiness never decreases by being shared in our two houses, Betania Home and Effatha Home, and in our Marleen workshops.

This pierce of writing is the result of a discussion I had with Samuel Mutahi, a core member of L’Arche Kenya, who is currently working in a Candle Workshop, which is one of the 5 Occupational Therapy (OT) workshops run by the community. Mutahi’s passion for candle making ticks, and listening to him explain the basics of making one, turns the task into a hobby.

The symbolism of candles is reflected in many ways in our religious and cultural traditions, but more importantly, a handmade candle lit in L’Arche community represents a love radiated by core members and their assistants in their living and working together in a spirit of welcome, sharing and simplicity.

Candles are made to burn, but even if they don’t, they still can be beautiful as decoration. In our daily living and working in the workshops, we discover the secret of what is unique in ourselves as core members and assistants. We also realize how each make a unique contribution to the wider community, and that we are not just people in the houses and working in the workshops; we are a part of the world with a message, a mission and a purpose.

Most of us enjoy the splendor and glory of candles. They are possible reminders of our possible triumph over darkness. In our community, we welcomed Dennis, Daniel and Claude in July, 2013 to our workshops as day-programme core members. They have been a source of joy to us as they reveal their value and beauty to us, and challenge us to be generous with our time, attention and tenderness. This year in January, we welcomed Alex to our day-care program, but also welcomed Dennis to Betania Home the very month.

When a candle burns, the melting wax on the candle in a way disfigures the candle, representing the risk of pain that exist in a love relationship. Community life is painful but it is also a marvelous adventure and a source of life. The presence of the likes of Dennis, Daniel, Mutahi and the other sixteen core members in our community reminds us of the fragility of human life.

“It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness”, goes an old saying. But just as a candle cannot burn without fire, assistants and core members in L’Arche Kenya cannot love without a spiritual life. We base our trust in God in our daily working and walking together.    

Finally, there are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflect it……