Celebrating 5 Years

Published 22 January 2024

Meet Andrew Miller!

Andrew has been apart of L’Arche Chicago for 5 years, currently serving as the House Coordinator for Friendship House.

How did you first hear about L’Arche and why did you want to join?

I first heard about L’Arche through my childhood church, (Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren.) My pastor was a huge Henri Nouwen fan and would often quote him. A member from my church (Rebekah Flores) worked at L’Arche Chicago for around 7 years. In 2008 and 2009 I was a friend of L’Arche Chicago. Rebekah would bring the core members to church often on Sundays. Chris was a regular at my church for a year or two. They invited me to Angel House for dinner. I came over a few times during that time and we had a lovely picnic in Elgin. I fell in love with them and loved the community of L’Arche. When I was looking for a job, L’Arche Chicago was not hiring. I wanted to do something more meaningful than flipping a pan at Noodles and Company. I reached out to Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) and joined in 2015. BVS is a full time volunteer program through the Church of the Brethren. I was placed at L’Arche Belfast in Northern Ireland. I had signed up for 1 or 2 years and fell in love. I ended up staying 3 years all together. I learned a lot about myself while I was there. The love I received from the core members made a huge impact on my life. It became clear to me that this was what I was meant to do with my life. While I was there I was a reference person for a core member in the home I shared life in. I was her reference person for about 2 years. I would sit down with her monthly to talk about her goals and finances. Sometimes we would go out for tea, go on a walk, or just be at home. I would also be in charge of her binder, updating it and making everything current and up to date. I would cook with her once a week and encourage her to come up with new receipts to try. We did a lot of fun things together and one highlight was going to Dublin together. One of her goals was to see a concert with every reference person. We made an overnight trip to Dublin to see Britney Spears. The next day we took the hop on hop off the bus and explored the city together. I was blessed to go on some trips with the core members. I also went on vacation with another core member from our home to Krakow, Poland. The outings like these will forever be precious memories for me.

Do you  have a favorite memory from your time at L’Arche Chicago?

This is a very hard question for me. I just celebrated my 5th year at L’Arche Chicago this month, making a total of 8 years with L’Arche. There are so many precious memories. Memories of grilling and cooking with Elbert, going on house vacation with Friendship House, ride drives with Chris, going to the planetarium with Noah, going on walks and coffee adventures with Tim. I have very found moments sharing life these past 5 years. I also have a fond memory of going to the regional gathering in Clinton, Iowa summer of 2019. I was sharing life with Peace House at the time. Our house stopped by the John Deere Museum. John had a blast and I helped him into every tractor he wanted to sit in. I lived at Friendship House from January 2019 until April 2021. When I lived in, I would come up on my time away often to hang out with the core members. I remember watching movies with Elbert and Tim often. When I became coordinator in July 2022 we made a Monday movie night event where Tim, Elbert and I would watch horror movies. It was a special bond the three of us had together and was very important to us.

What is something that the L’Arche Community might not know about you?

My grandparents ran the soup kitchen in Elgin, Illinois for 30 years. I volunteered most of my Saturdays there from when I was 10 until my mid 20’s and volunteered when I could until 2020. I would go with them, we would be the first to get there and the last to leave. I had many different jobs there through the years. Setting up tables and chairs, rolling the silverware, helping cook in the kitchen, cleaning the bathroom and floors, serving food, giving out food cloths and other needed items. My grandparents were basically saints and did so much for the community that often went unseen. I remember my grandma would always set items aside for people. They both knew everyone there and would sit down at the tables and talk with everyone. They were the only ones who took the time to individually get to know everyone who attended the soup kitchen. They knew who needed what and who just wanted to take things. It made it so that people who were more in need were able to get the first dibs at bigger items like coats, shoes, gloves, socks and so on. The soup kitchen was part of my life in a homey way. When they had to retire, the soup kitchen was a lot different. I went with my dad often after they retired. He was the head chef there for 5 or so years. It wasn’t the same and after a while my dad and I stopped going altogether. The last time I volunteered at soup kitchen was around January 2020.

What is something you’ve learned during your time with L’Arche?

I have learned how to be more patient with myself and with others. I have learned to be kind to myself and learned where some of my hang ups in life have come from. I have learned to embrace community and share life with many different people. I have been able to spot the beauty in ugly situations. I have learned so much over the past 8 years about myself and disability. I learned it’s not just about helping people. It’s about learning about myself through others. It’s about sharing joys and heartaches with others. It’s about embracing my gifts and the gifts of others and celebrating our similarities as well as our differences. It’s about teaching and learning with others. There is so much to learn from the community. There hasn’t been a month that has gone by where I haven’t learned something new about myself or others in the community that has helped me grow as a person, as well as help others I share life with learn about themselves and others. I have embraced L’Arche and feel at home. I am blessed to have L’Arche in my life and am excited to see what the future holds.