In 1844, when Pastor Jean-Antoine (“John”) Bost was appointed minister to La Force, a small village in southwestern France, by the Reformed Church in France — a partner church of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) — he was deeply touched by the serious social problems of his time.

In 1848 he opened the first of a number of buildings intended for those in social distress, and for handicapped and incurably ill children, for whom there was no other provision. By the time of his death in 1881, nine houses had been opened.

There are now 22 units for mentally ill and disabled people and for elderly people who cannot look after themselves. With more than 1,200 professional staff looking after some 1,000 residents, the Fondation John Bost is the largest employer in the department of Dordogne.

As it works in partnership with a wide variety of organisations, this Protestant foundation bears fruit well beyond the world of Protestantism. It serves the wider community as a witness to Christ’s unconditional acceptance and to His Gospel, which knows no boundaries. From the beginning, Bost wanted residents to be received in an open environment “without walls or fences,” as evidence that we are all, handicapped or healthy, children of the Father.

For more than 160 years, the Foundation has affirmed and recognized the dignity of all human beings whatever the disability or disease that affects their lives; seeing vulnerability as an aspect of humanity; affirming that there is always a way forward; and attesting that all have a calling to be active citizens in the community and society. 

“Lord, remind me that all human beings are my fellows, whatever their age, state of health or handicap. You are at work in each of us to lead us to what is best in us and for us. That is your mission and we are here to serve it. Amen,” prayed Bost.

The above story was originally submitted to the 2012 Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study.