This past week I had the huge privilege and joy of serving at Joni & Friends Retreat for families affected by disability. (more info) This truly was a life-shaping experience that has forever changed how I view and interact with this invaluable community. Spending focused time playing, eating and just getting to know people impacted by cerebral palsy, autism, and downs syndrome has helped me see the beauty and inestimable worth of each person God has created! Over the next few days I would love to share with you some of the amazing people I met and the miraculous ways God moves at these camps.
On the first day we gave a hearty welcome to each family as they drove onto the grounds of camp. We got a message from the guard gate whether the family would like a loud welcome with cheering and shouting or quiet welcome with hand waving and smiling. As the cars would drive-through we could see the faces of the excited campers as well as parents. Seeing the unbridled look of joy in the face of an eight-year-old boy with down syndrome felt like we were touching something eternal. It was almost too beautiful for words – like looking into the sun. The huge smile, flailing arms and crazy laugh of a teen boy affected by cerebral palsy brought us all to tears. These families have waited 51 weeks to once again come to Joni & Friends Family Retreat. What a foretaste of heaven where we will all be accepted, celebrated and welcomed with great joy.