Serving at Joni & Friends Family Retreat

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Last summer, I got the privilege of volunteering at Joni & Friends Family Retreat
Over the years, I heard how the retreat has been such an encouragement for family with who has family member with disability and I wanted to learn more. 

When my dear sister in Christ, Fonda, told me about her going home to Indonesia for good and her last time to go to Joni & Friends retreat; I thought it would be a great if we can go spend time together volunteering instead of just traveling somewhere together but I realized so many things need to be arranged because I have two kids that need to be taken care of.

As we prayed and time drew near; God slowly opened the way. Starting with my husband's blessing, a week of Chinese summer camp for my kids, and a sister in Christ who help with transportation for my kids since my husband had to work very early in the morning. God is so good. Even so, there were many things that distract me but I am learning to trust Him, knowing that He doesn't call the qualified He qualifies the called.

The week began with training for the volunteer. We are to be a companion to a child or adult with a disability while the parents or care givers join the retreat program. Out of respect for the families, I won't share any pictures or details about them.

The song that we sang in the beginning of the camp summed up what the volunteers are about: 

During the training we learned important things such as: how to communicate with someone who is non-verbal;
What it feels like to have disabilities, not being able to see, talk, or use our hands/ body properly.
The exercises helped us to understand our camper's pain or challenge better.  
At night, we had our sharing and praying time with our small group then we made a welcome board for the families.

Have you ever seen welcoming ceremony at Joni and Friends retreat? It was amazing! 
Imagine being someone different than everybody else. You may feel lonely, not accepted but not this day. You're more than welcome. We're here for you. We're waiting for you and celebrating you.  I was crying the entire time we're doing this:

While the parents or caregivers were at the retreat program, the volunteers were spending fun times with the kids.
I love this thing called Happy Grams where we can leave our thank you note to other campers, parents, volunteers, or staffs at the camp.
There were line dancing, festival, talent show, candle light dinner for the parents. At the end, we're all very tired, had a lot of fun, and I was blessed and learned a lot by watching the amazing parents love their kids patiently and unconditionally.    If you have chance to go volunteering at one of Joni and friends' family retreat, I highly recommend it. I trust that you will be blessed by going.