Joni and Friends Family Retreat is an amazing camp. It is a place where people are encouraged, loved, and cared for. It is a time when people who have special needs can enjoy relaxation and fun with their families. My family and I volunteered at Joni and Friends as short-term missionaries (STMs) to help serve the campers there.
This was my first time to go to Joni and Friends. When I heard that my sister Beth and I would be helping with a little boy named Reed, I was very excited! I had been hoping to help with the younger kids. The time for the campers to arrive came and went. Reed’s family didn’t show up. We found out later that they had been in a car accident. Thankfully none of them were seriously injured, but because of the delays, they weren’t going to be able to make it to camp. I began to get worried as to what I would end up doing for the rest of the week! But as I was uselessly fretting over something that hadn’t even happened yet, I remembered how God has our future in His hands. It gave me peace to think about how He knows our future, and how He gives us His hope so that we can endure the trials in that future.
For the rest of the week, I ended up helping another STM with a little girl named Natalie. She was very energetic and often very happy. I think swimming was her favorite activity. She loved the pool and got very excited around water. When we went fishing, she seemed to want to swim with the fish more than catch them. She also loved bubbles. Every time we blew her bubbles she would smile so big, I couldn’t help but smile too. Her smile encouraged me several times throughout the week to have a cheerful attitude even when I felt tired. Natalie’s family was very sweet and friendly; I enjoyed getting to meet them.
One of my biggest struggles was stepping out of my comfort zone. I am normally a very quiet person and an introvert, so I was a bit nervous when I found out that I would be helping an STM I’d never met before, with a camper I had never met before. Thankfully though, that nervousness went away as the week progressed. Before the week was over I met lots of new people! I found that the more I trusted Christ with my time at camp, the less I worried about it.
My time at camp gave me a taste of what it is like to really serve others with Christ’s help. It also opened my eyes to the reality of what it is like to actually sacrifice something for Him. I have given time and effort in serving before, but never to the extent He enabled me to at Joni and Friends. It amazes me to think how much Christ served and sacrificed for others. He sacrificed His life for the whole world (John 3:16), and served others for His entire lifetime on earth. All I did was sacrifice my time for one person for a mere five days. Joni and Friends gave me a renewed appreciation for what Jesus Christ has given me.
God helped me step out of my comfort zone several times during the week. He also showed me how serving with the right attitude makes a difference, and how trusting in Him really is what gets me through the tough spots.
I would like to thank all who financially or prayerfully supported me. Joni and Friends camp was at times challenging, but it was also an amazing opportunity to grow in Christ by serving others. It is an opportunity that I hope to have next year. To me, Joni and Friends camp was one of those things I wasn’t too sure about starting out, but now I am very glad I went. I would encourage whoever can go, to go next year. It was so neat to witness how God’s hope changes lives.