Joni and Friends Blog

Doing Nothing Is Not An Option!

Coronavirus may have closed down retreat centers this summer, but it didn’t stop us from sharing God’s love with children and families impacted by disabilities.

Far from it!

When our traditional Family Retreat plans needed to be put on hold temporarily, Family Retreat At Home was born, and the Gospel was delivered right to families’ front doors! 

Liz and her daughter Paige, who has Down syndrome, look forward to Family Retreat all year. Liz couldn’t contain her tears when she learned that COVID-19 was trying to threaten her chance to connect with other moms of children with special needs. But when she saw the sparkle in her daughter’s eyes as our Joni and Friends volunteer dropped off a beautiful care package full of personalized gifts and encouragement, Liz’s hope was renewed. 

Through Christ-centered crafts, Bible stories, worship and personal connections with other families via Zoom, Liz and Paige experienced the love of God in powerful and tangible ways. Through Family Retreat At Home, special needs families all over the country discovered that social distancing can’t get in the way of God’s embrace! 

“Turn and answer me, O Lord my God! Restore the sparkle to my eyes…”

–Psalm 13:3

Neko, who has Down syndrome and Graves’ disease, loved every aspect of Family Retreat At Home. “It’s been so good for him to interact with others this way,” explained his mom, Elizabeth, who has also been blessed by the connections made during the Joni and Friends Moms’ Bible study groups on Zoom.

It may be different than being together in the same room, but God’s Word and the incredible support of everyone involved – staff, volunteers, and other families – is the same. 

And Neko’s sister Charity, who also has Down syndrome, worshipped the Lord with streamers. It was one of her favorite parts of our traditional Family Retreat, and it’s now become part of her Family Retreat At Home experience. Her mom Elizabeth explained that after being isolated for so long due to shelter-at-home restrictions, Family Retreat At Home was a welcome and much needed connection to the outside world. These weary families were overjoyed to learn that they are not alone!

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His faithful love endures forever.”

–Psalm 136:1

Special needs families are brought closer and closer to Jesus through Christ-centered respite events all over the country. When we asked worn out and weary parents of children with disabilities how we could best serve them, they were loud and clear…

They need rest!

With schools closed and therapy sessions at a standstill, the moms and dads of children with disabilities are all but depleted from their 24/7 caregiving responsibilities. More and more marriages are falling apart during this global pandemic as spouses buckle under the strain of disability and isolation. But Joni and Friends is committed to doing everything we can to reverse that trend! 

All across the country, Joni and Friends respite events are not only ministering to children with disabilities, they’re carving out time for husbands and wives to have some much needed time together away from the demands of their caregiving routines.

As families arrive at these special events, they’re met with the heavenly reminders that they are loved and valued.

And while their children enjoy interactive Bible crafts, lessons and worship – all socially distanced, of course  moms and dads are given a gift card for dinner so they can have a longanticipated date night knowing their children are safe and happy. 

Couples are renewing hope in their marriages, and as a result the entire family is strengthened. And after their date night, parents are reunited with their children to experience godly entertainment that brings joy to all. “Thanks for letting me hear people laugh again!” said one father who had been discouraged by COVID-19 restrictions. Indeed, laughter is good medicine! 

Five-year-old Sawyer and his family loved our Joni and Friends Tennessee respite event. Sawyer has arthrogryposis, preventing him from being able to walk on his own. But he and his parents were able to see past the hardships of disability through the joy and laughter they found through Joni and Friends. For Sawyer’s family and for countless others like theirsrespite is a bridge to the Gospel that sends relief and renewed hope to special needs families!

“Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’”

–Psalm 126:2

Change The World For Jesus!

God can use you right where you are to change lives and indeed, change the world for Jesus! Your gift of any amount will make an eternal difference in the lives of countless families needy for hope in their hardships. 

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