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Joni and Friends Blog

The Least Qualified Volunteer

Written by: Jase Magarifuji

“Why did you place me here God? Maybe this isn’t for me….” These were some of the thoughts that filled my head as I sat at my desk, just three months after being hired at Joni and Friends. I loved my coworkers and the Joni and Friends culturebut something was missing... 

I came into Joni and Friends with no prior disability ministry experience. I didn’t have family members, friends, or even casual interactions with people impacted by disability. I listened to my friends and coworkers tell their Family Retreat stories during staff meetings, encouraging the rest of us to attend one as well. I sat through every story thinking, “That sounds nice, but it’s not for me.”      

Fast-forward three months to July 2017. After being asked multiple times if I was attending our local Family Retreat and saying “no” every time God intervened. A few days before the retreat started, two volunteers had to withdrawThe Church Engagement department at Joni and Friends asked me to go in their place. After God made it VERY clear that He wanted me to go, I reluctantly said, “Yes.”  

I listened to my friends and coworkers tell their Family Retreat stories during staff meetings, encouraging the rest of us to attend one as well. I sat through every story thinking, “That sounds nice, but it’s not for me.”

Terrified, I packed my bag, hopped in the car, and off we went. By God’s grace, I was paired with a camper named Alex, whose family had been going to Family Retreat for 11 years! They taught me how to love those impacted by disability and what disability ministry truly looked like. 

I saw the love of God so present in everyone there that by the end of the week I said to God, “Thank you Lord, this is what I want to do for the rest of my career.” I went to Family Retreat with zero special needs ministry experience, and it completely changed my life for the better. 

Here are three of the most important things I learned at Family Retreat:  

  1. You DON’T need prior experience. The bottom line is this: you DON’T need specialized training to be a friend. You DON’T need a PHD in special education to love someone. All we’re asking you to do is to be a friend and love the person affected by disability.  
  2. You will be blessed more than you will bless. I went to Family Retreat thinking, “How am I possibly going to bless my camper when I have no idea what I’m doing?” Turns out, God sent me there to be blessed by my camper, to see how he loves others and how genuinely he wanted to get to know me. It’s contagious and will make you want to do the same for others. 
  3. You will see God aFamily Retreat. You’ll meet people who don’t care about height, weight, ethnicity, what kind of car you drive, etc. These people just want to love you for who you are, and you’ll experience God’s presence like never before.

If you have not attended Family Retreat yet, please do. The thought of going is a little daunting at first but take it from me, the least qualified volunteer, it will be one of the best things you have ever done.

Listen to more from Jase about how a week of fun, community, and worship with the whole body of Christ literally felt like a slice of heaven.

Volunteer at a Family Retreat!

Family Retreats offer a haven for families impacted by disability. In a fully accessible camp environment, families are cared for, rejuvenated, and encouraged in Christ.

Learn how you can get involved and volunteer at a Family Retreat near you!

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