Joni and Friends Blog

The Refreshing Love of Jesus Found at Family Retreat

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.”

Lamentations 3:22

Molly, a single mom in Mississippi, has found that parenting a child with autism can be a challenging battle. Her days include a constant fight for medical therapies and behavioral services, feeding and sleeping issues, self-injurious behaviors, and communication difficulties. Then there are the ongoing battles involving insurance coverage and educational environments…

Molly rises to meet each day’s battle with a heart overflowing with love for her daughter, Savannah, but it can be exhausting.

Molly adopted Savannah from Shijiazhuang, China in 2014 and remembers, “She came home as a very malnourished two-and-a-half-year-old weighing under 20 pounds. Upon leaving China, Savannah’s diagnosis was cerebral palsy. However, we knew even while in China there was much more to her story.”

“Once home Savannah saw just about every specialist there was, and slowly we discovered what a complex little puzzle she truly is. She was diagnosed with a rare genetic condition called Dup15q, autism, global development delay, hypotonia, receptive and expressive language disorder, and sensory and feeding issues. I had a lot to learn!” recalls Molly.

Together, Molly and Savannah got to work. Countless hours of therapies, doctor appointments, and exploring every possible way to provide Molly with the help she desperately needed in order to be all she could be. “In the past six years, this little one has blossomed into a happy and delightful little girl whom I love with all my heart. It has been a joy to watch!” beams Molly.

“The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.”

Psalm 126:3

Molly sacrificially provides Savannah with “all the things she needs so she can meet her most God-given potential,” yet advocating for her child with a disability proved to be a new challenge. “Our journey continues, and many days are a battle in advocating (or fighting might be the better word) some days for the most basic things Savannah needs. The life we live is hard many days. It’s exhausting. Some days I don’t know what to do or where to turn for help.”

“I lift my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

Psalm 121:1-2

You may never hear about the fear, exhaustion, and isolation that is often a large part of living with autism. Yet as Christ-followers, we are commanded to come alongside and strengthen our brothers and sisters in Christ when we see them on the battlefront – to build each other up!  Molly and Savannah experienced this very thing at our Joni and Friends Mississippi Family Retreat!

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

1 Thessalonians 5:11

Attending Family Retreat offered Molly the opportunity to connect with other families in similar situations. Lasting friendships were forged through the joy and simultaneous pain of living with disability. Numerous stories were told, the Bible was studied, and meals were enjoyed together. In all those moments, God was knitting the hearts of his people together in unity, love, and service. Molly was strengthened for her daily, God-given battle of advocating for her little girl!

Savannah was blessed with friendship, joy, and the gift of serving Christ with her Family Retreat buddies, as well. And everyone at that Family Retreat experienced the refreshing love of Jesus as they took a break from their daily battles in order to be rejuvenated by God’s amazing grace.

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