Joni and Friends Camp 2010

Well, I had another fantastic year at camp!  This whole post is just 5 days worth of  my “moments of joy.”
This time was very different, as you know.  I was teaching in the children’s program, so I did not have one person as a buddy.  This made it different of course.  I spent a lot of time in leadership meetings and doing planning and decorating where I would have otherwise been out involved with a family.  So I kind of felt like I missed a lot.  But there were two plusses: 1) not having a buddy enabled me to take Jacob along so I could fix his food at each meal, and 2) I was able to sit wherever I chose at most meals, so I could visit with all the families from our church (there were about 40 people all together this year!) and build some relationships that I’d take home with me.  They already asked me if I’d do it again next year, and I have in mind to take Mattie as well, so I guess I’m “stuck” teaching.  🙂  (I do love the actual teaching part.)  

Here are a whole bunch of random photos that will help you have the feel of camp.  But you know, you really ought to just be there with me!!  Just for some background, we were “traveling” in a hot air balloon around the world, with the theme being basically that God could do more than we ever can imagine in our lives.
This is our hilarious entertainment, JJ…J and Heinrich von Hindenburg, a balloonist in training and a professional balloonist now educating.  At this moment they are singing a song designed to teach us the parts of a hot air balloon (to the tune of head, shoulders, knees and toes), sung with a bad German accent:
Baaasket, burner, envelope, envelope.  
Baaasket, burner, envelope, envelope.
When you land you tie off with a rope,
Baaasket, burner, envelope, envelope!
(Now I’m not the only one with that song stuck in my head.)
Heinrich was also the guy who did children’s music and recreation, so we had more than a few good laughs through the weekend!
Here I am teaching something about China, though I haven’t a clue what it is!  (Isn’t that background beautiful?)
Jacob LOVED camp!  It was fun to see him come out of his shell in this environment.  I know some of you didn’t realize he had a shell, but he really does in large group settings, especially if he’s in a group where there is a lot of noise and chaos or where he doesn’t feel “safe” to make mistakes.

But here he had a great group of little boys to hang out with, and he did really well with it!

Here is the only five minutes Jacob and I spent just the two of us at camp.  🙂

This little guy is Matthew.  Matthew goes to our church, and his mom is a great friend of mine, so I know him well.  I had to show you this pic so you can see the look of utter joy on his face at taking off during this dress-up relay!  Matthew has only had this power chair for several months now, but he is a pro at driving it and loves the independence it gives him!
Matthew’s mom is also great about letting him do whatever he wants to, while providing however little or much assistance he needs.  Of course, he chose 3:00 on a ninety-five degree afternoon to want to climb on the jungle gym!

This was one of my favorite moments of camp, and honestly, what it’s all about.
Matthew talks very slowly and is very difficult to understand.  Kids in large group setting often get restless when Matthew is trying to say something, but he is so involved, he often has things to share.  One of the things we did is gave rewards to kids who could tell us what the colors of their gospel bracelets meant (hoping they’ll tell a friend one day!) and we had most of them do this in front of the entire children’s group.  For a whole lot of reasons, Matthew’s turn kept getting pushed off, but I didn’t want him to be the only kid who didn’t get a turn.  (Matthew is very smart and knows he often gets pushed aside because of his speech.)  So while we were on the playground, I asked the kids I had to gather around Matthew and let him share his gospel bracelet colors.  Ethan was wearing his bracelet, so I asked if he would hold it out so Matthew could see it.  But not only did he hold it out, he waited patiently while he talked and gave him clues (not the answer!) when Matthew needed them so Matthew could share all of the answers all by himself.  His patience and tenderness was so sweet to watch.  
As an aside, Ethan is one of 34 children adopted by his family.  Yes, thirty-four.  He has more than 15 siblings with significant special needs (whose stories are nothing short of amazing), a mother and father who love them all individually and fiercely, and a tender heart because of what the Lord has done for him.  (And just because it’s cool to share, he has a sibling group of 6 boys on their way to their home from Liberia!  This will be the last adoption for this 61 year old dad and his wife.)
Though a really odd face, Jacob was very excited about his crazy hair!  
Jacob has a need for things to be “just so” and if he gets an idea in his head that does not come to pass, it can be a very long time, or never, before he forgets it.  He’s legitimately disappointed, not just being a baby.  So on crazy hair day, my color-loving child was very excited to get his done for the first time!  But one of the older boys did not listen to Jacob’s desires and sprayed black, blue and gold on his hair, and way too much of all of them!  It wasn’t at all what Jacob wanted, and he was very disappointed.  Because I know how hard it is for him to let things go, and how disappointed he was, I tried to find some red to spray his hair, but all of the spray was gone.  My mama’s heart was sad for him.  (I share a little bit of this personality trait, so I understand how disappointing it can be when something unexpected happens.)
So the next day we were set up to do an art project the next day, and someone had brought the colored hair spray with the face painting supplies so the kids could do art on themselves!  I was so relieved for him!  I made sure to spray his hair myself and listen very carefully to his color requests.  He was so happy at how it turned out.  And I was thankful God gave Him another opportunity to do it.
Here I am doing a “volcano or not” quiz on Hawaii day.
Thank you for praying for me.  The lessons I planned fit well with out theme, the kids seemed interested and responsive, and I apparently did a power point that was much more than expected.  Go figure!  But God did what He wanted to and taught me quite a bit through it.
Here’s our children’s group performing our song for the talent show.  They did a great job! and I was quite impressed, as Jacob did motions in public for the very first time ever.
I do not even know this young lady’s name, but she was the happiest of all the campers, I believe.  She loved every minute of any large group program we had, and she knew the words – every. one – to hymns I’d never even heard of! and sang them loudly.  She was a delight!

Jacob and I got to go on a tethered hot air balloon ride!  
It was a sweet memory to make with him.  🙂
Of course he had to call Daddy right away to tell him all about it!
All in all, camp was fantastic. Again.  It is one of my favorite weeks of the year.  And I believe it is just a little bit of what heaven will be like.  The love and acceptance, I mean.  People are hurting, and life is hard.  But for just a few days camp is safe, it provides rest, and it offers much laughter.  Most importantly, we get to participate in the body of Christ worshiping with a purity unseen just about anywhere else.  You’ve just got to be there.

Will You Pray This Week?

I know I haven’t been on here much lately, and to be honest, I miss it!  Blogging provides and outlet for me, and it helps me to empty my brain of all of these things floating around in it!  I have photos to share also, but those will have to wait too.
In the past few weeks we’ve been out of town, Robert’s been out of town, and we’re still schooling through the summer, though Jacob is now off his ADHD medicine.  Enough said there, I’m guessing!  I’m also spending any free computer time planning what I’m about to ask you to be praying for…
I’m getting ready to go to Joni and Friends camp for the third year.  I LOVE this time!  I am totally in my element when I’m there, so while it is an exhausting week, I come home feeling very refreshed.
Like I said, I’m totally in my element there.  I am very “at home” among the disability community.  But each year I have ended up with an assignment outside my realm of experience.  I have had adults both years (where I’d prefer children, especially those in my own church so I can build relationships with those families), and one year had a non-verbal buddy.  This year I said I’d help with the childrens’ program however I could (thinking I’d be supporting one of my best friends in her responsibilities).  Then I said I’d teach.  (I can handle that.  I’ve taught for years and don’t mind it at all.)  Then I found out that teaching meant I had to write my lessons!  (I think the Lord has determined I will be out of my comfort zone!)
I can see how the Lord had His hand in this as the other two leaders had other major things come up during this planning time (emergency eye surgery for one, and a child’s wedding for the other) and would have had a terrible time getting everything done, but I’m feeling completely overwhelmed with nervousness.  I’m having to write lessons combining two unrelated themes, using a power point (never done that before), for a group of children ages 4-12 (cognitive levels 12 months to twelve years and including 21 boys!), and be fun, entertaining and challenging while I present the lessons.
I have the lessons written, though I’m not sure they’re really beefy enough to challenge the twelve year olds.  I’ve never taught anyone with a cognitive ability over 8.  I’m just really nervous about it all.  I’m nervous that the kids will be bored, unchallenged and that my lessons will take too little time to deliver.  Plus I’m really intimidated by our recreation guy – he’s a childrens’ pastor!
I have to say if I get there and it’s “not good enough,” there really is nothing more I could have done.  I have prayed over our theme verse for two months.  I have studied the context, prayed it for our children, begged God to give me my lessons, and spent a lot of time writing them.  So any lack is not because I have not given my best.  And I must say, the Lord has given me some pretty cool illustrations as I’ve studied this verse and put all of the themes together!
So will you pray for me this week?  Pray that I get the power point made and that it’s easy to use without being a distraction to me while I’m trying to teach.  Pray that I stay nervous enough to remember that I need God to work through me.  Pray that I choose to cast my anxiety on the Lord instead of allowing Satan to rob me of much needed prep-time this week.  Pray that the lessons will be “enough” for even the seven rowdy 12 year old boys.  And pray the I will bring HIM glory in my weakness, according to the power that is at work within me, and believe the lessons I’m teaching!!!  (He-llo!  Our theme is “God can do MORE than I can even imagine!”)
Now to HIM who is able to do immeasurably more than all I ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within me, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! 
Ephesians 3:20,21
One praise too… I get to take Jacob to camp with me this week!  I’m really excited about him getting to come, and he’s pretty excited too.  When I asked if he wanted to go to camp he asked if we were going to have bacon for breakfast.  Hmmmm…guess that’s really important to him!

I’m on TV!

Remember last year after Joni and Friends camp when I told you about the film crew that followed me? (It was Labor Day weekend, 2008.) Well, they finished up the tv episode and I got a copy of it this week. It was so fun to watch!

I have to say I definitely want you to go watch it. Because it’s so hard to explain 5 days of fun, joy, excitement, exhaustion, victory, bonding, friendship…”little slice of heaven” in just a few paragraphs and now I have 28 minutes of live explanation! It’s just such a great picture of how worthwhile it is to go to a Family Retreat, for volunteers and people affected by disability!

So please go watch it and show your friends! If you are not affected by disability, there is definitely a way you can serve at a family retreat, no matter who you are. If you are affected by disability in some way, you can attend this life changing event! There are family retreats all over the country from June to September, so there should be one available that you can get to. Please consider it! It will change your life for the better, I guarantee it.

Here is a direct link to the episode if you’re interested!

(Here are my first and second posts with pics from the week this was filmed.)

Joni and Friends 09 – lots of pictures

Well, I’m a month late, but better late than never! I didn’t want to miss my chance to share about my time at Joni and Friends this year. I thought I’d try and tell you a bit of how we do things at camp with my pics.

The STMs (Short Term Missionaries) get there a day before the campers. We spend some time in worship and training and doing things around the camp to prepare it for the campers. We decorate for our theme (this year was western/cowboy stuff), put sheets on beds, get acquainted with the layout of the facilities, etc.

We also make signs for every camper coming to camp…

…and use them to welcome our campers! Every camper gets a cheering welcome as they arrive. (I love this part!)

This is my camper from this year, Jenny.

Once the campers arrive we are on the go! STMs are assigned to be with our camper from 8 AM until 9:30 PM or so, with the exception of an afternoon break from 3-5. Our entire goal of camp is to help our camper (and their family) have the best time they can have.

Our (simplified) daily schedule looks something like this:

7:30 STM devotions
Morning break out groups (divided by ages or interest level)
Afternoon break out groups
Free time
Evening activities
10:00 Bedtime!!

During our break out groups we do age appropriate activities. The adult groups have times of sharing and encouragement as well as fun! They are anything you could possibly imagine!

Good old fashioned Musical Chairs! I haven’t played this game in twenty years or more, but it’s still fun.

Tie dying t-shirts (I’d never done this before. Jenny’s t-shirt turned out great!)

We have a pampering session with fancy refreshments and lemonade for the ladies. Katie loved her glass that was made for her and she got to take it home!

I started a manicure for Jenny, but after we filed her nails she heard that the pool was open and she wanted to go swimming.

Everyone participates in everything if they want to! Ewwwww.

Horse riding is always a hit!

Before we split off into our break-out groups, we all start together with worship, skits, and a sermon.

I think Jenny’s favorite part of camp was helping everyone clear their trays. She was so excited to be able to help!

The t-shirt triplets! (Jessica -in the middle- is in my Sunday School class)

Our children’s group. This group is made up of kids with disabilities, their siblings and STM’s children.

Sometimes we just do random things like color our hair with crazy colors. (Not many moms will give a can of purple hairspray to their 8 year old and tell them to go to town!) If you’ve never had the privilege of coloring your hair this way, be prepared… it stinks! I was very glad to get it rinsed out!

One of the neat things about camp this year was that they had a water slide! The campers LOVED it! Jenny talked about it incessantly and spent every possible minute on it.

But there is one unique thing about Joni and Friends camp…

No one misses an opportunity because of a disability.

Gwendy (who uses a wheelchair) got to go down the waterslide for the first time ever! She started a trend and 5 of our friends who use wheelchairs followed suit! We gave a new meaning to “pool party” that afternoon!

Megan (one of my Sunday School kids) got to fly down with her daddy!

And I got to go with Levi (another SS kiddo) a bunch!

There is a talent show each year as well. This is a talent show unlike any you have ever seen anywhere else. Everyone is encouraged to share some
thing, regardless of how well they do (based on typical standards). Everyone is whooped and hollered for, cheered on and celebrated!

And all inhibitions go out the window!

It doesn’t come without its struggles, though…
I was assigned to Jenny, an adult. She was in the youth program for all of our break-out groups. There were also three kids from my Sunday School class at camp this year, who of course were all in the children’s program. Because I was with the youth, I almost never saw any of “my” kids! One of the reasons we all went to camp together was to build relationships in a way we can’t do on Sunday mornings. I was looking soooooo forward to this time, but didn’t really get it because of our schedules. Even at mealtimes I needed to let Jenny choose where to sit. And because she had a bunch of friends there, she always wanted to sit with them. I struggled with being available to be where the Lord led the leaders to put me and really wanting to be with “my” kids so I could get to know their families better! So that was a bit frustrating. But it’s not about me now, is it?

I have to say, I love, love, love every minute of camp. It is exhausting, tiring, challenging, and stretching, but I feel so at home there it’s remarkable. It is a rest for me, because it’s where the Lord has placed my heart’s desire.

A big thank you to Robert and my friend, Jessica, who kept the kids so I could go! I appreciate the time so much!

My Reality TV Experience

Here’s an excerpt from a post a day before I left for Joni and Friends camp so you know what I’m talking about.

Joni – like Eareckson Tada, Joni – called the local Joni and Friends office from California last week and they are sending the media team to do a video highlighting short term missionaries. So they asked if I would be a part of it because I’m new. I said, “Sure!” Little did I know what they really meant! It’s not just a small interview like I thought… it will be in a reality tv format and I’m the main character! Hmmmmm… should be interesting! It’s actually gotten quite comical as we little nobodies communicate with the California office. I’ve never had a producer call me before! Ha! They’ll be there when we pull in until when we pull out. It’s called “No nerves!” So I guess I’d better not be nervous. The director passed on a message that said, “Just be yourself.” Well, that’s all I’ve got, so maybe I’ll come out okay.
So, how was it? Very interesting! (Here’s the post about my week at camp, reality tv aside!) I arrived before the camera crew, and when they got there an hour later, the craziness began. They were a crew contracted by Joni and Friends to do their tv show. Franklin Films is owned by Ken Carpenter. In some random conversation I found out they produced Amy Grant’s Dove award winning DVD from last year, some Steven Curtis Chapman and Michael W Smith stuff as well. Boy, were they in for a surprise with me! I’m not too refined in case you don’t know me.

They were not only there for me, but to focus as well on the director of a local Joni and Friends office. She had some interview time as well, and there were two camera guys, so there was definitely some time where they were elsewhere. The focus of the part involving me was Family Retreat from the Perspective of a First Time STM (Volunteer). That involved my anxiety, excitement, preparation, training, joy, sadness, victory, and exhaustion.

First I reenacted my arrival in Darlene’s van. I was pretty nervous at the beginning. I was driving in (a van I’d never driven with very sensitive brakes – made Mark fall against the dash from his precarious position on the edge of his seat once!), pensively, while answering questions posed by the director behind me (and trying to rephrase his question as part of my answer), with a camera pointing at me from the passenger seat. And be natural! Ha! Thankfully, we got through the reenacting part (I am totally not an actor) quickly and moved on to just being myself. That I can handle.

Joel (Jo ell), Me and Mark
There was a director and his three boys along as well, but they left before we had a chance to get to the camera.

My camera friends usually showed up at devotions each day before 8 AM and stayed around until my camper crashed each night around 9 or so. I did have a free time break for a couple of hours each afternoon, and boy did I need that, though not necessarily because of the cameras! (I went straight for my chocolate stash, my Bible and Bible Study, and my phone, unfortunately in that order.) Other than that daily break, I had a mic on me virtually all the time. Even if they weren’t recording at a particular moment, they could still hear my voice in their ear. (Actually, it would be very handy to have this for Jacob sometimes!) So basically, my “friends” followed me around the whole time. I’m sure they turned their volume down. I can’t imagine listening to me all day long! And I did have a mute button for potty trips or a few girl talk moments. 🙂

We did some formal interviewing where we chose the background and I pretended the camera was not there, then some interviews where it was much less formal and I spoke more directly to the camera. The interviews got easier as I went along too. I definitely fumbled my way through many of the questions. Thankfully they have a lot to choose from! Other than the interview time, I just got used to having a camera or two hanging around.

Katherine was intrigued by some video Mark had shot of her while at the rifle range.

It was a little odd, especially when I knew they were there, but I got used to ignoring them. There was one time that I had my head bowed for prayer. You know how you sense when someone is looking at you?? So I opened one eye and one of the cameras was less than 18 inches from my face. Try not laughing out loud at that one!

Overall, I would say it was a great experience. Once the director and his kids went home, Mark and Joel ate with our little group most of the time, so we got to know them too. I think I surprised them by asking questions about them, but I have to work at not talking to people, so I said if they were going to sit with us, Michelle (my camper’s mom) and I assumed they were going to engage! As far as I was concerned, they were more friendships to be made, camera crew or not. They just became a part of our little camp family by the end and seemed to enjoy being included. I was glad to have gotten to know them. They’re two great guys.

Michelle, Mark, Katherine, Claire, Joel, Me
Our Joni and Friends 2008 Family Group!

Two frustrations I had: Some people avoided me when the cameras were near. Some people still stuck around, and as the days went on others came closer, but the filming was definitely a hindrance for some people (though not because the camera crew was insensitive at all). Thankfully there was plenty of relaxed partying in our girls cabin when they weren’t around! I also didn’t want people to think I was doing anything differently for the cameras in a performing sort of way. I certainly would have done everything the same (well, except that I don’t normally reenact things!), and thankfully the situation was one where I felt very comfortable (being around the special needs population), so it really was natural. I just had to decide that the Lord knew my heart and I couldn’t worry about the rest. And that making this DVD was serving Joni and Friends in a different way in the long run.

The show will air in the Spring. That’s all I know. And surely I’ll get a free copy of it! (In case you’re interested, here’s Joni’s tv website where you can watch other episodes online.) It will be interesting to watch my 5 days of camp summarized in a 30 minute segment! I know their goal isn’t to spin it a certain way, but it will be interesting to see how situations look when only a 10 second snippet is shown. I’m certainly curious to see how it turns out!

I ended the experience as I began it. Driving Darlene’s van “alone.” Except this time I had Krystal and Caroline with their heads between their knees behind me. And Darlene’s head was in my lap! That is some good girlfriend bonding, let me tell you! The camera guys were filming my departure (from outside the car this time) and we were all in the van laughing hysterically! I actually had to stop driving because I was laughing so hard, though I’m certain it was a “you just had to be there” moment that was exponentially funnier because we were so exhausted. I do know at least 4 other people in this world think it was funny.

So there you have it. My few days as a reality tv subject. I’ll let you know when it’s airing in case you’re curious. I’m sure interested to watch it!

Editing to update a few years later:
I thought I’d include a direct link to the episode for ease in case you’re interested.

I’m Back from Camp!

My brain is still total mush from exhaustion and social output, but I’ll try to summarize my weekend. I have to say that as much emotion as I feel about my experience may just come across as wordy details to someone who’s merely reading. I’ll tell you anyway and do the best I can.

I realized I should post a general description of Family Retreats for those who might be interested. Joni and Friends is a ministry to serve families affected by disability. In the summer, they host Family Retreats all over the country for people to attend. There is financial assistance available, so don’t let that throw you off immediately.

Families come and enjoy fun outdoor activities adapted for ALL disabilities (ziplines, rope courses, fishing, tubing, swimming, etc.), small groups, rest, worship, music, comedy, dancing, a talent show, and family style dining. It is an opportunity to be accepted and loved like nowhere else. There is no person that is too odd, strange, loud, uncooperative, or disabled to fit in and be loved and celebrated at camp. Each family has an STM (short term missionary) assigned to the person with disabilities who will spend most of the camp with that person. The STM’s responsibility is to host, help with mealtime, and stay with the camper so the caregivers are free to experience camp at their leisure. It’s definitely a great time for all! I would encourage every family affected by disability to attend. If you know anyone who is affected by disability, please let them know about it. And anyone else who wants to serve as an STM. It’s a great time to get out of one’s comfort zone and serve others!

Here’s what camp was for me…

We arrived at Camp ASCCA in Alabama for a Joni and Friends Family Retreat. It’s set on beautiful Lake Monroe and is a great place!

perfect quiet time spot!

We arrived and got settled while feeling like twelve year olds. We were in bunks – 16 per room! – and had community showers! I was not surprised because I had looked online at the camp site. I also had no previous camp experience to which I was comparing, but it was evidently drastically different from years past. I cannot even begin to pass on all the conversations that were had about these two details. Darlene and I ended up finding an unused shower with a curtain in another building that we frequented instead. All in all, we all decided that the positive definitely outweighed the negatives of the housing situation. We had many late night talks and laughs in our delirium (not to mention line dancing at almost midnight) that would never have occurred were we in hotel style accommodations. I made 14 friends I would have missed otherwise, not to mention the 16 ladies on the other half of our cabin!

We had two training sessions at the beginning and then got our camper assignments at 10:30 on Friday. Remember what I said about getting a teenager?? Well, no surprise, I got a 19 year old. And a 13 year old apprentice helper named Claire!

Michelle, Me, Katherine, Claire

My camper’s name is Katherine. She has a genetic disorder with many autistic like characteristics. She is non-verbal, though definitely not non-communicative! In all my experience, I’ve not interacted closely with anyone like Katherine. I knew the non-verbal part would be a challenge and might make for a long weekend (only because talking can fill up a lot of walking or resting time). Talking with people with special needs is half the fun, sometimes. So that was my anxiety: not being able to understand what she needed or wanted from us.

Meeting Katherine didn’t go so well as she was exhausted, late, overwhelmed, and not too interested in a new friend. Katherine’s mom is Michelle and was very friendly and easygoing.

One fun part of the weekend is welcoming all of the families. We made posters with all of their names and stood cheering as they arrived and get out of their cars. It’s a great way to let them know how excited we are that they’re with us for the weekend!

I had asked the Lord to give me a gift of understanding by lunchtime. I wanted to know some of Katherine’s communication so I could help her feel secure, loved and have a great time. God gave us that gift within the first half an hour! Claire and I quickly noticed Katherine’s attempts at communication and Katherine seemed to be settling in with us nicely. We took her to the rifle range and she loved shooting! That was the first smile we saw.

Later that day we did the zip line twice (my first time!) and seemed to enjoy that as well, though no smiles.

More settling in with each other, and the highlight of the weekend… seeing Katherine grin from ear to ear while riding around the corral on a horse. She absolutely LOVED it! Thankfully our group was small so she got to do it three times!

We had one last chapel service and loaded everyone up! Took some last pictures and said our good byes.

There was so much more that happened, but the details would probably be very boring to read and would make for a much longer blog post than this already is!

Claire was a delight to work with. She’s teachable, cheerful, responsible, helpful and dependable. We got along great! She’s definitely my kind of teenager!

I was very weary by the end of every day. Not sleepy, but just needing to shut down a bit, I guess. I had a camper who did not talk and it was my responsibility to provide a great camp experience. Then I had Claire and Michelle with me almost the whole time as well. We all got along perfectly, but I was worn out by days’ end, that’s for sure!

I had a delightful time. A week like this is vacation for me. I LOVE being around this population. I’m definitely going back, and now that I’ve been once I know how I could do it and take my kids along. I’d like for them to grow up with camp memories full of their friends with disabilities.

Robert (who was home with the kids) started throwing up within 4 hours of my arrival at camp… nothing like some spiritual warfare to start off the weekend. It proved to be quite a distraction as I struggled with total guilt and second guessing my decision, but finally was relieved of that during some very welcome quiet time I had with the Lord on Sunday afternoon. I had prayed for some time about going, the Lord made a way, Robert was okay with it before I committed, and I had no control over his stomach virus. One of my friends at camp who knew I was struggling said, “Do you trust that you are where the Lord wants you this weekend? If you do, then you have to trust that Robert is right where the Lord wants him as well.” Hmmmm… sounds harsh, and I certainly wouldn’t wish that experience on him, but God was in control here too.

There was a talent show Sunday evening. Many of the people with disabilities performed in different ways. They sang songs with words that were not understandable. They had no noticeable pitch accuracy. They stumbled all throughout their performances. But they had practiced hard, had more heart and less pride than anyone I’d ever seen, and each one of them received an exuberant standing ovation from their peers. That is one show I’ll go to again and again.

One of the highlights of this trip was the drive there and back. I rode with a friend, Darlene, and her two teenage girls (who had school work to do). Darlene and I teach SS together and do other disability ministry things, but rarely have time for a conversation, so I was looking forward to some time to visit with all of them. We had a great time! We had some good girl talk, totally avoided economics in the back seat, and arrived totally giddy and excited about the weekend. The ride home was no less exciting. We began in hysterics about a camera crew incident, celebrated with Starbucks, and kept ourselves in stimulating conversation as an effort to keep our eyes open. I have to say that if my children turn out anything like these girls, I’ll be more than pleased!

Caroline, Darlene, Me, Krystal

I have no absolutely complaints about the weekend. It was fantastic and is an experience that would bless anyone. I would encourage families affected by disability to attend and be loved on, served, accepted, and celebrated. I would encourage anyone else to attend camp in order to serve, accept, love, and celebrate. What a privilege!

Off to Joni and Friends!

I leave tomorrow morning for Joni and Friends Family Retreat in Alabama. The Family Retreats are for families affected by disability and are a ton of fun I hear! I’ll be serving one specific family while I’m there as a partner to a person with disabilities. Not sure who that is yet…

Interestingly enough, Joni – like Eareckson Tada, Joni – called the Knoxville office from California last week and they are sending the media team to do a video highlighting short term missionaries. So they asked if I would be a part of it because I’m new. I said, “Sure!” Little did I know what they really meant! It’s not just a small interview like I thought… it will be an hour long reality tv format and I’m the main character! Hmmmmm… should be interesting! It’s actually gotten quite comical as we little nobodies communicate with the California office. I’ve never had a producer call me before! Ha! They’ll be there when we pull in until when we pull out. It’s called “No nerves!” So I guess I’d better not be nervous. The director said, “Just be yourself.” Well, that’s all I’ve got, so I should be okay.

Pray for no rain as we’re right in front of Gustav by the end of the weekend. Pray for safety, energy, and a non distracted time of service! I’m very much looking forward to it as I’ll be smack in the middle of the group of people I love most, well second to my hubby and kiddos. And pray for them too! Two days is the longest I’ve been gone from the kids up to this point. The kids will be with Robert and friends, so I’m sure they’ll have a great time!

Be praying as well for two little boys in my Special Needs Sunday school class.
Daniel – 3 1/2 – Severe complications from epilepsy have left him non-responsive with little hope of coming out of it. His 21 year old mother is terribly overwhelmed at the thought of parenting him in a vegetative state. He had Cerebral Palsy before this, but this round of seizures have damaged his brain much more than it already was.
Matthew – 7 – He aspirated a cucumber last week and woke up with pneumonia several days later. He has had 5 days of antibiotics and is still fevering. If the cucumber does not dissolve in short order he will have to have surgery to remove it. He also has Cerebral Palsy. Just pray the the Lord will clear his lungs without any further treatment.

Thanks for praying…