My 2012 highlight just occurred at a Joni Camp on the Oregon Coast. I was scheduled to do my usual – lead the Woman-to-Woman support groups – but God promoted me to the role of main speaker when the camp pastor took ill the last minute.
What a privilege to give the three morning talks to 30 battle-weary families slammed by disability. I couldn’t help but think, where, oh where was a Joni and Friends family retreat in the 50’s when my family desperately needed relief?
As I spoke, I looked heavenward longing to tell my parents that:
- Our suffering was not wasted
- God kept His promise in Jeremiah 29:11
- His plan for my life – disability and all – was for good and not for disaster
- Low & behold, my life has become living proof to others of God’s future and hope
My deformed left hand stole the show preaching its now-revered, three-point sermon. Further proof that God transforms our broken places into Holy Ground.
Indeed Jesus showed up at Rockaway Beach, Oregon – in broken bodies, broken families, broken hearts and broken dreams. Why wouldn’t He? Wasn’t He broken so that He could make the dastardly holes in our lives, HOLY?
Heaven orchestrates an audible and inaudible chorus at Joni Camps throughout the world.
Holy, Holy, Holy reverberates as one beholds:
- a devoted mom cradling the love of her life – her treasured child with Downs syndrome
- a short-term-missionary (STM) teenager jumping in to feed his/her assigned camper giving the parents a much needed break
- wheelchair-riders of all ages square-dancing to their hearts delight
- the severely disabled and their families bringing down the roof in a 2 ½ hour long talent show
Heroes are ubiquitous at Joni Camp. Stockpiling their courage supplies the strength we all need to survive until next year’s family retreat. I’m savoring the memory of:
Angel –a gutsy, fear-filled tween (not quite a teenager) who announced that she came to camp to make fear walk the plank.
Three of us who formed an Amputee Club to celebrate the fact that Jesus grows those without limbs – spiritual limbs.
Ben, a 1st time STM, who was challenged by a teen camper who was in constant motion. After the families left, I asked Ben, “Are you relieved to be off duty?” Ben’s duo-reply summarized the wonder of Joni Camp: “I miss my camper and I’m going to ask to be his STM again next year.”
And then there’s Joni, the woman God used to redeem disability’s landscape around the world. July 30, 2012 marked the 45th anniversary of her dive into Chesapeake Bay, resulting in forty-five years of quadriplegia to date. Anniversary, one might ask, does such a crisis deserve the blessed word anniversary?
You have to come to a Joni Camp to see for yourself. To see with your own eyes why Joni and the thousands of families impacted by her life would say YES.
By the way, it’s not too early to consider attending a Joni Camp as a family or volunteering as an in 2013. Check into it: (www.joniandfriends.org)
A final word of advice from this veteran camper, who attended my first Joni camp in the early nineties with our three daughters:
DON’T FORGET YOUR SUNGLASSES,
or do I mean SONGLASSES?
Be forewarned: you are going to have to wear them 24/7 even on our overcast Oregon Coast. WHY? Because Jesus shines blindingly bright in the broken of body, mind and spirit – who the world overlooks – but who are His Stars at Joni Camps around the world.