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Family Retreats - A Ministry for Families Affected by Disability

Updated on July 1, 2011
Cari Jean profile image

Cari Jean is a freelance writer and author. Her inspiring memoir "Having Faith" is available on Amazon. She resides in North Dakota.

According to some statistics, families who have a family member with a disability have high rates of estranged relationships, stress, financial burdens, and despair. Also, there is a high rate of divorce among parents who have a special needs child. Families affected by disability can face social isolation and they might feel that nobody truly understands them. Because of this, their practical, emotional and spiritual needs are often left unmet. These are some of the reasons the ministry, Joni and Friends, holds their Family Retreats.

All sorts of outdoor sports are enjoyed by everyone at Joni and Friends Family Retreats. Those with disabilities are not able to enjoy many of these activities outside of Joni and Friends Family Retreats.
All sorts of outdoor sports are enjoyed by everyone at Joni and Friends Family Retreats. Those with disabilities are not able to enjoy many of these activities outside of Joni and Friends Family Retreats.
Lifelong friendships are formed between volunteers and the families they serve at Joni and Friends Family Retreats.
Lifelong friendships are formed between volunteers and the families they serve at Joni and Friends Family Retreats.
Individuals with disabilities are able to go fishing with family and new friends at Joni and Friends Family Retreats.
Individuals with disabilities are able to go fishing with family and new friends at Joni and Friends Family Retreats.

Relaxation and Restoration

Family Retreats were founded by the Christ-centered ministry, Joni & Friends in 1991 as a way to strengthen family bonds, provide education for families on how to cope with disability-related issues and to give hope.

According to Joni and Friends, when a family is affected by disability, the demands and pressures of daily living are even greater. It becomes more of a challenge to find opportunities for rest, Christ-centered encouragement, and the tools to build a stronger family.

During these week long retreats, which are held in late spring and summer, there are many activities for those who have a disability as well as the other family members.

This year, there are over 20 family retreats scheduled. Some of the locations include:

  • Muskegon, Michigan
  • Tustin, Michigan
  • Murrieta, California
  • Crossville, Tennessee
  • Flat Rock, North Carolina
  • Rockaway Beach, Oregon
  • Jumonville, Pennsylvania
  • Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
  • Greenfield, New Hampshire

This year they are also hosting some International Family Retreats in Guatemala, Serbia, Ghana, Ukraine, Romania, China and El Salvador.

Some of the recreational activities include boating, hiking, crafts and fishing. It is also a time where families can get together and have fellowship along with enjoying a relaxing atmosphere.

People who serve as "short-term missionaries" volunteer to help at the retreats. Each volunteer is assigned to a family. According to Joni and Friends, these short term missionaries, "reach out in a meaningful way to one of the most unloved, unreached people groups right here in our communities - people affected by disability."

Joni and Friends

One in every five Americans has a disability and only 10% of churches in the U.S. are actively reaching out to them, which is one reason why Joni and Friends exists. They are an international ministry which advocates for people with disabilities.

The ministry was founded by Joni Eareckson Tada, who at seventeen years old became a quadriplegic as the result of a diving accident. She has a radio ministry, a television ministry and has written several books including her best-selling autobiography, "Joni."

The objective of Joni and Friends is to meet the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of those with disabilities in practical ways. Their mandate to draw people affected by disability into the Kingdom of God comes from Luke 14:21:

"Go quickly to the highways and streets of your city and bring in those who are helpless, injured, blind or disabled..."

The ministry of Joni and Friends not only tries to serve individuals but also to equip churches and communities as well. Joni and Friends has been around for three decades and they feel that disabled people are not being reached by the Christian church and are not experiencing fellowship and support.

Joni and Friends Vision Statement:

To accelerate Christian ministry in the disability community.

Joni and Friends Mission Statement:

To communicate the Gospel and equip Christ-honoring Churches worldwide to evangelize and disciple people affected by disabilities.

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    • Cari Jean profile image
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      Cari Jean 7 years ago from Bismarck, ND

      Sue - thanks so much for your comment. One day, I would like to take my daughter to one of these camps. I really think it is an amazing ministry and I pray that it can continue to grow and take place in even more cities and states.

    • profile image

      Sue C 7 years ago

      I think this is a wonderful program and one I would be proud to help and be a part of. It is so true how having a family member with special needs affects the whole family. What a vision to bring them together and show them this is not a road they need to travel alone. What a great opportunity for the families, and the volunteers alike.

    • profile image

      Pastor NGENDAHORURI ELIE 7 years ago

      Dear sir, receive my greetings from Burundi in Africa I'm Pastor live in Burundi I'm very interested with your ministries Iwould like relationship with you then Ipossible we want to invite you here to share with you the vision thank you hope to hear from you soon.

    • Cari Jean profile image
      Author

      Cari Jean 8 years ago from Bismarck, ND

      Pamela - thanks for your comment. It is an amazing ministry - wish we could get to one sometime, I know my daughter would love it!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 8 years ago from United States

      Cari, What a great ministry and wonderful hub. Thanks.

    • Cari Jean profile image
      Author

      Cari Jean 8 years ago from Bismarck, ND

      HealthyHanna - thanks for your comment. That's exactly what these Family Regreats sound like - a breath of fresh air.

    • HealthyHanna profile image

      HealthyHanna 8 years ago from Utah

      We all need a breath of fresh air. This group often gets lost between the cracks. What a wonderful service.

    • Cari Jean profile image
      Author

      Cari Jean 8 years ago from Bismarck, ND

      Hello, hello - great to hear from you again. Just as the Bible says, we are to be doers of the Word not just Hearers. Thank you for your comment.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 8 years ago from London, UK

      This is unbelievable. Such a great person. It puts me to shame. Thank you for writing such a wonderful hub. That is what I call a Christian, doing what religion is teaching.

    • Cari Jean profile image
      Author

      Cari Jean 8 years ago from Bismarck, ND

      Princessa - it is a fantastic idea - great for ministry and extra support. Thanks for your comment.

    • Cari Jean profile image
      Author

      Cari Jean 8 years ago from Bismarck, ND

      raisingme - good luck in finding one in your area. I know there is one in Minnesota that I would love for us to go to with our daughter. Thanks for your comment.

    • Princessa profile image

      Wendy Iturrizaga 8 years ago from France

      What a great idea, for bringing families toguether and also for finding extra support in other families coping with a similar situation.

    • raisingme profile image

      raisingme 8 years ago from Fraser Valley, British Columbia

      This is an absolutely fantastic idea and I am going to see if there is anything like this around here...a set up like you have described here is a win/win for everyone involved. Thank you so much for writing this Hub!

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