Do you have a place you describe as Heaven on Earth?
I found such a place a couple of years ago. It happened whenI discovered that Joni and Friends was going to have their first Family Retreat at Twin Rocks. I invited two of my friends who have cerebral palsy to go with me.
Even though the camp wasn’t too far from Portland, the fact that one of my friends and I both needed to take electric scooters made getting to camp seem a little bit complicated After some investigation we found out we could ride a commuter bus from Portland to camp.
As we arrived, I saw a sea of people jumping up and down and waving colorful welcome signs. When we got off the bus, one of the women came and showed me in the sign she made for me and said “Hi, I will be your helper all week.” Throughout the next few minutes I found that each person who had a disability or their sibling had a buddy and they were called Short-term missionaries or STM’s. Before we got to camp each of them had made signs for the person they had been assigned. When they were finished, they gathered near the entrance and waved them whenever a car load of campers drove up.
As soon as I got to camp, I felt like I was immersed in God’s love. A Joni and Friends Retreat make me think of heaven, because it’s is a place where the labels that cling tome fade away. It’s a week of being able to do things like horseback riding and rock climbing and other things wecan’t normally do. Parents can relax and enjoy their week because they can see their kids having the time of their lives.
The week is full of activities for the whole family. Everyone is encouraged to participate in the talent show. My first year there, I did a skit I wrote about a waitress who didn’t think I could read the menu. Last year, my daughter Rachael and I sang a song we wrote.
We build strong bonds of friendship because love and acceptance flow. Many of us count the days untilour next camp, whenwe can see our old friends and make new ones. Joni and Friends Family Camps are like heaven on earth because when we get to Heaven all of our earthly labels will be gone, and the only one that will remain is one Jesus has given us.