Bethlehem Blogs

August 30, 2018

Report From Joni and Friends Camp

Brad Nelson

Pastor for Global Outreach Strategic Short Term Ministry

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.—Isaiah 60:1

One of the 30 ministry trip teams we sent out from Bethlehem this year traveled to northern Minnesota to help with the Joni and Friends camp. Below is a report from Lee Burtman, our Disabilities/Special Needs Coordinator at the North Campus. If, after reading this report, you are interested in helping with Bethlehem’s Disability Ministry, please contact Lee Burtman at the North Campus, or Michelle Ryan at the Downtown Campus, or Joshua Oakley at the South Campus. We will also be sending another team to help out at the Joni and Friends camp next summer.—Pastor Brad

The Isaiah 60:1 verse was stamped on our t-shirts and across our hearts as 10 of us from Bethlehem served at Camp Castaway in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, at a Joni and Friends Family Retreat. Families with children and adults living with disabilities attended the five-day event, which is offered at various camps across the nation each summer. For many, it is the only week in the year when they can relax, be refreshed, and feel renewed in the Lord.

“Arise, shine for your light has come …” Isaiah wrote these words 700 years before Christ, yet he is pointing to Jesus Christ and reminding the church of his glorious light of salvation shining in spiritual darkness. We have been called out of that darkness and into the Lord’s marvelous light to reflect his glory.

But how does one “arise and shine” when your arms and legs won’t move? Or when you can’t speak, see, hear, or comprehend well? Or when sound is painful, lights “burn” your eyes, and your clothing feels like sandpaper? Or when you manage sensory input by spinning, rocking, or banging your head? Or when anxiety swells, filling you with dread and eventually immobilizing you?

We had the joy of witnessing just how arising and shining can happen!

We heard the hums and grunts of nonverbal kids and watched some rock, sway, and spin as they worshiped. We saw wide grins emerge from teens in wheelchairs as they smacked a balloon across a goal with a flyswatter. We rejoiced when a young man with a cognitive disability proclaimed God’s word to the crowd. We were moved when a child with autism tearfully prayed for her unsaved grandpa. We marveled at another helper who had cerebral palsy herself pushing a heavy wheelchair up and down steep hills throughout the week.

We observed parents, siblings, servers, cleaners, drivers, activity helpers, and many others lovingly care for these precious image-bearers. Indeed, the light of Jesus shone brightly in and through all of them.

To volunteer next year, contact joniandfriends.org. Buddies are also needed on Sundays in our Disability/Special Needs Ministry at Bethlehem. If you’d like to join us in serving, contact your campus coordinator to get involved.

“Let your light so shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”—Matthew 5:16

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