Saturday, August 3, 2013

Beautiful People

When the time came to sign up for Joni & Friends this year, I told my husband that I didn't want to go. And by "not wanting to" what I really meant is that I didn't think I was capable of handling it. Being in my first year at a my first full-time job, getting away is tough for me to manage and the thought of taking time away to volunteer? Exhausting. What I thought I needed was a vacation where I could sit and do nothing and sleep. Sleep sounds good!

Now that Joni camp 2013 is a wrap, I'm left in awe of all the wonderful experiences I've had this past week! It's been without a doubt it's been my best year yet, and I'm so incredibly thankful for time well spent in fellowship with friends and in worship. My husband has said for years how special this place is and now I get it. The JAF staff really go all out with the decor, activities, skits and leadership. There's a lot of fun to be had, but the one thing that sticks with me at the end of the week is all the beautiful people I had the opportunity to know and interact with.

The real joy of any camp is always the lasting friendships that form within such a short time. JAF is a place where we feel comfortable enough to let our guard down, and the raw and real interactions that result are truly uplifting. Expectations of who you are or need to be are thrown out the window and each person's unique character is celebrated as beautiful. While I am leaving camp behind a bit tired and dehydrated, it's because I had so much fun I didn't want to stop moving! More importantly, I'm leaving feeling refreshed, with a grateful heart and filled to the brim with inspiration from having spent a week with some of the most amazing people I've ever met. 
Missy (L) has a knack for making everyone feel love and special. 
Stephanie (R) spends her entire year looking forward to camp, the only vacation she ever wants to go on. 
The stories of families and volunteers, the struggles they endure on a daily basis and how they witness the work of God in their lives... It forced me to slow down and realize how blessed I really am just to have the opportunity to simply live. I know others would say the same.

Hang around these individuals affected by disability for a while and you'll quickly learn they're quite inspiring-- they don't let their disability define them! They live fearlessly, find humor in the simplest things, dream big and have some of the most loving hearts you'll ever find.
John, who wow'd us with his perfect choreography "Singing in the rain" during the talent show.
Michael (L) specializes in hugs, back massages and pranks. He is almost always smiling!
I fell in love with this little one, Hope,
who says she would fearlessly defend her sister if need be. 
Sarah, who celebrated her 18th birthday at camp, is fulfilling her dream of going
to college this fall to study psychology! 
Oh Jerry! Such sense of humor you have! Jerry directs the JAF Greater Philadelphia office.
The short term missionaries at JAF are some of the most fun yet patient, giving and selfless people I have ever met as well. They come back year after year, dedicated to helping these families, and many are actively involved in creating a disability ministry within their own churches or hometowns.
The phenomenal recreation team prepping for the welcoming ceremony. Race care theme...don't they look great?!
Two ladies with big hearts! Andi, leader of the spa ministry and Martha, who contributed to the women's ministry.

Josh & Marissa, front left, (a.k.a. my brother & sister!) led KAOS (Kids Acclaiming Our Savoir)
Tamara and Sarah are so fun to watch together! Campers often become like adopted family members of STM's.
Sib (left) is recognized by the leadership team after 23 years of faithful service directing family retreats.
When I think about what inspires me, it really has nothing to do with athletic or work achievement, or any sort of "achievement" by normal society's standards. It's these individuals who truly shine on the inside and out and selflessly give themselves to serving others, and those who choose to fearlessly chase their dreams regardless of what others say or think they can do. We all have ambitions and goals that we're striving to achieve, but the entire JAF organization is focused on uplifting others to help them achieve dreams they never thought possible, making these individuals feel cherished and important in our often harsh and critical world. Thank you JAF family for such an inspiring week!
A few snapshots of the fun that is to be had at family retreat!
If you want to check out more pictures from the week, take a few minutes to view this awesome slide show by photographer Holly Hess!

Next up: my recap of cooking club, take 2! 


  1. What a wonderful post Kristen! So glad to have you with us this week. Thanks for all your work in cooking club and in the spa. Camp is so hard to put into words, yet you did it beautifully! And you are right about the sense of humor with that Jerry character (HA!)

  2. Loved seeing you in action with the campers...good luck on your racing schedule!

  3. love this! thank you for sharing! so glad you were at camp. btw, sarah was super excited to give me the parfait she made in your cooking club. she was disappointed she couldnt give it to me right away, but i got it the next morning and it was sooooooo awesome! i was so happy to start my day with her gift to me and to be able to enjoy it when i was actuallly hungry. thank you for your fun and creative and health conscious cooking club. and thank you for all you shared with womens ministry, truly appreciated. hope to see u again next year! xoxoxoxxo. sybrina


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