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Sheri, who prefers that we not use her last name, has been a Short-Term Missionary at Christian Horizons Family Retreat for the past three years and plans to volunteer again this August. I asked her to write about her experiences because I hope that her stories will motivate others to volunteer at a Family Retreat too. My family and I had a great time at a Family Retreat a number of years ago. I highly recommend them! Mark Stephenson

The summer of 2012 I was looking for a way to serve and found a Facebook Status about volunteering at the Christian Horizons Family Retreat. Intrigued, I found out that it would be a great way to merge my profession in healthcare with my passion for the Lord. That summer I served alongside many other Christians at Family Retreat. Many volunteers have no experience in health-related fields, but come with hearts filled with Christ’s love and a servant spirit. 

God has a unique way to use Family Retreat as a place to bless all participants. Volunteers, also called Short-Term Missionaries (STMs), often go to Family Retreat believing that they will serve and bless a family, which they do. However, we STMs come away from the week feeling like we were immensely blessed also, and in my case even ministered to.

One summer I was hesitant to go to Family Retreat due to some difficult personal circumstances that arose before camp, but I knew in my heart that God was calling me to serve. When I arrived, I was matched with the perfect family for me. My “buddy’s” parents were able to encourage me throughout the week in the specific areas I was struggling with. It was as if they had known me already and knew just the right things to say. God planned the match beforehand and knew exactly what I would need to hear. I left Retreat encouraged, and with answers to some of the struggles I was unsure how to deal with. Following that summer, I knew that God wanted me to continue to pursue disability ministry and to volunteer at Family Retreat. 

I have joined the Family Retreat planning committee and have become more aware of the need and role for disability ministry. I want to promote the importance of belonging in addition to accessibility. Being a part of church and society is more than just being present. It’s being actively involved and having a role. This is an area where Family Retreat excels! Everyone belongs, and someone’s absence is noticed. Since Family Retreat, I have attended a conference at Joni and Friends, committed to a missions trip with Wheels for the World, and am praying about participating in Joni and Friends internship program. I am very thankful for Family Retreat, and my noticing that Facebook post several years ago. I look forward to each August, when I am able to return and serve at Family Retreat.

The love for the families poured out that week, and the love for each other speaks to me and puts flesh on the idea that we are brothers and sisters in Christ. I see John 13:34-35 practiced: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” The love shown at Family Retreat encourages me throughout the year, and I look forward Retreat each summer. If you want to grow in your faith, and be greatly blessed, consider becoming an STM!!!

Learn more about Christian Horizons Family Retreat (Ontario).

Learn more about Joni and Friends Family Retreat (United States and elsewhere).

Watch a video from Christian Horizons about the Family Retreat.

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