My experience with Joni and Friends has been amazing each year I’ve gone. I’ve attended six years, both as a camper and an STM (Short-Term Missionary). As a camper, I really enjoyed Joni and Friends. It was the time of year where I got to spend a week hanging out with someone that truly and wholeheartedly wanted to spend time with me. It was a time for me to forget about the responsibilities that being a typical sibling brings and just be a kid. Instead of worrying about my sister's well-being, I got to play miniature golf, or rock climb with someone who was there specifically to pay attention to me. It was a life giving and truly refreshing time. I cannot begin to explain how amazing the energy and time my STM’s poured into me felt.
As amazing as my time as a camper was, my love for Joni and Friends increased tenfold when I started serving as a STM. Instead of getting served, I got to serve kids in the same spot I was as a camper. I knew exactly how amazing it feels to be served as a camper, and getting the opportunity to make another kid affected by or with a disability feel the same way I felt, was incredibly life-giving and fulfilling. The ability to lay your own life aside for a week and exhibit Christ-Like love to someone that needs it is an incredible blessing. It is always the most humbling week of my year.
With that, I want to talk more specifically about my experience serving at Joni and Friends this year. The week started off with a set of unfortunate circumstances that left me unable to attend a lot of the training, and unsure of my role in camp. Some last minute changes were made, switching which camper I would have for the week. I only knew about an hour in advance who I had. When I met my camper Josh, I instantly could tell that all of that happened out of God's wondrous provision and grace. I knew that God had made those changes for a reason. Josh was an amazing fit for me, as he had a deep love for music and instruments, which I happen to share. I spent the week walking around playing guitar with Josh, while he accompanied me with his tambourine or his voice. It was amazing to see Christ's love and wisdom portrayed through the change He had made. It was an incredibly humbling week for me, exposing a lot of areas in my life and my faith I need to work on. I also came out of this week even more aware of just how capable people with disabilities are of spreading the Gospel and loving the Lord.