Most weeks don’t begin with great amounts of fear and end with great amounts of sadness that the week was over too soon, yet this has always been my experience serving at Joni and Friends Family Retreats. This year I was a one-on-one buddy for Dillon, a 30-year-old man with Down Syndrome and other developmental delays.
Initially I was very nervous about the week, but as soon as he stepped out of his car and smiled at me, all my fear went away. Family Retreat is a place where the image of God is equally seen in everyone. No one is greater or lesser there. It is a place for families affected by disability to relax and feel accepted.
Despite all the good the week provides for families, I strongly believe that it is the volunteers who gain the most. Serving these families is a very humbling experience, and my time at camp has strengthened my desire to love and care for the children of God. My goal was to serve Dillon, but in the end, I was the one who felt blessed.
Despite his very limited speech, he displayed a love of the Lord and of Scripture that was so beautiful to see. Dillon loves hearing the Bible read out loud to him. At his request, one day I read the entirety of Malachi, Mark, and at least ten chapters of both Exodus and Luke, and a similar routine was repeated every day at camp.
No matter his abilities, he is my brother in Christ and I am so thankful to know him.