Sunday, May 29, 2011

Giving Back :: Joni & Friends Family Retreat 2010

Sooooo... somewhere in the chaos of last summer it seems I posted the images from Joni & Friends Family 2010 Retreat to Facebook, but missed putting them on the blog~ hence, a post of last year's JAF Retreat at Spruce Lake Retreat in the Poconos, just a few weeks away from my upcoming return to capture another week filled with fun, laughter, and an indescribable love that envelops this time. The theme for 2010 was "More than imagined" and truly, it was!

For the families, it's kind of like a cruise, but on land~ all of the activities are planned out, they just show up and enjoy the food and festivities without having to plan all the parts of vacation in addition caring for a loved one's special needs. Sometimes the camper is a child with mental or physical challenges, and  others are adults with disabilities resulting from an accident or disease.

In trying to choose some images to share here on the blog, it was tough because I have many favorites as I got to know the people in these images.... some carry burdens that are mostly lifted during a week that looks a bit like I picture heaven to be~ everyone coming together and being included in fun activities and not being viewed as limited or different~ but being loved and cared for... it is true that by the end of the week it is hard to tell who is a camper and who is a volunteer~ it becomes a cohesive community of Christ which is just beautiful to watch and be part of.

I tried find images that could best tell the "story" of the week~ to see more (and get a better sense of what Joni & Friends Family Retreat is all about) click on this link:  Circle of Life Photography on Facebook

Below, staff members wash and bless the Short Term Missionary's hands to go and serve:

Families are greeted with their choice of a "loud" or "soft" greeting upon arrival:

JAF Retreat Program Director, Sib Charles, started off the retreat popping out of the storybook:

Much to the surprise of Program Manager, Joan Barton :-)

Happy times like these abound~ water fun during the hot days~
and much patience and humor from the Short Term Missionaries!

Almost everyone is able to enjoy the water tubes down the hill~ the smiles from children
who spend most of their time in wheelchairs is just priceless:

The talent show is a huge hit~ everyone is involved and has a blast. From musicians to skits and everything in between, it is a memorable night~ below the girls do a skit to the song "Car Wash":

Another talent show wonder: this young boy below is a true miracle~ for a child with many challenges including speech, he clearly sang the verses to "How Great Thou Art," which his father sang to him every night in the NICU. Needless to say, there we few dry eyes in the house!

Finding the hangouts of young campers and seeing their joyful faces was a fun part of my week~
one of many touching stories was a young mother, who at the end of the week spoke in front of the camp about how her family had been blessed by attending the JAF Retreat~ she was just amazed at the outpouring of patience and love for her child, that no one blinked an eye when her child ran onstage during worship~ and, in her words, "you actually LIKE my child!" Everyone laughed, but at the same time everyone 'got it'~ it's challenging living in a world that expects perfection and has little patience when things don't go according to plan. Here, everyone fits in.

Making friends~ even with social challenges, strong bonds between campers and their Short Term Missionaries are formed by the end of the week:

If these pictures leave you wishing you could find out more about attending or serving
at a Joni & Friends Family Retreat, please click on this link:
Trust me, your life will never be the same!!

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Photo gallery website for proofing and additional info: 

Circle of Life Photography's page on Facebook~ Click HERE to add this page to your favorites!

Michelle Miller allowed me to link to her brilliant post about the art of photographing ... I simply cannot say it better myself! Click HERE to read the post.

Giving Back~ Organizations supported by Circle of Life Photography

In giving back, Circle of Life Photography's main goal is to help those experiencing extreme poverty and nourishing them with food, shelter and spiritual guidance. Education is a big part of helping people learn how to help themselves and change the downward spiral of poverty for a better future for themselves and their children. Locally, a more tangible way of giving back is through using my photography gifts to serve others who are experiencing crisis (see NILMDTS and Pillows of Love.)

Compassion International~ Haiti's Child Survival Project

In 2011-12, Circle of Life Photography makes a monthly $30 donation to the non-profit organization, Compassion International, whose goal is to change Haiti through the rescue, nuture and discipling of children during the critical early childhood years.

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep Foundation

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep Foundation (NILMDTS) gently provides a helping hand and a healing heart for families overcome by the grief and pain of the death of their newborn or infant. Offering gentle and beautiful photography services in a compassionate and sensitive manner is the heart of this organization. The soft, gentle heirloom photographs of these beautiful babies are an important part of the healing process. They allow families to honor and cherish their babies, and share the spirits of their lives. I am an active NILMDTS volunteer photographer for Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and Lancaster Women & Babies Hospital.

Joni & Friends Family Retreat

I am honored to be a volunteer photographer at the Joni & Friends Family Retreat in the Poconos (Spruce Lake Retreat) for a week each summer (click here for past blog post.) Joni & Friends seeks to serve as a ministry of outreach to people with disabilities and their families across the US and around the world. Families from around the country attend Family Retreats seeking relaxation, encouragement and a time to strengthen their family.