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Monday, July 1, 2019

Peters family at Joni and Friends Retreat 6/29/19
Brooksyne in the dining room at Spruce Lake with her camper, Diane, along with her devoted parents, Ella and Winslow at the Joni and Friends retreat last week. At every meal, as a short term missionary, I sat with the camper and her family in the dining room.

"See, Feel, And Act"

Message summary: All over the world today Christians, often unheralded, are doing likewise and sharing God's love in a wide variety of ways including spiritual and medical care.

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"He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine" (Luke 10:34).

I want to thank those who upheld me in prayer as I attended Joni & Friends Family Retreat at Spruce Lake in the Poconos last week. It was a week that I will never forget and will forever cherish. I was paired with Diane, only two years younger than me, as her short term missionary (STM). STMs volunteer to serve families affected by disability with Christ-like encouragement and friendship.

Family Retreats offer a haven for those with physical and/or intellectual disabilities. Here, families are cared for, encouraged, and rejuvenated in a Christ centered, fully accessible camp environment. The retreat provides worship, teaching, fun, age-appropriate activities and cultivates meaningful connections with families who understand the challenges of life with disability.

Diane is in a wheelchair so I got pretty good at pushing a wheelchair over various terrains. She and her family lives on Long Island, NY. Each camper (those with physical and/or intellectual disabilities) had their own STM and our role was to come alongside the camper and their family. The camper's families and siblings have individualized programs during the same time period.

When medical issues arose the parent, or in some cases nurses, attended to those matters. There were 45 families attending and surely 300 or more present including the STMs and other staff members. Our theme was "One Way" based on John 14:6 where Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life."

Skit at Joni and Friends retreat Diane attended Impact 2 Bible classes (ages 29+) each day so I heard some familiar Bible stories but presented in a way that would reach all students present. "The Good Samaritan" was read from Scripture, presented in an animated format and then acted out in a skit by those attending. As you can see in the photo, the woman in the wheelchair has her eyeglasses askew because she played the person who was robbed and beaten for dead. After the priest and Levite walked past the Good Samaritan (dressed in white linen cloth), she reached out and tended her wounds with hand sanitizer (substitute for oil and wine). Several times we summed up the Good Samaritan story by saying, "We must See, Feel, and Act"; see the need, feel compassion, and then act upon that which needs to be done.

Today's text comes from the well-known parable, "The Good Samaritan" (Luke 10:25-37). An expert in the law knew he should love his neighbor but preferred a very narrow definition of neighbor. So Jesus told a parable! A man had been robbed and beaten on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Three passed by. The religious priest and Levite ignored the man in need although the text makes it clear they both saw him. It was the Samaritan who stopped and provided medical care and met other needs for the man. "He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine."

The Samaritans were despised at the time of our Lord. This sure didn't fit the narrative! Jesus asked the expert in the law, "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" (v.36).

Even the expert in the law had to admit, begrudgingly I believe, that "The one who had mercy on him" (v.37a). It seems in his deep prejudice he was unable to even state, "The Samaritan"!

In using this example Jesus taught that the scope of neighborliness is our encounter with human need regardless of who it is, where it is, or whatever way it comes to our attention. (Our neighbor is not merely the person next door whom we like!)

Jesus, in defining the responsibility of neighborliness, ended the discourse with these words. "Go and do likewise" (v.37b).

All over the world today Christians, often unheralded, are doing likewise and sharing God's love in a wide variety of ways including physical and medical care.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, in our responsibility of neighborliness, You call us to reach not just our family or those with whom we share space in our neighborhood. But You call us to connect with the unlovely, the lonely, the outcast, and those who besmirch Your name. We often shirk our responsibility by reasoning that we don't have the giftings, tools, training or resources to reach outside our own neighborhood. We want to see, feel, and act with Your compassion as You provide us with all that is needed to express Your love. We pray for the desire and the will to be vessels suited for Your purpose in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Several photos from my Joni and Friends Retreat experience last week

Joni and Friends Retreat 6/29/19
Rozenar was my roommate so we got to know each other well and became fast friends. She served on the prayer team who came alongside campers, STMs and families praying for every need that arose. Rozenar (pron. Rozena) was raised in NYC, and early on she and her sister went to live with her grandparents after her parents divorced. She has very warm remembrances of her years with them and credits them for her coming to know Christ.

Joni and Friends Retreat 6/29/19
On the left is the Weber family so I had fun calling the young camper Miss Weber. Her mother said that her goal was to shake the hand of every camper before the week was over. Often you would see her shaking someone's hand, sometimes more than once, but always accompanied by her beautiful smile so it was delightful to reach for her outstretched hand.

Joni and Friends Retreat 6/29/19
A family from Rozenar's church in Stroudsburg brings their farm animals (horses and goats) each year to camp so the campers can pet them. This pony had about seven pink ribbons in her braided mane and tail.

Hawk at Joni and Friends Retreat 6/29/19
A nature center is also part of Spruce Lake Retreat Center and the director is wonderful with all the campers. She likes to show them different animals including this red tailed hawk.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"All About You"  Video  Big Daddy Weave - This song was played at one of our STM morning sessions. It reminded us all, "It's not about me", but rather our service and presence at camp was all about Christ. And it truly was!

Finally today: In response to those who wanted to hear about my experience at Joni & Friends Family Retreat I want to write a fuller account of my impressions and sightings in a separate writing, with a few photos, either for Tuesday or Wednesday's Daily Encouragement. If you don't have time to read it let me just sum it up like this: from the time I arrived even before the campers arrived the next day, love and acceptance filled the air. After the campers arrived it truly was a haven for those whose lives don't fit into the mainstream of society 51 weeks of the year. I can't wait for next year!

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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