Friday, August 29, 2008

That's all for now

Retreat is a memory now. Pictures and videos are posted to help us remember. 

I'm working on a Shutterfly photobook of JAF Retreat 2008. The JAF-MN office will send a letter to campers and volunteers with info about how to see the book and how to order if desired.

So that's the end of this chapter of this blog. Nations-be-glad will return when it's time for another venture  into some part of God's world outside my normal life, whether nearby or farther away. 

In the meantime, I'm looking forward to JAF Family Retreat in 2009!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Magdalene's Song for Joni

Magdalene Nungu from Cameroon has a tradition of bringing a new song to Joni each time she sees her. She teaches Joni a song in Pidgin English and they sing it together.

This trip, she didn't have the chance to see Joni, so she sang the song solo for all of us at retreat, with a 5-gallon plastic pail as a drum. 

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Photo Information

All the camp photos are posted at Kodak Gallery. I pray they will bless you with pleasure and good memories.

1. Group Photos -- 
There are 2 sets each of the group in three sections --right, center, left. This gives you the option to find the grouping that shows your family best. There is also a panorama, but this is my first effort at merging photos and it's not entirely successful.

2. All the Retreat photos , including some by other campers. You won't want all of these, but I hope you will find some you like of you, your family and friends, and your STM.

4. Video clips of the children at the CEFED Special Education Home and School, a large part of Magdalene Nungu's ministry in Cameroon, which was highlighted one morning during the Adult Ministry time. These will give a small glimpse into the drastically different life there of a child with disabilities and of the huge difference a few caring people can make in Jesus' name -- Welcome Song -- I Will Dance for You, O Lord -- I Want to Go to School -- Amazing Grace (name that tune!).

Friday, August 22, 2008

Sorry. You'll have to wait another day for the links I promised to the group photos. Today I got distracted in the most blessed, wonderful way.

Our 9th grandchild was born today--our 4th grandson. He is Morrow John Piper. 

This is especially sweet because his sister Felicity was stillborn a year ago. So the rejoicing today is different than any other time I remember. Greater joy than the great joy we might otherwise have had interpersed with sorrow still that Felicity is not here.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


As camp photographer, I had the privilege of seeing activities in many parts of the program. I was very glad I took my bike for getting around and back and forth!

I have loaded onto the Internet all the photos I took and some from others too. There are way too many for any one family. But I hope you'll enjoy scanning through, looking for your own faces and those of friends and for events you particularly enjoyed. At this Kodak website, you can save any photos to your own computer. You can purchase prints. And you can use the website to create a photobook, designed by you.

One of the campers, Rick Klingberg, has also posted the photos at his Internet gallery. You can order prints from him. He also offers a number of products that can be printed with the photo of your choice--apron, t-shirt, mug, mouse pad, and many more.

On my post tomorrow, I will include a link to the group photos of everyone who was there.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Talitha's Thoughts

Elisa and I helped the Turner family during Family Retreat. Mrs. Turner wrote on her blog about how much they enjoyed camp and she also posted some pictures.

My mom thought you might like seeing a camper's perspective.

Monday, August 18, 2008

~Talitha's Thoughts~

Hey Everybody!

How is everybody since I last saw you?? Good? 

Well anyway, I would like to share some of my thoughts with you today. 

ok... Yesterday was one of the most precious days ever for me. It was Sunday and the last day of camp. That is when we have breakfast, pack up, and have a little worship and a word from the camp speaker (this year being Kempton Turner) and we have testimonies from campers and from STMs and everyone else. 

Just hearing people saying how God was at work that week was worth the whole week of camp. And then seeing people, including the mother of my family, cry and say what a blessing their STM was to them also was very moving to me. 

The whole week of camp was tiring and hard as well as sweet and good. It was full of fun, some things include:  Swimming, playing, playing tennis, playing ping pong and pool, talking, staying up late, spending time with the Turners, laughing with the Turners, spending time with girls like Elisa, Tessa, Becca, Elise, Ellen , Courtney, my cousin Betsy and her friend Hannah and many other girls. And spending time with boys like Sam, Ryan, Kyle, Joe, Nate and Nate. There were so many others I spent time with and there are so many other things I did as well. 

Another thing I did, was almost every morning I went to the youth prayer meeting that Elisa organized. That was really encouraging since every morning I was so tired but God helped me to get up in the morning and come to this and I can tell you prayer really helps and encourages and strengthens you. 

I have so much more I could say but if I said it all, you would be sitting there for maybe even a couple of hours!! I am happy to be back but I am also sad that camp is over and I can't wait to go next year for 2009 Joni and Friends Camp!!!!

Sunday, August 17, 2008


Everyone left camp around noon today. 

After this almost-week of serving, Talitha and I are TIRED. As with many feelings or emotions this week, it's a good reminder of what it's like for families with disabilities. We had responsibilities for 5 days; they for 365.

We have plans to post a few more times with thoughts and stories, but for now it's good night.


When we say "talent," I think we usually mean a high level of performance in comparison with others.

A few years ago, my first Talent Show at a JAF Family Retreat brought me to another understanding of the word--the gifts and abilities that God has given. Period. Not in comparison with anyone else. Especially not in comparison with "normal." What is normal anyway . . . but that's another topic.

Tonight we heard jokes from a tall young man who labors to speak, with his STM (volunteer) as straight man.  We waited patiently until the words were formed and spoken and laughed uproariously when the punch line finally arrived.

We saw a pixie-like girl whose body is weak imitating the mouthy bravado of professional wrestlers as she arm-wrestled 2 STMs to their knees.

We saw a sometimes timid, sometimes determined teenager demonstrate a talent she learned just this week--making her new yoyo go down and up 2 or 3 times before it stayed down.

And we saw a strong young man who wanted just one thing for his birthday a few months ago--a violin. Every time I saw him at camp this week, he was carrying his violin case. At home he watches his Andrew Rieu DVD and plays along, up and down on the same string. Tonight, dressed in tie, dark dress shirt and trousers, with just the right tempo of lip pursing and showman smiling, just the right balance of arching the head back and leaning forward into the music, he entertained us on one string to Happy Birthday to You and We Wish You a Merry Christmas, his favorite tunes. An STM played with him, using all the strings. Her grand finale flourish was nothing compared to his.

Tonight the talent was true talent--the display of God-given ability.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Person Who Traveled Farthest to Attend Retreat

One of the special things about this Family Retreat is that my friend, Magdalene Nungu, is here from Cameroon. She is the founder and director of a disabilities ministry in the Bamenda area of the Northwest Province. I met her last year when I was part of the team distributing wheelchairs through her organization. 

One of the main parts of her work is a school for children with disabilities. For some of the children it is also their home, because they are shunned or neglected in their own villages. It is a sweet thing to see those children--now loved, clean, and well-fed--coming to love Jesus and to hear them praising him.

She has a dream to begin having Family Retreats in Cameroon, and so she is here to observe and learn. Of course, a retreat will look different there, and so we with her for discernment as she figures out the the core values and purposes of a Family Retreat, and gets ideas about what is transferable between cultures.

A small example today . . . . Magdalene watched the children playing outside. There were a pile of wadded-up paper balls with an outer layer of foil. The children were instructed to pick up a few balls and then to throw them away, just as quickly as you should throw away sin out of your life. There was a blizzard of "sin" energetically being discarded. Magdalene said, "We could do that" -- no expensive materials or equipment required to play a game that makes a biblical point.

There was a short presentation this morning about our Harvest Project wheelchair distribution in 2007 and Magdalene said a few words about her ministry. Tonight she was amazed and grateful as she told me about several conversations today--people planning to donate wheelchairs to JAF, people who wanted to know more about her ministry, and a few thinking about the possibility of being part of the next wheelchair distribution, including a young man in a wheelchair who is an architect. 

I could see the wheels turning (sorry, I couldn't help myself) as she thought of the impact he could have. It would be almost impossible for most Cameroonians to imagine a disabled person having that much education and respect in his profession. Just the presence of such a person, even if he did nothing else, could open new vistas for young people with disabilities and their families.

So please pray for Magdalene, that this visit would lead to deeper, broader ministry in Cameroon that brings even more glory to the name of Jesus.

One of the Therapy Llamas

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Therapy Animals

Last year Billy came to Family Retreat. Billy is a black lab trained as a therapy dog. This means he has passed animal "good citizen" tests and is approved to visit hospitals, nursing homes, and other similar situations. 

We watched non-verbal kids who usually show little emotion meet Billy and open up their smiles to him. We saw children connect with each other with Billy as the catalyst.

Dogs aren't the only animals that can be trained as therapy animals, but this year we have with us something I've NEVER heard of--a pair of therapy llamas.

I've got pictures (of course), but it's late and the Internet is very slow for me tonight, so maybe later.

Thanks for praying for us here.

They're here!

Our campers arrived today (yesterday, really, since it's after midnight).

We volunteers finished our training with a prayer walk in groups around the campus, praying for God's work in the sorts of activities that would occur in each place.

Katy Thuleen, JAF-MN Director, painted a picture to help us get ready to greet families. She reminded us that many families haven't had vacation for a long time. Perhaps a family member is disruptively loud and unpredictable. Perhaps he or she is medically fragile. Then imagine pulling up to a hotel with all the equipment the family requires. This is not the kind of guest a hotel is eager to host.

But today it was different--a place where a family is awaited,  then announced and cheered as they arrive. Volunteers unpack their cars and take everything to their rooms. The one-on-one volunteers show them where they're staying and get acquainted, including finding out pertinent info that helps give good, loving, reassuring care.

Now, friends, this is for you. One mother told me she knew all too well what I meant when I asked you to pray that God would help our families through the moments when it seems easier just to stay home. "But this time," she smiled, "I never felt that way, so please thank people for praying." And lest you minimize the power of prayer, you should know this is a family with 8 children, several with disabilities.

Tomorrow is our first full day of Family Retreat. Please pray for STMs as they connect with their charges. Please pray for kids to have a good time in their groups and to understand as much as they are able what is being taught about Jesus. Please pray for parents to be able to relax and enjoy the time in the Word and with each other--a rare time of not being on duty for a couple of hours.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Volunteer Training

Talitha and I arrived at Castaway Club about 4:30, along with most of the other volunteers. Talitha is especially happy that her cousin, Betsy, came up from Chicago to work and brought along her friend, Hannah.

The hours before the campers arrive are filled with information and instruction to get us ready to be most helpful to campers.

For example, Tony Skie talked about wheelchair etiquette--"Please ask before you help me. I may be glad for help, but I may want to do it myself." 

Some of us have been to several JAF Family Retreats. Many are first timers. All of us feel a mixture of excitement at being here and anxiety about what it will be like, connecting with people whom we may not already know and who have special needs that we're not yet familiar with.

And if WE feel anxious, imagine the family who is attending for the first time. They have spent money for registration, they've poured energy and emotions into getting their family ready to travel, and yet they may have little idea what to expect. They're probably wondering, "Will it be worth all the effort? 

If my Internet connection cooperates, I hope to post photos at the end of each day.  Just ignore the sign in and click "View Slideshow."

Go! -- Ready! Set!

I'm sitting in the middle of a puddle of packing. Talitha and I leave in about 3 hours for camp. 

All of us volunteers arrive this afternoon and for 24 hours are getting ready for the campers--mostly getting OURSELVES ready. Campers arrive tomorrow afternoon. 

I remember the challenge of taking a trip with our children when they were small. How much greater is the effort for a family affected by disability. 

So while we're loading the car and driving, I'm praying for the campers--that God will overcome the feeling of "It would just be easier to stay home"; that God will protect health; that he will hold away any events, behaviors, mishaps that would keep someone from coming. I don't know all the contingencies to pray about, so over-all my prayer is that God will bring to camp everyone who should be there.

We are so eager to see them!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Volunteers! On your mark! Get set!

Talitha and I drove home today from our vacation, leaving my husband behind to have a few more days of quiet and retreat on his own. 

Vacation was great. But we two needed to do laundry, repack, and be ready to leave tomorrow for Family Retreat. We've been waiting a long time for this.

We know that more than 100 others have their own stories today of wrapping up one set of activities and responsibilities to get ready to go tomorrow to Joni and Friends Family Retreat to work in some capacity in the name of Jesus on behalf of families affected by disabilities. 

Please pray for us all as we prepare and travel.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Trouble Posting a Comment?

A couple of people have mentioned that they're not sure how to post a comment because they've forgotten their sign-in info or don't want to register.

Here's my solution when that happens. I click on "anonymous." That lets me through without having to sign in. 

Then I always sign my name at the end of my comment, because I don't like truly anonymous comments.

Feel free to test the procedure by commenting on this post--nothing profound required; "test" is fine.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Talitha's Thoughts

Hey Everyone!

I am so excited for Joni and Friends Camp. I would love to give you guys some reasons why I am so excited.

Okay, the first reason is that this is my very first time volunteering at Joni and Friends Camp. Last year, when my mom went for the Minnesota Joni and Friends Camp I didn’t really feel like I was ready to go to one. But now I am ready.

Reason two: I get to bring my violin and play music for people. I just love being able to minister to people that way!

Reason three: I get to take care of an adorable little friend I know!

Reason four: I get to room with other girls from my church!

Reason five: Some of my friends are going from church!

And finally, Reason six: This is a great opportunity for me to serve others and to be like Christ and his image in Mark 10:45 “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for  many.” I get to serve others maybe even in the smallest ways like playing violin, but the bigger thing is that I get to be like Christ.

I most heartily look forward to seeing you there if you’re going! I really can’t wait to go, can you tell?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Almost Time for Family Retreat

Families and STMs (Short-Term Missionaries=volunteers) are getting ready for Minnesota's second Joni and Friends Family Retreat next week. We've put together a photo book to help campers know what to expect at camp. Near the top right-hand corner you can choose "play" for a slideshow or you may arrow through at your own pace.

I can hardly wait to see all of you who are coming!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Difference a Chair Makes

Imagine that you must lie or crawl or be carried, and you have no hope that anything will ever be better. Then, you are offered a wheelchair. Imagine that, for the first time in your life, you can look at people almost eye to eye, that you can see the world face-on. 

These are just 3 of the 100 people who received chairs during the wheelchair outreach I was part of in January 2007. 

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Wheelchair Outreach

In January 2007, I was part of a team distributing wheelchairs in Cameroon, West Africa. This was a combined ministry of JAF and Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. Team members raised their own support. Internet connection was spotty, but we were able to post a few entries in a team blog

The wheelchairs were provided by JAF. People in the US donate chairs to JAF and then the chairs are renovated in a shop in one of several prisons around the country.

In many countries of the world, wheelchairs and walkers and other equipment are either unavailable or prohibitively expensive. Also in some countries, disability is viewed as a curse. This means that people with disabilities receive little or no assistance and perhaps never leave their homes. Physical and occupational therapy is largely unavailable.

The gift of a wheelchair can change a life, and when the wheelchair is fitted by a person who shows care and prays with the recipient, Jesus' name is glorified in the gift. Each person also receives a Bible and other Christian material in a language they or a family member can read.

I was going to post some photos from the Cameroon Project, but the Internet is giving me problems right now (not just an African problem!), so I'll save that for another time. Be sure to watch the video on the JAF Wheels page