A couple of weeks ago I was privileged to serve as the photographer for the “Joni and Friends Missouri Family Retreat.” This event is designed for families who live with the daily challenges of special needs family members. These heroic parents and kids consistently deal with difficult tests which most people cannot imagine.
As I observed families enjoying a week planned especially for them, I was filled with admiration for each family. These committed parents obviously love their children; both those with special needs and those without. Each family deals with unique challenges and I am sure have at times been overwhelmed by them, but they are all committed to being good parents.
I also admire the “Joni and Friends” staff who devote their lives to these special families as well as the volunteers who donate a week of their lives to encouraging each family. The cooperation between staff and volunteers is extraordinary; every family is treated to a time filled with amazing help and support.
As the retreat photographer, I was privileged to photograph and participate in every aspect of the week. The most moving moment for me occurred on day three when something almost miraculous took place through the efforts of one determined man and the dedication of multiple volunteers.
A man, whom I will call Sam, has serious physical limitations yet he wanted to scale the camp’s climbing wall. While not easy, this would not be a major challenge for someone who can easily walk, but Sam must use a specialized walker to get around. For the last three years he has had the same volunteer “buddy” at the retreat, and he trusts her completely. In addition, the couple in charge of the climbing wall came prepared to help anyone with a disability who wanted to make the climb.
It appeared all but impossible when he began. Sam inched his way upward using just one hand as his body shook with exhaustion. It was his Herculean efforts coupled with the heroic determination of the team which allowed Sam and his climbing partner to reach the top of the wall and ring the bell.
The Bible reveals the secret of how Sam achieved his remarkable goal when it says, “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed… Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9, 12, NLT)
It was only as everyone did their part that Sam successfully reached his goal. I did less than the other team members, I merely offered encouragement and captured the huge smiles of everyone involved as they celebrated helping a friend reach an impossible goal made possible by an extraordinary team working together.