joy-logo-final-color -2016The theme of the Christian Horizons Family Retreats this summer is Nehemiah 8:10 which says, “… For the Joy of the Lord is my strength.” I find this verse particularly valuable at the intersection of faith and disability. First, how can people affected by disability live with “joy?” My joy comes from the Lord’s joy in me. His joy is not about what I can do in comparison to others but about being who God created me to be. It is important to recognize that the Lord delights in you regardless of your body shape, physical, cognitive or mental capabilities because He created you.

This verse also connects joy and strength. It is meaningful to me because I have minimal muscle control except for my biceps which have literally developed as a result of relying on the physical strength of others to carry me around. Yet, people often refer to me as a “strong person,” or they say “if I or in your shoes, I would not be as strong as you.”

My understanding that God is not comparing me to others but rather delights in me using whatever capabilities He has given me. God gives me spiritual strength to face challenges that come my way. Nevertheless, sometimes it seems like persevering through the challenges is all I can do, and I feel too weak to maintain a joyful attitude. However, I have found that practicing joy in the midst of difficult circumstances is like a spiritual workout. It may be really hard but it is important for building on or even maintaining the strength to persevere.

I do not mean to suggest that it is necessary or even possible to be happy all the time, but when I forget about the Lord’s joy, I become even weaker and less able to meet the challenges I have. Nehemiah 8:10 reminds me that my joy and God’s strength are closely linked. Joy is only possible because I know that God is with me and I do not face challenges alone. Further, He is pleased with any joy I can muster in the midst of difficult circumstances, or challenges I face with a positive attitude, especially because it demonstrates His strength in me.

Family-Retreat-CH-Blue-SmallThe Christian Horizons Family Retreat is an incredible experience because campers with exceptional needs and their families are supported by Short-Term Missionaries (volunteers) to participate fully in the Christian retreat program. It ministers to all members of the family by offering spiritual, social and emotional support through worship, biblical teaching, workshops, games, crafts, water sports and more. The spiritual fitness of all involved in the family retreat improves and our joy grows beyond measure! There are several ways for you to take part in the Christian Horizons family retreats at Elim Lodge near Peterborough Ontario this summer, August 21 – 26 or August 28 – September 2, 2016. For the first time we are also hosting a Family Retreat in Saskatchewan from August 25-28th!

  1. If you or anyone in your family has an exceptional need or disability you are welcome to apply as a family.
  2. If you have a heart for serving and want to gain experience supporting people with exceptional needs and their families, please apply to be a Short Term Missionary (STM). No experience is required!.
  3. If you want to bless others with an incredible experience then sponsor a family or an STM to attend and receive a charitable tax receipt.
  4. Please partner with us in prayer, before, during and after the retreat.

For links to all of the forms to register or apply, or to donate, visit www.christian-horizons.org/what-we-do/family-retreat 

About Chantal Huinink

Chantal has served with Christian Horizons for more than four years in various capacities. She is an experienced motivational speaker, social justice and accessibility advocate. Chantal has a BA in psychology and human development from the University of Guelph. She lives in Waterloo and is currently completing her Masters of Divinity and Social Work at Wilfrid Laurier University.

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