“One word does well to summarize the day in and day out of families of people with special needs – RELENTLESS. Think about that word. What does it mean?
Webster’s dictionary defines it as: showing or promising no abatement of severity, intensity, strength, or pace. The effects of disability do not let up. They are daily, they are hourly, and oftentimes they bring new challenges by the minute. There is no end in sight, there is no cure, and it seems as if there is no healing in the broader sense. But what sweet balm of ultimate healing they will meet if their eyes are turned to Christ.”
Those are the words of my good friend, Justin Reimer, Director of The Elisha Foundation
I remember well the first time Justin contacted me. It was a Facebook instant message telling me about their ministry on the west coast. “You should come visit us sometime.” I also remember my response, “That sounds nice! Maybe if I’m in the area I will stop by and say hello.”
It was a polite response to a kind gesture that I was used to getting as the father of a son with multiple disabilities. But Justin’s solicitation was more than a kind gesture. It was followed with the dogged determination of a father, who himself had a son with disabilities.
Soon we were emailing back and forth, “We’re having a retreat in the spring and I’d like you and your family to come.” Again, it sounded inviting, but there were so many obstacles. I didn’t have the time, faith or the money to fly my family from the mountains of West Virginia, across the country to the west coast to a strange retreat, operated by a guy I barely knew through Facebook and emails. We didn’t need to do this. We were doing fine just as we were.
Or so I thought.
The truth was, we had just placed our then 15-year-old son in a full time disability residency program five hours away from our home. Our marriage was in recovery mode from near divorce. We were beat up physically, mentally and spiritually from a horrible church experience. And we were so isolated as a family that we didn’t even know there were such things as respite, retreat, or disability ministries.
Justin knew nothing about these peripheral issues in our family, but it was as if he did. He kept on pushing. “We still want you to come. Donors have provided the money for your plane tickets and the retreat is absolutely free. It won’t cost you a thing.”
“I’ll pray about it” I replied in a secret code that really meant, “I’ll stall for a while longer to get you off my back, and then respectfully default to the mystery of the Lord’s will.”
That was on a Friday. On Monday morning I found myself in (what I now recognize as) a pivotal turning point in my life. I was sitting in my police cruiser on a parking lot in the drizzling rain. It had been a particularly hard week and I was tired, on the verge of giving out, giving in and giving up.
For some reason, against all reason, I picked up my cell phone with a "What do I have to lose" attitude and called Justin. “Can we still come?”
A few days later, I placed my very hesitant family on a plane and we headed out to the west coast. We spent a long weekend in the Deschutes National Forest in Central Oregon. There was no cell phone service so I couldn’t call for help if I wanted to, and it was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.
Justin’s family and an army of volunteers welcomed us, loved us and introduced us to the “community” of disability. Pastor Paul Martin opened the bible every evening and delivered the hope of grace in the message of the gospel. We ate, sang, walked, swam, played, rested, talked, cried, and rejuvenated for the glory of God.
It was like coming home from war—like a hospital for injured families. It was indeed a turning point in the life of my family. We were forever changed and tenderly mended to fight the many battles ahead.
That was nearly five years ago, and since that time our family has been sewn together at the heart with the Reimer family and The Elisha Foundation in the true application of 2 Corinthians 1:3-5. We have attended and volunteered at many TEF retreats across the country. We now share the vital importance of placing families, which are living on the precipice of stress and isolation, into communities.
Now God uses me—the once wounded and broken husband and father—to share the sweet healing balm of gospel grace and hope to those on verge of giving out, giving in, and giving up.
In light of all the service the Reimer's have provided to families with disabilities, after several years of retreats, The Elisha Foundation is doing something they’ve never done before. They are hosting the first ever TEF Disability Conference.
This conference will serve parents and caregivers of special needs families, combining the benefit of rich and instructive teaching sessions with the intimate environment of a TEF Retreat. It will take place in an environment where families can drink in the teaching of God’s word from several gifted teachers, while relaxing in an environment of refreshing care in a grace-filled community.
If you know someone who could use a weekend of refreshing, uplifting, relaxing, and family healing, would you consider sharing this information with them? The time is approaching and the spaces are limited, so we want to give those who need it most an opportunity.
For some it will be a challenge to find childcare, time off work, or finances to travel. Perhaps your local church can help with these issues. TEF is offering scholarships for families in need.
For others who seem like they are dying of thirst right now, this could be the cool drink of water you need most. And for still others, hurting, wounded, feeling like you can’t fight any more—it will be like coming home from war.
From one wounded, recovering soldier to another, I hope to see you there.
For more information, please visit http://www.tefconference.com/