“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 speak to?
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, they are there offering challenges by the minute at times. There is no end in sight, there is no cure, 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 and Chairman of The Elisha Foundation in Bend, Oregon.
As divine appointments go, I met Justin through this blog and we instantly bonded through the disability of our sons and the grace of our Father.
A few weeks ago, Justin invited my family out to Oregon to attend The Elisha Foundation Retreat, a special ministry named after his special son, for families touched by disability.
At first I extended a polite, “Thank you, but…” which was followed by a long list of obstacles, barriers and excuses that would need a certified miracle from God to make the trip possible.
However, Justin was “RELENTLESS” as he continued to chisel away at the obstacles, barriers and excuses until finally the providence of God flew us on the wings of grace from Huntington, WV to Redmond, Oregon.
From Redmond, we drove to the Deschutes National Forest outside of the small town of Sisters, to a place called Camp Sherman.
Now I’m not sure what the New Earth will look like, but after last weekend I have a lot better guess. Nestled within sight of the Cascade Mountains in the shade of a forest of 100 foot tall Ponderosa Pines, sit twenty or so cozy cabins separated by a winding, rock laden, crystal clear trout stream.
This was the setting for the “sweet balm of healing” as Justin and his army of volunteers turned our tired and hurting eyes to Christ.
Pastor Paul Martin, from Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Canada stood and delivered with compassion and authority every evening as he brought the gospel to this group of weary travelers.
This was no “feel good” watered down, cotton-candy preaching. It was deep and penetrating as he faithfully exposited from the book of Hebrews proclaiming and magnifying the Christ that “upholds the universe by the word of His power”.
This is the Jesus that provides healing, strength and grace for families touched by the heartbreak and fatigue of disability. This is the Jesus that puts purpose and power in the lives of the disabled. This is the Jesus that was reflected in the lives of so many families at this Christ-centered retreat.
But it wasn’t only the parents who were ministered to. Each family was represented by a child with specific disabilities. These children were embraced, cherished, loved on and protected. They were gently and intentionally pointed to the cross of Christ in word, action and example.
In return, these special children became ministers of grace to the entire camp. I watched with awe and amazement as teenage volunteers (my own sons included) lay aside their pride, egos and sense of clickish popularity for the mantle of humility and Christ-likeness.
I saw adult volunteers go above and beyond to give respite to the families and grace-ability to the disabled. I observed the strong carry the weak and the weak change the lives of the strong.
There were no tears of pity or self-centered sorrow, only weeping of joy and satisfaction in the One who will eventually wipe all our eyes with His healing garment of grace.
In great retrospect, I am glad I traveled across the country to attend this retreat. I am grateful for those who made it possible through their generosity and kindness. I am touched by the many new friends and life long relationships that were built in these few, but powerful days.
Most of all I am amazed by the God of grace who, through a blog entry much like this, knit together the hearts of two families, giving one father the “RELENTLESS” passion of ministry and another the “sweet balm of healing”—both born in the shadow of bitter-sweet disability...or better yet, amazing, grace-ability.