”Here Am I, Send Me”

  • By: Joni and Friends
  • Jan. 25, 2016
  • Christian Institute on Disability, Family Retreats, International

International Family Retreat Short-Term Missionaries in PeruNatalie taking part in a game with special needs families at Retreat in Peru

by Natalie Parrague, Short-Term Missionary      

Natalie wasn’t quite sure what to expect when she signed up to serve for the first time at one of our Joni and Friends International Family Retreats. She brought a heart ready to serve and found out that God can use each of us if we step forward in faith. Natalie shares her reflections…

I had the privilege of serving at the Joni and Friends International Family Retreat in Peru last August. For four days I experienced pure joy as we served the families and helped cultivate a place of rest, support, prayer, worship, adventure and education! Across borders, oceans and language barriers I experienced a true connectivity of the human race. In spite of our many differences, I realized my new brothers- and sisters-in-Christ reminded me of my own family.

En route to the retreat center our team was able to make in-home visits and pray with six families who had attended a Family Retreat in the past. We toured their disability community in El Salvador providence outside Lima. Their homes accessed by a bumpy dirt road had little structure, with gaps and open roofs making it hard to endure the cold winters. Even so, Juan, who had a birth defect, proudly welcomed us and explained that he owns a Moto taxi to provide for his family. His wife Nelly displayed her garden and bragged on her active 10-year-old daughter, Ruby, who had recently bounced back from appendicitis. Next we visited Adela, who survived polio as a child. She showcased her purple walls and the picture frame of the treasured memories of Family Retreat, proclaiming that although her son didn’t attend the retreat he came to Christ later after hearing the testimonies. We walked to the next house where we met Carmen. She had suffered what appeared to be a stroke as a young adult and was left with a condition called Dystonia. Although Carmen had struggled to raise her six kids, they had seen their mother give her burdens to the Lord when she accepted Christ 10 years earlier. We listened as Carmen stubbornly and patiently spoke words of fire and truth as she explained the improvements she’d already seen as a result of the speech exercises she’d learned during Family Retreat. I left that humble community with a new commitment to pray for the burdens and challenges faced by those living with disabilities and that they would continue to testify of the Lord through their lives.

When we arrived at the campground I instantly became overwhelmed by the warmth and intentionality of the staff and volunteers to make everyone feel welcome. There was a sense of refuge and safety within the Peruvian hills. My role was diverse. Before the Family Retreat started, I participated in leadership meetings with the staff from our partner church, Corozones Unidos, where we shared ideas and best practices for fundraising and storytelling, and different sustainability methods. Once the families arrived, I assisted with games and recreation alongside other volunteers. I introduced activities and encouraged participation in dancing and showcasing their talents. I also served as an assistant to the team leader who met with the families for their evaluation meetings and an introduction to basic physical therapy methods.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I signed up to serve in Peru, but wherever we went and however we served, God gave me a sense of peace and assurance. I’m not a physical therapist, nor do I have any ministerial training, but I stepped forward willing to let God use me. As I witnessed the authentic joys and challenges of these families living with disability, I was inspired by our connection to all humanity, and grateful for the reminder that God has work for me to do.

Please pray about how God might want to use you at one of our International Family Retreats this year. The 2016 schedule is now available and we are in need of volunteers to serve as Short-Term Missionaries.


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Gracias a los Voluntarios de JAF, Voluntarios Que con su Corazón y Fuerzas Como el de Nathalie Sirven al Señor. Aprendemos de los Regalos Espirituales y contribuyen grandemente al Reino de Dios Como en el Perú.Gracias Nathalie ..
  • Feb. 3, 2016
  • 8:44 a.m.
  • Elizabeth Takury
Hooray for Natalie and her volunteering ! What a great article and testimony of being part of the family of God! Touched my heart with joy, what an awesome outreach under the Joni and friends ministry
  • Feb. 1, 2016
  • 10:29 a.m.
  • Cathy