Kara Ferris Interview

  • Feb. 23, 2016
  • #8822

Kara loves leading Family Retreat because she sees how lives are changed when volunteers minister to kids with disabilities.

Kara Ferris Interview

JONI: Hi, this is Joni Eareckson Tada and Family Retreat season is coming up. I realize that summer is a long way off, but now is the time that you pray and plan and prepare. We have some awesome Family Retreats across the U.S. ready to go for this summer, but we need volunteers, we call them short term missionaries or STMs. These are the young men and women who come and practice Christianity with their sleeves rolled up. To explain more about it is my good friend Kara Ferris who helps lead not only one Family Retreat, but two Family Retreats here in California. Kara, welcome to the program.

KARA: Thank you Joni.

JONI: Do you enjoy leading Family Retreats?

KARA: I love leading Family Retreats and I love talking about it.

JONI: What’s the best part of it for you?

KARA: Oh, I think my very favorite thing is watching the STMs and how their lives change because they come feeling they are the ones who are going to serve and bless people.

JONI: When you talk about STMs you are talking about these young men and women I mentioned who are volunteers. They push the wheelchair; they wipe the drool; they provide the hands for the activities when it’s a quadriplegic.  

KARA: Yes.

JONI: But we need a special kind of volunteer, don’t we, this season.

KARA: We always need our men and young men to come and volunteer and I think those are the ones who really touch me, because when you start to see about the second or third day, these teenage guys walking around holding another young man’s hand and being able to freely express how much they love their campers and the campers are loving on them. It’s life changing.

JONI: It might be a child with Down syndrome or a teenager with cerebral palsy. How critical is the need for men and young men?

Kara: It’s always very critical. For some reason it is harder, in might be hard to get time off of work. But I tell you, in order to go to Family Retreat for five days and take that time out of your life it will change your attitude—the way you view people with disabilities.

JONI: Tell us the story of how it changes people.

KARA: There is one young man who came to our family retreat and sitting and talking to him he said, “When I first came I came with the attitude with ‘here I am, I don’t know what I am doing here but my friends coerced me into it and I’ll take the time and come do it.‘” Well, we gave him a young man with cerebral palsy who had the gift of loving everyone unconditionally and I would see these two together, and quite often Wilson’s eyes would just well with tears, and his last evening of our STM party Wilson stood up to share and he said, “Alex is more of a man than I will ever be.” That was just amazing to see that go on.

JONI: You tell a fabulous story of how you were part of helping a kid with autism during the square dance. Want to tell us about that real quick?

KARA: I love stuff like this! Okay, our square dance we get out there and do all kinds of goofy, silly things; everybody dances.

JONI: Wheelchairs, walkers – it doesn’t matter.

KARA: Right. And so this one young man (I saw him with a bunch of other teens) and I went up and was just getting into the part of the chicken dance where it gets real fast, and I grab onto Brandon’s arm and I twirl him around and all of a sudden he just looks at me straight in the face (maybe 10 inches away from my face) and I thought ‘Oh, oh, I’ve done it a different way; he’s probably a little bit upset and I said, “Brandon, do you like doing the chicken dance the regular way or the fast, crazy way?” Brandon looked away for a minute and thought and then he said, “The crazy way!”

JONI: And what was so amazing about that?

KARA: Well, his mom came over and took a picture, so at the end I told her what happened and I said I thought I upset him so I asked him if he wanted to do it the regular way or the crazy way? And he said, the crazy way. And she said, “Kara, he’s nonverbal.” And those are the kind of things we see all the time because we just let people be who they are and celebrate them.

JONI: Absolutely! And we are going to put a call out for men and young men to sign up as volunteers for this year’s Family Retreats. All you need is a willing heart, we’ll train you on the specifics; we’ll give you all the handicap awareness. Don’t worry about that. Just come with a willing spirit. Go to our Family Retreat page at joniandfriends.org. Thanks Kara!

KARA: Sure thing.

© Joni and Friends


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