Disability Touches Every Member of the Family—So Does Family Retreat!

By |Published On: June 10, 2022|Categories: Family Retreats, Stories|
Qorban sits in his wheelchair using his speech device to communicate with his Family Retreat volunteer sitting next to him on his right side and spending the day with him. Qorban is looking at the camera while his volunteer looks at him.

Nine-year-old Qorban has cerebral palsy and other complex diagnoses that cause him to have seizures and have left him visually impaired. To communicate, he has to use a speech device much of the time.

Families like Qorban’s can tell you that every member of the family feels the impact of disability:

The sibling experience: Trauma, isolation, and lack of attention

Matea smiling big for the camera.

Qorban’s little sister, six-year-old Matea, has experienced the trauma of watching paramedics carry Qorban’s motionless body away on a stretcher.

Often, Matea doesn’t get the kind of attention or connection she craves, as Qorban’s needs can overshadow hers.

The parent experience: Physical, emotional, and spiritual exhaustion

Raising a child with profound disabilities takes a toll on Qorban’s parents, John and Juliana.

“Like a lot of people living with cerebral palsy, Qorban doesn’t fall asleep or stay asleep easily. He sleeps in our bedroom, so when he doesn’t sleep well, no one in the room sleeps. We tend to be physically exhausted.”

John on the left standing next to his wife Juliana on the right. Both are smiling for the camera while wearing cowboy hats and bandanas around their necks.

Beyond physical exhaustion, drained emotional reserves can cause Qorban’s parents to doubt God’s love.

“Three times I’ve seen my son’s body lying lifeless during intubation,”


Under such stress and grief, parents of disabled children can struggle to trust and experience God’s love. And this is why Joni and Friends hosts Family Retreats: to serve families like Qorban’s, offering the love of Jesus to each member of the family.

What did Qorban’s parents say about Family Retreat?

“A lot of people don’t understand the difficulties we go through. At Joni and Friends, we have an instant connection, and everyone understands! Family Retreat gives us a sense of belonging.”

At Family Retreat, Matea got the chance to connect with her parents in fresh ways. She also got to know other siblings of children with disabilities. Qorban and whole his family got to relax and be with people publicly without worrying about facing rejection.

“Her first fish are memories I’ll have for a lifetime. Family Retreat was good for our relationships with one another, and it was good for our relationship with the Lord. We left Family Retreat so full of life – our minds recreated, and our spirits refreshed.”


John, Juliana, Qorban, and Matea have become an ongoing part of the Joni and Friends Missouri family. As they put it:

“We have a community at Joni and Friends Missouri who understands our family. For that, we feel so blessed.”

Now, not only does Joni and Friends Missouri get to serve this precious family; Qorban’s family serves at Family Retreat as worship leaders!

You can help more families like Qorban’s find hope, dignity, and their place in the body of Christ.

A young boy sitting in a wheelchair.

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