“I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me. When I was in distress, I sought the Lord.”
At eight years old, Cathryn was diagnosed with Ataxia-Telangiectasia, a disease that acts like several other life-threatening conditions (cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, ALS, and AIDS) combined. Cathryn’s experience has followed typical stages of the disease’s progression: G-tube by age nine, wheelchair by ten, IV treatments by thirteen, and diabetes at twenty.
Cathryn’s mom, Deanna, shared some of the struggles that have come with her daughter’s condition:
“My faith in God was constantly tested by the daily care required of me, exorbitant medical expenses, fear of what lay ahead, and the orbiting grief over the loss of simple abilities and treasured dreams. And what about my other children and their needs. Where was God in my suffering?”
But because of Joni and Friends, Deanna rediscovered that God faithfully loves and draws close to the brokenhearted. When her family arrived at Family Retreat for the first time, they marveled at the sacrificial love of the volunteers and staff. They also found comfort amid the “fellowship of sufferings” with like-minded believers who depend on Jesus daily.
Cathryn and Deanna basked in the atmosphere of grace and acceptance extended to all regardless of their abilities at Family Retreat.
As Deanna said, “At Family Retreat Cathryn is celebrated and accepted for who she is, all while connecting with friends and with Jesus. I have made life-long friends too!”
After attending Family Retreat for multiple years, Deanna concluded that Family Retreat was not an escape from home—rather, Family Retreat was home! Over the years Joni and Friends has played a major role in helping Deanna come to a place of thanksgiving, peace, and genuine joy in the middle of navigating Cathryn’s disability.
Your steadfast prayers and support help strengthen families, like Deanna and Cathryn, who often arrive at Family Retreat exhausted, isolated, and discouraged. You can help Joni and Friends Bay Area continue to grow our ministry. Together we can provide hands-on help, Gospel hope, and Christ-centered community that welcomes and refreshes more people living with disability.