Re-Entering Life with Hope at Joni and Friends Family Retreat

By |Published On: June 16, 2023|Categories: Family Retreats|
Joni and Friends volunteer, Sophie, holding Gideon in her arms.

“When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.”

Acts 27:20

In ancient times sailors navigated their ships by the sun and stars. So when the heavens darkened, they easily lost their way. In today’s world we don’t rely on the sun and stars for direction like people used to. But we can lose our way just as easily when disability, suffering, and hardship darken our skies.

Just ask Sophie who rediscovered God’s purpose and alignment for her life by volunteering with Joni and Friends.

Meet Sophie and Gideon

Sophie served as three-year-old Gideon’s dedicated volunteer at Family Retreat. Gideon is blind and deaf, and suffers from significant medical issues. As a teenager, Sophie’s priorities revolved around volleyball, friends, and fashion—but she was drawn to young adults with disabilities at church.

‘Childlike’ is how Sophie describes her relationship with the Lord when she first met Gideon. But her dependence on him grew as she served Gideon. Sophie came to love Gideon. And even though he can’t see or hear Sophie, Gideon came to know her. Sophie cherishes the moment when his mom said, “He remembers you, Sophie.”

“Because of Gideon, I met our true God—not just the God that cured the blind, but the God that used the blind to reach those who have vision but cannot see. The God who reaches not only those who hold up their hands in church, but those who cannot lift up their hands on their own. The God that touches the heart that is the most broken.”


Sophie’s Dark Sky

God has a way of getting our attention. And he certainly got Sophie’s attention when she was diagnosed with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), an incurable blood circulation disorder that can cause devastating symptoms.

“I couldn’t hear myself think. All thoughts were drowned out by the ‘sounds’ of the pain in my body,” says Sophie.

Through her suffering, our mighty God gave Sophie a new perspective. She prayed for healing, and while her body didn’t heal, God showed her how to transcend the pain and re-enter life with hope. Sophie also found new meaning in Gideon’s story, and her connection with him.

“Without my pain, I wouldn’t have grasped Gideon’s story on even the smallest scale. Without Gideon, I would have viewed my pain on too large of a scale. Without my pain, I wouldn’t feel so blessed to simply be standing on my own feet, and I certainly wouldn’t thank the One who placed me on them,” she says.

Finding Purpose in the Dark

The stars re-emerged in Sophie’s life, lighting her way and revealing her purpose. She found joy.

As she says, “With each step forward, I have discovered purpose in showing others that life is hard, but the hardest part is realizing that the words ‘pain’ and ‘life’ can be interchangeable, and it is up to us to decide which one we will pursue.”

Sophie isn’t alone. If your sky has gone dark, God is waiting to reveal your purpose and path, and help you take the next step. And, like Sophie, God can use you to bring hope and help to families struggling to navigate life with disability.

At home and across the globe, you can make a hands-on difference by volunteering with Joni and Friends.

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You can bless more families by helping us keep ministries like Joni and Friends Family Retreat going!

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Joni and Friends volunteers make 98% of our ministry programming happen! Join us to bring hands-on help and Gospel hope to people with disabilities, at home and across the globe. Find your opportunity to make a difference:

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