This Family Found Friendship and Acceptance at Family Retreat

By |Published On: August 9, 2023|Categories: Family Retreats|
Kids smiling at the camera as they join in a conga line.

“We didn’t realize until we went, the ways Family Retreat would transform our entire family.”

This is what parents Samuel and Miriam had to say after bringing their four children to a Joni and Friends Family Retreat for the first time. Both of Samuel and Miriam’s daughters live with disabilities: Natalia has Down syndrome and autism, and is non-verbal; and Lucy has autism. In public, Samuel and Miriam constantly worry about who will climb what, who will run where, who will make unexpected noises, and what kind of terrible glares from onlookers will follow.

Staying home is just easier…

For families living with disability, staying home often feels like the safest choice. Just ask Samuel and Miriam. They know all too well the grief of watching strangers miss the beauty in their family—the way Natalia and Lucy light up at the sound of music, the wonder and amazement in their eyes, and the ways their brothers, Samuel and Antonio, care so deeply for them.

No wonder Samuel and Miriam hesitated to leave their isolated, yet safe, routine at home. Yet God gave them the courage to break out of their comfort zone…

A life-changing experience

At Family Retreat Samuel and Miriam’s whole family found much more than they expected. For Miriam the experience brought refreshment and relief. Feeling the love and care of Christ through our volunteers, Miriam and Samuel understood that their family was not a burden, but truly belonged.

Samuel and Miriam with their arms around each other smiling at the camera.

“At Family Retreat we did not have to worry about the social anxiety of always trying to fit in. A weight was lifted. We didn’t have to worry about being judged—or worse—ignored.”


“We thought Family Retreat was for Natalia and Lucy, but it was for all of us. God gave our boys a place where they met other siblings in the same boat.”

Samuel, Miriam, and their kids beside them at Family Retreat.

In the midst of the loving community of believers, all four of their children found friendship and acceptance. And Antonio asked Jesus into his heart.

“God has used Joni and Friends in incredible ways in our lives. What if we had decided not to go? I cannot believe what we would have missed!”


You can help more families living with disability get beyond their comfort zones and experience belonging and joy!

Joni and Friends New England serves families locally and around the world. Join us in making this a community and a world where every person with a disability finds hope, dignity, and their place in the body of Christ!

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