“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
If there was two words to summarize the impact of the Tell family on my internship experience it would be humble servitude. My name is Hollyn Lentz and this summer was my first time being a part of the Joni and Friends Internship Program. I had the honor and privilege of being a part of the Thailand team led by Joey and Jasmine Tell.
From the moment that I landed in Chiang Mai I was blown away by the Tells. Their kindness, service, hospitality, and gentleness impacted me deeply. They welcomed our team into their home, into their family, into their work, and so much more. From the moment I landed on Thai soil, I was impacted by the way that this special family leads, loves, and serves well. Let me explain…
Joey and Jasmine are important partners linking Joni and Friends to the disability community in Thailand. Joey is the manager of the RICD Wheelchair Project located in Chiang Mai. The Wheelchair Project partners with Joni and Friends to help provide mobility to the people of Thailand by providing free wheelchair and other mobility devices to anyone in need, along with a Bible and Joni: An Unforgettable Story, written by Joni Eareckson Tada (founder and CEO of Joni and Friends). Jasmine helps run this internship and plans Joni and Friends Thailand International Family Retreat alongside a team from a local church in the area.
I was blown away by the Tell’s ability to partner with the locals in Thailand to bring disability ministry to life. The Tell’s do this by living out their faith in a country that views disability much differently than we do in the United States. The Tell’s live and worship among local Thai’s. They have embraced the culture and have chosen to plant themselves in relationship with locals. They worship at a Thai speaking church. They are fluent in the language—well Joey is and Jasmine says she’s “functional”. They have immersed themselves in this beautiful country and long to give everything they have to best support those with special needs in Thailand.
I watched as Jasmine and Joey partnered with the First Church of Chiang Mai to allow Family Retreat to come to life in Thailand. Jasmine has worked extremely passionately with local Thai’s within this church to provide an inclusive environment for families affected by disability to be welcomed, accepted, and loved exactly as they are in a community that does not. My favorite experience was watching the fruits of this labor come to fruition as families left retreat feeling the love that only Christ can bring as they experienced rest, joy, community, and mutual understanding at Family Retreat. The Tell’s partnership with Joni and Friends is changing lives here in Thailand as they have been a vessel for the Lord in this beautiful land.
“They don’t just talk the talk about disability, they walk the walk.”
One of my favorite things about the Tell’s is that they live out their faith and their heart for disability. They have three beautiful daughters, who all hold a special place in my heart. Meet my special friend Nikolina, Nina, for short. Nina is full of life, spunk, and smiles. I was lucky enough to be her Buddy at our Family Retreat in Thailand. Joey and Jasmine adopted her from Serbia and that choice has left the biggest impact on me. Joey and Jasmine chose disability. They chose to bring this beautiful blonde headed girl into their family and celebrate her exactly how God created her. They proudly chose her and that revealed to me so much about their faith. They don’t just talk the talk about disability, they walk the walk. They understand and they automatically can identify with the families affected by disability here in Thailand.
They have chosen to raise this beautiful little girl in a country where disability is not very prevalent in public. Their family is living, working, and breathing disability in this country showing the people of Thailand that they are not afraid, ashamed, or dishonored that they have a child with Down syndrome. They are proud and honored. This speaks volume and proves that this family lives out the Gospel of Jesus.
Patiently and respectfully the Tell’s have made a life here in Thailand. They have brought awareness to disability through their partnership with Joni and Friends. They are making a kingdom impact through their ability to foster, encourage, and build up the local church in Thailand to better support special needs families. The Tell’s have humbled themselves and have worked hard to create relationships to be vessels of the Lord’s heart for disability in Thailand.
I came to Thailand with the intentions to serve, but I left feeling overwhelmed by the way that Jasmine and Joey served our team of interns. The first day of Family Retreat Jasmine washed my feet. I was blown away and thought that that was completely ridiculous. I should have been washing her feet—she was the one that was putting on this retreat, I was just helping in the smallest way. Jasmine and her family deserved to attend the retreat, but instead they helped put it on. I think the picture of Jasmine washing my feet is a perfect representation of the humble service the Tell’s bring to so many here in Thailand. I am honored to know them, and I have been pointed to Christ over and over again watching them live out their faith. Praise God for the Tell’s and their service and partnership with Joni and Friends here in Thailand.
Are you a student or young professional looking to learn more about serving people with disabilities? Our internship program will give you hands-on experience with ministering to people and families affected by disability!