Volunteering at the Amity Family Retreat 2014

Nanjing Church volunteers on departure to the Amity Family Retreat 2014

Thoughts by Zhang Zhidong

- Although I am myself disabled, I am indeed most fortunate and privileged to be part of this ministry of service -

The Amity Family Retreat 2014 had concluded more than a fortnight ago, but scenarios at the Retreat still surface in my mind’s eye, snippets of which have left enduring impressions in my memory.

Zhang Zhidong with Amity staff next to the welcome sign of Amity's Family Retreat Camp 2014

This is the second Amity Family Retreat co-organized with Joni and Friends from America. I am thankful that I have participated in both events. This has been an extraordinary camp, mainly because it provided the opportunity for families with disabled children to step away from their daily toil so that they may receive assistance in learning to relax from the pressures they face through religious belief and professional approach. The Retreat also allows the disabled children and their families a platform to interact and effect exchange on equal footing with the wider society.

 

 

Zhang Zhidong working on the "Breaking the Ice" survey at the beginning of the Disability volunteers' training

Through camp activities, I could discern the subtle changes in them. They had come with listless and helpless expressions on the first day of the camp, by the end there were happy smiles on all their faces. For some families, this was the second time they participated in this Retreat. Their children were markedly more cheerful than last year, and laughter bursts out from them much more readily. This is indeed God’s gift. There were 17 participating families from Nanjing, Zhenjiang and Suzhou in this year’s camp. Although these children are often discriminated against and looked down upon, in the camp they were treated very well for they are all God’s treasures. Before the visitors arrived at the camp, volunteers freshened up their rooms and brought many small gifts. Then they were welcomed by cheering dancers. One or two volunteers were assigned to each family, and they stayed with the families throughout their stay so that they may truly relax during the camp.

 

Accompanied by the volunteers, the children took part in fun-filled activities such as “Grass Sledging” or “Treasure Hunt”. There was much laughter and delight. When the children were enjoying their games, their parents attended parenting sessions provided by Amity Foundation and Joni and Friends. Many local and overseas specialists were brought in to speak at these sessions. Pragmatic assistance and advice were given to the parents. They have greatly benefitted from the facilitating intervention.

Families can enjoy and relax during the camp

Volunteers and children crafting

Participants enjoying "Grass Sledging" at the camp

Zhang Zhidong playing a fishing game during the Family Retreat Camp

Both Retreats were based on an excerpt from the Gospel according to St Luke, chapter 14:13-14, which happens to be one of my favorites. Although I am myself disabled, compared to these children, I am indeed most fortunate. Under God’s compassionate guidance I was privileged to be part of this ministry of service, by God’s grace I was able to offer my service for this project. I thank God for all the dedicated volunteers doing their best with love and cooperation, may God remember their hard work and service, and may the love of Lord Jesus permeate these families; may God doubly bless them, and may more people come to know our Savior by their example. I hope that the Amity Family Retreat in future years become even more successful, and that all the glory is given to God.

St Luke, chapter 14:13-14

But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.