Families affected with disabilities meet for the first time in Ukraine

By July 26, 2006

Ukraine (MNN) — After 15 years of holding family retreats in the United States for families affected by disabilities, Joni and Friends is expanding.

Director of Family Camps John Wern says, “We’re going to be doing our first international family retreat to be held in the Ukraine on the Black Sea by Odessa.”

Wern describes the Joni and Friends Family Retreat. “This is a time away for families that are involved with disability or affected by disability. The way that they’re designed is to be an oasis for the families — a comfortable safe place where they can come, have a great time, do some good fellowship and do some networking.”

This historic Family Retreat begins August 5. Wern says this retreat won’t only be about the physical. “Everything that we do is going to be around the Christian message — the message of freedom in Christ. No matter what goes on — no matter how much we help them with their earthly needs, if we don’t introduce them to Jesus, they have an eternity in hell and that just doesn’t work for me.”

Joni and Friends expects between 20 and 25 families next week. While the Gospel is the most important message, there is an underlying agenda. “The most important first step, that I see, is to connect these families and to help them realize that they’re not in this on their own. That there are others there who can help them.”

Wern is encouraging believers not only to pray for the Family Retreat, but is also encouraging churches to adopt them so they can expand — providing manpower and financial assistance. He hopes to expand the Family Retreat program into three other countries next year.

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