Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Joni and Friends Camp Part 3

Leslie Basham: While encouraging disabled people for the last several decades, Joni Eareckson Tada has seen something powerful.

Joni Eareckson Tada: It’s so pleasing to the Lord Jesus to see the weak, intellectually disabled, the infirmed, nevertheless, use their platform of weakness to praise God and bless His name. That really glorifies Him.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, March 30, 2012.

Over the last few days, Nancy’s been talking with Joni Eareckson Tada about the Joni and Friends Family Retreats. Families affected by disability come to be refreshed, get a break, participate in fun adventures, and connect with the Lord.

As our team has talked with several people about these retreats, we keep hearing about talent night. It’s a highlight for many who attend. Here’s Joni Eareckson Tada talking about talent night with Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Joni: I think what is so moving about talent night is that you know that these young people up there never ever have such an opportunity to “perform” in front of an audience.

There was one family last summer, a large family, and they positioned their little boy with Down Syndrome and other multiple disabilities . . . He was severely intellectually disabled, non-verbal. But they put him on the piano bench. Oh, my goodness, what’s all this about? This child doesn’t even speak. He doesn’t talk. He’s going to play the piano?

Well, the family began singing, “When peace like a river attendeth my way,” and the whole congregation just started chipping in. Then when it came to the part of “it is well,” Daddy had placed his little finger on the proper key, and it was “ding, ding, ding,” that was his talent—to play on the piano just those three little notes.

And he knew when to play those notes. Daddy didn’t have to tell him. Daddy had to show him which key on the piano, but, oh my goodness . . . it brought the house down.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Yes.

Joni: It just gave us an inside glimpse into that little boy’s heart, that he wasn’t so severely disabled. He wasn’t so shut out intellectually from the rest of us that he could not, did not sense the prompting of the Spirit to sing along with the rest of us and play, “It is well.” That was huge.

Nancy: And you think how that must bless the heart of the Lord. You think how the Lord views what we would consider to be “one of the least of these.”

Joni: Nancy, I think that’s why our family retreats are such a success. They are a huge success. We would have fifty family retreats if we could find the conference centers that could accommodate our families.

We have waiting lists of families who just can’t wait to come back, and they tell their friends. I’m convinced it’s because it’s so pleasing to the Lord Jesus to see the weak, the frail, the lame, the blind, the intellectually disabled, the infirmed, nevertheless, use their platform of weakness to praise God and bless His name, and unite around each other, to lift each other up in their weakness. They find ways to lift each other up and help each other be strong. That really glorifies God.

Nancy: It’s a picture of the redeeming heart of God who “is making all things new” and going to bring strength out of weakness and glorify Himself out of our failure. This broken prodigal, dysfunctional planet in every way is going to one day be a new heaven, new earth, new bodies, and it gives you just a glimpse.

Joni: A little picture. You hit the nail on the head when you used the word redeemed. It’s really all about redemption—redeeming families, redeeming souls, redeeming and exchanging the meaning of disability, let’s say in a wheelchair, which one would look at and think it’s a symbol of confinement and tragedy. But no, it becomes a symbol of hope and courage because that individual leans hard on the Lord Jesus for daily grace.

So it’s all about redemption, and I’m sure that’s why it pleases the Lord. It’s also, I think, a snapshot of heaven. I think heaven’s highlights, for many of these families, will be Jesus pushing the replay button on a couple of talent nights at Family Retreat so that we all get a chance to enjoy how His grace sustained the weakest among us.

And boy, that’s why I just know there are some friends listening who want to be a part of this.

Nancy: There are several ways they can be a part, so let’s just talk about what those are.

First of all, there are families with children with disability, or they know someone. I’m thinking of someone as we’ve been talking, a family. I’m thinking, “I need to get them to one of these retreats.”

Joni: Absolutely.

Nancy: So, to attend one of these retreats . . .

Joni: You may know a family in your church, a special needs family in your church. There may be a special needs family who does not know Christ in your neighborhood. Maybe someone with whom you work is a parent of a special needs child.

Well, just write our ministry, and we’ll send you an information packet that you can personally hand to that family and then connect them with us so that we can alert them of scholarship funds available.

So, again, you might know somebody at your school, on your campus, at your place of work, at your church, in your neighborhood, or you just may be listening today and your heart is resonating with what you’ve been hearing, and God is touching you to consider volunteering with us this year at Family Retreats.

By all means, do not let the sun go down on this day until you visit the Revive Our Hearts website and then click on that link and get all the information you need to sign up and volunteer with us for a Family Retreat experience.

Nancy: I don’t know how many volunteers you need through the course of a summer, but I heard something last year—that is what prompted us to do these programs. I heard that at one or more camps they were having a hard time getting enough volunteers.

Joni: Right.

Nancy: And I just thought to myself, “We’ve got to do something about that.”

Joni: Good.

Nancy: So my prayer is that every need will be met for every volunteer and more for the prayer group than what maybe you thought you even needed, but that out of the Revive Our Hearts listening audience there would be many, many who would come and be a part of this family retreat ministry.

Joni: Some of the most successful volunteer experiences have been when church youth leaders have had their entire college and career class come and volunteer.

Nancy: Great idea!

Joni: Isn’t that a wonderful idea?

Nancy: Yes, great!

Joni: At our Spruce Lake Family Retreat, the whole youth group comes, and the church helps raise the support. This is a summertime activity that they do. They’ve been raising funds for their youth group to come and serve as volunteers at our Family Retreat for five years running now. It’s wonderful because then the entire group goes back home to church, and boy are they on fire for disability ministry.

Nancy: But it could be a Sunday school class; it could be a small group. Some go; some send—helping the others financially. It could be an experience together of serving the Lord.

Joni: Yes!

Nancy: You get blessed, and you bless those families, and probably make some long-term friends, too.

Joni: And I want to share a Bible verse real quickly, Hebrews chapter 6, verse 10: “God is not unjust. He will not forget the labor of love you show His name in that you help His people and continue to help them.”

That’s a Bible verse written for our friends listening right now who are prompted to come and serve as a short-term missionary with us at Family Retreat.

Leslie: We’ll hear more from Joni Eareckson Tada and Nancy Leigh DeMoss in just a minute.

As Joni just mentioned, God is speaking to the hearts of many listeners right now. You’re thinking, “Maybe I could volunteer at a Joni and Friends Family Retreat.” For details on how to take the next step, visit

Now, Joni’s been describing talent night at a Joni and Friends Retreat. This is a highlight for Don and Cindy Riker as well. They’ve attended three retreats, and Cindy remembers the first time she was there. She just needed a break after giving around-the-clock care to her son with autism and mild mental retardation.

Cindy Riker: The first year we just pretty much rested. It’s like, "Wow!" There’s a sense of vigilance over, “Where is he?” and “What are his needs?” and “Are people going to get him?” and “How do I interpret the world to him and him to the world?” Those were alleviated from us so we just were able to rest.

The next year there was more, “Let’s join in more of the social things that are there available for parents." Everyone comes at a difference place.

Don Riker: For me as a dad, I think it was more, “Are there any gaps? Is there anything that will be missing throughout the week?” But we began to realize that they have thought of everything and have such a comprehensive program. There was no need for that kind of watchfulness on my part. I could rest in the fact that this was so well planned and so well executed, and God is so present. We really could let go.

Then this past year we got much more involved. I was asked to serve as camp pastor, and I really enjoyed that role for the week.

My responsibilities included bringing a devotional each morning that related to the theme for the week, and then to be available for counseling or talking with families about any challenges or questions they might have.

I also led the men’s ministry, which is an opportunity for men to gather and talk about their issues and deal with the things they face as husbands and fathers. Families are dealing with the 24/7/365-issues related to a special needs member.

Cindy: The women also meet separately and share, often based on what the theme is for the week and what the camp pastor has shared in the morning. That’s when we break into groups. That’s very therapeutic.

We’ll cut your hair; we’ll do massages; we’ll do fingernails. There’s a tent where we can do crafts and just come in the afternoon and listen to music and put jewelry together for fun, because, laughter is a wonderful medicine and really builds relationships.

There’s a talent show that anyone can sign up for. We end up laughing together or crying over some of the beautiful things that they wouldn’t do at a talent show at school or somewhere because they wouldn’t fit. But here, it’s just amazing what some of the individuals can do.

Don: For me, the talent show is the highlight of the week. Talent show is a misnomer because it’s not like what people think, that you have to have a certain skill or talent to be showcased. Really, it’s open for anything anybody wants to do. In reality, it turns into a big celebration of two things: God’s glorious creation of each individual and of community.

And the sense of unity, the sense of God’s presence, and the opportunity to cheer one another on in a tiring journey is just overwhelming in terms of its impact and the experience.

There was a pair of brothers. One plays the trombone very well, and the other is wheelchair bound with cerebral palsy and does not have much use of his arms. They hooked up together to do a song on the trombone where the older brother, who was skilled on the trombone, hooked the end of the loop of the trombone around his brother in the wheelchair’s arm and would pull against it, the trombone. So it was kind of like reversed action.

And the joy on the brother in the wheelchair’s face of being a part of making music with his brother was very powerful. It's such a testimony of what it’s like when we work together as the body. I’ll never forget it.

If you’re a family with a member who has some form of special need, I couldn’t recommend it more highly. It is a highlight of our year, and we look forward to every year having that week and all that God brings through it. It is just an extremely special time

Cindy: It’s refreshing.

Don: As we were told ahead of time, you really can’t describe it well enough. You have to experience it. I think the proof in that is how many families come year after year after year after year because it is so meaningful.

The challenge is in our particular retreat, all three weeks at Spruce Lakes has a huge waiting list. There is such a need. But my understanding is that at the other retreats across the country, there is still room for families to attend. So I would highly recommend exploring it and going if at all possible.

Leslie: That’s Don and Cindy Riker encouraging families affected by disability to get more information about a Joni and Friends Family Retreat. To do that, visit

Don and Cindy are thankful that God could use Revive Our Hearts to get the word out about this important retreat.

Don: We’re so thankful for Nancy, for the impact of all that she does, especially on radio. There are so many people around the world who are blessed by her ministry. We had a friend who was ministering in South Africa for three months. One of the things that fed her spiritually during that time was listening to Nancy on the radio. The fact that she is highlighting the Family Retreats makes us very, very thankful.

Cindy: And I would say Family Retreats fits the theme of Revive Our Hearts. It’s just that you’re revived in so many ways after Family Retreat. Of course, the heart being the core of our being. . . You could read about someone with special needs, or you could read theories from books, but to actually live in community and get to know an individual and a family and know you’re making a difference is just life changing. It’s a win/win for everybody.

Leslie: Again, to get more information on attending a Joni and Friends Family Retreat, or to serve as a short-term missionary at one of these retreats, visit

To close our time, let’s get back to Joni Eareckson Tada speaking with Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy: Well, thank you, Joni, for sharing with us about this ministry. We have just a few minutes left here. I want to ask, and I know a lot of our listeners want to know, how are you doing?

Joni: Oh my goodness! I am doing so well. I give praise and honor and glory and thanksgiving to God. It’s been well over eighteen months since my last chemotherapy and my most recent PET scan was all clear. There’s no evidence of disease. It’ll be a few more years to go before I can be declared “cancer free.” My husband and I just marvel at my stamina, my energy. And I think, Nancy, it’s because I’m just resonating with people’s prayers.

So many of your listeners contacted me when they heard I had breast cancer. I’m looking forward to seeing many of your listeners at the Indianapolis . . .

Nancy: . . . True Woman ’12 conference.

Joni: I'm looking forward to it.

Nancy: It's the third week of September. Joni will be with us, Lord willing.

Joni: It’s going to be a great time!

Nancy: You know, a lot of our listeners have prayed for you. In fact, there are times on our blog when people will post the updates from Joni and Friends, about how you’re doing, because we are sisters. We’re a family.

Joni: We are.

Nancy: We have the same heart, and they really do care about you.

What is the Lord doing in your life that’s fresh? I know you’re always seem to have something fresh.

Joni: Well, Ken and I, our ministry is active on many fronts in the area of disability. We have a department called The Christian Institute on Disability which is developing disability-ministry courses of study at major Christian colleges and seminaries across the United States.

Ken and I just love, love, love, love investing our energies in this next new generation and helping to give them a passion for Jesus Christ and a passion for disability ministry.

Nancy: Any particular passage of Scripture you’ve been memorizing these days?

Joni: Oh, gee!

Nancy: I know you and Ken both love the Word. I don’t want to put you on the spot, but any particular Scripture that’s just been on your heart?

Joni: Well, my husband and I have been reading through the Bible in a year for six years now. 

Nancy: You can’t see this, but Joni’s looking across the room at Ken, who is sitting over here in the corner, helping out.

Joni: Well, he started it before I did, and then he got me in on it the second year that he was on it. Right now, as of the recording of this program, we’re in the book of Leviticus.

All these commands are mixed and matched. You’ve got the secular and the sacred kind of all combined. Ken and I were talking the other night as we were reading through Leviticus, it just goes to show that all life is sacred. God cares about boiling goat meat in its milk. He cares about everything, every single, tiny detail of our lives. And that was a blessing for us, wasn’t it Ken, to talk about that the other night?

Nancy: How can we pray for you?

Joni: I would ask that our listeners continue to pray for my health. I’m a quadriplegic. I’ve been in this wheelchair forty-five years. I have quadriplegic friends who now are bedridden. Their osteoporosis has their bones so porous and thin and fragile that they can’t even sit up in a wheelchair.

That could be me. It really could be me. I mean, I could be in bed with constant lung infections like many other of my quadriplegic friends. But for some reason, God, in His great mercy, and, Nancy, it’s only His mercy. I should be bedridden. I really should, as a quadriplegic living this long, but I’m not.

I’m able to sit up. I’m able to enjoy a full day’s work. I’m able to travel. That is a miracle. So I would ask our listeners to please be praying that God will continue to just put His hand of miraculous healing on my life, and that I might continue to enjoy this strength and health and stamina to serve Him even more in the future.

Nancy: Well, I know that as long as He gives you breath to do it, you’re going to use every breath to serve Him and to serve others.

Joni: Absolutely.

Nancy: And thank you, Joni. I’ve said this to you before, but I just want to say it again, on behalf of our listeners, we love you. We thank the Lord for you. You have been a dear friend to me, to our ministry.

And a gazillion times in my lifetime of ministry, God has used you, just the testimony of your life, to encourage me, to keep me from flagging, when I’ve got a lot less reason to flag than you do. You’ve helped me stay in the race, and I’ve been able to help our listeners stay in the race with a lot of the courage that you’ve given to me. So, thank you so much.

Joni: Nancy, I think what I enjoy most about our friendship is, even though our paths don’t cross often, we know that we’re cheering each other on in the frontlines. I know you cheer me on because I hear from you.

Every once in a while you’ll send me an email with some wonderful quotation by Samuel Rutherford or Amy Carmichael or G. K. Chesterton. Those little snippets of Psalms or verses from God’s Word or quotations from Christian giants, they spur me on. I collect them. I have a whole list of Nancy Leigh DeMoss quotes that I’ve gleaned. Those are just wonderful ways for women to encourage one another.

I would encourage our listeners to do the same with their girlfriends. It’s a wonderful way to spur each other on for good works.

Nancy: And while we’re talking about how we spur each other on, it is something we can do for each other. But you are like the queen of notes of encouragement and appreciation. You cannot imagine how in just some really low moments, I’ll get a note from Joni just saying, “I was thinking about you. I thank the Lord for you. Keep in the battle.” And to have a grateful heart as you do, and then to share that encouragement with others is so sweet.

It shouldn’t be just Joni and Nancy doing this. We could be doing this, all of us, for one another as the Lord gives opportunity. And together with one accord, with one voice, we honor Christ. We exalt Him and are encouraged to serve Him more effectively.

So you’re a dear sister. We love you. We love you at Revive Our Hearts, and I am hoping that many, many, many of our listeners will be joining us in September at True Woman ’12

Joni: Woo hoo!

Nancy: The True Woman conference is September 20 to 22. It's not many months from now. We’re anticipating that conference is going to sell out early, so now’s a good time to sign up. There’s an early-bird special that’s available.

Joni will be with us, Janet Parshall, Priscilla Shirer, Mary Kassian, Keith and Kristyn Getty . . .

Joni: Oh, great!

Nancy: In fact, just this morning, I was meeting with our team about that weekend. We were talking about the different messages. The theme is, “Seeking Him Together for Spiritual Awakening,” and has there ever been any greater need than there is now for us to seek Him together?

So come join Joni and me and our friends as we seek the Lord together and believe Him to send, in our day, a great revival and spiritual awakening in our land.

Joni, thank you so much. I hope the Lord’s going to just bless in a great way the Family Retreats this summer and that many of our Revive Our Hearts family will be there cheering on and lifting your hands and those of the families who attend those retreats.

Joni: Oh thank you, Nancy, and may God’s favor shine on your listeners.

Nancy: Thank you.

Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Joni Eareckson Tada.

To learn more about True Woman ’12, visit Early pricing ends May 1st, so make your plan soon. Again, just visit

Well, do you ever feel alone, like God isn’t answering your prayer and no one understands? Jesus knows what it’s like to feel that way. Next week Nancy shows you how Christ understands your loneliness like no one else. Please join us Monday for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.


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About the Speaker

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love …

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