When David Wright’s mother asked him to join her as a volunteer for the Joni and Friends Family Retreat, he had no idea how life changing that experience would be.
David began serving at Family Retreat in high school, and for three years he enjoyed working with the same camper—a young man named Sam. As a young teenager, Sam didn’t let his power wheelchair or his Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy stop him from exuding life. One afternoon, the two boys were strolling around the camp grounds when Sam said he wanted to try the bounce house.
Although David confessed, “I had no idea how it was going to happen,” he wasn’t going to say no. He and another volunteer named Matt asked the other energetic kids to take a short break from the bounce house before gently laying Sam on the floor of the inflated structure.
Not sure what to do next, David looked down at Sam, who gave him an expression that said, “Come on—bounce me!”
Taking a deep breath, Matt and David lifted Sam up, one arm under each leg and behind Sam’s back. They bent their knees, and bounced—just a little.
With glee, Sam urged them, “Higher, higher!”
Matt and David obliged, bouncing higher and higher. Normally a quiet guy, Sam was squealing with pure pleasure. By this time, Matt and David were sweating from the exertion. Even as an athlete, David found himself exhausted within ten minutes. After putting Sam back in his chair, the two boys resumed their stroll around camp. In the quiet that followed, Sam remarked, “Wow, for the first time I felt truly free. I realized God loves me.”
The theme verse for that week came to David’s mind, “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17, NKJV). Tears collected in his eyes as he marveled at what he had just witnessed. “I felt God captured me at that moment,” David explained.
Captured for what? David wasn’t sure, but what he did know was that seeing such joy on Sam’s face was amazing, and that he wanted to be more involved in disability ministry. As David began college, he wrestled with his chosen major of accounting. Although good at numbers, he didn’t love it the way his business friends did.
Not sure what to do, David asked God to lead him in his next steps. Soon after, five different people told David he should consider being a pastor since he had the heart for it. David didn’t know for sure where God was leading, but changed his major to Biblical Studies and Christian Ministries.
After graduating, David’s mentors encouraged him to gain some experience before he plunged into seminary. The Master’s School in Connecticut offered him a position as a chaplain and Bible teacher.
It is in this position that David has found his two ministry experiences crossing. Ever since his college graduation, he missed the weekly involvement in disability ministry. Remembering those moments with Sam, David decided to give the school’s teens a chance to experience the same thing at a Joni and Friends retreat this August.
“It’s important when you’re young to try new experiences. There’s few that challenge, grow, stretch, and bring out something new in you that you didn’t know about like Joni and Friends,” David said. Looking over his own life, he sees that those moments with Sam helped him discover new gifts and opportunities he didn’t know existed.
Even if you don’t feel equipped to serve because of a lack of experience, David would tell you in the words of his pastor, “God does not call the equipped, He equips the called.” God may not call you to full-time ministry, but serving one week at a Family Retreat this summer could propel you down a path more glorious than you could imagine.
Danielle Ledoux is a former intern with Joni and Friends’ Cause 4 Life program who enjoys writing about God’s work in people’s lives. She is a graduate of Pensacola Christian College and is currently getting her Master of Fine Arts in Dramatics.