A teen attending the retreat told us that this was the first time in her life she felt loved and accepted for who she was. Plus, her grandmother who is her primary caregiver, shared that this was the first time her granddaughter didn’t insist she was with her at all times. In the past they have tried youth groups and other teen groups, even with supports, but nothing had been successful until their experience this week.
One family after the first night of programming shared with a few of us on the team that even if the first night was the only part of the retreat, they could attend, they have already had the best family vacation ever. This same family had brought grandma and grandpa along as their respite providers and were surprised that even grandma and grandpa could get respite and time with their typical grandchildren, which they rarely experience.
One mom said she came with a list of questions on how to homeschool her special needs daughter, not even thinking she would take the plunge because it seemed so daunting, but on the final day of the retreat she was glad to tell the entire group that although she never asked any of her homeschooling questions, she felt encouraged by the stories other families had shared of their homeschooling experiences, knew how to access resources as she needed them in the future, and felt supported by a community she could stay in contact with as she started her homeschooling journey. She left confident and empowered to move forward in God’s call to teach and disciple her daughter at home.
Another mom shared how her family had driven from Chicago, IL to Stewartville, MN to attend this retreat because they thought it would be good for their kids, only to realize just how much her and her husband needed to have time for fellowship, time together as a couple, and time to listen to what the Lord had to say to them to renew and deepen their faith.
One homeschooling mom and her two children (18 and 17) had never had the opportunity to experience inclusion or work alongside or with anyone affected by disability until this week. Throughout the week, this family allowed God to work through them and their willingness to serve. The mom expressed how deeply humbled she felt that the family she worked with would be so trusting to allow her to work with their daughter, and what a great privilege it was for her that her camper (who was greatly affected by autism) would allow her into her world this week. Her kids also were always willing to serve and were great role models for the campers they were assigned to as well as other kids who needed extra attention throughout the week. The mom even said when it was time to leave, it was unlike her kids to not want to leave, but they were one of the last families to finish saying their goodbyes.
From the Retreat Director, Peggy Ployhar, SPED Homeschool Founder & CEO
This week I had the opportunity to see dreams realized that God laid on my heart years ago, that I have prayed and cried out to the Lord over again and again, and was unsure would ever be answered, especially in the impactful way they were this past week. God didn’t just work through me to answer these prayers; instead, I was joined by an entire team and volunteer contingent who caught the vision, and together as we let the Spirit lead we worked in unison to bring about amazing kingdom work. In the end, we not only ministered to the needs of the families we served, but through our service passed along a larger vision for these families and others like theirs and how they have purpose and significance as children of the King, members of the body of Christ, and individuals called by God to disciple their children at home through homeschooling.
My heart is so filled with joy, and even laughter, and I am praising God in gladness not only with what He has done, but what He put into motion for all that He is yet to do. In my quiet time the morning after we wrapped up the retreat, God led me to Psalm 126, which I felt was very fitting to reference.
“When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they aid among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’ The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad. Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negeb! Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy bringing his sheaves with him.” Psalm 126
God has been so good to show how to best provide respite, community, and encouragement in a faith-based environment to families who are homeschooling their children with special needs. I can’t wait to see how God will continue to grow what He has planted through this event and the impact it will make in the lives of homeschooling families affected by disability across the US.