NATCHEZ, MS — For many families living with disability, down time is seldom part of their daily routine. And for single parents like Jayna Stogner from Mississippi, breaks are almost non-existent. Family Retreat is the only time she is able to get away and relax, knowing that her son is being well taken care of. It’s an opportunity for her family to grow in their relationship with Christ and find support from other families living with disabilities.
Jayna Stogner – Nicholas Mother, Natchez, Mississippi:
I’ve never been able to walk beside Nicholas because I’m always behind him pushing him. And being at camp I’m able to be beside him and hold his hand.
Hi, I’m Jayna Stogner and my son is Nicholas Stogner. He is 17 years old. He has cerebral palsy, cortical visual impairment, seizures, can’t walk or talk or do anything for himself. He’s completely fed by a feeding tube. Going somewhere for a long term with Nicholas is a challenge because there’s so much that I have to prepare for ahead of time.
How many time is he going to use the bathroom? He wears a diaper. I got to have the wet wipes. I have to have the milk, the suction machine, his breathing treatment machine. It’s so much to pack and it’s difficult to get things together, but going to Joni and Friends family retreat, it’s worth it.
Being a single mum of a special needs child I did not travel out very much but with the Joni and Friends retreat I knew that I was going to a place where people were prepared to help with someone with special needs and that was a blessing and that was our first time getting out because we just didn’t have anywhere to go beforehand.
First day when I got here it was all this excitement. I was just on cloud nine. It was good to connect with other parents. When I got there Nicholas was not the only one with cerebral palsy. I didn’t have to explain what cerebral palsy was. I didn’t have to explain the feeding tube and get strange looks.
Nicholas’s buddies were very wonderful this week. They were able to pick him out of the wheelchair, move him, take care of him fully. They told me they have Nicholas that I could stay in the room and get some rest and that was a huge help to me that I knew that he was taken care of and that I could just relax and rest.
Charlie Jacobs – Volunteer:
I hope to encourage Nick’s mom by just giving her relief kind of like a vacation for both of them. So we can take stress off her shoulders and give Nick a good time.
Madison Morris – Volunteer:
I hope to encourage her by giving her a break so that she can just relax have some time to herself because it is hard work.
Jackson Kwasny – Volunteer:
It really just humbles you to see what serving others can do, how it can relieve stress from other people and made everybody else around you joyful and make Nick happy.
At family retreat I can jump in the pool. I can be a kid myself with my kid.
Nicholas has so much more joy at the family retreat. That’s just God helping him and being with him and showing him excitement – showing Nicholas that he is loved. And that there’s more than just his mom and grandparents that love him that other people love him too.
What makes me come back to family retreat is forgetting about every day life and connecting with nature and God and just focusing on each other and having time where we don’t have to worry about what the world thinks of us because everybody else here is like we are. We keep each other lifted up.
This is my only time away. I can walk alone outside and see the stars and moon at night and just relax and feel safe. So hopefully I can be an inspiration to someone else because Nicholas is 17 and I can share some stories and give people hope that they can go through it. Joni Earickson Tada and Joni and Friends has helped me be an outreach to teach others. Joni and Friends has helped us grow closer together as a family,
About Joni and Friends
For 40 years, Joni and Friends has provided the hope of the Gospel and practical resources to people affected by disability around the globe. Ministry programs include Wheels for the World, Family Retreats, the Christian Institute on Disability, and church ministry training. Joni and Friends also delivers inspirational media such as the Joni and Friends radio program and podcasts. To find out more, please visit www.joniandfriends.org.
- Global News Alliance, Family Retreat Brings Rest for Single Mother with Special Needs Son
- Joni and Friends, Official Website