Erika in Thailand

  • By: Joni and Friends
  • Jan. 11, 2018
  • International Family Retreat

Erika in Thailand

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to serve on an International Family Retreat (IFR)? Hear from one of our wonderful volunteers, Erika Rogers, who traveled to Thailand with us last year, as she answers some questions you might have about her experience!

What was your experience like with people affected by disabilities before going on this Outreach?
Though I had no previous experience working with Joni and Friends Ministry before going on this outreach, God has privileged me with extensive life experiences with people affected by disabilities. My older brother Wilson was born with brain damage and other physiologic impairments that made him unable to see, walk, or talk for his entire life. Wilson was one of my best friends as I grew up, and his life was a rich blessing to our parents, to our younger brother Perry, and to me. The Lord brought Wilson home after a battle with pneumonia at age 25 the December before I participated in the JAF summer outreach to Thailand.

I also was previously blessed to work at a Christian daycare center for adults with special needs many consecutive summers, to tutor and teach dance and gymnastics classes to individuals affected by disabilities, to help mine and my friend’s aging grandparents with routine errands and housework, and to eventually begin my doctor of physical therapy degree at Georgia State University

What impacted you the most in terms of disability ministry during your time serving at IFR?
It impacted me greatly to see how many less resources the people affected by disabilities have in Thailand than in the U.S. They did not have the best wheelchairs, medications, educational opportunities, or social support, and yet the First Church of Chiang Mai and so many Christians in the Chiang Mai area are working tirelessly year-round to provide gospel-based disability ministry to their community. God’s perfect care and eternal promises for His people regardless of where they live and what worldly resources they have became clearer to me.

Did anything surprise you while you were serving internationally?
Even though it should not have been a surprise, I was awed to see how God provided for every single detail of the trip so kindly. The other U.S. team members and I connected well and had seamless travels; God gave me more energy and health than I have ever experienced when traveling internationally; and even though the Thai families do not tend to RSVP for IFR, we had the perfect number of accommodations and buddies for the families who came. God brought just who He intended to this International Family Retreat, and I was blessed to be a part of it.

What would you say to someone who is considering going on an International Family Retreat?
Pray about pursuing the opportunity! It is a wonderful way to learn and to serve. And if you are concerned about the fundraising aspect, know that God can miraculously provide as He did for my team.

What is your favorite memory from the International Family Retreat?
One of many people’s favorite parts of the Retreat was the talent show on the final night. All of the participants and volunteers were like a close family by the final night and we were very excited to cheer one another on as people performed a variety of talents such as dancing, singing, and acting. One young man with severe cerebral palsy astounded us all as he played the harmonica and sang — the expression of thanks and praise to God from his parents the next day was one of the most encouraging parts of the weekend. 

We have been so blessed by Erika and her heart for people affected by disability, and we hope you feel the same. Would you like to serve at an International Family Retreat this year? We're looking for volunteers like you for these outreaches:

 International Family Retreats  


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