Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Elisha Foundation - Debriefing...

If you have followed the sporadic posts of the last week you will know that I was in Oregon preaching for a Family Retreat of the The Elisha Foundation (that is pronounced ee-lie-sha, not uh-lee-sha).

Around 10 years ago, Justin and Tamara Reimer were blessed with the birth of their first boy, Elisha. Within 45 minutes, he was diagnosed with Down Syndrome – and life took a surprising twist for the Reimer’s. A delightful one!

As the Reimer's learned how to minister to their son (while having a few more kids!) an idea struck them – “why not give families in our situation what we would love?” That is, a few days off and some much-needed spiritual refreshment. They founded The Elisha Foundation in order to do just that – and more.

The Reimer's knew from personal experience how incredibly beneficial it would be to have a few days respite and time to learn from other families in similar situations. This was the third retreat they have done. The location is wonderful – a dude ranch about 15 minutes into the wilderness north of Bend, Oregon. 40 acres of private ranch backing on to a gabillion acres of National Forest – all pristine wilderness.

Each family goes through an application process in order to come to the retreat. Justin and Tamara arrange with their home church and other friends for a volunteer staff of 25 or so. From the moment a family arrives, they are assigned a couple of staff members to care for their special needs child. That alone is a remarkable ministry.

The next 4 days and 3 nights are packed with worship in song, preaching (what I was doing), activities for all the kids (special needs and otherwise), great food, lovely on site cabins, and even a good share of free family time. Plus, Justin and Tamara add lots of little extras including some great books, a candlelight dinner and more.

For some families this was the first break they had in over three years of 24 hour-a-day care for their child.

Just stop and consider that.

Of the families in attendance, two had terminally ill children with severe mental retardation. Another family had a child whose successful brain tumor removal had left him with a new personality. A grandparent was there with an undiagnosed child whose mother did not want him anymore.

For these families, every day presents a whole set of problems and decisions. Just keeping a job can be a major difficulty – and that in a nation without socialized health care.

What the Reimer’s are doing through The Elisha Foundation is something I hope to see duplicated around the country and globe. All it takes is a little bit of money, a crew of servant-hearted volunteers and someone to pull it all together. As Justin told me several times, it is an easily transferable idea.

If nothing else, this week taught me how difficult churches can make things for special needs families. I will save my comments on that for another post, but for now, take a peak around The Elisha Foundation website and... send them some of your money.


  1. Just out of curiosity, how come the archives in your sidebar are now in ... spanish(?)? Was that intentional?

  2. "All it takes is a little bit of money, a crew of servant-hearted volunteers and someone to pull it all together."

    What it takes, dear Kerux, is a passion for the movement, such as what you have. Now why DID God put those people in your life last week and so powerfully stir you to keep talking about what they are doing? Could God be telling YOU to do it? May your burden for such a valuable ministry never diminsh until you take the reigns and see to it that it starts here in the way you see it needs to.

  3. Ah, Kenny, there you are again trying to steal our pastor's time and energies away from our poor little local congregation whose been left pastorless in his absence.

    Cruel man, you are. :)

    Kerux, thanks so much for this post... I look forward to hearing some further reflections on this type of ministry, and also, with Kenny, I look forward to hearing how we can think about starting a similar ministry in Canada... or contributing to this one that's already going!

  4. Spurgeon started an orphanage and all kinds of other things while keeping his pastorate and I am confident that the Kerux is no less talented than the Prince of Preachers and a lot less dead - in better physical condition too.

  5. Hmmmm, this give us something to think about. Thank you for your insights and we're looking forward to your future posts on the subject. Did you get our e-mail?

    Sandra and Greg

  6. A friend forwarded this post to me. I'm so glad to hear about this ministry and the initiative to get it done.

    I'm involved in MN with Joni and Friends, which this year has 19 similar Family Retreats around the country. You are so right about the overwhelming relief and refreshment a retreat can be for a family affected by disabilities.

    May the Lord prosper Elisha and inspire many others to minister in similar ways!

    Noel Piper

  7. Sandra and Greg -
    Thanks for the comment. Yes, I have your email and hope to reply soon. Playing a little catch up after a week away...

  8. Kenny -
    I am certainly not opposed to doing whatever I can to see this type of thing happen in the Toronto area!

  9. Noel -
    Thanks for dropping by. I have heard of the Joni retreats before and am so thankful for them... I am not sure if there is anything else out there though.
    I too will be praying for the Lord to do great things with Joni and Friends and The Elisha Foundation!
    By the by, I know that Justin and Tamara have been profoundly influenced and motivated in this ministry through the preaching of one John Piper. You may have heard of him! :-)

  10. A family I knew had a special needs child (after an already rather large family), were so stretched in dealing with that they made a career change...they had already moved to England, serving as pastors there, so they cast about and located, then purchased, an old country estate in Wales. (picture Mr. Darby's estate in Pride and Prejudice--somewhat along those lines but a trifle smaller). They have got lots of help from others, and now operate what we here this side the puddle would call a dude ranch for families with special needs children. They can come at what time suits their schedule, relax, be served along with other such families by saints who understand their situation, find a respite from the constant strain of their own child, participate in all manner of other activities, gain understanding from those more experienced...and, if I understand rightly, this place is open to all families whether professing believers or not...which also makes it an incredibly effective ministry for the gospel into some very hurting and desparate families. SO, this family, rather than allowing themselves to be hopelessly burdened with their own child, have made a life of serving and helping others in precisely their own is their own full time position, they live there...and find it all most delightful.

  11. Nick,

    I would like to get in touch with them. Can you email me their contact info and perhaps introduce us?

    I would be blessed to hear more of their ministry. My personal email is justin{at}

  12. Paul-

    Thanks for bringing our attention to this wonderful ministry. I am both a pastor (in Florida) and a father to a special needs daughter. My wife and I have often thought about ways we could minister to families with special needs and this ministry provides a very compelling model. I'd love to dialogue with you personally about the retreat, as my family and I might be interested in attending in the future. Would you mind if I contacted you by email?