Keeping the Light Burning

Written by Summer Staffer Miriam Viars


When Lighthouse says, “family always,” they mean it. This organization will always be a part of my life. It is nearly impossible for me to imagine being blessed so much by Lighthouse and then never coming back. While on a retreat, during Refuel—a time where the volunteers meet and talk about the day—the Common Ground leaders said that one of the Retreat Family parents called us “the keepers.” That thought struck me. As I looked around at the hundred-odd volunteers, I realized how true that is. Everyone who makes Lighthouse happen—staff, volunteers, donors—they are all keepers, keepers of hope.


I started my journey to being one of these “keepers” on the other side of things at Lighthouse. My brother was diagnosed with a Wilms tumor in 2011. My life was turned inside out and upside down for the next few years as we began and endured treatment. Sometimes walking through childhood cancer feels like being on the open ocean, in the middle of a storm. Waves are rising and crashing in on you, dousing you with freezing, salty water, tossing you from side to side. You don’t know where you are, you cannot see the stars, but all that matters is keeping your boat from taking on too much water. There is no sky, no land, and no hope. My family and I knew that feeling all too well.


Aptly named, Lighthouse was a beacon of hope for us. We came as a Retreat Family in 2012 and 2013. It was two incredible weeks of rest and memories—experiences that allowed us to walk away confident we would come back and serve when we could. That confidence was tested for me when my brother passed away in 2015. I still loved Lighthouse, but the thought of coming back was too painful to consider. Grief was a different kind of storm, and this one would take time. Things changed during the 2019 Sunrise Retreat, Lighthouse’s one-time-a-year bereavement retreat. The week I spent in Bald Head Island helped me understand where I was on my own grief journey. It was also a fresh reminder of how much I loved Lighthouse; it renewed my desire to serve. The people, the place, the mission... I remembered how near and dear all of it is to me. It was during that retreat I realized I was ready to take the plunge and apply for Summer Staff 2021.


Serving with Lighthouse this past summer was a great blessing and challenge. Summer retreats alone are an operation and putting them on takes an immense amount of work. I am reminded of the actual lighthouse I visited while on retreat at Bald Head Island. For the light to shine at the top, there are flights and flights of stairs to get up there.

IT TAKES A COMMUNITY TO KEEP LIGHTHOUSE RUNNING:

Staff and Summer Staff build and maintain the foundation. They repair steps, fill cracks in the walls, repaint the outside... serving the servants.

Volunteers and Family Partners are the ones climbing the stairs, toting oil to fuel the light. They work tirelessly to keep Lighthouse a beacon of hope to families in desperate need of rest.

Donors keep the lighthouse standing. They are vital to Lighthouse and the hope it brings.

I’ve experienced being on the other side of that hope, but being on the inside at Lighthouse has perhaps been an even more unique and special experience. This time around, Lighthouse has shown me you do not always have to be the one pointing the light, holding the kid, crying with the parent, encouraging the sibling. Value lies in the people toting the oil up and down the stairs to keep the light going, cleaning the windows and lens, repairing the stairs and cracks in the walls. These are the people making the plans, organizing the bins, doing the paperwork, and making the calls. There is a kind of beauty in sweating in the sun to raise a white tent that will shelter families from the sun. There is value, immeasurable value, in the work that is done by hands that never touch the sand.


Let’s celebrate those hands—staff, summer staff, volunteers and donors. Let’s thank the staff that work all year long to serve not only Retreat Families but Family Partners and donors. Let’s thank the volunteers and donors that connect with Retreat Families in the sand. Lighthouse does not shine hope without people who tirelessly serve.


Being a part of Summer Staff has been a blessing and fills my soul, as it does for so many. But I want to shine a light on all the work being done that is not seen immediately, to celebrate those who keep the light burning.



Miriam Viars is from Auburn, Alabama, and she is currently a sophomore at Lee University, double majoring in theater and psychology. She was the 2021 Flip Flop Intern on Summer Staff and had an amazing summer serving with Lighthouse!





As an organization, Lighthouse recognizes our monthly donors, The Lighthouse Keepers, as the foundation to all our “keepers.” In a literal sense, a lighthouse keeper is an individual who is responsible for caring for and tending to a lighthouse. For Lighthouse Family Retreat, this special group of donors exists to ensure that when the storm of childhood cancer comes, the ministry is ready to guide families to safety. The Lighthouse Keepers allow us to reach more families and strengthen them with the hope of God. These donors are those who choose to financially commit to Lighthouse with a monthly gift used to support the operational needs of the organization so that every public donation and volunteer support donation goes directly to retreats. Learn more here.

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