I joined the Lighthouse team on staff in early 2020. At the time of my hire, I had never been on a Lighthouse Retreat before. I was excited about the year ahead and all that I would learn being a part of the 2020 retreat season.
You know what happened next.
I spent that year helping my teammates discover new ways to fulfill our mission of strengthening families living through childhood cancer. Through new resources—such as a 30-day devotional, a podcast, and this blog—and through the Lighthouse Box Project, we emerged into new ways of serving families, despite not being able to host families on retreats. It was, in so many ways, an exciting year of discovery and adaptation, and I enjoyed every minute of working on the Lighthouse staff. I loved the energy of innovation and the strength of community I experienced. Through all the struggles and stresses of a global pandemic, I still felt like I had come home, that I was right where God wanted me to be.
“But you haven’t even experienced the best part.”
That’s what I would hear from anyone and everyone when I told them how much I loved Lighthouse. My thought was always, “If it’s better than this, I can’t wait to experience it.” It was 14 months into my time on staff before I finally served on my first retreat. My wife, daughter, and I were Family Partners on a Spring Break retreat in April of 2021. It turns out “anyone and everyone” had been right.
There’s nothing like serving on a Lighthouse retreat.
We were paired with a retreat family from the Atlanta area. We had been praying for this family for weeks leading up to the retreat because the child on treatment had been in the hospital. The family feared the worst, and we weren’t sure if they would be able to participate. By the grace of God, the child recovered and was released from treatment in time for them to attend. My family and I were blessed to serve them for the week.
My daughter connected immediately with the older siblings, both in her age group. But it was what happened between my wife and the child on treatment that moved me the most. They bonded at a deep level. They had similar temperaments and enjoyed similar things, like doing puzzles and wandering the shoreline looking for seashells. At one point, the girl looked up at my wife and said, “You know, we’re a perfect match.”
And they were.
This is the kind of thing that happens regularly on a Lighthouse retreat. God brings people together in mysterious and wonderful ways. Volunteers and retreat families find in each other common ground and we all learn from and grow with each other. God takes strangers and makes them family. He gathers the broken pieces of our human lives and uses them to create experiences of deep human connection and real joy. In over 25 years of serving in ministries all over the world, I’ve never seen anything quite like what happens on a Lighthouse Retreat. There’s something transcendent, something hard to put into words, that takes place in the hearts of retreat families and volunteers on a Lighthouse retreat. All I know is that our good God moves in significant ways when we gather under the tent... in condos... on the sand.
I’ve been on the Lighthouse staff for almost two-and-a-half years now. I’m grateful for every day. I’m grateful for the difficult and invigorating days of discovery in 2020. I’m grateful for the amazing, talented, and God-loving team I get to be a part of every day. But I’m most grateful for my new Happy Place, serving on a Lighthouse Family Retreat. There’s nothing like it.
Grateful for another summer of getting to experience the “best part.”