Updated: Dec 22, 2019
Showers of blessings were the order of the day for ASNA’s (Adventist Special Needs Association) annual Carers Retreat – and in more ways than one! But not even the rain could stop the the joy that God poured out on all who attended…
From 11 to 13 October 2019, ASNA’s annual Carers Retreat themed ‘Restoring the Joy!’ was held at Sedgebrook Hall Hotel and Leisure Club. Built around a quaint manor house and surrounded by thirteen acres of leafy Northamptonshire countryside, the venue was ideal for a weekend of much-needed physical and spiritual rejuvenation. For many attendees it was an opportunity to withdraw from the pressures of being a disability and special needs carer; for others, it was a way to foster mutually-supportive friendships with those under similar circumstances; volunteers were also welcomed to receive training. However, all agreed that the weekend ‘came at just the right time.’
The Carer’s Retreat is one of two annual breaks held by ASNA. It seeks to provide a safe, fun and neutral environment for respite, something which often comes a challenge for those affected by special needs and disabilities.
The weekend kicked off on Friday evening with warm welcomes being the affective antidote to the outside cold. Guest speaker, Pastor Leslie Ackie, set the tone for the weekend with a presentation that drew focus to the unchanging patience and forgiving nature of Christ. Guests were encouraged to see the well-loved story of Zacchaeus in a fresh light: how the dwelling of Jesus in Zacchaeus’s home changed his life for the better, and how Christ wants to do the same for us. The presentation was followed by an informal getting-to-know-you dinner, all before guests took their night’s rest for the activities of the days ahead.
Sabbath morning began bright and early with an invigorating walk around the hotel grounds, after which guests convened in the conference suite for the day’s programme. Pastor Leslie Ackie continued in a series of workshops on ‘Restoring the Joy’, challenging and thought-provoking explorations into how we can overcome shame to experience the fullness of joy which God has purposed for us. Drawing on the account of Adam and Eve’s
original sin, he detailed how shame can stifle creativity and separate us from God and one another. During these workshops, attendees drew on each other’s experiences, leaving with a transformative outlook on how God’s love can supersede the damage of shame in our lives and personal relationships. After lunch, attendees participated in a brisk walk, exploring the grounds and beautiful nature that the Northamptonshire countryside had to offer. The discovery of an antique train was the highlight for many, accentuating the quintessentially British charm of Brampton Manor countryside. Therapeutic massages, health-spa facilities and on-site counselling services were also available throughout the weekend to help promote holistic respite.
However, it was on Saturday evening that guests dressed up and showed out for the glamourous celebratory banquet. An aura of joy and celebration filled the room as attendees sat down to a three-course meal, after which they shared entertainment and encouragement through poetry and song. Some of the acts included mother and son-in law duet, Joyce
Ugbomah and Nigel Nicholls, who shared their favourite hymn. Paulette Liburd presented a touching poem written and accompanied by her husband, Amos Liburd, on the guitar, whilst soloist, Angela Victor, encouraged the group in song. The banquet was also the perfect opportunity to share a 12-part online series sharing the testimonies of individuals affected by disabilities and special needs. These short yet powerful videos are available as a free resource through the ASNA website for use in churches and community projects. A wonderful evening was concluded with the pre-launch of ASNA’s new website, www.asna.info. The new website was designed to be fully accessible to members of the disability community and will make resources like the afore mentioned videos more widely available.
Sunday 13 October marked the close of the weekend, with many attendees preparing to travel home having been well-rested and well-equipped. However, before saying their goodbyes, it was important for members to reflect on the work of ASNA thus far and plan ahead for the future. (A few words from Sophia about the future of ASNA).
By Imaan Wright