Stephen Sweeney’s preconceived ideas about a Missions at the Airport event were about to be wiped away.
Every year, JAARS volunteers and staff give up their Memorial Day weekend to fly to Whiting, New Jersey. There, they represent JAARS and give helicopter rides at America’s Keswick, a family retreat and addiction recovery center.
When Stephen signed up to volunteer at the event, he wasn’t quite sure what to expect. “To be honest, I had my reservations about how the worlds would meld, and I had lots of questions about the functionality of it.”
Those on Stephen’s team who had previously attended Missions at the Airport events at Keswick raved about it. Everyone loved the place and told him he would soon enjoy it too. Stephen expected to enjoy a pool, gym, dining facility, and other pleasant amenities reminiscent of vacations at a ‘retreat center’.
God had other ideas.
When the team arrived on Thursday afternoon, people hadn’t checked in yet, and the place felt like a ghost town. So Stephen took advantage of the downtime to observe the facilities at the 122 year-old ministry. “It was a nice place with nice amenities, but certainly dated.” Despite the decor and age, it was obvious the grounds were well cared for. The landscape was beautiful and the facilities spotless. However, Stephen still didn’t understand what all the talk was about.
Friday was the group’s first day of helicopter rides. Since most guests hadn’t arrived yet, the team had the opportunity to give rides to the residents of the recovery center. Stephen’s reservations soon dissipated with the spinning of the helicopter blades. “To my surprise, I was quickly engaged in deep conversations with men who were so humble and eager to speak the name of Jesus.” Stephen connected to several of the men: a father of four from the Kensington area of Philadelphia; a cage fighter from Delaware County, Pennsylvania; and a third, highly educated man. These three men, along with others, put things into perspective for him.
“I consider myself truly blessed to have encountered these men because they were truly broken, reaching out to Jesus, and only Jesus, to save them. There was nothing fake or religious about it. They were men who recognized that they can’t do it themselves and they need Jesus. That’s how I want to be.”
The rest of the weekend Stephen facilitated helicopter rides, engaged the retreat guests, local visitors, and the men and women of the recovery center. And contrary to his original reservations, Stephen soon saw that the different groups melded together beautifully—all in the name of Jesus.
Learn more here about JAARS Missions at the Airport events and how you can be involved. visit .