Jane Glende is a busy nurse, wife and mother who spends her days helping older adults at The Lutheran Home: Belle Plaine. Her work has a predictable rhythm far removed from the lively atmosphere of a camp, but Jane happily pitched in at the Joy in Jesus retreat at Green Lake Bible Camp near Spicer, Minn. The annual camp-style retreats for people with developmental disabilities are hosted by Jesus Cares Ministries (JCM) and the WELS Minnesota District Special Ministries.
“I decided to do it because it’s a completely different scope than what we have at the skilled nursing facility,” Jane said.
Julie Luetke, program coordinator at Jesus Cares Ministries and The Lutheran Home Association (TLHA), casts a wide net to find just one volunteer nurse for each of the two annual retreats. Typically, nurses who volunteer have a connection to the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), but it’s rare to have an employee from TLHA volunteer because of rotating work shifts, family duties and other commitments.
“The nurses at camp are vital; if we have no nurse, we have no camp,” Julie said.
The nurse must supervise the medications administered at camp, one of the most critical parts of the position. He or she also provides a comforting presence: Many campers at Joy in Jesus camps are not used to being away from home and get anxious late at night or in strange surroundings. Having a nurse ready to help is often enough to calm nerves. Jane, a licensed wound care nurse who has been in nursing for 13 years, suffered kidney failure as a child, and her severe illness inspired her career choice. She’s worked at The Lutheran Home for four years, but has also been a school nurse and an emergency room nurse.
“As an experienced nurse, Jane’s confidence in her work helped make camp run smoothly,” Julie said.
While Jane was originally eager to volunteer, she wasn’t able to find care for her 6-year-old daughter Macie and 9-year-old son Alexander. Julie encouraged her to bring them along.
“We did all the camp activities. My kids felt so welcomed,” Jane said. “Macie even won the Race to Jesus Hot Wheels game.”
Camp includes a variety of activities such as sitting by the campfire, floating around the lake on a pontoon, hiking, exploring and playing games as well as worship services and morning prayers. Everyone staffing the camp is a volunteer.
“It’s beautiful to see pastors, nurses, people to cook and clean, all volunteering and doing it for the joy of these people,” Jane said. “From the moment I got there, it was the most heartwarming experience I’ve ever had. I can’t even tell you how the campers make you feel. You cry happy tears.”
Besides enjoying the many activities, Jane was smitten with the campers, who showed a unique sense of joy.
“The campers give genuine hugs. They squeeze you and they mean it,” Jane said. “I’d volunteer again in a heartbeat. As much as they want to say thank you, I want to say thank you for the opportunity.”
This was Jane’s first time at Joy in Jesus, but the retreats have a history of devoted volunteer nurses including Ross and Joanne Malkuch, Denise Gruetzman and Bonnie Richter.
“A nurse brings comfort even when you are healthy. As the nurse stands beside a person and carefully hands them their medication and waits patiently until each has been swallowed, the simple action says, ‘I care about you,’” Julie said.
Joy in Jesus retreats depend entirely on volunteers. Give campers an unique experience by giving your time. Contact Julie Luetke, Jesus Cares Ministries Program Consultant, at firstname.lastname@example.org to volunteer.