June 2008

Vero Bible Class

Teaching the Bible in Vero Beach

In the Special Gathering, we teach the simple essence of the Gospel,

Jesus loves me

This I know

For the Bible

Tells me so.

This is what our members understand and it’s the heart and core of the Scriptures.  In addition, every church and denomination agrees with this simple premise. As a parachurch ministry we understand that God commissioned the local church with the task of evangelizing and discipleship.  Therefore, we endeavor to not by-pass the local church but to become a part of the local church by asking to become a part of their budgets.   This strategy does force us to use the KISS theory (Keep It Simple, Stupid.) in all our teaching.  Nevertheless, it is amazing how much you can preach and teach in these small boundaries.

Below is an excerpt of a comment left on our June 29, Sermon blog.  I’ve included it for several reasons.  First and I admit it, I’m starved for comments.  While this blog is picked up by several national organizations each day to carry on their blogs, the other comments are few and far between.  Even though this a boiler plate comment that Rev. Billy leaves on many blogs to draw people to his blog, I’ve included it.

But there is much more.  The most important reason why I’ve included it is:  What Rev. Billy is espousing is the very thing that you need to avoid like the plague when teaching your members.  There are many rational arguments I could use to counter his beliefs.  For one, all the books he mentioned are an interesting read but they are riddled with mistakes.  There have been no factual mistakes found within the 66 canonized Scripture texts. 

However, back to the point.  The Special Gathering is a ministry within the mentally challenged community.  We aspire to bring the gospel to our people who are intellectually disabled and then to train and disciple them.  However, there are developmental deficiencies that they face in any attempt to understand complex concepts.  An argument regarding the validity of the more than 600 Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts which exist but are excluded from the canon of Scriptures is not an argument that our members will understand or be of interest to them.  Therefore, it is an argument that we avoid. 

Here is the comment left by Rev. Bolitho: 

In the Protestant church only the 66 books approved by the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1885, which today is known as the Authorized King James Bible, are allowed.

Fourteen other books, which were included in the original King James Bible, and 22 other books which were mentioned or quoted in the King James Bible, are not included today.

There was no specific list or accounting of all the books that made up the Bible until the commission of the first Bible by the Emperor Constantine in the 4th Century AD.

It is believed there were up to 600 books, taken out by the formation of Catholicism by Constantine; even one lost book is a great loss.

Also many do not know that the Apocryphal books were actually included in the King James translation until they were officially taken out by the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1885.

My conclusion is that if these books mentioned by God’s people in the Bible, was good enough for them to read and to study, and to accept that it is the word of God, then I to accept that these other books mentioned in the Bible is the word of God. And to reject them would be a grave loss to me. But we do know that if man has any involvement in writing God’s Word, he makes mistakes and sometimes changes the Word of God, therefore we must always seek the Holy Spirits teaching when we are reading holy scriptures today, for the Holy Spirit will always lead us into all truth as Jesus said.


Show Me the Church

Acts 2:41 to 42


Central Theme:  The church is an active group of believers.



       1.     Show a picture of church building where I was raised.  Ask what is this?

       2.     Ask is this the church?  No


       I.     You are the church.


              A. Have a member read Acts 2:41 to 42…


           II.     We are going to look at what the church does


              A. We learn the teachings of the Bible and our faith fathers.

              B. We share by giving. 

              C. We break bread or fellowship.

              D. Prayer.


     III.     How do we do it.


              A. Our teachers help us to understand the Bible.

                   1.  They teach us what is important to know

                   2.  They teach us how to live like Jesus

              B. You give in the offering.

              C. We eat together, play together

              D. We pray. 

                   1.  Our deacons.

                   2.  Gloria White, we had special prayer


Conclusion–     The church is you but the church is actively doing and learning.

World Trade Center site   Site of the World Trade Center March 2007

Over the past two months, I’ve been thinking.  What wonderful things could have happened if Jacob had given his twin brother, Esau, the bowl of soup he requested, rather than selling it to him?

What would have happened had Jacob decided against tricking his father? What if he had decided against pretending to be his brother Esau?

What would have happened if Joseph’s brother had chosen to ignore their younger brother’s silly antics and their father’s favoritism toward the boy.  Understanding instead to bless their old father and the young son of his old age.  What would have happened?

I know. I’ve had the same thoughts.  God in his foreknowledge used their sin and selfishness to bring about his glorious deliverance of the entire nation of Israel. 

But what would have happened had these men and women chose to do the best thing, the holy thing?  If God can work such glory out of hideous mistakes, what can he do with obedience and submission to his will and ways?

In chosing our own way as Jacob and Rebekah and Issac and the Joseph’s brother did, we have seen the fulfillment of Romans, “All things work for the good of those who love the Lord and are called according to his purpose.”  But the lingering question has stirred my heart.  What if I choose God’s way, instead?  What would be the glory the world could encounter?  Dwight L. Moody said,  “The world has not seen the impact one man sold out to God can have.” 

Parents of children who are born with disabilities are often plagued with the what if questions of life?  My question today is “What if our choices become Godly, holy choices?  Salvation means that we can choose God’s way.  What if we DID choose God way?  What would happen then?


Of course, she won’t come or bring her two children because she ended the telephone conversation with “I’ll think about it.”  In polite language that means “No.”  And I don’t blame her.

I’d called this mother to invite her to come and bring her children to our Special Gathering that meets on Sunday morning at First United Methodist Church in Melbourne.  I liked her immediately.  The vibrancy and confidence of her personality was exposed in her voice.  She was polite and careful not to reveal the offenses she’s experienced over the years.  But I’ve worked with The Special Gathering of Indian River which is a ministry within the mentally challenged community for almost 20 years.  We do classic ministry, evangelism and discipleship. Too often I’ve heard the signs and her conversation screamed with desperate undertones of rejection. 

There are several reasons why she won’t entrust her precious treasures to The Special Gathering.  The most obvious reason is that they are her children and she isn’t convinced that I care enough about them to care enough about them.  Too many people have promised to care, only leave her and her treasures stranded in that all-too familiar corridor called Hope.  Unfortunately, in our world, Hope usually leads to an empty room labeled Loneliness.  She’s seen her children sitting quietly in Loneliness too often.  She chooses to not risk the hurt this time.

Second, they’ve been rejected by normal society once too often.  Rejection by her church was more than she could bear.  “Can you imagine how much it hurts to see everyone else included and my children left out more times than I can count.  Every single time.”  It was a retorical question.  She didn’t expect me to understand.  So there was no question mark and she didn’t wait for an answer.  But in our 20 minute conversation, she repeated her question three times.

Third, she doesn’t know me, Linda Howard, well enough to trust her must precious gems into my care.  My schedule doesn’t permit me to go to Saturday bowling anymore because I’m in Vero.  She mentioned it to me, “I don’t remember ever seeing you at Saturday bowling.”  If I really cared, wouldn’t I be at the things her children care about?  Wouldn’t I show up at least some time?  Sure, I’m busy doing a van route during that time and I’m at their workshop weekdays but she isn’t there during the week.  Where am I during the rest of the week?

Fourth, her children aren’t able to speak and she’s not confident that her children won’t be ignored, again.  “They have no behavior issues.  So they are usually shuttled into a corner and left to stare. That’s normal for them.”  She explained that she’s learned how to engage them but most people don’t even try.  While I endeavored to explain that our program is geared to minister to mentally challenged individuals, she ears and head heard but her heart was not listening.

There are probably several other reasons why she won’t come now.  But she will sometime in the future and the children will become more confident disciples of Christ.  God will work in her heart as I pray and reach out to her children.  She’ll begin to develop at trust level with The Special Gathering program because she really wants to be able to trust the Church, her church, again.

But for now, she won’t come.  And I don’t blame her.   

Note from specialgathering:  Once again, I’ve stolen from Aaron Nangle’s newsletter for Special Gathering weblog.  I wanted to use this as an opportunity to remind you of the great work he is doing.  And to let you know that if you would like to subscribe to his newsletter you can do so by going to WaiverProvider.com

Much of what he has to say this month, applies to only providers and Support Coordinators but parents and advocates need to understand what is happening to providers through APD.

Will Providers and Support Coordinators be Working For Free?

Do You Have Your Service Authorization?

Provider and Support Coordinators, do you have your service authorization? The new fiscal year starts on July 1, 2008.

You Can Work Without a Service Authorization, But Don’t Expect To Get Paid.

Do you have your service authorizations for the new fiscal year? Many of you do not. And, even if you do- they are most likely outdated with the old provider rates. You can work without a service authorization, but don’t expect to be paid. In this time of fiscal crisis and uncertainty, APD could very well say, “Thank you for your donation.” It has happened before, we just predict this year to be much worse.

There is Very Little The Support Coordinator Can Do.

The Allocation and Budget Control System (ABC) is now controlled by the Agency For Persons With Disabilities (APD). Therefore, APD puts the cost plan budgets into ABC, which in turn, will create service authorizations for providers. Support Coordinators can only VIEW and PRINT service authorizations. They can not even make a simple provider change. So, come July 1st, if you don’t have your service authorization.

Services Are Medically Necessary

When services have been deemed as medically necessary, the provider is faced with a difficult choice. Should my company work without a service authorization, and risk not getting paid? In many cases, that is not even an option. Not providing the service is in essence, neglect.

Are You Up To Date With The Billing Changes?

ACS is No Longer The Medicaid Billing Agent.

ACS is no longer the Medicaid Billing Agent. The new agent is EDS. This went into affect on June 19, 2008. ACS is no longer accepting or processing WINASAP or 837 X12N electronic claim transactions.

During the week of June 30, 2008, providers will not receive a payment from Medicaid.

According to Medicaid, “This week for non-payment is standard operation.”

Outside church, Tom and friends

Her buggy was full of garden items.  A couple of expensive but unnecessary statues, two rare and costly orchids, several upscale flower pots and a couple of bags of fertilizer.  She stood in the middle of the aisle.  Her conversation was loud and engaging.  She was obviously entertaining the entire garden section with her antidotes and comments. 

“There is no middle-class anymore,”  she concluded her rhetoric.  “You are either very, very rich or very, very poor.”  Disliking the jingle that threatened to interrupt her, she silenced her cell phone with precisely manicured nails.  Her Liz Claiborne shorts had not come from Wal-Mart and neither had her Aigner sandals.

“So which are you?  Very, very rich?  Or very, very poor?”  I asked.

“I am very, very poor,”  she smiled, cheerfully.

“No, ma’am,” I said, smiling back.  “According to the standards of the world, you are not very, very poor. And neither am I.”  I wanted to tell her that her shopping basket, clothes, cell phone, shoes and nails all told me that even according to the US standards, she was not very, very poor.  But I didn’t.

Somehow, we have adapted within ourselves an I’m-so-poor mentality.  The first time I heard this silliness, we were sitting eating steak in a large four bedroom home in one of the nicer residential sections of town.  The dinner guest sitting next to me carefully cut a large piece of rib eye.  She perched the beef morsel on her fork, readying it for her mouth, and said, “We are living in a high-class depression.”  Unfortunately, I erupted into loud laughter and then I realized from her face that this woman was not kidding.

While I know there are large pockets of poverty that rip through our nation, most of us aren’t going to bed hungry.  So why do we pretend to be part of the down-trodden masses pining for food and shelter?

Is it a great guilt that we all shoulder because we are such a  blessed nation?  Or is it our insatiable need for more?  I work with the poorest of poor in our nation.  People who are intellectually disabled exist on welfare, food stamps, rental subsidies and Social security checks.  And believe it or not, they have greater wealth than my family had when I was a child. 

 Yet, in those years, we were considered middle-class.

Because of my position in The Special Gathering, which is a ministry within the mentally challenged community, I have the privilege to work with people who are developmentally disabled.  They are a group of people who are poor but rich in thankfulness and gratitude.  Downtrodden and misunderstood but seldom envious of what others have.  Their broken bodies and undeveloped minds don’t rob their gifted spirits of the wonder they enjoy by being a child of the King of the Universe.  It’s great to live in a holy place.  I only wish that dear woman with her expensive purchases and lovely clothes knew the riches that my members know. 

How many of your members are wealthy?  How many are considered poor?  Does their wealth or lack of wealth make them happy? 

Riding the bus in Vero

In Brevard County, we have what has been rated as one of the best transportation systems in the nation.  Space Coast Area Transportation (SCAT) has won national awards for service, their employees and drivers.  Their drivers have been finalist in the state and national bus rodeos for many years.

Within the mentally challenged community, riding the bus or a van route is a daily adventure or a total pain.  Most of the Special Gathering members enjoy riding to their day programs or to their job in the community.  I’ve been doing van routes for more than 19 years.  Special Gathering is a ministry within the developmentally disabled community.  We do classic ministry, discipleship and evangelism.  However, our members don’t drive. Van and bus routes are a necessary part of what we must do to have successful programs.

In my years behind the steering wheel of a bus or van, I’ve learned that for our members, it is a time to spend with their peers.  It’s more than a journey from one spot to another.  It is the only time many people who live within this sub-culture are able to enjoy each other without the pressure of something to do.  There’s no pressure of the next bowling frame, no parents, no dance floor, not much supervision.  It’s merely a few hours of non-pressured time for fellowship, fun and flirting. 

Many professional and most parents hate the fact that as much as four or five hours of their consumers’ or children’s day is spent riding the bus.  But within the context of a “normal” day.  It’s probably not a bad thing.  I have to spend about three hours traveling each day that I have an appointment or commitment in Indian River County because I live in Brevard.  And that time is spent with myself, in prayer or with the radio.  Riding the bus with a couple of friends looks attractive to me.

As the gas crunch is pushing more and more people to the bus stops, Brevard County residents may learn a few lessons in public transportation that our members learned long ago.  

The first lesson:  Bring a friend or bring a book. 

The second lesson:  Conversation with your riding companion is good–unless they are reading a book. 

The third lesson:  Expect some delays.  It is public transportation.

The fourth lesson:  Be at the bus stop on time–even if you have to wait.  The bus can’t wait on you or anyone else.

The fifth lesson:  Make friends with the bus driver.  They are great people and they can really be good friends.  Going the extra mile for their passengers is what they enjoy, even more than making their stops on time.

The sixth lesson:  You can bring your bike.  You will need to attach the bike on the bus yourself; but having your own wheels, will give you transportation to your final destination.

The seventh lesson:  Sharing your faith becomes a natural outgrowth of a bus friendship.  One of our most faithful members and a deacon in our Melbourne program came to The Special Gathering because Ted, his friend and bus companion, invited him.

What are some lessons you’ve learned about using public transportation from your members?  I think much of their great patience has been learned from their time riding the bus.  What do you think?

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