October 2008

After reading my last three entries, I think this blog needs a new copy editor.  Of course, I’ve been the copy editor all these months but I was really tired when I typed these entries and it shows.  By the time you read this, I hope I’ve had the time to correct all the errors (I can find).  If not, please excuse the typos.

For years, I billed myself as the world’s worst typist but one of the world’s best mistake fixers.  This ability to fix mistakes has extended far beyond my typing abilities and some of my biggest mistakes have become the most creative items.  This skill has served me well, especially during the years I’ve ministered within the mentally challenged community through Special Gathering.  As a ministry, we don’t do group homes or rehab.  We do classic ministry:  evangelism and discipleship.    

Here are some of the things I’ve found that are easy to fix. 

  1. Any thing typed into a computer.  Computers are very forgiving.
  2. Christmas costumes that don’t fit.  Pins and tape and rope can sometimes make these flowing garments look even more authentic.
  3. Chairs that aren’t arranged correctly.  Moving and straightening is a scinch.
  4. My own bad attitude.  A friend once told me that you can get glad in the same skin you got mad in.  That philosophy has served me well.
  5. A misunderstanding with a member.  The mentally challenged community is almost too easy to please. 

I could name lots more but you get the picture.  Nevertheless, there are some things that are almost impossible to fix.

  1. Names that are spelled wrong in the data base.  Somehow, they mysteriously and constantly revert back to the old spelling.
  2. A misunderstanding with a volunteer.  Our most valuable commodity is our volunteers.  They work long hours with no pay and little recognition from the church-at-large.  Hurting them is a crushing blow to the ministry and risks the loss of a good friend.
  3. The optimism of parents with a disabled child. 

Let me explain.  A couple of weeks ago I had a conversation with a parent.  We quietly observed a young mother with a teenaged daughter who is mentally challenged.  “She has all these grand and glorious plans,”  the older parent commented.  “I hate to burst her balloon with reality.”

“Would it really help?”  I asked.

“No,” she smiled.  “Somehow during those hard years when every other child is moving on and progressing into adulthood, it is only the hope and dreams of a future that keeps you from falling into a depression.  But it isn’t reality.”

The interesting thing is that this is an older parent who has been extremely demanding on her child; and it seems that her daughter, Missy, has met those expectations.  However, she is admitting that the reality of her daughter’s life circumstances is far less than she and her husband had expected. 

“I’m not sad for Missy,” she concluded as her own daughter approached us. “Missy has forged for herself a different reality and she is happy.  But it is not what I expected.  Not what I hope for.  Yet it’s good and I’m okay.”

We sat quietly for a few minutes as Missy fiddled with her backpack.  Then it was time to leave.  As this mother and her daughter, Missy, joined hands and slowly moved away from me, I was reminded that the Bible tells us, “Hope does not disappoint.”  I’ve never understood that reality but I’ve seen the truth of that promise time and time again.

Hope that defies reality may not be accurate but it sustains the broken hearted and allows us to walk into an unknown future with grace and joy.  Often, as in Missy’s life, reality doesn’t meet with expectation but God gives a settling peace that grows from a hopeful spirit. 

Perhaps there are some things that don’t need to be fixed.

I attended a most unusual memorial service yesterday.  A Christian leader in his church, community and home-town committed suicide.  He was dearly loved and well-known.   This dearly loved and well-known husband, father and grandfather had been a model for hundreds of people.  The memorial service was called a Celebration of Life.

To myself, I mused, How will the family handle the circumstances of his death?  as I drove to the church.  I arrived 40 minutes early.  This was good because the church was nearly full by the time I creeped through the crowd of people endeavoring to enter the sanctuary. 

How did the family handle the death?  With open, honest and sincere sadness.  They were extremely brave.  The family members conducted the service.  It was truly a celebration of life and a tribute to a wonderful man.

However, there was frankness that is rarely seen in church during uncomfortable circumstances.  Three pastors read scriptures and spoke briefly.  But it was the family that lead the congregation into praise.  In addition, they led us through the past months in an acutely honest exploration of the problems they had faced as their husband and father struggled with extreme mental pain.  They confessed that they had more questions than answers.  “Please, don’t expect us to answer your questions,” they said.  “We have too many questions of our own.”

However, after the service, their ministry continued to all who attended the reception afterwards.  They hugged us and allowed us to cry and to share in their tears. 

Who was this person to Special Gathering which is a ministry within the mentally challenged community?  He was friend who lavishly welcomed and loved our members each time we visited the church.  He served as our representative on the missions committee and advocated for us for almost a decade.  One year, he purchased Bibles for our choir as Christmas gifts.  For at least eight years, he drove a church van every week more than 40 miles to a pick-up spot so that we could use the van in Vero.  His family told me that he prayed for us every day for almost ten years.  Behind the scenes, he was a most valuable asset to the Special Gathering ministry. 

Life isn’t always a pleasant trip down a garden trail.  Sometimes a Christ-like hero to many people falls, leaving us confused and questioning.  However, I know that this man loved Jesus and he loved Special Gathering ministry.  And I thank God for him and his life.

Today, I spoke to one of our wonderful volunteers.  Each week she attends Special Gathering which is a ministry within the mentally challenged community.  Our purpose is to evangelize and disciple our population.  But Iris understands that the best evangelism and discipleship can be done after applying a lavish application of love.

She has worked with us for more than two years.  Faithfully and quietly, Iris has inched her way into our hearts.  Our members look forward to her steady and growing desire to help and love them. She gently guides and assists our most physically unstable members through the maze of people during the hustle and bustle of Sunday morning. 

Last week, she suffered an attack on her health.  Her family was called because of her critical condition as she hung vicariously between life and death.  She will have a long recovery time.  Her children live in the northern part of the state.  They are begging her to move in with them.  However, she is waiting until “I can no longer live by myself.” 

Isn’t independence highly overrated under these conditions?

Last week I received two phone calls from people who had children who were interested in attending Special Gathering.  One was a father.  His adult daughter explained the situation to me.  Sadly, she told me her father hardly knew his son because his ex-wife and their mother struggled to remain independent of him and wouldn’t let him help to raise their disabled child.  Last month, she had a heart attack and died suddenly.  Now the father and his son are struggling to adjust to their new circumstance. 

At this point in time, this mother’s independence seems to be a highly overrated commodity that will dearly cost her son for years to come.

A member told me yesterday that he won’t be attending our program any longer.  He wants more independence.  When quizzed it seems that one of the professionals who works with him objects to the “interference” of our volunteers.  She feels he needs to be more independent.   The interference she talks about consists of a few simple things.  They give him free rides to bowling and social events.  They take him to lunch, invite him to family dinners and include him at celebrations in their homes.  I was deeply hurt about what is happening.

Will independence for this member come with the loss of friends who value him enough to want to include him in their lives and family? How overrated is this kind of independence?

I try to tell myself each day, “Independence is highly overrated” so that when my time comes to lose that commodity it won’t be more precious than the love and protection of family and friends. 

Have you seen times that people put themselves or others in jeopardy because they weren’t willing to give up their independence?

I missed The Special Gathering post for Monday. The day started quiet enough but ended after hours in meetings, church and driving my van.  After such a hard day, I ate supper and started my daily exercises.  I was abruptly interrupted by someone knocking on my front window, only a couple of feet from where I lay on the floor doing my strength training.

I thought perhaps a neighbor was knocking but I could not see the person who had knocked.  I called the police.  I wanted the law authorities to come to the house and let anyone who might want to scare me know that I would not fool around.  I would seek protection right away. 

As tired as I was, sleep didn’t come easily.  I wasn’t afraid because when we hardened our house against hurricanes, it has become a virtual fortress that would be almost impossible to break into.  However, I’m sixty-five.  Anyone looking at me outside our home in the darkness must be a pervert. 

As I sat in my darkened bedroom, last night waiting to get sleepy, I was reminded of a statistic regarding the mentally challenged community.  The estimates of how many of our members are sexually molested during their lifetime is so high that I hesitate to even give it.  Sinking into my pillow, I prayed for all our members who are living alone and lonely.  I prayed God’s protection for them.  Perhaps one of them was sitting up praying for me.  I hope so.

Of course God is their (and my) best protection but do you know of something that can be done to protect our members from the threats they face each day from people who desire to harm them?

God Is All Powerful

Psalm 147:5

Central Theme:  God has all power.


         1.      God is love.  He loves me no matter what happens

         2.      God is everywhere.  I can never escape from his love

         3.      God is all powerful. 

         4.      Have a member read Psalm 147:5


          I.      God is far more powerful than anything we can imagine.


                  A.  Get out a hurricane map. 

                        1.   Talk about tracking how you can track whatever a current storm is.

                  2.   A hurricane is powerful but it is only a small dot on a globe full of storms and weather and energy.

                  3.   Think about the power of the God we serve.

         II.      But the power of God is no good to me, if I do know I can use it.

            A.  Show one of your electronic gadgets (palm, Treo, Blackberry or a cell phone).

                  B.   I carried around for about a week and did not know how to use it.

                        1.   It was powerful but it didn’t go me any good.

                        2.   I had to learn to use it.


       III.      God is powerful but we must learn to ask Him for help.  The greatest thing standing in our way of getting God’s help is expecting to receive help from him. 

                  A.  First we must desire his help.

                  B.   Then we should pray about everything in our lives, asking God to help us and give us wisdom.

                  C.  Tell about a time that you asked for God to help you and he answered that prayer.


Conclusion–God is love; and he will not stop loving me. God is everywhere and he is always with me.  God is powerful and he will help me.

You are invited to attend The Special Gathering of Indian River Christmas Event

Above All Else

A Christmas Musical

In Vero

7:00pm–Saturday, December 6

Tabernacle Ministries

at 51 Old Dixie Highway


In Melbourne

7:00pm–Sunday December 7

First United Methodist Church–Celebration Cafe

110 E New Haven Avenue

Come.  Bring a friend.  All of the cast and choir are members of The Special Gathering 


This is an e-mail I received regarding the status of the many petitions APD has received so far:
Our latest numbers from the Agency Clerk as of this morning:  4,625 petitions have been filed within the 10-day window; 676 additional petitions are within 30 days, but outside the 10-day window; 3 petitions have been filed beyond the 30-day period; it is conservatively estimated that we have received about 3,000 duplicate hearing requests.  We are still receiving about 20 pleadings a day.

We do not have an estimate of costs related to tier implementation and litigation.  To date, we have used all available APD resources.  Our greatest expense attributable to the tier hearing process will likely be expenses related to administrative hearings and any DCA or other appeals.

I am not prepared to answer your last question.  I will forward it on to the General Counsel.

Catherine Bedell
Agency for Persons with Disabilities
4030 Esplanade Way; Suite 380
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0950
Phone:  850.414. 0139
Fax:  850.410.0665
Toll Free:  1.866.273.2273
E-mail:  cathy_bedell@apd.state.fl.us

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