May 2009


 Do You Love Me?

John 21:17

Central Theme: Love covers a multitude of sins.

Introduction–Show pictures of children, grandchildren or other family members you love.

I. My grandchildren cannot do anything wrong because I love them so much.

A. I had a hard time believing that my children were wrong most of the time because I loved them a lot.

B. I have found that love will cover a lot of sins. Peter found that out also

C. Have a member read John 21:71

D Tell the story of Peter’s confession.

II. Jesus loved Peter but He wanted to give him the opportunity to make things right because Peter had denied Jesus three times.

A. When I first came to Special Gathering, Richard Stimson would always give members the benefit of the doubt. I could not understand until I came to love you too.

B. Love makes us want to have things right.

III. Jesus knew Peter had sinned and he gave Peter the opportunity to make things right.

A. Jesus will do the same things for you.

1. Peter was able to confess him three times.

2. He had denied him three times.


Conclusion–You sin. Even though Jesus’ love for you does not change, he will always make a way for you to right your wrongs. Take that opportunity, just as Peter did.

FODH Survey’s (Proxy & Self-Response) Available
Please distribute to as many persons with disabilities as you can


Bryan F. Vaughan

Executive Director

Governor’s Commission on Disabilities

4030 Esplanade Way, Suite 315 K

Tallahassee, Florida  32399

(850) 487-3423

(850) 414-8908 fax


For information regarding the Florida Discount Drug Card visit:

P Before printing, please think about the environment


Good afternoon Partners,

  The Florida Office on Disability and Health is pleased to announce that both self-response and proxy response versions of our web-based health surveys of Floridians with disabilities are now available.

If you are age 18 or older and have a disability, please visit

If you are age 18 or older and would like to complete the survey on behalf of someone else with a disability (for example, a child under 18 or someone who cannot respond for himself because of a communication or other disability), please visit

Please distribute these links to any constituents or organizations who may be interested in participating, and feel free to post this link on your website or in print. You can also access the surveys from our website, These surveys will be active through the end of the year.

 Thank you for your support and assistance.

One June 5, forty people from Special Gathering of Indian River will be attending a stage production of Beauty and The BeastI’ve watched with interest the information on the church sign for months and wondered if this was something that we could do with our members.  When I realized that the production includes several people and one of the pastors from First United Methodist Church who are professionals actors and musicians, I wanted to take as many of our members as possible.  After several phone calls and e-mails, we were able to gather transportation and tickets for as many people as expressed an interest in going. 

The production will be at St Mark’s United Methodist Church in Indialantic.  There are three shows.  The tickets are $10. (What a great bargain!)  We will be meeting at CC’s Pizza ($5 a person) at 4:30pm on Wickham Road and EauGallie Boulevard. 

Normally, I don’t use this space to promote Special Gathering ministry but to teach about special needs ministry.  So why am I talking about this?  First, I want to promote the efforts and ministry of others.  Second, I wanted to explain the benefits and the HowTo of this type of personal but informal get-together.

Regarding the benefits there are many.  Several years ago, SpG of Indian River did our first stage production experience by attending at production of High School Musicalthat was put on by Trinity Episcopal School.  It was a great experience for our members.  Most of them had the DVD of the movie and they were thrilled with a live production.  In addition, the pre-teens who were part of the production were amazingly talented.  The cost was cheap.  It was a good way to support one of our supporting churches and to get their attention.  All this benefited our program and our members. 

Second,  the HowTo is pretty easy.  I work closely with the group homes in our area.  When we do this type of thing, we try to include them.  This gives their staff a couple of hours off because my volunteers all attend. 

  1. I made up a list of the people I thought would like to attend. 
  2. I got on the phone called members, parents and staff. 
  3. By the end of the day, there were 40 or more people who wanted to attend.  The plan is simple. 
  4. The members will be dropped off at the pizza joint. 
  5. They will pay for their own supper. 
  6. We will transport people to the show. 
  7. After the show, people who need a ride home will be taken to a central pick-up spot.  We will call the parents/staff/relatives. 
  8. Some people will have friends at the show whom I know will take them home.
  9. The other people will be taken home by their parents/staff/relatives.

Have you found that these are the kind of things that make your ministry fun?  Are you able to do “unplanned events” occasionally?  When does it become too hard to bother with?  Wouldn’t you like to join us?  It will be great fun!

Here is all the information you need to attend

The weekend of the show is June 5 and June 6, with Friday night (7:00 pm), Saturday matinee (2:00 pm) and Saturday night (7:00 pm) shows.

Tickets are on sale now for $10.

You can reserve them online at:

 Or you can call the office at:

Each year I judge my “real” age by how I am able to perform at camp.  I don’t mean just physically but also mentally.  Because my family has been greatly effected by dementia, I’ve done a good deal of study on the brain as it relates to getting older.  I’ve learned that what is good for the heart is good for the brain.

I exercise almost every day for an hour.  This is divided into 40 minutes of arobic, 10 minutes of strength training and 10 of stretching and flexiblity.  I also understand that much of a person’s mental and physical strength depends on their health.  Strokes and heart conditions greatly limit a person’s physical and mental capacities.

In truth I purposely push myself at camp.  Five days of grueling exercise is a good gage of what the next year may hold regarding my stamina.  I figure it’s cheaper than going to a physical fitness camp or pay a coach to determine my physical abilities.  Each year I find ways that I must retrain my body.  

This year, I discovered that I had a difficult time packing luggage into the van we were using on our trip home.   It was not because I couldn’t lift the luggage but because I wasn’t able to maintain a bend position for the length of time the task demanded.  This year, I’ll be walking with my back bend at the waist each day to strengthen those weak muscles.

I also found that holding in my mind one thought or task that needed to be done was more difficult than it had been in the past.  With fifteen things that needed to be done all at one time, it is essential to keep a mental priority list going all the time.  I think I’ve let my brain get sloppy in this area. 

I’ve read that this is one of the drawbacks of an older brain.  The ability to maintain a list of tasks in your brain becomes more difficult.  It isn’t that the brain is defective.  It only means that the older brain thinks differently.  Keeping a list becomes an essential for an older adult.  Fortunately, as a child, I found that writing on the palm of my hand is a handy and portable way to keep a list.  I used my palm list a lot during the weekend.

In truth, keeping more than one thought going has never been a strong ability for me.  My husband has graciously told me that he believes that my concentration on one task has enabled me to accomplish more tasks in the long run.  Not sure that true but I took the compliment anyway.

Other than making lists, the professionals don’t seem to have any mnemonic tricks that will enable you to keep thoughts stuck in your mind.  What about you?  Have you found some little tid bit of information that helps you use  your brain in a more efficient way?  Comments and suggestions are welcomed!

“This is a sub-culture!”  the Family-Life Pastor, Milton Mazariogos, from Zion Christian Church in Palm Bay said to me.  “I had no idea that there are so many different kinds of disabilities, just within the mentally challenged community.” 

This is usually the reaction of an outsider who attends our weekly Special Gathering program, which is a ministry within the mentally challenged community.  However, when there are 200 people gathered from Jacksonville to Port St. Lucie, you receive a substantially harder jolt of reality regarding the disabilities community. 

Pastor Milton had come to take care of one of our campers.  He and Mark had a wonderful time playing and laughing.  But the work was hard.  The pastor spared no energy, lifting and pushing from Friday afternoon to Monday morning. 

Mark and I are deeply grateful for his labor.  Once again my mind zoomed to a familiar place–educating the church to the the great spiritual need of mentally challenged people.  We bring our choir into churches but many of the people think we are only a choir.  We sometimes have people come to our program but they often think that we draw our members from a large institution somewhere in La La Land. 

Even though Camp Agape is only a small portion of what we do, it gives a great overview of the population that we serve.  Christie makes her bed and puts her teddy bear on top of the pillow.  Helen became the “unofficial” counselor for some of our younger women who were having boyfriend problems.  Eric came to camp to be a one-on-one attendant for Chris.  LeeAnne took it on herself to oversee the activities of Laura, who is an extremely capable young woman but exceptionally shy. 

Each person has a distinctive personality and their disability effects them in multiple different ways.  Yet, there is a common thread that binds them with all humankind.  They need a Savior.  Leading them to Jesus’ love is the easiest thing we do.  With the rejection and misunderstanding they have endured most of their lives, they leap at a forgiving and loving God who accepts us just as we are. 

Each of us are incomplete without the love of God.  Unlike many normal people, the mentally challenged community–by and large–understand that deficit.  During our Sunday evening chapel several people prayed for salvation. 

Would you commit to pray for them and for their faith journey?

At least, I don’t sleep during my own sermons.

Linday Howard Sleeping

Linda Howard Sleeping

Better angle but still sleeping

Better angle but still sleeping

Okay, I wouldn’t call what I’m feeling after camp a glow.  Perhaps a slow seep.  Tired isn’t the word for what I’m feeling.  Yet, after coming home there was still a lot of work to do.  Last year I learned to put away all my supplies and equipment as soon as I get home.  That means cleaning, organizing and reorganizing.  However,  next year, most of the work will be done in preparing the small things that are needed for camp. 

  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • rubber gloves
  • spray containers for bleach water
  • sleeves for the cabin numbers
  • magic markers/writing pens
  • tacks
  • walkie-talkies, with the batteries removed
  • batteries
  • paper towels
  • medication containers for each person attending who takes meds
  • Baggage labels (obtained from the Grayhound Bus Station)
  • 5 gallon water jugs

Because we don’t do our own cooking, we don’t have to deal with food prep.  Therefore, we are able to keep down the things we must bring to camp. 

For the past 25 years we have rented a wonderful camp ground called Life for Youth Camp in Vero Beach.  They have boat rides, go-carts, putt-putt golf, game room, canteen, gift shop, super slide, swimming.  Robbie and Sherry Stevens have blessed us all these years.

Samuel is call for a purpose

Camp 2009

Speak Lord I am Ready to Listen 

When I was a young child, my mother didn’t like to yell for us so she would go outside and blow the horn to the car.  When we heard the car horn blowing, we knew that our mother wanted us to come home.  Even though we were children we knew that if Mama was calling us, she wanted SOMETHING.  We would run home, burst into the house and ask, “What do you want?” Have a member read, I Samuel 3:9.

  1. Tell the story of how God called Samuel.  God called him three times before Eli realized that God wanted to speak to Samuel.  God had a purpose for Samuel.
    1. He was a child but God knew how he would use him.
    2. After God spoke to Samuel.  He went back to work opening the doors to the tabernacle.  His life didn’t change right away.

      II.  This is my 20th camp.  On June 1, 20 years ago, I came to work for Special Gathering..

            A. But God had called me 20 years before that.  I was reading a book about a lady who ministered to people with disabilities before WWII.  I started to cry.  I didn‘t understand.  God spoke to my heart.

            B. Like Samuel, God had called me.  But God wants you to know that you are also called by God for a purpose.

     III.  I don’t know what your purpose is.  I do know that God will use you in the way he made you.  We are going to look at the gifts that God has given us this weekend. 

            A. God will use you and your gifts for your purpose.

            B. But the key is to be like Samuel and be willing to listen and obey.

Conclusion:  Samuel was a small child.  His mind wasn’t completely developed.  But God said, “I will use you for a purpose.”  God wants to use you also.  He has a purpose for your life.

Distribution from the Association of Support Coordination Agencies:

We have gathered some very important information and are providing to all Support Coordinators to help with the issues related to individuals receiving needed services and their rights to pursue legal solutions to the issues.

Date: Sun, 24 May 2009 09:19:07 -0400



Subject: Re: Complaint and Mtn for Preliminary Injunction All headers The Advocacy Center through Southern Legal Counsel has file a Class Action Law suit Against APD and AHCA for Denying Administrative Hearings for Developmental Disability Waiver recipients.

The Suit Was filed on Friday May 22, 2009. There were five named members of the class in other suit but the suit represents all individuals under the DD waiver who have been Denied an Administrative Hearing regarding Tier Placement. It also includes those individuals who received a Final Order Closing File.

The injunction, if granted, would reinstate services for all state wide pending the resolution of the suit. However, that decision will come sometime after the 30 days to file a Notice of Appeal in your state District Cout of Appeals. You should continue with the Notice of Appeal for your clients incase the Class action does not prevail.

You can go on the Website of the District court in your area and get information for Filing the notice of Appeal. Florida Legal Services may be able to help. Apply in your area. The filing fee is $300,00. Once the Notice of Appeal is filed, the clerk of the court will send our a request for the filing fees. You have 20 days to obtain a statement of indigency and the fees will be waived.

If the Class Action Prevails then all will be covered statewide. This action applys only to Denial of the Hearing request and not the hearing itself. If you prevail in either the State court or the class action you should be granted the Hearing. The question of Tier Assignment will not be settled in either of these forums. Services for those individuals who have recieved Final Orders have had their current services ended in ABC on the date 20 days after the date of the Final Order.

WSC’s will have to create a new prorated cost plan from that new end date to 063009 to comply with the tier assigned. No one will get paid until this is done. Cost plans for 070109 to 063010 have not yet been changed. You should file an amendment for those changes under the tier as well. WSC’s should advise thier affected clients accordingly.

Some helpful web sites might be: Go to go to the court listed in your area. Click on Self Help. click on Informationand Notice of Appeal. Call the local clerk. Also type in FAQ on this web site for more information. 

To find information on intake and services through the Advocacy Center

First, if at all possible, DON’T do it.  However, if God has called you to minister within the mentally challenged community then you probably have no choice.  Then you should understand that it’s impossible unless you are surrounded by lots and lots of Hurs. 

You remember the story taken from Exodus.  Moses was to hold his arms in air as the children of Israel fought the enemy.  However, when he became so tired that he could no longer hold up his arms, Hur held them up for him. 

This Friday, as camp began I was surrounded by 24 amazing Hurs.  They toated and fetched and carried and struggled, pushed and pulled from 8:00 in the morning until about midnight.  Slowly they wandered into the top of a hard bunk bed and slept for five or six hours only to get up and do it again the next day.

How do you thank people who are more gracious than you could ever imagine?  Can you ever show enough appreciation for people who give until there is nothing to give and then give some more? 

Of course, not.  Only God can reward and thank them properly.

Until recently, he was a member of Special Gathering and part of our deacons and leadership team.  However, last January he began attending another church.  “I’ll come to camp,” he told everyone.  Of course, he didn’t get any forms fill out and no money paid.

However, last night he was telling everyone that he was going to camp.  Two days before camp isn’t the time to decide that you want to go.  Most people have no idea the volume of details that are involved in holding a camp for persons with developmental disabilities.  The transportation issues, the medications, the emergency hospital visits that interrupt good intentions.  And, naturally, the increasing expenses.

Then there is the complicated messiness of dealing with the professional community.  Almost 100 percent the people who work in this field are dedicated and self-sacrificing.  Most of them could hold important positions making a great deal more money than they make doing social work.  However, there are always the few who cared too much.  Their flame of compassion burned too bright for a while then it was slowly extinguished by extremely long hours and not enough pay.   They have “social worker’s disease.” 

It would appear logically that these wonderful and caring people would find another field of endeavor.  Yet, they seem to hang on too long, perhaps hoping to regain the zeal that once drove them into this field in the first place. 

Yesterday, I was angry enough to spit at a couple of people who no long care for their consumers.   Today, I began praying for them and I remembered that these were the same people who were so amazingly efficient only a couple of years ago.  These were the ones who always went the extra mile to insure that the men and women they serviced were given the best. 

Tonight, as I worked into the night and early morning, I could feel their weariness.  Now, it’s too late to be writing but there are several young women who need prayer and so I’m spending a couple of extra minutes to pray for them.  Perhaps you’ve joined the ranks of the people with “social workers disease.”  Let me assure you the God cares for you and He wants to help you with whatever you are dealing with today. 

What do you think can be done to overcome the burn out that sometimes overtakes caring and good people?  Have you ever experienced those feelings of helplessness and hurt?  What did you do to overcome them?

Which is harder keeping promises we make to ourselves or keeping the promises we make to others?  I’m not sure.  When my children were small, I tried to never promise or commit myself to do something unless I was sure that I could fulfill that commitment.  I’ve tried to do that with myself also.  I try to keep in mind the parable Jesus told about counting the cost before you build a tower.

When my children were smaller and my husband was working, I had to be sure that I kept promises made to them.  At this point in my life, I find that it is the promises that I make to myself that are paramount in my life.  Sometimes the promises are large.  Sometimes the promises seem small.  Either way, I try to keep those promises.

A year ago, I committed myself to a daily blog entry.  Mostly, I’ve been able to keep that commitment.  Today, it was hard, extremely hard.  My day was overwhelmed with Camp Agape projects which begins Friday, May 22 and ends Monday, May 25.  At 5pm, I walked back into my office with a sense of accomplishment.  I had purchased all the needed last minute supplies.  Almost every thing had been found as a sale item.  It was a good day.  I had crossed off nearly everything on my list.

There is still hours of work to do.  However, I can see that I’ll be able to accomplish the things needed and still get some sleep the next two nights. 

Years ago, Richard Stimson, the executive director of Special Gathering, Inc., said to me, “Linda, people like us need to be sure that the ministry we do doesn’t take the place of our commitment to our God.”  That has become a personal goal for me but there is always a note of caution.  Therefore, when things go well and I can almost see God’s hand moving to orchestrate a good day in Special Gathering ministry, I’m excited.

Thank you, Lord for moving and working in our lives.  We don’t deserve a wonderful Savior like You.  But, of course, you know that already and you still love, protect and guide us.  Thank you. 

Sometimes there is no one to blame.  In life, we crave neat packages that revolve around a good guy and a bad guy.  God has known since He created mankind that there is enough blame to go around–“All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”  Nevertheless, we desire for life’s story to have a climax that ends with the good guys swimming in victory and the bad guys going to a deserted island with no avenue of escape for a lifetime.  Our day-to-day experiences aren’t always that razor clean.

I received a heart-wrenching phone call yesterday.  “Eve is dying.”  I recognized Morris’ choked voice, desperately trying to hold back the tears.  “She’s in Tampa in a Hospice home.’  After a long pause, he said, ” Now no one else can hurt her, especially me.”

“We’ll go see her after camp,” I promised.  No more had to be said.

My history with Morris and Eve goes back more than 15 years.  When I first met them, they were living in a small house.  It is amazingly neat, with everything picked up and polished though the bathroom was broken and horrible. The carpet sported about an inch of sand because they didn’t own a vacuum.  However, someone had picked up every speck of lint and trash from the floor.  They had lived together for years.

Both the sister and the brother had developmental disabilities, Eve suffered from other psychological problems.  But their life was happy and full.  They cut grass for a living and as charity for their elderly neighbors.  Their neighborhood was filled with older men and woman who had moved to Florida for the sunshine and no income taxes. 

Their neighbors’ families were up north with full lives.  There was no one to take care of these sickly senior citizens, except Eve and Morris.  They cleaned, cooked and did yard work–not for pay but because “they need it done.  Somebody has to do it.”

Through the generous efforts of a lady who had met them in the grocery store, social services got involved.  Slowly, their life changed.  Eve was put into a day program–to help her cope.  Morris was left alone all day.  The sickly conditions of their neighbors accelerated.  Their social worker went on a campaign to get them to move from the neighborhood.  At first, they resisted.  Then one-by-one their neighbors died.  Finally, their rented house was put up for sale.  They were evicted.

Another social worker connected them with a lender who could get them into their own home with nothing down and a small monthly payment.  Of course, the payments would eventually increase but she explained,  “They can worry about the larger payments, when that time comes.”   But everything was more expensive in this new house and neighborhood. 

With Eve in a day program she was no longer able to help Morris with the lawn service.  He had to quit because of a existing a heart condition.  Their income was cut.  New pressures of increased bills that they couldn’t  afford pushed the brother and sister from their peaceful life of care and concern for others to arguments that became shouting matches.  Eve often hit Morris.  At times, he hit back.

The social worker and the day program began to push that Eve become a permanent resident of the psyc program.  Finally, the pressure was too great and Eve moved in, leaving her brother.  Without her disability check, Morris couldn’t pay the bills.  He lost his home and moved on the streets.

Several people tried to help but Morris used them and broke their trust.  Eve was moved from one terrible institutional setting to another.  Finally, Morris was settled into a small home with a young couple who take care of him.  Eve was lost to us–until yesterday.

“You know I never wanted to hurt her,”  Morris said. 

“I know,” I said, fighting tears along with my friend.  “We’ll go to Tampa next week,” I promised. 

“Thank you,” Morris’ voice strained.  We hung up.

Who is at fault?  An overly zealous social service agency?  Eve?  Morris?  The lender?  Me?  The answer is  no one and, perhaps, everyone.  I thank God that He takes the Morris’ and the Eve’s in lives and He brings peace where no one else can.

Who are the Eve’s and Morris’ in your lives?  How do you allow God to lead them and help them?  Are you overly protective?  Or do you do too little to help them?

Yesterday, my computer system somehow got messed up.  I was without my computer for more than 24 hours.  I had not backed up my work in months.  I cannot tell you all the kajillion hours of work I would have lost had it been unrepairable. 

Additionally, I cannot tell you all the things I could not do without my computer.  Again and again, I went into my office to check on something or to type a note or an envelop.  Only to sit down and remember my computer was gone.

It was as though there was a piece of me missing.  Of course, I’ve gone days and even weeks without my computer but that was because I was out of town or I chose to not work.  This was different.  Camp Agape is four days away.  There are 100 people that I’m responsible for.  I had things I really needed to do.  I could not do them. 

We were studying Gideon in our Bible lesson today.  I leaned heavily on the message of Gideon.  God called him a man of valor even though he was scared out of his britches.  As scared as I was yesterday, God helped me to be brave.  This, of course, sounds silly to anyone who hasn’t experienced  this kind of loss of work. 

I must admit I wondered again, if this may be something of what our members at Special Gathering may feel.  As though a piece is missing that should be there.  Mentally challenged people understand that there are large parts of themselves that is out of balance–not quite plumb.  That is how I felt.  This morning as I stood in front of these wonderful folks, I told them they make me feel brave.  And that is the truth.

I thank God for people who can encourage me because of their bravery and strength, especially when that bravery shines through in their weakness.

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