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.

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