June 2009

The man is not in the ground and there are already MJ sightings. 

I, for one, am perplexed and amazed at the sound and fury this death has caused.  As a whole, the mentally challenged community is extremely aware of current events.  Therefore, I wasn’t surprised when several people were upset by the death of this pop singer.  Within the mentally challenged community, Johnny told me that he now knew that Jesus was coming back soon because MJ was dead.  Another member showed me newspapers and requested prayer for the world who had lost this great man. 

What has surprised me is the amount of press coverage his death has received.  The revolution in Iran, the surge in Afganistan and the removal of US troops in Iraq were pushed off the front pages.   News of Obama was eclipsed by the man’s demise. 

 Because you have probably also faced this issue with your members, here are some ways you may chose to deal with this issue.

  1. Ignore it. 
  2. Share with the distressed person the need for our hearts to be clean and pure before God at all times.  None of us know when we may be die.  Only God knows that.  Therefore, we must be prepared.
  3. Pray for the person who is upset.  Ask God to give him or her peace in the middle of this time of grief.  Remember this person is truly hurting or s/he would not bring this issue up to you.
  4. DO NOT pray for Michael Jackson.  Remind the person that we can pray for MJ’s family but we can no longer pray for him.  He is dead.
  5. DO NOT assure your members that MJ is in heaven.  As much as I can glean from the reports, Jackson was not and did not claim to be a Christian.
  6. After several requests, I chose to pray publicly for all the people who are grieving because of this death.  I asked the Lord to help them to understand how important it is to make a firm commitment to the Lord now.  I asked that these people use this time as a time to call on the Lord for salvation.
  7. I plan on teaching some time in the near future how important it is to nurture close friendshipa with people we know and how futile it is to become attached to celebrities that we do not know and we will never meet.

I’m sure there are more and better ways to deal with this problem of hero/celebrity attachment within our culture.  What are some ways you have dealt with it?  Did you face the same concerns with your members?

The bus driver informed me, “I’m writing up Joey because of the language he was using on the bus today.”  I smiled politely and thanked the driver.

After Joey had come into the gym,  I gently put my arm into his arm and as we walked to his seat.  Quietly, I asked him, “You know what happens after you are written up by the bus?”

“Yeah.  After three times, they kick you off the bus,”  he said sadly.

“That’s right and then you won’t be able to ride the bus to work or to Special Gathering,”  I reminded him.  We both agreed that this wouldn’t make Joey, his parents or me happy.  I prayed for Joey; and we were able to begin our day with a renewed commitment to the Lord.

After church, Joey–who is known for his behaviors, not for a repentant spirit–spoke to the driver as he embarked the vehicle,  “I was wrong.  I’m sorry.  I won’t talk like that again.”  The driver looked at me, eyebrows raised in questioning wonder.  I smiled.

There are several reasons it makes sense to access public transportation for ministries who work within the special needs community.  First is the Joey Principle.  When there is a problem with behaviors during the long trip to and from church, your ministry becomes the ministers of healing for the bus driver and for your members.  The ministry isn’t the bad guy.  You can come along side with prayer, offering recommitment and love, rather than a harsh reprimand.  (Joey had gotten the harsh reprimand from the bus driver.)

Second, your ministry is not liable.  Years ago in another state, a county-owned van had an accident while transporting the members of a sister ministry.  One of the members was injured.  Though the injury didn’t appear to be serious, complications developed and it turned into a major problem.  Our sister ministry was able to help and love her member but the county was liable for the accident–not the ministry.

Third is the overall cost.  Purchasing a van is a major expensive.  Yet, the upkeep can be even more expensive.  Therefore, the amount your members must pay on public transportation to be transported is minimal compared to the cost of owning vans.

Fourth, it has become harder and harder for churches to lend their vans.  One church was totally committed to Special Gathering in lending their vans.  However, their insurance company balked.  After months of research, they found no company that would allow them to lend their vans. 

Fifth, each week we take the fare for the buses from the members’ weekly cash offering.  We want our members of know that it cost them something to ride the buses.  We want to teach them that what they receive always has a price tag and someone must pay the freight.  At times, some of our members get the idea that they get things for free.  We want impress on them the principle that nothing comes for free.

Each ministry will be able to work out the best way for them to access public transportation.  In larger cities, most people can hop on a regular bus route and arrive wherever they need to go.  Smaller counties may be willing to work with a ministry if  the ministry staff is willing to do most of the work of scheduling and monitoring the routes for them. 

What are some of the ways you have found to make transportation easier for your special needs ministry?  Have you been forced to think outside the box in regard to transportation?  What have been your solutions?

The Glorious Beginnings of the Church

Acts 2:42-47

Central Theme:  The Church working together is a wonderful organism.

Introduction–Read Acts 2:42-46  Have a member read Act 2:47.


       I.     Whenever there are problems in the church, we always want to return to the church as described in these verses.

              A. It was a wonderful time–miracles, sharing everything, people had great respect for God, the church had the same purpose.

              B. God was making the base church strong so they could lead.

              C. But God did not intend for things to stay that way forever.

      II.     Trouble came

              1.  Arguments came

                   A. People were jealous of each other.

                   B. The apostles had to work that out.

              2.  Persecution came.

                   A. People had to flee from Jerusalem.

                   B. But they shared the Gospel wherever they went.

     III.     Special Gathering is somewhat like that.

              A. When I came to be a part of the ministry 12 years ago, all the groups did everything together.

              B. There are great love.

              C. Now growth has forced us to divide.

     IV.     Our friendship are growing and we should expect trouble. 

              A. Love will help us overcome trouble.

Conclusion–God does not want growth to cause hard feelings or competition.  We must continue to love each other.

The Orlando Sentinal’s staff wrtier, Rebecca Beitsch, has called the Family CAFE a lifeline to families with children who have special needs.  For an entire article she has written in this regard visit:
Rebecca Beitsch can be reached at 407-540-3548 or rbeitsch@orlandosentinel.com.
This is an e-mail I received from The Family CAFE regarding their new CAN initiative.
Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the one we’ve been waiting for. We re the change that we seek. Barack Obama
It is a simple message, but an important one. If we want to make a difference, we have to have the courage to stand up and speak out.
The Family Cafe has a great new way for individuals with disabilities and their families to speak out for change: The Family Cafe CAN initiative!
CAN, the Change Agent Network, exists to provide a vehicle for us to make our voices part of the conversation that shapes the policies that affect the lives of individuals with disabilities and their families everyday.
It’s been less than a month since we launched CAN, and we’re building momentum. In the coming months, we hope to have over 2,500 very active members! We will make a difference by using our voice to make a real difference for the more than 3.5 million people with disabilities living in our state!
We CAN organize this campaign. The result? We will have people everywhere that will be more engaged than at any time in recent history and we will be competitive with other organizations and agencies. Given what’s at stake – the well-being of individuals with disabilities, our love ones who need services – it is extremely important that we seize the moment and press forward to get even more of the community involved.
Too often, people with disabilities are left out of the policy-making process that shapes the lives of many families in our state. It can be intimidating for one person to speak out, take action, and feel like they have a genuine impact, but its worth noting that with all our efforts and working together we CAN make a real difference!
Having thousands of CAN members investing time and resources in this movement is a critical key to getting real power, and having a meaningful impact on the way the needs of individuals with disabilities are met in Florida.
Here’s what we want to accomplish:
  • Bring together our abilities and talents to advocate for a system that is responsive to all disability issues,
  • Call for meaningful system reform measures,
  • Take the lead in our communities,
  • Share information to help families become effective players with their communities,
  •  Develop statewide networks to organize and discuss the issues that are most important to families,
  • Create a united position on a number of critical disability policy issues.
If you would like to take the next step on the road to active advocacy on behalf of individuals with disabilities and their families join us today. Together we CAN make a real difference. To become a part of CAN, simply visit www.familycafe.net/CAN/ and complete the registration form. Start making a difference today!
Thank you in advance for your continued support,
The Family Cafe

I’m furiously trying to work in some time to visit our family this summer.  I really believe in vacations and getting away.  There is something extremely beneficial about being able to stop and not have to worry about the cares of office and home.  I also see from the Scriptures that God was pretty insistent about weeks of feasts and resting.  In fact, the extent of his requirements are several times a year, one day a week and one year in every seven years. 

There are always needs to be coordination in that regard.  There are some really neat vacation ideas that seem to happen within disability ministry.  One of the full-time staff of a sister ministry works hand in glove with the agencies in her county to accompany her members on their vacation times.  This has meant getting to know her members in a close and intimate way.  Another Christian agency has arranged for their staff to take their residents on trips and cruises that have been fun for everyone who is able to attend. 

One of the heads of a sister ministry is often asked to speak at camps that are out of the state.  He pays for his family to go and takes a few extra days to sight see.  In this way, they have been able to go to some pretty exotic places without it costing them a great deal.

Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to tap into any of these kinds of trip.  Additionally, I have grandchildren that I feel a great need to spend a few days playing with and hugging occasionally.  Working around schedules and deadlines is always a pull and tug game for anyone.  In a small ministry it is doubly difficult because there is no one to do the work while you are gone. 

There are some things I’ve learned along the way but not many.  I have a few suggestions but I think others are better at this than I am. 

  1. I take my phone with me.  In this way, I can either ignore it or use it.  And I have done both.  Yet during vacations, I’ve received two vital phone calls that I will always be glad that I took.  Both were from  families whose children and members of Special Gathering had died suddenly.  It only took a few minutes to speak with them and quickly arrange a meeting when I came home.  They were exceptionally grateful that I had taken their call when they found out that I was on vacation.
  2. I don’t take my work.  I find that even in the airports I’m not very productive.  I don’t want to do work.  Therefore, I don’t.  Over the years, I’ve learned to skip the complications of taking work.
  3. While I haven’t figured out a way to schedule my vacations so that I miss all the deadlines for newsletters and other events, I do try to work around these as best I can.  If there is a deadline immediately after I get home, I try to do the work before I leave.  In this way the work isn’t hanging over my head while I’m playing.
  4. If I want to do ministry-related things during my vacation, I do them.  When in Hawaii last year, I spent an entire day trying to find a ministry to persons with disabilities.  I found a workshop and visited it. 
  5. Try to not extend yourself too much before your vacation.  If you are too exhausted to enjoy yourself, you won’t get the fully benefit of your time away.  Spacing your work well ahead and planning for the time you will be gone is the key. 

Some of these things, I don’t do well.  I’ve become an expert of what doesn’t work.  What are some of the ways you have found that make getting away easier for you and for your ministry?

I must, I must make the leap.  For more years than my grandchildren have been alive, I’ve accessed the Internet through my phone lines.  This method has served me well.  No.  I can’t download large files, movies or UTube; but I’m not interested in doing that anyway.

My computer has remained for me a work tool and I’m pretty snobbish about that fact.  However, in the past few months, I’ve been coming under increased ridicule because of my non-existent wireless access.   Comments like, “Oh, of course.  You are over 50.  No one over 50 seems to want to know anything about computers or the Internet.”   Or “What do you mean you don’t have wireless?  Where is the nearest Starbucks?  I’ll just spend my days there.”  And those comments have come from all three of my vacationing children.

Here is my problem.  First, there are two facilities–I refuse to dignify them by calling them utilities–that drive me to near distraction:  the phone company and the cable company.  I hate paying them money and I hate even more having to talk to them in person or on the phone.  I see no way to upgrade to wireless without dealing with at least one of these entities.

Second, my phone system is somewhat complicated.  Even the phone company can’t seem to keep track of the in’s and out’s of my system.  You see, my home phone is automatically forwarded to my cell phone.  I must keep the two lines because I have two phone numbers  in two offices in two counties.  Additionally, I can’t disconnect my home phone because of the emergency phone system in our house that is connected to my husband through a wrist band and some sort of radio waves. 

I also love my joimail.com e-mail account because of the amazing filter that has totally eliminated ALL unwanted and trashy messages.  It was originally designed for the use of children and it’s perfect for me.  Using another system would mean that I have to get rid of my amazing e-mail account or continue to pay for it.  I don’t want to do either.

However, the time has come to bite the electrical wires and do the right thing–get wireless Internet access, upgrade my phone system and work toward world peace. 

Yes, this a rambling entry that has no earthly, much less heavenly, value but there are times that I merely have to make a commitment then stick to it.  When my son flew home from Hawaii and spent most of his time at Starbucks last week, my resolve to remain wireless-free crumbled.  It’s time.  Any suggestions on how to make the pain threshold of change weaker?

Last week my husband and I had the honor of showing the paintings of a gifted artist to some close friends.  The paintings were done for a book that he is illustrating.  The fact that the artist is our son made it pretty humbling.  All of our children and my husband are artists.  Our son, Mark, recently reignited his gift and the result has been explosively beautiful.

Today, however, I was remembering another gifted artist.  He majored in art in college and he has been a graphic artist for about 20 years.  He currently heads the art department for a major hotel chain.  A couple of years ago, I ran into him in the grocery store.  Laughing, he stopped me mid-aisle.  “You don’t know who I am, do you?”

The voice and mannerisms were familiar but it had been about 25 years since I’d seen him.  “Daniel?”  I asked, most unsure of myself.

“Yep!” he laughed again. 

After a few minutes of discussing what he was currently doing, he became serious.  “I always wanted to come back and tell you something.” 

Uh-oh,  I thought grasping my grocery cart for added support, another one of those painful confrontations.  But, no, this was different.

“You probably don’t know it but I’m an artist today because of you.”  Now I was pleased but really puzzled.  The confusion must have shown on my face because he continued.  “You and your son, Mark, were the only two people who ever encouraged me in regard to my art.  You would come into my room, just to see my paintings.  Every time I saw you, you asked what new paintings I was doing.  No one, and I mean, no one else ever did that for me.  You made me believe in myself as an artist.  For years, I’ve wanted to thank you.”

I do remember the first time his mother told me that he had started to paint.  “He thinks he can become an artist.  His stuff is awful.  Please talk to him and tell him to stop wasting his time.  Frank and your son, Mark, are good artists.  Daniel respects you.  Tell him he needs to quit this art stuff.”

The next time I was at his house, I saw one of his paintings.  It was good and I told him so in front of his mother.  Then I asked to see some more of his work.  Everything he showed me was equally impressive.  After he left the house, his mother said, “Why did you tell him he is good?”

“Because he is.  His work is wildly different but the style, colors and form are all good.  He is really a gifted young man.”

After several years of trying to dissuade her son, my friend gave up.  He worked his way through art school and set out in the rough world of graphic art.  And he succeeded.

I know that we all have similar stories but at times we forget how pivotal a small word of encouragement can be for a person.  It is even more true within the mentally challenged community.  I watched the South Carolina area director working with some of her members a few weeks ago.  Again and again, she would say, “Keep going.  You’re doing a good job.” Her member would smile and increase his effort, wanting to succeed and wanting to continue to please his friend. 

Several times, I caught her working with them, when no one else was watching.  She was just as positive and reassuring with them in private as she was when others were around.  I was impressed with the love of Christ that I felt as she worked with them. 

I couldn’t help but wonder how often I’m that encouraging and positive with my members.  Sure, when others are watching or listening, I work to keep the measured edge from my voice.  But what about the times that I’m in the van transporting several folks and Art can’t open the door, AGAIN.  Then Theresa gets in the passenger seat without a smile, grunting and pushing aside anything that threatens to touch her.  Am I still encouraging and positive.  Where is the love of Christ during those times?

Song of Solomon speaks of “catching the little foxes that spoil the vine.”  It isn’t the big things that cut to the core of our spirits; and it probably isn’t the big things that impress.  It’s the smile and tone that genuinely expresses pleasure. 

When do you struggle the hardest at being positve and affirming?  Do you think it is always necessary to be “little Miss (or Mr.) Sunshine?”   Have you found a way to bring correction and still remaining affirming?

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