January 2010

I understand writing your own curriculum.  I did it for years.  I enjoyed the process and it allowed me to emphasize the important parts of discipleship that the Scriptures teach and I wanted my students to grasp.

However, I also love the curriculum put out by LifeWay, which is part of the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention.  The curriculum published for persons who are developmentally disabled is called ACCESS.  It is excellent and comes with a teacher’s guide and teaching helps.  You can review the curriculum, teacher’s guide for a minimal cost.  The Teacher’s Packet with teaching helps is expensive but well worth the cost.  However, you may not want to spring for the almost $20 until you view the Pupil’s books and teacher’s books.

I choose Gentleness

Ephesians 4:2

Central Theme:  Gentleness is showing tenderness and love to others.

Introduction—My grandson was told again and again, “Be gentle with your new baby sister.”  We would bearly touch the baby and move our finger bearly touching the skin to show him what gentle meant. We know we are to be gentle to babies but what about each other? Have a member read Ephesians 4:2.

       I.     Moses had been a shepherd for 40 years.  He knew what gentleness was because you must be gentle with sheep. 

          A. Now Moses was overworked leading the people of Israel when his Jethro, father-in-law came to see him. 

          B. Jethro said, “This is not good.  You will not be able to continue to do this. You need to divide the work.”

                   1.  Maybe Jethro was concerned that Moses would lose the gentle care he had learned when tending sheep?

                   2.  God knows that we must be gentle with each other.

          C. My Korean daughter-in-law uses a form of disciple that is gentle.

          D. The corrections and rebukes that I remember the most have been the most gentle.  My friend, Wylene, was able to gently rebuke me. 

      II.     Some people are born gentle, but most people must grow in gentleness.

              A. We grow in genleness by being gentle to other. 

              1.  We need to be gentle in the way we touch each other.

              2.  But the greatest damage is done in the way we talk to each other.

Conclusion—My grandson was taught how to be gentle with his baby sister.  Jethro was concerned that the shepherd, Moses, would lose his gentle touch learned tending sheep.  Each of us is either learning how to touch tenderly or we are striving to maintain a gentle touch.

Disney has offered people a free day at one of their parks if they will give a day volunteering with a non-profit organization.  The Special Gathering in Brevard and Indian River have qualified.  If you are interesting and live in either of these counties, you will need to volunteer for two hours and your time must be scheduled through me.

However, you begin by going to the Disney park sites.  To get there I google, “Disney give and get.”  That will take you to the Disney web page.  At the top of the page is the menu, Get and Give.  Click into that.  You will need to put in zip code near Brevard.  The catagory to best use is Arts and Culture to find Special Gathering.  You may need to go to the second page to find SpG.  When you find SpG, you will then click into the More Information button.  You will need to fill in your name and e-mail address and put a note to SpG.

After that you will get an e-mail to ask about your point of interest, answer it and your time can be scheduled.  When you have been scheduled with Special Gathering, you will need to schedule your time on the website.  You can access that in the e-mail you receive. 

When you work, SpG will verify that you fulfilled your commitment.  My understanding is that after this you will receive an e-mail from Disney that will serve as a certificate entitling you to a ticket.

Small children cannot volunteer with Special Gathering.  Our age limit is 10 years old.  There are other opportunities for children to help, however, with other organizations.

More than 30 people have signed on to vounteer with SpG.  Perhaps you may want to join us for a worship service and time of helping and service.

On Friday, I needed to call the supported living coach of two members who are living in their own home.  I tried to call the number I had in my record but I got a message that this number could not be dailed.  Therefore, I called the members’ home and spoke to the one member who is able to read. 

“Can you give me the phone number of your coach on your refrigerator?”  I asked

“Sure,” she told me.  She read the number as 635 1237.  The number I had in my records was 636 1337. 

“Are you sure that is correct?  Read it to me again,” I said.

Again, she read 635 1237.  “June, could the number be, 636 1337?”

“Well, I said 2/3,” was her response.

“What about the first numbers 635.  Could that be 636?”

“No,” she said.  “It’s 635 1247.” 

That afternoon, I went into their home to look at the number on the refrigerator.  Clearly, in big letters, the number was 636 1337.  After asking permission to use their phone, I called the coach.  This time the message I got said that this number had been disconnected.

Should there be an emergency, June would be unable to read the phone number posted on her refrigerator.  However, even if she could call, the number was recently changed; and the new number had not been recorded on the refrigerator. 

In reality, I’ve found this coach responsive and responsible.  She changed the number in a few days and there was not an emergency.  Yet, the “what if “questions loom largely over the horizon of many people who have been put into independent living arrangements.  Even more disturbing is the resistance of The State regarding opposition to these situations.

More and more parents who have shaped and fought for an inclusive environment for their children are resisting the current independent living arrangements which mentally challenged adults face with independent living.  Still, state officials continue to insist that educating ignorant but well-meaning parents will eventual work.  These parents want concentrated, communal arrangements wherein their children will be able to live in apartments among their friends, without restictive limits in regard to the number of mentally challenged people who can live in one building or an apartment complex. 

What if June and her roommate was living in an apartment complex with several other people who are developmentally delayed?  Wouldn’t she be safer than this current situation?

Too tired to be kind?  Often I feel that way.  When we do get tired–and all of us get there–it is hard to be kind and loving to our members.  Today, I spent the day with six member from South Carolina, their area director, Ferne Brandt, and a volunteer.  We got up early and came home about 6:30pm.  Supper was hurriedly finished and meds were given.

As the day waned, I found myself feeling tired and on the verge of expressing cutting remarks and sarcastic axioms.  I wasn’t responsible for the six members.  Therefore, I could merely withdraw from the conversation and the activity to finish the stack of tasks that waited for me.

As I observed the activity that swirled around me, I was astonished by the humor and patience that the SpG director and her volunteer showed to their members.  Of course, Britty was told seven times that it was time for bed.  Rose became deaf when told that the bathroom was ready for her.  Clare forgot three times why she was in the bedroom and in her bed.  As she wandered back into the family room, each time Mrs. Brandt redirected her back into her room and helped her back into her bed.

Often those of us who work with our members are told that we are people with great patience.  We laugh.  Sometimes we explain that we merely have a very warped sense of humor.  However, tonight I was impressed with the patience AND humor I experienced from the swirls of movement that surrounded me. 

You cannot help but laugh as Britty explains that as soon as she has finished looking at the pictures in the book she just purchased about sea life she will become a Marine Biologist.  When Clare asked for the 500th time when she would be able to buy a new watch, you had to smile at the consistent persistance this elderly woman expresses. 

Paul told Timothy several times in the letters he wrote that  men and women learn and thrive best when things are kept simple.  Perhaps patience can best be exhibited when it is wrapped in the cellophane package of humor.  That is what I experienced this evening. This coupling of godly virtues can help each of us to survive no matter what tasks we face during a hard day.

This is an e-mail I received this morning.  I knew you would be interested no matter what state you reside.

Here is the article: 


Richard Stimson who sent the original article also sent this today. 

 I sent the link to the Wall Street Journal article yesterday.  Then I had a few calls about the Chuck Colson radio program (it is short) on the same subject.  So I am resending the link to the Wall Street article (just to a larger group) and have attached a MP3 file of the Chuck Colson message (it is only about 3 minutes).  I would add to what Chuck Colson said that I am concerned in these budgetary hard times that more creative rule making will be used to take money that was approved for our folks.

  This is the link for the article:  

WSJ.com – Special-Ed Funds Redirected


 * Please note, the sender’s email address has not been verified.
You have received the following link from :  


  Click the following to access the sent link:
WSJ.com – Special-Ed Funds Redirected* This article will be available to non-subscribers of the Online Journal for up to seven days after it is e-mailed.






  *This article can also be accessed if you copy and paste the entire address below into your web browser.


This past weekend, we choose deacons in both of our programs.  Our deacons come from our membership.  I inherited the process that is used in each of the programs which I supervise.  For our Vero program, this was the first time that we have selected deacons.  Because this program was filled with new Christian or people who had never been Christians, I’ve waited until our members had established a bit of maturity before asking them to select.  In our Melbourne program, we started with a clean slate because it has been several years since we chose our deacons.

Originally, we used a rotating system, with two deacons up for reelection or two others members voted on each year.  Somehow the weeks got away and then a couple of years went by.  Because it’s been a long time since we’ve selected deacons, we did a good deal of teaching from Timothy about deacons before we selected this year.  There is a slate of five deacons in our smaller program and seven in the larger one. 

Each election, we ask each member, individually, to select one or more (as many slots that are open) people they believe qualify to be deacons.  It was a interesting process.  After the members vote, we ask our elders (teachers and volunteers) to also approve the slate.  After tallying up the vote in both programs, the slate selected by the members was the exact slate that our elders would have voted for and therefore it was approved by them also.

When I first began with Special Gathering, I questioned the process with our executive director.  At that time, it was purely a vote by the membership.  He simply said, “I’ve learned to trust the members’ judgement.  I’ve found they have always been right.”  Over the years, approval of the elders was added.  However, the elders have ALWAYS agreed with the vote of the members. 

The final step will be next week.  The membership and the elders will vote to approve the slate of deacons.  I don’t expect anyone to question the outcome of the vote.

How are your leaders selected?  Is it simply the judgment of the leadership or do your members have a hand in the selection.  What do you call your leadership team?  Are they formally recognized?

I choose Faithfulness

Psalm 119:30

Central Theme:  Faithfulness is an active choice we make.

Introduction–My glasses do not have a choice in  whether they will work or not.  They let me see and see clearly every time I put them on.  I wish I could say I was that faithful.  I wish I was as consistent and dependable as my glasses BUT my glasses do not have a choice.  I have a choice.

       I.     Have a member read Ps 119:30

          A. I must choose each day, if I will be faithful to God and the people around me.  Tell of a member that you know set his/her heart on God.

          B. Faithfulness is choosing each time you are faced with a choice to obey God.

          C. Faithfulness is setting our hearts on God.  We choose.

           II.     Things do not have a choice.

              A. Does the SCAT bus decide where it will go?  The driver decides.

              B. My glasses did not decide the strength they would be, the optician did that.

     III.     I cannot put my heart on a permanent setting to be faithful.

                   A. Each day is a new time of making myself faithful.

                   1.  In our community, we hear a lot about choices.

              2.  Everyone makes choices to be faithful or unfaithful to the Lord.

              3.  Perhaps one of the most faithful men in the Bible was Noah.

                   (Tell a short story about Noah.)

              4.  Jesus choice to be faithful and went to the cross.

Conclusion–Faithfulness is choosing to obey God.  Objects may be faithful but they don’t get to choose.  God has given us the wonderful benefit of choice.

This is the latest iBudget.  Go to the website to see it and to comment.

The draft ibudget plan has been posted and comments are being requested.
Please review and send this communication out through your emailing lists.
/D08/DCF on 01/25/2010 09:51 AM —–
             Sent by: Hilary                                            To
             Brazzell                  APD_Area_Administration,            
                                       APD_Central Office                  
         01/25/2010 06:18                                              
             AM                                                    Subject
                                       Draft iBudget Florida plan posted  
                                       online–comments sought         

The draft iBudget Florida plan is posted online at
http://apd.myflorida.com/ibudget/draft-ibudget-florida-plan.htm.  This is
the plan for a new system featuring individual budgeting that is intended
to simplify the system and enhance self-direction, equity, and system
We are seeking comment from consumers, families, waiver support
coordinators, providers, advocates, and APD staff.  Comments received by
Thursday, 1/28/10 will be summarized in the plan, though comments received
after that date will still be welcome and considered.  Comments can be
–by email to apdibudget@apd.state.fl.us
–by web through http://apd.myflorida.com/ibudget/contact-us.htm
–leaving a voice mail for iBudget Florida at 850-414-8274 or 1-866-APD
CARES (1-866-273-2273)
The full report and some appendices are posted; more appendices will be
posted soon.
Please spread the word!
Thanks so much–

Hilary Brazzell
Agency for Persons with Disabilities
Central Office
4030 Esplanade Way
Tallahassee FL  32399
Ph (850) 414-8274
Fax (850) 410-0665
Toll-free 1-866-APD-CARES or 1-866-273-2273

Few of us admit that we actually enjoy studying and learning.  Yet, having an opinion that is founded in real facts is an exciting experience.  Some facts are learned in books; others are learned from junkets into real life.

Last night several speakers at the disability conference held at Northland Church in Orlando met for a dinner of fellowship and to learn from each other.  Yes, we discussed facts and figures of ministry.  Slowly, the conversation melted into fun and laughter, comparing notes of foibles and misadventures that we all experience.  Things that we will all try to avoid. 

Part of the serious discussion had revolved around liability.  How far do we  take this looming threat?  When does legitimate concern before fear?  One ministry head quoted Nehemiah.  He said, “It is important to guard the walls and pray.”  He believes that his job as head of a ministry is to guard against ruinous events that could take down a ministry and pray for God’s protection. 

Until I was heading a ministry, I must admit that I was on the side of the argument that his actions were over zealous.  However, a few weeks after I took the reigns of SpG of Indian River, Inc., I understood his zeal.  When it is your members, you want to do everything you can to safeguard their safety.  When it is your ministry, you become aware that maintaining the longevity of what God has called you to do is essential.   Lastly, your reputation and, therefore, your ministry and your members are put at risk without these safeguards.

True, there were a couple of hours of laughter.  But in the silence of my ride home, I pondered what I had learned.  The most important thing was a fortressing of the overarching need for protection in libelous areas. 

What about you?  Do you feel that risk managements is folly?  Or do you side with a zealous proactive approach?  Perhaps you are somewhere between.  Have you thought about why you have taken this position?  Share with us.

Today I had a pastor’s wife who asked me about a former member of Special Gathering.  Margie and I were extremely close until she moved into our town, got into supported living and later got married. 

I tried to continue the relationship by being friendly to Margie at social events even though she quit coming to Special Gathering.  When it was apparent that she was turning her back on me when I spoke to her, I stopped speaking.  That prompted a call from her supported living coach saying that she was extremely hurt with me because I was ignoring her.  I explained the events from my point of view. 

After a couple more calls from various support staff, it had become perfectly clear to me that I had become the person to whom she felt an obligation and she didn’t like it.  As someone put it, I became “the man.”  She felt that I was the one person from her past to whom she had to answer.  I could certainly understand her dilemma. 

Margie had lived under the thumb of her mother and older brother all her life.  She had been directed, abused and neglected during those 50 years.  Now she was on her own.  She was a married woman. Was she seeing me as a remnant of an unpleasant past that she wanted to leave behind?  I thought that was the case.

I had directed her from several abusive situations after her mother died.  But I wasn’t needed any longer and I was a bitter reminder of the situation from which she had been released.

I remember author and pastor, Jamie Buckingham, once telling me, “It is the people for whom you pour your life’s blood out who leave the church.”    I remembered his comment as I hung up the phone with the supported living coach for the last time.  Now, I’m friendly.  But I don’t invite her to church.  Because I picked her up on Sunday mornings, it had become my custom as I do with most people I pick up to call her and verify that she would be waiting for me.  I quit calling. 

Without going into detail, I explained a bit about the situation to the pastor’s wife.  She responded,  “Why would you drop her?  There is a church around the corner, from her apartment.  Call the pastor.  I know him.  He will pick the couple up.  Then you can call Margie to let her know that she has a ride to church again.”

“I will give the pastor a call.  But he will need to call the couple to inquire.  I don’t think I can get that involved.”

“Well, okay,”  she said with a disappointed look. 

It is always a question, when do you let go of a member?  If Margie called and asked for help, I would be there.  However, she has made it completely clear, through her support staff and in her actions that she doesn’t want my involvement.  What do you think?  When do you let go?

I read this morning an interesting newsletter that spoke about the coming and present new church world.  This wasn’t some new age hocus pocus; but it encapsulated a discussion about what the church may look like should we move past buildings and props into an ever-increasing  internet world of learning and relationships. 

No one can deny that our youth no longer communicate as we once did.  However, texting and Twittering isn’t limited to teens and college students.  During the staff meeting at 100-year-old First Church, the associate pastor sent everyone a text message because she was at a conference in another state.  Her purpose was to touch base with all the staff even though she could not be there.  She wanted everyone to know that she was available during that time should she be needed.  The senior pastor does the same thing when he is on vacation.

While all this may seem pretty reasonable to everyone with an average IQ, this scenario appears to completely eliminate people who are not able to read or manipulate a key board.  Ninety-nine percent of my members will never be able to text.  Two out of 150 of my members are on Facebook.  I know of none of  the Vero or Melbourne members who have e-mail addresses. 

Two years ago, I felt that it was important that young people understand that there are ministries in the world that evangelize and disciple people who are mentally challenged.  When I started a blog, I felt it was a commitment that could have far-reaching effects.  Yet, I knew that it would not and could not be geared to our members.  Later, I started a blog for people who are mentally challenged.  In the year and a half that it has been functioning, it has received only 638 hits.  And most of those people wanted to read the poetry and they we not developmentally delayed.  In contrast, this blog has received to date 38,664 hits.  Yes, that number is a trival amount compared to most blogs but the contrast between our two blogs is shocking. 

If our members aren’t Internet savvy, do these changes in how we, the church, interacts with each other impact ministry to mentally challenged persons?  Perhaps not.  However, there is a good chance that an even greater divide may appear between our members and the local church membership.  For those ministries who believe that our support should could from the local church, it could have a large impact in our funding. 

What do you think?  Will our ministries change?  How would you envision these changes?

Pat Robertson has opened an interesting door of discussion that actually relates to our members.  Many Christians believe–and they may even be taught–that our members are disabled because they are cursed.  I know this is not a subject that we like to discuss.  However, like it or not, it is a topic that our members will face sometime in their lives.  Therefore, I believe that it is a subject that should be discussed.

First, after hearing much of what Robertson actually said, I don’t believe that he was saying that God was cursing the Haitian people.  I believe he was saying that the demonic influence they submit themselves to through voodoo and their bad choices mean that they live under a curse from the devil. 

The problem may stem from the fact that many people believe that there is only one supernatural power and that is from the God.  Clearly, there is more than one powerful force operating in the heavens.  Not everything that is supernatural is from God.

I also don’t believe that Robertson was saying that every individual in Haiti is living a cursed life.  The Scriptures clearly teach that if we are Christians, we have been freed from the curse of sin and death. 

While I believe that there are consequences to our sins and bad choices, I don’t see that God curses people but bad choices and sin put them under a curse from the enemy of their souls. 

Now the bigger questions is: Does this relate to our members?

As an overview, I believe that every person born is able to come to the saving grace of Jesus and every person is able to be released from any curses of the devil by coming to know the Lord as our Savior.  A few nights ago, I read an article written in 2007 by one of Billy Graham’s sons in which he tells of a deliverance he received from an affliction of demonic activity.  God didn’t curse him.  However, God was willing and able to deliver him.  That is the God we serve.

In some cases, I do believe that the bad choices (alcoholism, drug addiction) may lead to mental disabilities.  However, this does not mean that God has put a curse on this person. 

I also do not believe that an irregular or missing chromosome means that a person is under a demonic curse.  One pastor believes that this is part of God’s creative ability to make all people different and that those differences may not be evil–only different.  I personally like that explanation.  After all, if a person is born with an off-the-charts IQ, we don’t assume that there was demonic activity which caused that person to be born different.  Therefore, why wouldn’t the opposite be true also?  I don’t believe that IQ determines a person’s ability to come to know the Lord as their Savior and be eternally released from sin and death.

God has given each person the wonderful opportunity to know him as Father through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.  As we pray for the Haitian people, remember the people with mental disabilities who may be left confused, hurt and with no one take care of them.

This is a comment that David Hayward from Joy Fellowship wrote regarding making disciples.  I thought you would all want to share in what he wrote:

In Joy Fellowship, making disciples has long been one of our goals. We have over 100 people who attend our worship services each Sunday morning, and 90% of them are involved in weekly Bible Studies. They love their Bibles, and they love to worship, and they love to pray. Perhaps 15% of them want more.
Years ago, Jean Vanier suggested that our friends with disabilities have had others serve them all their lives, but as disciples of Jesus, WE are ALL called to serve. We came to see that we all grow most as Christians in the practice of serving each other, and serving God – letting our light shine in the corner where we are.
So we began taking these folks who were more ‘motivated’ and wanted a deeper involvement on weekly outings to places where they could minister – first in a big institution for people with disabilties and then to group homes, and hospitals. Now this is a significant part of our ministry.
My ministry is always richer if I have some of my disabled friends with me, and those who are involved in this are almost always the ones who grow into leaders and in whose life we can see the Fruit of the Spirit flourish the most. Now we have leadership Retreats each year when 30 of us will go away for a weekend and work on skills, or discuss how we can better use our gifts, etc.

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