March 2010


About a week ago, I invited others to share in this blog.  At the same time, a series of events prompted other leaders within the mentally challenged and disability community to begin their own blogs.  These blogs are a welcomed addition to a rather sparse Internet presence among specialized ministries. 

However, it seems that one faithful reader read from what I had written that I was trying to give away this blog.  That was never my intent.  I’m committed to the need for Christian disability information to be dispersed on the Internet.  I have wanted others to contribute because these men and woman have so much to say and teach.  Their blogs are a welcomed addition.  As I find them, I will highlight them.  Please visit these blogs because there is much to learn about disability ministries.

Jim Hukill of LIFT Ministries in Orlando, FL  has started a blog.  Be sure to visit him often.  His first entry is “Leadership Pressures.”

With recent economic events, cultural shifts and ministry adjustments our disability leaders are under greater pressure than ever as they navigate their organizations and programs through this treacherous era. These challenging moments are consuming some, scaring others and isolating a community further. Living with disability has taught me many things about life, about family and has crafted my leadership immeasurably. Additionally, this wheelchair in which I sit has enhanced my learning about pressure: its effect upon us, the dangers pressure can have, and the benefits it can bring. Here are a few of my lessons.  To read more, click here.

In case you haven’t heard, April 2 has been declared Autism Awareness Day.  This year, it falls on Good Friday.  At first I blistled at the coincidence.  That I thought, perhaps this is a good thing.  It will remind all of us that Jesus died for everyone, including the most vulnerable in our population.

Recently, a staff person who heads three group homes told me that she tried to explain to the people who supervise her the difference in her residents when they attend Special Gathering.  “There is such a peace and calm that comes over our residents when they enter the worship area that it is a miracle.  Only those of us who have experienced the difference can understand what happens.”

Remembering the great sacrifice that Jesus made for us, let us continue to pray for full access to the cleaning, healing message of God’s grace for everyone.

I came back from South Carolina late Saturday evening tired to the bone.  Sunday’s worship was wonderful.  Pam Gillespie, a former Special Gathering staff person and now a volunteer, preached and lead praise and worship.  I was able to sit back and observe.  It was an anointed service.

Today is our son’s birthday.  He is older than I feel, even carrying the tireness of a busy week.  However, I wanted to say that it’s a wonderful thing to have adult children who love each other and love their mother and father.  This past week, our son saw his son pass into adulthood.  It is interesting watching the passage of children and grandchildren venturing into the world of adulthood.

A very wise mother of a mentally challenged woman once told me to never cry when my children successfully pass from one stage of life to another.  These are the normal things which should happen.  I knew that she was speaking about her own daughter who would never don a wedding dress or attend college.  She would never have children or grandchildren.  She would not even be able to speak a clear sentence. 

I met a doctor many years ago whose daughter had spoken her name that morning.  She wept at the meeting.  “It’s taken her 15 years to be able to say ‘Mommy,’  but this is the happiest day of my life.”

I often think of my friend who is now struggling with cancer and whose daughter faces an uncertain future.  I pray for her and the doctor whose daughter is no longer 15 but approaching  her 30’s. 

Birthdays and graduations are times of celebration and rejoicing for all of us.

The last time I saw my friend, she said, “You know, I’ve been blessed beyond measure.  What a good life God has given to me and my daughter.”  Perhaps achievements and accomplishments are overrated commodities in the light of eternity.  Parents of special needs children seem to be able to understand that better than the rest of us. 

I do thank God for birthdays and graduations!  But also thank God for the peace and assurance of having just one more day shared with a loved one.

I hope this information is helpful to you.

Stacia Woolverton, Executive Assistant

The Governor’s Commission on Disabilities

4030 Esplanade Way, Suite 260

Tallahassee, Florida 32399-0950

Phone: (850) 487-3423

Fax: (850) 414-8908

Email: Stacia.Woolverton@dms.myflorida.com

Website: http://dms.myflorida.com/other_programs/governor_s_commission_on_disabilities

We serve those who serve Florida.

For information regarding the Florida Discount Drug Card visit: www.FloridaDiscountDrugCard.com.

Governor Crist encourages Floridians to have a disaster preparedness plan.  For information, please visit the Florida Department of Emergency Management’s Web site at www.floridadisaster.org.

This is an e-mail I received from Mosaic.  They are based in Omaha, NE.  I don’t know anything about them.  However, one thing struck me in their information.  Ms. Nasif reported that giving to people with develomental disabilities ranks behind giving to the needs of animals.  Thank your Ms. Nasif for sharing this with us.

Hi Linda,

My name is Heather and I work with Mosaic, a non-profit aimed at providing housing and support for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

Given you obvious passion for supporting individuals with developmental disabilities, I thought you might be interested in what Mosaic does and their current awareness campaign, which can be found at www.wouldyouhelp.org.

While you’re developing content for the coming weeks, I thought you might like to consider writing about Mosaic and this new initiative.

Mosaic serves approximately 3,500 people with disabilities nationwide.  Mosaic believes that individuals with intellectual disabilities deserve the opportunity to live a quality life, receive individualized services and socialize with family and friends in or near their home communities.

As you may know, support for those with disabilities is often not a very high priority for the general public.  In fact, one recent study had people ranking this 11th in causes they’d support – even behind helping animals.

We are working to raise awareness of this issue and get people talking about it. Additionally, we’re trying to raise $25,000 to help provide individuals with disabilities homes, jobs and a better quality of life.

If you are interested, we could put you in contact with a spokesperson from Mosaic or provide you with embeddable video for your blog.

Additionally, here are some resources to give you more insight into Mosaic’s effort—we encourage everyone to share their own stories of how their lives have been changed by those with intellectual or developmental disabilities at these locations. Feel free to contribute!

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Heather Nasif

I’m a bit eccentric when it comes to doing tasks.  Most of the time, my eccentrics is extremely beneficial.  Other times, it is a great hindrance.  In my mind, I keep a series of tasks that need to be done.  Often, they are arranged in their order of importance.  Other times, they are organized by a time schedule.

When I was in an automobile accident a couple of months ago, I decided to do the traffic school route rather than lose points on my license.  It was far down on my list of things to do until the week before the deadline to complete it. I had planned part of my week around doing this task on-line.  I’d done a bit of research and figured out where to go and the amount of time it would take me. 

Unfortunately, my schedule became a bit unraveled by my husband’s health and I was stuck doing the on-line course after a day of traveling to DeLand for our monthly program.  Additionally, I had underestimated the amount of time the course work would take.  (Actually I had correctly estimated the amount of time it would take me to do the course.  However, I wasn’t allowed to move on to the next section until the time allotted had expired.  Which meant that the course had to be completed in four hours or more–not less.)  I started at 8:45pm and ended at 12:45am. 

I had in my mind a long list of things I would do that week, but the on-line course was on top.  I was traveling at warp speed the rest of the week knowing I had to complete my self-inflicted tasks.  At the end of the week, when I’d completed the last issue on my list, I was exceedingly happy.

My happiness didn’t come merely from the satisfaction of completing a task but that my last task had been the completion of making arrangements for the graduation of boot camp at the end of March for our grandson.  Completion in this case means a great deal to everyone in our family. 

Like every teen I’ve known over my lifetime, my grandson has struggled the last couple of years.  Knowing his great potential and loving him a great deal, I’ve struggled with him in prayer.  This week marks the completion of his childhood and he has finished gloriously.  None of us in his family are surprised.  All of us are happy.

We will attend his graduation and laugh and cry with him.  Today is his day.  Congratulations, SeaBass.  We are all proud of you.

25 Reasons why I love ministering within the mentally challenged community:

  1. Yesterday, as she worked to put up our sound equipment, Lori, a choir member, said, “Thank you, Linda, for letting me help you.”  Our members believe it is a privilege to be able to serve.
  2. Our members want to learn about Jesus.
  3. Our members LOVE to come to Special Gathering and study the Bible.
  4. Many of our members cry if they have to miss church.
  5. Our members don’t make life complicated.  They live simple lives.
  6. Our members laugh easily and cry easily. 
  7. People who are mentally challenged will work themselves to death to please others.
  8. Volunteers at Special Gathering are willing to do almost anything for only a thank you and a smile.
  9. We have lots of pot luck dinners.
  10. Our population is hungry to hear the gospel.
  11. Richard Stimson, the founder of Special Gathering, is an organizational genius and it is an hour to work with him and his wife, Nancy.
  12. Things are changing all the time.  I get to do new things almost daily.
  13. We are growing.
  14. I get to direct a choir.
  15. I get to give weekly devotions. 
  16. I can out think a few of our members.
  17. I’ve been able to meet some really  important people like Dee and Felicia and Terri and Tommy.
  18. I’ve been able to meet people who have struggled hard to overcome overwhelming obstacles, like Tracy, Danny, Chrissy and Alissa, Lloyd and George.
  19. Because Melvin has his picture on the Internet, he is sure that he will soon be headed for Hollywood.
  20. Debbie calls me several times a week to tell me why she can’t come to church, only to call me on Saturday to let me know that she will be making me really happy because she is coming after all.
  21. Sam puts his hand on my head almost every time he sees me to pray for me and bless me.
  22. The ministry heads around the US and Canada that I’ve met are the most organized and enthusiastic church leadership I’ve ever had the privilege to meet.
  23. Andrew calls me every Saturday afternoon to find out what time the bus will pick him up.
  24. A 3 to 5 minute telephone conversation is all that’s needed to satisfy a Special Gathering member.  They just want to touch base and then get on with their lives.
  25. We get to do all the fun things that people in junior high love to do–like Disney and Sea World.

Sitting down for a quick lunch, after a business meeting, a colleague asked about a mutual friend. “How’s Aaron?”

I explained that he was struggling with his job, home life and everything else in his life.  Aaron is a middle-aged mentally challenged man who has lived a perfect life.  Now he seems determined to smash it all with resentments and bad behaviors. 

Aaron has lived a protected life, even though he has had a job in the community for most of his adult life.  He has been involved in his church and has a truly amazing relationship with the Lord. 

Softly, my friend said, “He needs a girlfriend.”

“Are you saying that a girlfriend will make all of this go away?”

“Yes.  He is at a vulnerable age where he needs to know that someone loves him.  He needs a girlfriend.”

All of us need the love of others.  Most of us need the love of the opposite sex who will tenderly express to us that we are valued for who we are–not for what we can do or achieve.  God has made us this way.  Statistics tell us that after the death of a spouse, a man is much more likely to seek another marriage than a woman.  Women appear to be more content to live alone after their husband has died. 

Within the mentally challenged community, our members need this kind of love as much–or maybe more–than others.  Helping them to be able to find this could be a great gift of committed pastoral love.  For Aaron, it will mean sitting down with his protective but loving parents and endeavoring to help them see his hurts, needs and desires.

I will need God’s grace!

Over the past two years, I’ve done a lousy job of organizing the material that is published on this blog.  After about six months of articles, I knew I had to make a decision.  Would this be a teaching/informational blog or would it be an advocacy blog.  I made the decision to make it both.

I divided the advocacy section to be published on Saturday.  There were two reason for this decision.  First, advocacy is the information that most people will use a search engines to acquire.  Therefore, it doesn’t really matter what day it is published.  Second, Saturday is the day that gets the least amount of traffic.  Therefore, it doesn’t matter what information is contained on the first weekend day. 

While advocacy is a vital part of what we do at Special Gathering, this blog reaches into almost all the states and several countries.  The folks who regularly visit, do so on Monday through Friday.  Readers from other states and countries aren’t interested in Florida budgets, state politics or agency issues.  The traffic that comes to the advocacy articles–and it is significant–comes primarily  through the search engines. 

Sunday is the day I publish a sermon.  I’ve kept years of sermons in my files.  I’m now publishing sermons that were preached nine years ago.  While this is the page that gets the least amount of traffic, I still feel it is beneficial for the person who may want to understand the basic rudiments of preaching to people who are mentally challenged.

Week days are reserved for teachings and reflections.  I don’t sort these articles efficiently.  On occasion, I do a series of teaching articles.  However, I hijack myself continually by interrupting a series of teachings with some reflection that I feel is important.  Perhaps it’s an age thing.  Experts say that the older brain thinks differently from the younger brain, and the older brain is more prone to allow interruptions and distractions which side track their efforts.  Perhaps it’s merely a problem that all daily columnists face. 

Nevertheless, navigating this blog should not be an adventure in the unknown.  I hope this clears up some of your questions about the construction of these entries.  I sincerely thank you  for coming and reading.  You make this blog profitable in the Kingdom.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve invited others to share on this blog.  Either they didn’t think I was serious or they simply don’t have time to do it.  I know that people who serve within the disability community are actively working and they don’t have much time or energy left to sit down and put down their thoughts.  That is one reason that I started this blog in the beginning. 

If you feel that you have something to say, long or short, I’d really enjoy having you submit it.  Don’t worry about grammar or spelling.  WordPress has a great program that is constantly telling me what I’d done wrong in sentence structure and construction.  I’d enjoy have WordPress Grammar correct someone else’s work. 

You can contact me through the contact page or simple e-mail me at:

lhoward@specialgathering.com

Thanks for considering sharing your insights and wisdom to other through this vehicle.

This information could be useful for ministries seeking to fill paid-leadership positions.  It comes from David Hayward in Vancouvre, Canada.

I guess in Joy Fellowship we have always filled leadership positions in the past from within the group. God has always raised up leaders from within our volunteer base, and that way we know them, and they know the people.  Additionally, we can assess their skills and relationships – most of the time this has worked well.

We have had a couple of situations where a volunteer who was NOT selected when a position was being filled, became offended.  At least once that led to a lasting bitterness against my father and the person he chose.  But normally the group also recognizes the ability and the suitability of the person God has brought into leadership. In these cases, academic qualifications have almost never been very important. In fact, our leaders have rarely had special education backgrounds or theological backgrounds. (Joy Gregory, who lead our organization for many years, was an exception, in the sense that she had a Special Ed degree).

Their primary qualifications have been that we have been able to observe their interactions, their ability to speak, or lead worship or a study in a way that seemed appropriate to our congregation.

Dear Friend,
 
The Family Cafe is pleased to let you know that the new issue of
Parenting Special Needs Magazine is now available. You can read it
online at http://parentingspecialneeds.org/currentissue
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.
Our friends at Parenting Special Needs will also be sharing materials
with all of our attendees at The 12th Annual Family Cafe this June.
Keep an eye out for their table in the Exhibit Hall!
 
We hope you enjoy reading Parenting Special Needs Magazine, and that
you will be able to join us at The Annual Family Cafe this June.
 
Yours,
 
The Family Cafe

Information on accessible phones can be found at Access Tech News.   This is valuable resource and you may want to book mark it for future reference.  The article is informative and anyone interested in finding a phone that can be used by persons with limited accessiblity would want to read it.

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