March 2010


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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