May 2010

About five years ago in Florida, the State decided to experiment with the Medicaid money that provides services for the mentally challenged community.  This money comes from both the state and federal governments.  It is distributed by each state government. This experiment would turn all services that are paid for by the state over to a HMO.

        According to Medical Definitions, a HMO is “a corporation financed by insurance premiums whose member physicians and professional staff provide curative and preventive medicine within.”  That means a HMO is a business made up of doctors, nurses and therapists.  Their purpose is to help make you healthy and help keep you healthy.  To join a HMO, you must pay an insurance premium.

      The important word here is business.

       A Medicaid HMO will be a business contracted by your state and some of the funds come from federal money. 

      Almost all states have Medicaid HMO’s.  There is a difference in this plan. HMO’s will now be in charge of providing all of your services.  It seems that many states want to move services given to people with developmental disabilities to a HMO.

      Because these companies are businesses, they must make money.  One way they make money is by cutting or not giving services to people.  Some people think this is a bad idea.  It will not save the state money; it will mean that your care will be reduced.

            Contact your state representatives and senators.  Let them know that you think about this plan. 

If they aren’t interested in attending your special needs ministry, we may be the people who some folks within the mentally challenged will want to avoid. Therefore, they may ignore us or even try to avoid us. We must learn to not take these snubs personally.  The members of the mentally challenged community may not want to risk losing our approval.  In their immature way, they seek to erase us, rather than risk disapproval.

I have learned that even the most rude people are aching for love and acceptance.  In fact, those who are the insolent are probably the most needy.  You can approach them one of two ways.  First, you can ignore them completely but pray fiercely.  This impersonal approach may be what they want.  As you pray for them, ask that the Lord will give you the opportunity to show them Christ’s love.  Second, you can go out of your way to speak to them and engage them in conversation. 

I usually do a bit of both.  At first, I ignore them completely.  Then after weeks or months of encounters, I will speak to them.  I will probably introduce myself to them after a couple of encounters.  True, there are some folks who will not ever warm up to me.  However, I don’t know what is happening in their hearts and minds.

Several years ago, I attended a secular course that was conducted by a Christian university.  At the beginning of a long year of study, I was the only Christian in the room, other than the instructor.  By the end of the year, almost everyone in the class of 15 had come to the Lord.  I encountered several members of the group about a year after the class had ended.  He was a young airman.  He approached me in the grocery store.  “You know that class completely changed my life.  I’ve come to the Lord and I’m living for him.  Jose (his friend who also attended the class) has also come to the Lord.  We’re attending a Bible study together.” 

I’ve often wondered if the university has any idea how many lives they touch for Christ through these courses.  In the same way, I cannot help but wonder how much “Goodness and Mercy” who follow us each day are effecting the lives of people we minister within the developmentally disabled community.

It is easy to become discouraged, especially with the newer generation of folks who have been raised without church or the godly influence of years gone by.  However, the same hunger for joy and peace gnaw into the lining of their bellies.  Jesus is still the answer.  Who will be available to love and share when that gnawing finally eats a hole into their hearts?  If God gives us mercy, perhaps it will be us.

I could tell from the way my husband called me that something was wrong.  He had fallen from his shower seat during his shower because he had sneezed.  (He never learned to sneeze softly and he practically shakes the house when he sneezes.)  After about 20 minutes of his struggling to extract himself from the floor,  he finally succumbed to letting me call 911.

My husband is almost completely paralyzed from the waist down.  It has been a slow process and we have adjusted our lives and our home to accommodate his disability.  However, for years–with his help–I could lift him whenever he fell.  Now I cannot because he is mostly dead weight. 

No one likes to call 911, especially when you fall during a shower.  However, there are times that necessity and good sense usurp even the extreme modesty.  During your program, there will be times that 911 must be called.  When those occasions slam you against a wall, don’t hesitate to use this valuable tool.

Fortunately, my husband wasn’t hurt and in our sleepy, small beach community, the police love to make house calls.  However, even if your circumstances are different, we all need to understand that this is a necessary service that people with disabilities need to access on occasion.  Don’t hesitate to use it.

A good friend was recently diagnosed as depressed.  It is little wonder.  He spends his day watching TV and nursing hurts and irritants of the past.  Others have encouraged my friend to do something else.  “Why don’t you use your great skills to help other people?”

His response was “I don’t remember anyone doing anything for me.”

The mentally challenged community is not immune to this type of attitude.  In fact, this population can quickly slide or slowly seep into the “What’s in it for me?” syndrome.  Families become accustomed to helping more than they should.  It’s a natural response to a lifetime of having a child who will never learn to do the tasks at the level they desire.  Even the simplest tasks of washing and drying dishes become a marathon of teaching details when you attempt to transfer the intricate steps with hand-on-hand detail.   “It’s Easier to do it Myself” becomes the theme song of many parents and siblings. 

Often people in the professional community do not have the natural ability to teach with the tough and exacting detail needed.  They too fall into the trap of helping more than is needed or necessary.

Therefore, even the most energetic person with a disability can slip into an attitude of expecting.  The attitude of expectation always become deadly as moods sour because needs or expectations are not met.  They may not say, “I don’t remember anyone doing anything for me.”  Yet that statement is easily replaced with “I can’t.”

After my mother had her stroke, she was not able to do much for herself.  Doing for others seemed out of the question.  However, my sister found that Mother loved to fold dish rags and wash cloths.  Mother would spend the entire day folding the cloths.  Mother’s joy came from helping my sister who was overworked by daily housekeeping tasks, a full-time ministry and a mother who needed almost constant care.

The secret to breaking the backs of these deadly attitudes is found in the scriptures.  Hosea 10:12 says, “Sow for yourself righteous, reap the fruit of unfailing love.”  Again, Paul wrote, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Cor 9:6-9).  In the scriptures, sowing is always meant as an exercise of giving or serving.

When we grasp the power of serving others, it is a life changing event.  Perhaps the most important thing we can impart to our members with disabilities it the joy of helping others, the delight we experience when we become the servant–rather than the served.  “Lord,” the Psalmist prayed,  “you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance” (Ps 16:5-6).

She often said in her most irritated and aggravated voice, “You are always burning the candle at both ends.”   This is the one accusation that my mother leveled at me from the time that I was a child until she had a stroke and could not longer speak.  For years I had no idea what she meant, except that I knew that she hated that I would study for tests while washing dishes and read while eating.  I knew that she didn’t like that I had fifteen projects going at the same time.  I would close the door of my bedroom so she couldn’t see that I often talked on the phone arranging school club meetings while doing my typing homework.

I’ve always been the kind of person who had more interests than good sense.  I wanted to taste and feel everything, especially about the Lord.  And my curiosity seemed to know no bounds.  There were always several things which captured my imagination, however.  Writing, music, and public speaking imprisoned me as a child and I’ve been hooked ever since.

In fact, most of my lifetime the activities that most interested me have revolved around these three passions.  I often muse that God built me specifically to do ministry within the mentally challenged community.  I greatly enjoy all of the things that specialized ministry demands.   Sometimes I wonder what the past 20 years would have been like if I had not found this wonderful nitch.  I also pray often for the people who will serve in the next generation. 

Too often when Christian young people think about working within the mentally challenged community, their thoughts go to teaching school.  Teaching is important; but there are great restrictions on how much and what can be said in the classroom about Christian faith and I don’t believe that it will get better in the near future.  However, no government entity has restricted what is said within the walls of the church structure.  Personal religious freedom is not dead.

I believe that the prayer of all people serving within our community must be for the future generations.  Who will replace us?  There are some exciting things happening in other places, powered by young men and women with a passion for ministry.  We need to pray for them and hold up their arms as they struggle to bring new life to a people who need to hear the gospel of Jesus.

More and more of our parents are faced with the possibility of having to terminate the life of their loved one who was born mentally challenged.  Medical professionals have found that putting a person into a medicinal coma helps to make the patient easier to handle and treat.  It also facilitates healing and the risk of infection.  However, with these heart and breathing devices in place, you can keep the body of a person alive for an indefinate amount of time, long after the brain has died. 

Helping the family of a person who is developmentally disabled make life terminating decisions may become part of what is expected from you as the pastor or spiritual leader of the person who is critically ill.  There are several precautions of which you should be aware.

  1. The decision to terminate the life of a member is not and should not be yours to make
  2. You should be prepared mentally and professionally to help the guide the family to make a decision that will be best for them and the person who may be facing death.
  3. The professional guidance you will need is readily available to you. This type of information is available through the hospital and from a doctor.  You can also search the Internet to find information.  Avoid any site that may encourage you to make that decision for the family.
  4. Prayer and study of the Scriptures will help prepare yourself mentally for any guidance that you are asked to give.
  5. Steer away from anything other than asking pointed and helpful questions.  “What will be her quality of life, if she is allowed to continue to breathe?”  is an example.
  6. Questions of this nature will allow the family to walk down paths that they may feel are inappropriate for them to explore.
  7. Give the parents/family permission to speak the unspeakable.  Again, a pointed question coming from you will help them to talk openly about the consequences of the decision they are asked to make.
  8. Each time you walk into a hospital room where a person is attached to lifegiving equipment, come armed with questions that should be asked. 
  9. Understand that you may not be asked to become a part of this conversation; but if you are, you should be prepared to guide the discussion into fruitful areas.
  10. Do not enter this area of discussion unless you are given permission from the family.  If you begin to ask probing questions and the family has not invited you into this extremely private area, you are opening doors that are not yours to open.
  11. If the family desires for you to walk along side of them, they will let you know.  “What should we do?”  will probably the the first question you are asked.
  12. Avoid this question like the plague by answering it with pointed questions.  “What do you believe will be best for him?”  “Does he have a living will?”  “What do you believe would be the best thing to do?”  These are questions that will open the conversation and allow them to explore freely the possibilities.

This is a horrible time in the life of a family.  Either way the family decides, there will be future second guessing and prolonged self-examination.  However, most people know in their gut what they must do.  They only need someone who will facilitate giving themselves permission to do the right thing.  Your place is not to make the decision but to help the family find out what they already know they must do.

I personally have liked the “cool” factor of the Wave Bible.  Now there is an app for your iPhone, iPodtouch and iPad.  If you are interested, contact:  Alan McCann

Wave Study Bible®–for the iPhone and iPod Touch — could be helpful for you and your study needs.

From an e-mail Alan McCann wrote:  With all of the craziness going on these days, spending time with the Word should be even more important. However, we know it is still a challenge for most Christians. The Wave Study Bible  isn’t like any Bible you have seen. Built for the average person and not the Biblical scholar, the Wave Study Bible makes it simple to integrate the Word into your daily life.

We only launched the application a couple weeks ago and now that we know that everything is working as it should, we want to spread the word. One of our early users summarized his feedback a follows: “Use this app for two weeks and it will become your favorite way to read the Bible.”

Other study Bibles are like libraries. They are full of a lot of reference works, and are real good at putting you in touch with what other people have seen in the Bible. Wave Study Bible is like a magnifying glass and is real good at putting you in touch with what *you* see in the Bible. It is not full of the results of other people’s study, it fills you with the results of your study.

It comes with four Bible versions (Greek New Testament, King James Version, New English Translation, God’s Word Translation). Using the in-application store you can add any of the standard translations to your Wave Study Bible® (NASB, NKJV, NIV, NIrV, Message, ESV [coming], NLT [coming]).

God bless, Alan

Wave Study Bible Team

Wave Study BIble Inc.

3205 Rancho Milagro

Carlsbad, CA 92009 USA

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