Nora came to Special Gathering the day I preached about Micah’s simple principles which are:  Be fair, love to do kindness, live humbly before God.  She didn’t hear the devotions, however.  Nora had been invited by a member who lives in a nursing home.  A well-dressed, attractive woman, by the time I was able to speak to Nora, she had become extremely uncomfortable with her surroundings.

Evidently, she did not realize that the member who invited her was mentally challenged.  If she did realize it, she certainly did not know that Special Gathering is a ministry within the mentally challenged community.  We have choir practice before church.  Therefore, when Nora and our member seated themselves in the chapel, I wasn’t able to greet her.  After choir, I turned to Nora and said, “You are so very welcomed.  We are really happy to have you.”

In a loud voice and with a stinging curtness, Nora proclaimed, “I’m a volunteer at the nursing home.  I’m not like all these people.  I don’t belong here.”

Even though at least 15 Special Gathering members sat in the chapel area, we all chose to ignore her insult.  “Well, you are still extremely welcomed.”

“No!” she spoke more loudly than before, “I’m not like these people.  I don’t belong here.”  With that proclamation, she left the chapel area. 

Our host church is extremely gracious.  But because they also use the building during this time, we don’t have access to the entire facility.  We are limited to the chapel area, our Bible study class and the bathrooms.  Nora was determined to put as much distance between us and herself and she started roaming away from the our area.  A staff person approached her and explained, “I’m sorry.  We aren’t allowed to roam the halls.  You must stay in our designated area.”  Nora balked loudly with wounded passion.

For two hours Nora made herself miserable because she was determined to prove that she “didn’t belong” with us.  Everyone smiled and continued to be gracious to her.

As we leave SpG each week, for safety purposes, our supervisor asks that everyone stay in the hallway and that no one leave until the appropriate van or car comes to the drive through.  Then the supervisor can safely mark the members off the attendance list when they leave.  As I went to get my van, I heard the supervisor say, “Wait.  You need to stay inside until the van comes to get you.”  I looked around and Nora was heading out the door following me to my car.  I turned to explain to her that everyone must follow the same rules at Special Gathering.

“That’s silly.  Everyone does not follow the same rules,” Nora said, on the verge of tears.  “I’ve told you again and again that I am not like these people.  I don’t belong here!”

I knew that I could probably win the argument and verbally strong-arm her back into the building.  Yet, the words of Micah came pouring from my spirit bouncing back into my brain.  I had told the SpG members that the Bible doesn’t say that we are to be kind if everyone is kind to us.  God didn’t say that we should be fair to all the people who are fair to us.  “We are to be kind and fair, even if people aren’t fair or kind to us.”

My own words then echoed from my head into my heart.  I felt the compassion of the Lord.  This lady had repeatedly humiliated and insulted the SpG members.  She had loudly spoken her belief that she was superior to every other person in the room because she didn’t have our disability.  Yet, through my anger and hurt for my members, I could finally hear her pain.  I reached out to touch her arm,  “We know.  You are different from us,” I said as gently as I could. 

Nora withdrew her arm from my touch and glared at me.  I headed for the car; and she followed.  Michael always sits in the front seat because he travels an hour with me back to the Melbourne area.  I knew that Nora would try to take the front seat.  Michael walks with a large walker that surrounds his body.   It is difficult for me to handle.  I debated.  Will I make Michael get into the back seat, or will I ask Nora to go there?  For a moment, my anger sprang back.  It’s a big pain for me and for Michael if she rides in the front seat.  My mind went through the loading process.  Nora leaving the car.  My opening the back hatch of the van. The walker falling on my foot as it tumbles from the car.  My opening the walker.  Wrestling to get Michael out of the back seat.  Putting him in to the front.  Closing the walker.  Struggling to wench the walker back into the rear of the van without it falling out. 

I looked at Nora standing outside the front door waiting for me to unlock it.  I can be kind, I thought again, even if she isn’t.  I opened the locked door to let her in to the front seat of the vehicle.  “It was a big mistake.  I’m not like these people,” Nora mumbled.  I smiled and put the car into gear.

There will be times that kindness, fairness and humility are hard.  Bob Mumford, a well-known preacher in the 60’s  once talked about how difficult it is to get your blessing out of the church into the car.  I knew that in her self-pity Nora had not been blessed; and she had worked hard to be sure that everyone else wasn’t blessed.  Yet, Michael smiled, “Sure,”  he would ride in the back.  “Of course,” Diane would sit behind her friend.  “No problem, ” Janie and LaVonne would crawl into the rear seats. 

Through Micah, God gives principles for life.  Through Nora, the members of Special Gathering were able to walk in a practical way into kindness and then leave, living humbly before God.  It’s a wonderful blessing to minister to a people who may not be able to read but understand in practical ways God’s love.