October 2011

This weekend I had the honor of teaching a group of wonderful volunteers who minister to the mentally challenged community.  They put in thousands of  hours each year.

Our teachers and volunteers, instruct, transport and love the members of the The Special Gathering, which is a ministry within the intellectually disabled community.  Our mission is aggressively and unapologeticly  evangelistic and focused on discipleship of the community we serve.  However, we could not do what we do without our many volunteers.

Occasionally, when we are looking for people to hire and become staff members, there is one volunteer who stands out from the rest.  Dorothy Anne was one of those.  As I was looking for a supervisor for one of our programs, our executive director came to me.  ”Have you considered Dorothy Ann?” he asked.  ”You know, I’ve been watching her for years.  She gets it.  She understand what we do.”

This weekend as I was studying to teach, the She Gets It Factor came to mind.  While I had instinctively known what our exec was saying, the She Gets It Factor was an abstract principle.  To teach, I needed to take it from the gut feeling and intuitive arena and pull it into the cognitive part of my brain.

For Special Gathering, the She Gets It Factor falls into two areas.  First, there is the spiritual aspect of ministry.  We believe that people who are intellectually disabled need to hear the gospel on an intellectual level that they can comprehend.  This principle is in our DNA.  You cannot divide that from who we are.  Most of our members cannot and do not understand the theological implications wrapped around the arguments that divide the church bodies into different denominations.  Yet, we believe that understanding the fundamental claims of Christ are essential.  That is what we teach.

Second, supervision, health and safety are issues that most ministries do not have to be concerned.  Of course, our members are adults.  Nevertheless, their thinking processes reside somewhere on a fourth or fifth grade level.  Their social interactions are junior high.  Most of our members don’t drive.  They must be transported to and from our chapel programs and most of our activities.

Additionally, nearly all of our members have some physical or medical limitations.  Each week, we transport between 200 to 250 people.  This means 400 to 500 trips because we pick them up and take them home.  Both their medical limits and the transportation issues add to our responsibility.  Our philosophy is that we pay people to be responsible for the day to day operations of the ministry.

The She Gets It Factor for us means that a person understands not only our mission but our culture.

Yet, as I thought and prayed about the She Gets it Factor, I was amazed at how many areas of life this principle applies.  Each church has its own cultural bent.  Understanding the unique culture of a business enterprise often becomes more important than understanding the tasks you are to perform.  Additionally, all families operate on the She Gets It Factor.

Whether the family structure is small or large, there is a pulsing, alive organizational plan where every successful family member abides.  As an example, some families are dysfunctional and work within the framework of unhealthy interdependence.  When a family member begins to grow beyond the dysfunction, they will either change the culture of the family or they will be forced out of the family.

Several years ago after a marital crisis, Mark turned his life over to Christ at a different level.  He had accepted the Lord as a young man but God began to work on his heart.  Suddenly, he and his wife wanted to put Christ first in their entire lives.  Church-as-usual was not an option for them.  They wanted to know Jesus in an intimate relationship. This set off problems in every area of their lives.  Why?   Family members, church members or the business culture where they work no longer coincide with their core beliefs.  Conflicts and uncomfortable feelings develop.  S/He no longer gets it.

Fortunately, their family slowly saw new joy and peace in their lives.  One by one their family’s members experienced a reality and vitality they had not known.  They wanted what Mark and his wife had found.  Inch by inch, their family culture changed because of his influence.

After working several years within their church structure, Mark was approached by the leadership.  These men and women lovingly suggested that they find a place of worship that better fit their newfound zeal.  The leadership even suggested a congregation that they felt would better fit Mark and his wife’s total commitment outlook.

The She Gets It Factor moves and releases us.  Every person has experienced the positive and negative effects of this factor in our lives.  Too many times, it happens without any analysis or cognitive reasoning.  When we are merely following gut reactions, our impulses develop into hurt feelings and loss of friendships.  Understanding the She Gets It Factor helps us to move freely without the uncomfortableness of anger or dissatisfaction.

When was the last time that you realized that you moved into a different cultural setting and without being told you understood that You Got It?  When was the time that your cultural gages changed and you needed to make a change?

Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/simplelife/2011/10/the-she-gets-it-factor.html#ixzz1biZtTq5j

Every stress-relieving prescription in books or articles begin and end with “throw away, organize and simplify. ” Therefore, it isn’t hard to see the pattern that the experts recommend for eliminating stress.

Following the advice of these men and women who have studied these things, I’ve looked around to find where I can simplify my life.  Here and there, piece by piece, I’ve whittled at the excesses.

Over the years, I learned that I am effected by the things which surround me.  Walking through the grocery store brings about extreme sensory overload for me.  It is as though I have a complete brain drain as I enter the doors of Wal-Mart.  Without a list, I never leave the store with all the things I need, no matter how much money I spend.

Yet, like the experts advise, I find that simple things restore my sanity.  A walk around the block relishing the brisk fall breezes.  Sitting on the beach watching the waves with my feet covered with wet sand.  Propped against two pillows reading my Bible each night before I go to sleep.  Waking before dawn to share moments with the King of the Universe in intimate conversation.

Tonight I had supper with friends. Afterwards, we talked for hours.  I explained a disturbing dream I had this week.  My friend took the dream and helped me to understand a complex issue that has troubled me for several months.  The answer was simple.

Here and there, I find that the more I learn, the more I don’t understand.  The more I desire to be holy, the more I realize how far I must travel toward that goal.

Yet, in the middle of these confusing issues, one simple principle remains steady. God loves me and He desires my love more than my adherence to a group of legalities.  God loves me and no matter how much I fail him, he stands ready to forgive, cleanse, release and heal.  God loves me and my failures don’t surprise him.  He knew about them before I was even born.  Yet his love for me is unchanging.

Darting back and to, here and there, I’m confused and disoriented.  But resting in the gracious arms of his love, I’m safe and secure.  In his love, life becomes simple.  In Him, I am made complete.

God wants us to Stand up for the Right Thing

Esther 4:14

Central Theme:  God wants us to stand up for the right things.

 Introduction–Making decisions are a part of all of our lives.  When my phone rings, I have to decide whether to answer it or not.  I won‘t answer it when I am sharing my devotions but I might have someone else answer it if it seems to be an important call.  We can decide to do the right thing.  Have a member read Esther 4:14

I.     Tell the story of Esther.

A. Her uncle Modecai wanted her to stand up against the Haman.

B. Esther had to make a decision.

C. Her decision was based on the good word from her uncle.

II.     God will give you help if you want to stand up for him.

A. He will put you in the right place at the right time.

B. He will give you encouragement if you need it.

C. He will teach you that your decisions are important.

III.     Standing up for what is right can save many people.

A. Or standing up for what is right may just be the right thing to do.

B. Esther was able to see how many lives her good thing saved.

C. We are not always able to see who much we help others.

D. But doing the right thing will help us to grow stronger.

Conclusion      Standing up for what is right may change the life of many people or it may just help us to get stronger.

Want to Share the Good News?

by Michelle Demeree

Ms. Demeree is a member of The Special Gathering.  She serves as a deacon and on our Board of Directors. Her passion is writing.  Ms. Demeree is a vital part of our ministry.

Do you want to share the good news?  We have been celebrating the 25 years that Special Gathering has been here.  We have been happy about our group and our friendships.

We come together each week to share God’s love with each other.

We all need to be excited about what we have.  We should be sharing with people we know that we have a place to learn about God.  In this way we can share the Good News of God’s love.  Where do you learn about God?  Why aren’t you sharing?

As I knew he would, Chad squealed when he heard my voice on the phone.  “Linda! You called me!”

I had called in response to a request from a staff member at his group home.  She asked if I would come to see Chad who had been admitted to the hospital today because of seizures. As I talked to the group home staff,  I realized it was almost 9pm and I am an hour away.  I promised to visit him tomorrow.  “He’s asking to see you.  I know that you can’t come tonight but would you call him?” she asked.

Chad and I talked for a few minutes and I promised to come to the hospital tomorrow.  “Bring my friend when you come,” he pleaded.

“Chad, I can’t bring Mark.  He’ll be at school when I come.”  Chad is an active participant of The Special Gathering in Vero.  He is 35 years old and Mark is his best friend at our Vero program, which is a ministry within the mentally challenged (developmentally disabled) community.  We do classic ministry, evangelism and discipleship.

Mark is 19 and these two young men formed a comradeship during our van route each Saturday.  Mark is not very verbal which suits Chad fine because he talks more than any three people should.  Chad chatters and Mark laughs, grunts or smiles at the appropriate times.  As they part late each Saturday afternoon, Chad will say, “I love you, Mark.”  And Mark will say, “I love you.”  Their friendship is genuine and touching.

At Chad’s request, I promised to call Mark and ask him to pray for his friend.  Within minutes, I was speaking to Mark’s mother.  “Chad, Mark’s friend from Special Gathering, is in the hospital.  He wanted me to call Mark and ask Mark pray for him.”

“What?” Mark’s mother asked, not quite understanding my request.  I repeated Chad’s question.  This time Mother understood and she was emotionally shaken.  “I’ll have him pray,” she said, in a broken voice.  I understood. There was joy in her emotions.

Before Mark came to Special Gathering, his mother had confided to me that he had only one or two friends.  Now, a friend needed Mark’s help in prayer.  The acidic bitterness of loneliness is something that we all taste in our lifetimes.  But loneliness can be the throbbing, constant pain with which our members reside.  We desire that Special Gathering be a safe place for our members.  I am so thankful that it has become not only a safe place for Mark but a place where his prayers are needed and wanted.

Do you struggle with loneliness?  Do you know someone who wrestle with the specter of being left alone?  Can you help them find friendship and meaning?  What was your most difficult time of loneliness?

On October 14, about 20 ministry leaders flew into Chicago O’Hare Airport to steal a day of fellowship and learning.  This third annual event developed from the need of several people who wanted an excuse to spend more time together in an informal setting.

Deliberately, I didn’t take notes because I wanted to garner from these women and men the essence of where disability may be headed.  Some of what I saw was surprising.  This is where I learned things that were unexpected for me.

1.  Each leader could have talked about the things that went wrong during the year.  Rather, they chose to face the future with a bold expectation.  One leader had been struck with a shocking blow that week but even she had come leaning forward anxious to see what God will do in the future.

2.  Because most of our members also have physical concerns, keeping our friends who are part of our ministries safe is paramount in their list of needs.  However, these problems were not looked on as unattainable obstacles but mere distractions with which they had to deal.  In fact, while safety was the undercurrent of each topic,  it was not even openly discussed.

3.  There was no one who desired to monopolize the time or conversation; but each one genuinely came to learn from their peers.

4.   Some of those people who know the most about disability ministry seemed to be the most anxious to observe and learn.

5.  Genuine friendship and respect have been forged among these men and women.

6.  They are extremely gifted.  Yet they have allowed the Lord to change their life’s direction to serve a people who worship without guile.

Many people prophetically say that God is about to do great things in the world.  After spending a day with these leaders, I know the Lord has drawn away people with great spiritual gifts to lead these growing ministries.  I am looking forward to see how God will bless their sacrifices by reaching out and using people with disabilities.

This is information from waiverprovider.com.  Thanks to Florida Unites and Aaron Nangle  for providing this important information.

APD Announces A Schedule of Cuts

            Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD)

      Director Mike Hansen presented an update on the agency’s cost-containment efforts today to the House of Representatives Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee.

The Legislature approved $810 million for APD’s Medicaid waiver for the 2011-12 state fiscal year that began on July 1. APD customers received $930 million worth of services last year.

The agency has been working to bring its waiver expenditures within the Legislative appropriation this fiscal year. The agency is also looking for opportunities to increase waiver flexibility and equity for customers, while continuing to protect their health and safety.

Earlier this month, APD shared five cost containment initiatives with various legislative committees that would reduce APD’s waiver obligations. The director was asked to bring back a proposed timeline for implementing the changes.

The timeframes may be contingent on developing new rules or federal approval from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

At today’s meeting, Hansen announced plans to standardize payment rates for intensive behavior residential habilitation beginning January 1, 2012. Also on that same date, the agency will begin collecting fees from APD customers who have income to offset some of their costs of living in a group home.

APD plans to reduce the rates it pays for therapy assessments and all nursing services to the standard rate paid by the Medicaid State Plan beginning April 1, 2012.  Currently, the APD Medicaid waiver pays higher rates for most of these services.

Also on the same date, APD will reduce the difference it pays between solo providers and agencies for waiver services to no more than 20 percent. Currently, those rates may differ up to 43 percent.

There was no timeline announced today for implementing cost sharing for parents who have children on the Medicaid waiver. APD is working with the Agency for Health Care Administration on this issue.

The change to the waiver requires federal approval.

After pursuing these cost-containment initiatives to APD’s Medicaid waiver, the agency expects to realize more than $14 million in reduced expenditures on an annual basis. 

For the APD document, click on the link below

Cost-Containment Plan Fiscal Year 2011-2012

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