January 2012

At times, an author hits a universal nerve and their thoughts and beliefs become a phenomenal success.  That is what happened with Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose-Driven Life.  Most of us had not given much thought to our destiny until suddenly Warren forced us through his thesis to look beyond our every day existence and probe the direction in which our lives were heading.

As Christians, we knew that our destiny has been wrapped around the needs of a fallen world.  However, Warren forced many of us to take our destiny more seriously than we had previously.

When working with the mentally challenged community, we must not lose sight of their need for destiny.  Their need for purpose is as much a driving force as any other adult.  The question we should continually keep before us is:  How can I help my members discover their destiny in Christ.  Here are some helps.

  1. We can remind our members often that their life is not a mistake.  Each person has a purpose no matter what their circumstances of life.  While Jennifer could neither talk or walk, she taught me so much about love.  When I held her hand, she would squeeze my hand in hers.  Though her entire body seemed to be without much muscle tone, she could gently squeeze my hand.  Jen would even say my name on occasion.  She didn’t say, “Linda;”  but “Linda Howard.”  When she had to be placed in a group home about 50 miles from our town, I didn’t see her for about three years.  When I bumped into her at the mall, I approached her.  She raised both arms to me and said, “Linda Howard!”  Her caregiver was dumbfounded.  He questioned me, “Are you Linda Howard?”  I smiled, nodding my head.  “But she doesn’t talk!” he exclaimed.  I knew that but she said my name.  That is love.
  2. We can reassure our members that their lives can have a positive effect on the lives of others.  The first person to really accept me at Special Gathering was Howard.  He was probably one of the most obnoxious people who ever lived.  Nevertheless, Howard’s contribution to our fellowship was his acceptance of every new person.  During one Bible class, we were talking about the gifts God has given to each of us.  Howard said, “I don’t have any gifts.”  Reassuring him, I quickly polled the class asking each person who was their first friend at Special Gathering.  Without exception, they said Howard.  It was a fact that Howard didn’t wear well but he made a great first impression.  As long as Howard was a part of our fellowship, we knew that each new member would find his place because of Howard.
  3. We can help them to understand that love brings acceptance.  As our members reach out in genuine Christ-love, almost everyone responds with gratitude.  More times than not, gratitude leads to acceptance.
  4. Living without a disability does not mean that you live with love and acceptance.  The destiny of our members can be tried to their disability in a positive way.  We can strive to help them understand that embracing their disability, rather than hating who they are may mean that others will see their peace and draw from them a love for themselves and their Creator, God.

Destiny isn’t reserved for only able-bodied folks with a high IQ.  In fact, our members may be able to help others their own destiny.

Today I making up posts that I didn’t do last week or the first part of this week.  It appears that I’m still fighting a cruddy virus that everyone seems to be getting who lives in Central Florida.  I don’t think I’ve given it to anyone because I’ve not left the house much because I’ve been doing a lot of sleeping the past week.

Don’t worry you can’t catch anything I have by reading my posts.  Yes, I can use your prayers.  Thanks for your patience.

Jesus changes us with forgiveness

Luke 5:20

Central Theme: Jesus has the power and will to forgive our sins.

Introduction–When my mother was in the hospital, she broke her shoulder because she wanted to get out of the bed and she didn‘t want to disturb anyone so she got up by herself and fell. She forgot that she has changed. She had a stroke and she is no longer steady on her feet. We all change. The world changes. Most changes are because God wants them. We cannot talk about changes without discussing how God changes us through His forgiveness.

I. Have a member read Luke5:20.

  1. Tell the story of the man who was lowered by his four friends.
  2. Jesus made the religious leaders angry by telling them that he could forgive sins.
  3.  Only God can forgive sins.

a. This meant that Jesus was God.
b. We need to understand that Jesus can and has forgiven us.

  1. My son got into a lot of trouble as a teenager and he thought that he could not come back
  2. He forgot that God is a God of forgiveness.
  3. God wants to forgive you but you have a part

a. First thing is that you must believe that you are a sinner and need to be forgiven.
b. We can’t be forgiven if we have not done anything wrong.
1) We think other people are wrong.
2) We make excuses for ourselves.
c. Then you need to ask God to forgive you.
d. If you have done anything to hurt someone else you need to make it right

Conclusion–God can and will forgive our sins.

Action Alert – SB 1516

The Florida Senate Health Regulation Committee is about to take up SB1516 which will substantially alter how services are prioritized and individual consumer iBudget allocations are decided.  The bill was amended this week but key issues were not resolved.  The bill is scheduled be heard as early as Tuesday January 31st.

Background:    Sen. Joe Negron filed SB 1516 on behalf of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) earlier this year.  This bill changes APD’s responsibilities for services to those related primarily to health and safety.  As filed, the bill limits APD’s responsibility for quality of life to individuals living in its two major state institutions. What this means in terms of iBudget allocations is that an individual’s need for funds excludes any need for adult day training, transportation, respite care, dental care, companion services and several others.  With this methodology, people would have to choose what to give up if they wanted any of these services or find another way of funding them.

While there is no House companion, this is a very dangerous bill.  APDs strategy is to get this bill passed through the appropriations process which could happen even without a House version of the bill. 

Action Needed:  Contact your Senators and tell them (in your own words) what it would mean if you had to give up any of these services.  If your Senator is on the Health Regulation Committee ask them to vote against this bill.  Below are the members of the Health Regulation Committee.


Miguel Diaz de la Portilla – Miami Florida

(305) 643-7200 & (850) 487-5109



Mike Fasano – New Port Richey Florida

 (727) 848-5885 & (850) 487-5062




 Don Gaetz – Destin Florida

 (850) 897-5747 & (850) 487-5009



Rena Garcia – Hialeah Florida

305-364-3100 & 850-487-5106



Dennis Jones – Seminole Florida

(727) 549-6411 & (850) 487-5065



Jim Norman – Tampa Florida

(813) 265-6260 & (850) 487-5068



Eleanor Sobel – Hollywood Florida

(954) 924-3693 & (850) 487-5097


Each year in Florida, there are threats of budget cuts to the services of people who are mentally challenged.  More and more, these cuts are a reality.  These are lean times everywhere.  Many states are broke or going broke.

While it appears that other budget items either stay the same or they are increased, the intellectually disabled community received the projected cuts.  Placing blame does little good.  However, we have learned that being proactive does help, especially if the advocacy is done by self-advocates.

Last year, a group of self-advocates traveled several times during the legislative session to petition the legislators to stop the proposed changes and cuts.  While walking the halls of the Senate office building, these men and women “bumped into” the president of the Senate.  They asked for an appointment to speak with him and got one.  Some are saying their advocacy made the difference in legislation being altered in the favor of the consumer.

Last evening, several people who are involved in Special Gathering from a couple of states met for dinner.  One of the SpG volunteers also heads an agency.  “We only get paid for three days of rehab now for Jill and others.  Therefore, we have to be pretty creative with the days for which we are paid.  The other days have to be even more creative,” she said, laughing.  However, I have seen the toll this financial strain has taken on the agency and their employees.

This agency is determined to not enter a “survival mode” mentality.  However, other agencies who work with our population have had to simply find ways to exist.   The uncertainty of funding does play on the minds of people who are mentally challenged.  They are aware of the pending difficulties.

In dealing with our members, it may be good to give them continual reassurance that God has a plan and that He will protect us if we remain faithful to Him.  This will be reinforced and believed, if we truly believe that our stability doesn’t come from the government or even the value of the dollar but from a gracious God who loves us.

This is information I received from Family Cafe.  It is an opportunity for which you may want to take advantage.

Dear Friends,

Let’s talk! The Family Café has been constructed around the idea that better informed families make better decisions for themselves and their loved ones. So we would like to offer you a chance to become better informed through weekly conference calls during the 2012 Regular Legislative Session!

During the 2012 Regular Legislative Session, which began on Tuesday, January 10 and lasts for 60 days, The Family Café will host a weekly conference call to discuss the outcomes of Session for that week.

Let’s talk! Please call in!  The Family Café will provide a recap of what our state Legislative leadership is doing, and how it will impact all of us.  Please call in!

Let’s talk!  Each conference call will feature various speakers, community leaders, legislative experts and local activists that will share a variety of thought provoking ideas and comments regarding the agencies and programs funded by the state.

Let’s talk! Such a grand mission can only be successful with your participation!  Simply call the number below on Friday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. (EST). Your input, suggestions and resource sharing will ultimately make this community as powerful and productive as it can be. At such a crucial time, we need to concentrate our strength, power and wisdom in order to insure an improved quality of life for all Floridians with disabilities.

Let’s talk! This is your call!  This week’s call is set for Friday, January 27th at 4:00 p.m.  The call is open to everyone! 

But we can’t do it without you!

Let’s talk!

Friday, January 27, 2012

4:00 p.m. EST

Dial-in Number:  1-888-808-6959 

Conference Code 2244670 followed by the # Key.

Sharing our various, unique perspectives is how we learn from each other, and ultimately affect change. To that end, we want to provide a variety of other methods to share, including social networking through FaceBookand Twitter at @TheFamilyCafe. The world is a much smaller place when more people can hear you. So let’s talk!


The Family Café

It surprises no parent that the first two brothers were rivals.  Cain, the older sibling, became jealous of  Able when God favored Able’s sacrifice over his.  Cain came to believe that the root of all his problems was his brother.  He was convinced that the only way he could live a good life if he could get rid of his brother, Able.  Cain did not understand that the way we treat other people effects the life we live.  Eventually, the pain of Cain’s own misdeeds became such a festering sore that he killed his brother.

 The Bible records God’s reaction to Cain’s murder of his brother, And now you will be cursed in your work with the ground, the same ground where your brother’s blood fell and where your hands killed him.

All of us want good things to happen to us.  There is an innate desire for God’s blessings to rest on our lives.  Even those who claim to not believe in God, quickly curse the Lord when misfortune happens to them.

Often, we cannot understand why we aren‘t able to get the job we want.  It is a continual complaint that we can’t live where we desire.  Our inability to pay our bills bring a biting gal that seems to ruin everything in our lives.

While generalization can be misleading, it could be wise to realize that there are times that we must understand that the way we treat other people effects the way we are treated.  Looking at the things that happen to us through the lens of how we treat others can be a good measure stick.

Jesus was always kind and loving; he is our example of how we are to live and treat each other.  He wanted the little children around him.  He forgave the woman who was brought to him caught in the middle of having sex with a man who was not her husband.  He healed the sick and epileptic.  He raised the dead boy and gave him back to his mother.

Jesus wants us to treat others in the same way.  We should not be hurting other people with the things we say.  Even simple things, such as pushing and shoving when we are in a crowded area.  We should not steal even the smallest things from each other.  We should strive to be polite and gracious even to that cashier at Wal-Mart who is determined to ruin our day with her snide remarks.

Jesus said, “Do unto other in the same you would have them do unto you.”  Additionally, the Laws of God determine that we will be  treated with love as we treat others.

Three weeks ago, I planned my lesson for this last Sunday.  I wanted to have our members make get-well cards for two people who are in the hospital.

I was a bit leery because the Bible study teachers at Special Gathering are possessive of the time spent with their class members.  They don’t like to share.  This, of course, is a good thing.  However, I try to not interfere with this half-hour when they are teaching the Word to their students.

It seemed like a good idea three weeks ahead of time, but as the Sunday approached, I became more and more apprehensive.  In my mind, I settled on a plan to let the teachers take the members of their classes into their respective rooms and have them do the cards as class units.

When I arrived at First United Methodist Church of Melbourne, which graciously hosts our Sunday morning chapel services, the campus supertindent met me at the door.  In a bit a frenzy, he reported,  “Your Special Gathering Bible classrooms are completely filled with things that will be sold next Saturday at the rummage sale.  I don’t know what you are going to do for classrooms.”

I smiled, clutching my get-well cards to my heart.  “That’s great.  It seems God had other plans for today.”

It isn’t often that the Lord clearly breaks into our lives, helping us to understand that He walks before us and directs our lives.  However, when a coincidence is too supernatural to be ignored, even the greatest skeptic must agree that the Lord does indeed help, direct and guide our lives.

I can hardly imagine how difficult this concept must be for our members who are mentally challenged and may even wrestle with other disabilities.  On the other hand, they seem to grasp these difficult principles with the gusto of an anxious toddler.  Perhaps, they are more blessed than we can ever imagine.

We were created to need other people

Genesis 4:11

Central Theme:   The way we treat other people effects the way God allows us to be treated.

Introduction–Tell the story of Cain and Able.  Cain thought that he could live a good life if he could get rid of his brother.  He did not understand that the way we treat other people effects the life we live.  Have a member read Genesis 4:11.

I.     All of us want good things to happen to us

1.  We cannot understand why we aren‘t able to get the job we want, and live where we want, and pay our bills.

2.  We don‘t understand that the way we treat other people effects the way we are treated and the things that happen to us.

II.     Jesus was always kind and loving he is our example of how we are to live and treat over people.

A. He wanted the little children around him

B. He forgave the woman who was brought to him caught in the middle of having sex with a man who was not her husband.

C. He healed the sick and epileptic

D. He raised the dead boy and gave him back to his mother.

III.     Jesus wants us to treat others in the same way.

A. We should not be hurting other people with our mouths.

B. We should not be pushing and shoving.

C. We should not steal from each other.

D. We should not be rude.

Conclusion: He will treat us with love as we treat others.  Jesus said, “Do unto other as you would have them do unto you.:”

This is an email I received today.  It is from

Alice Du Fault

Child & Family Consultants, Inc.

1800 Penn St., Ste#12

Melbourne, FL  32901

(321)768-6800 Telephone

(321)768-6858 Fax


Registration for these classes is free but registration is required.  I suggest you call Ms. DeFault for information on how to register.


The Scott Center offers free monthly workshops for parents, educators and professionals who deal with the issues of autism. They are held from 6:30-8:00 pm in the Seminar Room at The Scott Center for Autism Treatment.

Feb. 22, 2012–Preparing Teens and Young Adults with ASD and/or Learning Differences for Independence: Perspectives from Students and Professionals

March 21, 2012–Learn How to Teach Life Skills to Individuals with Limited Language

April 18, 2012–What’s Hot and What’s Not in the world of benefits to protect your children and your family

–Refreshments provided

May 16, 2012–What is Applied Behavioral Analysis?

June 2012–No session

July 27, 2012–Boundaries Boot Camp for teachers, parents, and caregivers

(This is not a free event; Registration is required for this all day workshop)

The choir sang and then I spoke.  As I shared our missions vision to the group at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Satellite Beach, I scanned the people’s faces and my eyes screamed to a halt when I saw her face.  “My good friend, Carol, was sitting in the audience.  She smiled as she realized that I had recognized her.  Though, it’s probably been 10 years, it was the same smile and the same kindred that was sparked as I continued my presentation.

There is perhaps nothing better than seeing the face or hearing the voice of an old friend.  Yesterday, Mia called.  Even though my phone clues me into the person calling, I waited until she responded to my greeting before I called her name.  It makes her giggle that I “recognize” who she is.  Mia is a Special Gathering member who has attended off and on for more than 20 years.  She was a young girl of 14 or 15 when I first met her and now she is an adult with two teenage children.

High functioning and dual diagnosed with mental health issues, Mia began smoking cigarettes when she was first institutionalized for bipolar disorder.  Now, she has ruined her lungs.  At times, she cannot breathe because of COPD.  We laughed and talked for about 5 minutes.  “Please, pray for me,” she said before we hung up the phones.  She promised to come to Special Gathering on Sunday but I no longer expect for her to attend, even when her deep desire is to be there.

This morning as I texted Carol hoping we could meet for lunch, I was struck by the fact that my love for Mia and my love for Carol are the same.  Mia isn’t a “special needs project.”  She is my good and long-time friend who often calls for prayer because she loves me as much as I love her.

I talk often with Ferne Brandt, our area director of The South Carolina Special Gathering.  I’m happy that I’ve finally gotten to know most of her core membership because I can never tell whether she is speaking about her members or her volunteers.  The respect and admiration regarding the friendship they share isn’t different.

When there is genuine friendship, something miraculous happens.  We not only share memories of the past but joy of the present and anticipation for a glorious future.  When I scanned the room at Trinity Presbyterian, it wasn’t simply the joy of seeing an old friend that ignited my spirit but her smile said, “You are doing good. You’ve found YOUR place and I love you for who you have become.”  The most wonderful thing I saw in Carol’s smile was an appreciation for who I am today–not what I was twenty years ago.

I find that sometimes I get stuck in the mud and mire of the past in regard to my members.  Oh, you act so spiritual now.  Thoughts swim in and out of my brain.  But I remember when you hit George and cussed out Marie.  Then there was the incident on the city bus and…  Too often, my thoughts are Ralph will never change.  Ignoring the fact that those behaviors were when Ralph was 20.  Now he holds down a job.  He has become the primary caregiver of his elderly mother and he has garnered the respect of his peers.

While old friends are wonderful, we cannot get stuck with old visions.  I must demand that my thoughts leap forward into the future, commanding myself to learn and grasp the new visions of Special Gathering members, all my friends and of myself.

I have to admit that regarding Eric, I border on having the pride of a parent.   He was a troubled child when he entered our program.  Because his disability was not pinpointed correctly, he wasn’t getting the treatment or interventions that he needed.  This led to behavioral concerns that were not entirely his fault.

However, he was cute beyond imagination, feisty and fiery.  You loved him at first sight.  I’ve known Eric for more than 20 years and he has grown into a man.  Tall and handsome, his frame is still thin and gangly giving him the appearance of a person much younger than his age.

At times, he isn’t able to control the effects of all the stimulation that surrounds him and he has to walk away from the crowd.  He paces until he is able to calm himself and then he returns.  He jokes and laughs with anyone who will take time to listen.

One evening as I was transporting him home from an event, it was raining.  This wasn’t one of those ordinary downpours but one that people remember and write about.  “I won’t be able to get out of the car if it keeps raining like this,” Eric observed from the back seat.  I conceded the truth of his statement.

“If you pray, God will stop the rain.  You need to pray,” he instructed me.

I was a bit concerned because I didn’t have faith at that moment to pray for the rain to stop.  It had been raining almost non-stop all day.  I’d seen the weather report and the rain was going to continue until morning.

I had never heard Eric ask for prayer; and being this specific was an issue for me.  I didn’t want to hinder Eric’s growth in faith by not having his prayer answered.

In addition, we needed the rain.  Central Florida had been without rain for a long time.  We were needing rain more than Eric was needing to stay dry.

From the back seat, I heard him say, “You need to pray.”

Reluctantly, I prayed.  “Lord, Eric needs to get out of the car.  Can you stop the rain for a moment so that he can get out of the car and get into his house?  In Jesus’ name,  Amen.”

Within five minutes we approached his house.  It was still pouring until I pulled into his driveway.  At that moment the rain stopped.  “I better get out in a hurry,” Eric jovially asserted.  “It’s only going to stop for a minute.”  He rushed out the car onto his front porch.  As he waved good-bye to me, the rain started back.

Again and again, I’ve seen Eric ask for ridiculously extravagant things from the Lord.  I’ve never seen the time that the Lord has refused his requests.

You would like Eric.

I have been more impressed with Toni than most people I’ve met.  She didn’t impress me with her statue.  She is petite and thin.  Toni doesn’t stand out in a crowd.  While her smile is amazing, when we first met, I didn’t see her smile often.

Toni is one of those folks who wears well–extremely well.  As a member of our Special Gathering Vero Choir, she was diligent, learning the words to new songs the first week.  If she couldn’t attend our weekly chapel meetings, she sent her offering by a staff person.

During her free time, she is not content to sit at home doing nothing.  She has crocheted dozens of lap covers for Hospice patients.  “I hate doing nothing,” she confesses.  Carefully stitching the granny pattern, she diligently works to help others.

When she was diagnosed with brain cancer, Toni was courageous beyond belief.  She would ask for prayer each time Special Gathering met; but she refused to dwell on her health problems.  Toni was not seeking sympathy but asking for people to join her, believing that God would heal her from a cancer than appeared to have no cure.

God gave her that miracle.  Toni has been free from cancer for more than a year.  She smiles often now.

You would like Toni.

Andrew moved with his family from up North about six years ago.  He is an outgoing, friendly man who has worked much of his life at Wal-Mart.  When lay-offs were needed at the store where he worked, Andrew was the first to go.

Then came a problem, Andrew had worked his whole life; and he didn’t want to stop.  Therefore, he started working around his house.  He especially enjoys yard work.  He would trim hedges and trees whether they needed it or not.  He even trimmed his neighbor’s trees, if he felt they needed it.

Of course, this caused some problems with the neighbors who preferred to do their own yard work.  When the family came to me asking for help, I wasn’t sure exactly what I could do.  “Maybe some help is needed at the church where you hold your services,” the family suggested.  That seemed logical; but I wasn’t convinced the church would want or need Andrew’s help.

I carefully approached the building superintendent and explained Andrew’s desire to work.  A huge grin blossomed on his face.  “Yes,” he said eagerly.  “This is just the person for whom we’ve been looking.  For years, an elderly man would come each morning and pick up trash and debris.  He kept the campus spotless.  Recently, he died.  We have been looking for someone who would be willing to come and pick up paper and leaves for us. ”

It was arranged that Andrew and his father would come three times a week.   Andrew works two hours or more under the supervision of his dad.

This is literally a match made in heaven.  Andrew happily works several hours a week doing what he loves.  The church is grateful to have someone who is faithful and willing to do a job that no one else wanted to do.

You would like Andrew.

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