February 2012

In dealing with people with disabilities and it is true with all ministries, it is impossible to delete the Love Factor.  Bob is a member of Special Gathering and I pick him up each week.

Dealing with his family has become a bit of a prick for me but I’ve known and respected them for more years than I can remember.  Before Bob was born, I had enormous respect for the integrity of this family.  Even though I find them a bit difficult, I have never lost my great respect for them and for the way they have raised their son who was born with multiple disabilities in addition to being intellectually disabled.

He is a miracle and it is because his mother has been a tyrant when dealing with his therapists, teachers and other professionals.

I find myself having to be cautious to not do too many things which show favortism regarding Bob.  However, I’m told that occasionally I overstep the line and my partiality is obvious.

I’ve read that feeling partiality is natural.  Even in ministry, it is normal to love one person over another.  However, we should not deny our feelings because denial almost always  means that we will then deny that we are being partial.  In Bob’s case, I’ve known him since he was a baby.  I’ve loved him all his life.  

It is important in dealing with our members that we acknowledge and take into account the Love Factor.  This may come from many avenues.  Perhaps, like Bob, you have a long history that has cemented the love in your heart.

There can also be a personality attraction that causes us to love one member over another.  Teresa is not the best behaved person in our program; but she is hilarously funny.  Without trying, she can get an entire bus of people laughing and enjoying themselves.  I find this very appealing.  I love Teresa for that reason.

Faithfulness may also be a reason that you love one person over another.  Saul was forced to leave Melbourne SpG because he moved to another town.  I didn’t expect to miss him but I do.  He attended for 22 years and didn’t miss more than 5 Sundays.  That kind of faithfulness draws us together with a bond of love that cannot be denied.

There is also a factor when someone loves you more than the other members.  Years ago, SpG did an exercise where we asked our members to put into several circles their friends and people who were close to them.  One member, Lars, had only two people in the four circles.  They were a man he was closely associated with at work and at church.  The other name was me.  When I inquired about his circles, he explained that we were the only two people who really cared about him.  I’d known that Lars was faithful but I had no idea that  he felt that only two people in the world cared about him.

Of course, there are other reasons but these are a few that help to explain why the Love Factor is strong in our lives.

Is there someone you love in your program above the others?  Do you know the reason?  Share it with us.

It seemed like three hours but it was no more than 10 minutes.  Ginny–an elderly Special Gathering member with diabetes–has seen her cognitive abilities eaten away from the circumstances that surround her life.  As Ginny got off the SCAT bus to join us at Special Gathering, she was separated from the members going into the gymnasium; and she was swept away by a different group of adults going into the elevator.  She followed them into a different Bible study class.

They knew that she belonged with Special Gathering; but Ginny refused to go with a stranger from the classroom.  In the meantime, we were frantically trying to find her.  After a search of the church and the neighborhood, she was found by our supervisor who crashed the Bible study class and was told that Ginny was with them.

In the end, when I heart began to beat again, I was grateful for the system of checks that we have in place at Special Gathering.  Each person is checked four times:  1) When they arrive.  2) When they enter the room for worship.  3) When they go into their Bible study classsroom. 4) When they leave.  With 60 or more people, it could be easy to lose track of one person without this checking system.

As soon as we realized that Ginny had not entered the room for worship, we began to check the bathrooms.  Her routine is to go to the bathroom because she has a long bus ride.  When she wasn’t there, we checked the obvious places.  When that search didn’t produce any results, we canvased the building.  Then, the entire campus and the neighorhood was reviewed.   She was found safely tucked in a class in a secluded corner of the room.

The lesson I learned was that God’s protection sometimes involves our being proactive with safe guards.  My husband often warned me that my impulsive personality frequently prompted me to move from the bounds of God’s protection.  When our son was younger, he got large carbuncles as a result of playing in the sand in the vacant lot adjacent to our back yard.  His greatest joy in life was digging great big holes and then playing in them.

For about a year, I didn’t know why he was getting these bad sores.  The doctors had no clue regarding the source.  Then I noticed a correlation between his playing in the sand and these infections.  “We are tempting the Lord, if we continue to let him play in the sand,” my husband said.  Even though I knew we would be taking away his greatest pleasure in life,  it made sense.  He was no longer allowed to go into the back lot and the carbuncles stopped.

While our checks may seem inconvenient, it is a great blessing when we realize that the system works.  God’s protection is there but we must avoid tempting the Lord with our careless actions.

Today began the myriad of e-mails that Special Gathering staff will exchange in preparation for Camp Agape that will be held May 25 to 28 in Vero Beach, Florida.  Actually, the e-mails, faxes and memos began in January but they were mostly to other businesses or organizations: transit operators, business owners, and professionals that we need to contract with to start our preparations.

I know camp is well on the way when we begin the MANY decisions regarding health and safely.  Each year should we hit a snag, we methodically endeavor to fix that error by the next year.  The one thing that Richard Stimson, Special Gathering Executive Director, tries to drill into each new employee’s head is that the safety of our members, especially at camp, is the paramount thing.

Those of us who consider ourselves deeply spiritual try to discount his concerns.  After all, “The Lord will provide.  He keeps watch and guards over the weak,”  we mumble to ourselves as we walk away from our less spiritual mentor.   It is the spiritual well-being that we must be concerned about and let the Lord take care of the mundane things like health and safety.

Then one day the truth of his assertions slams us square in the face.  Usually it about noon time the first day, we have total responsibility for a person, group or activity.  It could be something small, like Joanie who stumbles over a shoe lace getting up one step leading to her position where she will sing with the choir.  And you suddenly realize that in her fragile physical condition, she could have fallen and seriously hurt herself.  Checking shoe laces becomes a priority from that day forward.

Or it could be a large rock that bops you in the forehead.  My least favorite shocker was the day that someone dropped off a new person at the front door of the building where we were meeting and then drove off.  I had no information, no phone number, no way to reach anyone should there be an emergency.   You didn’t know the person’s name and he was non-verbal.  I didn’t have to be told again that the safely of our members becomes the hippopotamus in middle the room that can rip the heart of your program into shreds.

You see, in this ministry to people with special needs, we cannot continue to survive unless we take care of our members in a safe and professional manner.  When we come into a new community, we intend to be there forever.  We aren’t there for a year or two but for decades.  However, we must build the trust of parents before they will entrust their children into our care.  That means sweating the little details, like proper shoe care and getting up-to-date information about each of our members.

After a time, you realize that God will methodically take care of the spiritual needs of his children.  Of course, we prepare for the spiritual needs, also; but it is ultimately, his work and his work alone.  Only a supernatural power of the Holy Spirit can open and change a heart. allowing us to understand his love and grace.   But we are his hands and feet making sure that the shoe laces are tied and the information sheets are up to date.

Is there one thing that you have found is vital in the operation of your program?  What safety factors have you put in place?


Believers Obey

I John 3:22

Central Theme:   When we are God‘s children, we obey what he wants.

Introduction–Buy a bracelet with the initial’s “WWJD.”  Or ask someone to show you their bracelet, “What would Jesus do?” This bracelet is really about learning how to obey God.  When we become a Christian, we want to obey and we make it hard.  Understanding that we can simply ask “What would Jesus do?” makes it simpler and easier.  Have a member read I John 3:22.

I.     Tell the story of the Ethiopian eunuch and Philip found in Acts 8:26-30.

1.  The eunuch wanted to show that he was a believer and therefore we wanted to obey God.

2.  Baptism is one way we show that we are a believer.

3.  Baptism is an act of obedience.

II.     God wants us to obey him and he really does make it simple.

A. We are to love God and love people.

B. We are to act as though we love God and love people.

III.     We can put into practice all the things we have learned.

A. God changes us and makes us different.

B. God makes us think about other people and want to please them.

C. I heard about a grandmother who had three grand children.  Two of the children lived in her town.  The other didn’t live near her.  This grandmother didn’t but gifts for the out-of-town granddaughter because this grandchild didn’t live in her town.  However,  when Granny came to visit the out of town granddaughter, all she did was shop for toys for the grandchildren who she lived near her.  It’s easy to see which grandchildren she really loved.  It was the grandchildren to whom she gave her gifts.

D.  It is the same with us.  We will obey God when we love him.  We want to give ourselves to Him because we love Him.

Conclusion: Show the bracelet.  “What would Jesus do?”  God wants us to change and remember to do what Jesus would do.

Governor Rick Scott Proclaims The Month of March as Disabilities Awareness Month

The following is what is written on the document that was signed by Governor Rick Scott on February 20th 2012
Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month
WHEREAS, people born with developmental disabilities are a part of every community, socioeconomic class, religion and country; and
WHEREAS, developmental disabilities are natural parts of the human experience that should not diminish the rights of individuals to live independently, enjoy self-determination, make choices, contribute to communities, and experience the economic, political, social, cultural and educational mainstreams of society; and
WHEREAS, more than 40 million Americans have developmental disabilities, resulting in substantial limitations in self care, communications, learning, mobility, self-direction, capacity for independent living, and economic self-sufficiency; and
WHEREAS, the State of Florida supports more than 50,00 citizens with developmental disabilities through services provided by state agencies, including the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, the Agency for Health Care Administration, the Division of Blind Services and the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation; and
WHEREAS, the State of Florida also works with dozens of partner organizations and thousands of private-sector and community providers to support those with developmental disabilities; and
WHEREAS, Florida provides citizens with developmental disabilities the opportunities and support to make informed choices, live in their communities, exercise their rights, pursue productive lives, contribute to their city, state and nation, and achieve full inclusion in society.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Rick Scott, Governor of the State of Florida, do hereby extend greetings and the beast wishes to all observing March 2012 as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.
Click on the link below or past it into your browser to see the document signed by Governor Rick Scott.

Yes, I update my own data base.  There are several reasons why.  First, for more than 8 years, I worked in a church office as a secretary.  I found that I often knew far more about the congregation than the pastors did.  The reason was that I kept and updated the data base and they did not.  At that point, I determined that no matter what my position in a ministry was, if possible, I would always keep the data base within the reach of my fingertips.

Second, we can’t afford a secretary or typist; and I’m the one person who does almost everything.

Because we work with many churches across all denominations, I especially try to keep my church data information current.  However, with the constraints of time, this has been hard.  In the past, I’ve called the church office and explained that we were updating our information and would like to verify that our information was correct.  This was good policy because I would have personal contact with the person who actually ran the church–the secretary.  However, the drawback was that these calls were extremely time consuming.

The last time I updated this data base of more than 200 churches I was able to do it in less than three hours.  How did I do this?  I did all my updates from the Internet.  I hadn’t planned to update every church, only those that seemed hardest to find.  I found that every church had a website that was current with the names of their pastors.  Interestingly, I found that almost none of the phone numbers had changed.  Even churches which had moved their locations have kept their phone numbers.  Email addresses were on almost all of the church sites.  In today’s world, this is a valuable resource.

If you find that updating your church data base has become a concern, perhaps you may want to look at drawing your information from the Internet.  If you’ve found that your time is better spent doing other things and you have delegated this job to another person, you may want to suggest that s/he do updates from the Internet.

Quaker Worship Service

Several years ago, my friend who is a wonderful Catholic and an elder at Special Gathering, gave me a book.  I’m not sure of the title or the author because as soon as I finished it, I lent the book to another friend and it hasn’t returned home.

The book was written by a Quaker pastor, living in a small, upper New York State community.  While my views of many things were radically different from his, I have no doubts that this pastor is a deeply, dedicated believer.  As a Conservative, Evangelical Christian, I was fascinated by the characterization of my scriptural and traditional viewpoints as seen through the eyes of this liberal pastor.

While everything was crouched in delightfully, loving humor, I was stung more than once to see how others view a presentation of truths with which I am quite comfortable.  It was as though a light had been beamed on my attitudes and beliefs that exposed dimensions which were unattractive and downright ugly.

As a result, I looked with fascination at the controversy still stirring and the snippets of the sermons of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, President Obama’s pastor.  As a conservative, I’ve hated when the media or either political party has torn apart things which have been said in the context of my belief system.  And I find that I’m equally uncomfortable with what happened with Pastor Wright.

I remember there was a fire storm about 20 or 30 years ago when Christian TV personality, Pat Robertson prayed to keep a hurricane from the shores of Virginia.  When the storm moved, it went up the coast, gathered strength and destroyed much of the New England coastline.  Horrible accusations were hurled at Robertson for selfishly thinking only of his region of the country and being totally uncaring about the areas which were hit by the storm.

Now, it appears as the liberal political spectrum has desired to be more closely identified with the Christian moral arena, it’s their turn to be criticized.  At The Special Gathering we function within the cloistered, sub-culture of the mentally challenged community.  Because of the successful civil rights battles fought by African-American pastors,  we have been affected by Afro-Centric Theology.

 Without pointing fingers at anyone else, I cannot help but wonder:

How much of what I’ve written and said in regard to the discrimination foisted upon mentally challenged persons could be viewed as hateful, anti-social rhetoric?

How loving am I in presenting my viewpoints regarding the hurts leveled against the population I serve?

Is biased uproar an indication of how important it is to guard with our very lives the truths of the scriptures?  Is making the truths of scripture real to our particular sub-culture ever an excuse for not being true to the text?

When we are enveloped into a cloistered sub-culture such as the mentally challenged community, how often does group-think cause us to go places that do not make sense to other people?

How different do things that are said within our own sub-culture sound when heard by people not familiar with that sub-culture?

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