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Retreat and Camp Agape

a Christian retreat experience for the mentally challenged community

Memorial Day Weekend–Friday, May 23 to Monday, May 26

at Life for Youth Campgrounds

Vero Beach, FL

The cost depends of the functioning life style of the person attending and ranges from $190 to $240.  We will provide transportation from Brevard County from four pick up points.  To request an application, call Linda Howard at 321-773-2691 or email at lhoward@specialgatherings.com.  Or you may leave a comment.  You will be directed to the correct person with whom you need to speak.

If you would like to attend, act quickly.  The available spaces are filling up quickly.

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Prayer is such a great mystery and marvel in the life of Christians.  It is fascinating how the Lord answers prayer.  Yet, when prayer is answered suddenly and completely, I can’t help but wonder, does the Lord have us ask for things that are about to happen?

Several years ago we had the honor to have a couple from Wisconsin who are in disability ministry visiting our home.  I love having guests.  In fact, years ago we built a large second story room that was to have two purposes.  It was a meeting place but also a place to house visitors.  After a few years, the meetings that were being held in our home slowly dissolved.   But we continue to use the room for guests.

Mostly, it is for teenagers who seem to wander in and out of our lives.  Teenagers are some of my favorite people.  Face it, if they aren’t your responsibility,  they are exhilarating folks to have around.  Because every teen occasionally needs a place to hang out for a day or two, our home is spacious and pretty convenient.

Last week, we had a visit from members of our family.  But today as I was preparing the house for our next visitors, I prayed, “Lord, I would love to have someone else to stay in our home soon.”  I reminded the Lord that we had built this room as a “prophet’s chamber.”  It would be nice to have someone in ministry come who needed a room.

A couple of hours later, we got a call from Tony and Jo Piantine.  We met years ago at a disability conference.  Their younger son, Dan, had a severe disability that meant that he was required to spend many hours each day in a portable machine that helped him breathe.  Dan died when he was 21 or 22 about 15 years ago.  Since that time, their other son, Tony, Jr. has headed a ministry which has built a camp for persons with disabilities in Wisconsin–Camp Daniel.  Their website is www.campdaniel.org.

Jo and Tony, Sr.  are an important part of the ministry.  They were in Florida resting before summer hit again.  As soon as Jo identified herself, I knew God had heard and answered my prayer.  Of course, I invited them to stay with us and they accepted our invitation.

Again, the dilemma of prayer, did the Lord remind me of the original purpose of our upper room because they were coming or did he answer my spontaneous prayer?  Either way, can you imagine having a God so intimately involved in our lives that he works things out in minute details?

In Deuteronomy 5 from The Message, I read this morning, “What other great nation has gods that are intimate with them the way God, our God, is with us, always ready to listen to us?”  Sure, there are times that we pray and wait and listen for years for a deep yearning that can only be expressed in prayer.  But aren’t we all grateful for the special times that we pray and two hours later, the phone rings and our prayer is answered.

Have you had a time recently when God answered a prayer immediately?  What is the prayer you have been praying for years that seems to be left unheard and unanswered?  Do the times that God answers immediately encourage you that God hears but his timing is different?

While others were enjoying the ocean, I crawled on a picnic table and lapsed into my “after-camp coma.”

What do 200 people with special needs, their pastor, area directors and volunteers do after a four-day weekend at a rustic retreat?  There is only one option–collapse.  Thanks to Ladybug Photography, here are few of the pictorial highlights of our week at Life for Youth Camp in Vero Beach, Florida.  This year our participants ranged from the age of 18 months to 80.  Our theme was “I Am Somebody Because God Loves Me.”  So many of our volunteers brought their children that we had to provide a children’s cabin.  We had Vacation Bible School for the 13 children.

Smiles all around.  Everyone is happy to be back at Retreat/Camp Agape.  It’s a family reunion.

Brian and Julie are ready for their special time together.

The Chicken Walk?
More chickens? Or Elvis? Either way, loads of fun.
Is this a chicken or Tim?
Rev. Richard Stimson, Special Gathering Executive Director. He is not mean. He is only focused.
Together worshiping the Lord
While I’m not a craft person, EVERYONE else is.
Their mothers came to Camp Agape when they were their children's age.  Now their moms are volunteers.Their mothers came to Camp Agape when they were this age. Now the moms are volunteers.
Tarah shadowed Matt during Camp AgapeMy niece, Tarah, had the privilege of shadowing Matthew.

Thanks to LadyBug Photography by Tarah Risher for the great pictures.

Special Heart

The Autistic Child and Discipline

Although I have had two children with special needs, and although one of them had some autistic tendencies, I have never raised a child diagnosed with autism.  But I have observed from afar what the parents of such a child are faced with, and it is often a daunting task to raise, nurture, and seek to have this child’s gifts be appreciated by the rest of society.

And to make matters even more difficult, it’s hard to discern how to correct, discipline, and establish boundaries for the autistic child, knowing that he or she is “wired” a little differently from most kids.  What is fair?  What is effective?  Is there a different standard for children who are on the autism spectrum?

There are many sides to these questions.  Let me offer first the side of compassion:  When I was very, very ill with an autoimmune condition several years ago, there were symptoms that were amazingly similar to those experienced by many autistic children–severe food sensitivities and allergies, environmental sensitivities, intolerance of man-made fabrics, of florescent lights, and a hyper response to strong smells and loud sounds.  As a result, I can somewhat relate to and definitely sympathize with the child who endures these disturbing sensations.  I could hardly handle it as an adult.  I really do feel for any child who struggles in this way.

At the peak of my illness, God directed me to a kind doctor who said, “You are very fragile, like a piece of fine china or crystal. We need to treat you with this in mind.” How relieved I felt that he saw me in this way rather than as a person with imaginary problems! Thankfully, since then, my hyper-responses have calmed.

Looking back at my experience, my doctor’s words can be advice to parents of the autistic child:  to treat him or her as a piece of fine china.  Don’t be afraid to parent and guide with boundaries, accountability, and the kind of structure that all kids need.  But do it all with an extra dose of care and gentleness.

So that is one side.  The other side is two-fold and has to do with discipline.  First, God’s standards, commands, promises, and blessings apply to all children. For example, God says,

“Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.

Honor your father and your mother (which is the first commandment with a promise) so that it may be well with you and that you may live long on the earth.”  Ephesians 6:1 NASB

Notice that God’s intention for having standards for children is so that “it may be well” with them. They may even live longer, according to this verse!  So God’s commands do apply to the autistic child, although getting to the goal of obedience and a sense of “otherness” will without a doubt be a longer and harder road than for the more typical child.

The other factor in disciplining the child on “the spectrum” is that although she may not know intuitively how people around her are responding to her behavior, she can be taught and can learn through rules, or you might call them “guidelines.”

Temple Grandin, in her book, Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships, emphasizes that although as an autistic child, she had trouble understanding appropriate social behavior, she did benefit from consistent expectations and consequences.

When I was a young child, everything pretty much got me equally upset.  My thinking patterns were more rigid, more black and white than shades of gray.  I was fortunate that  our home life was structured and Mother and the nanny were consistent in their expectations of me and the consequences they attached to my behaviors.  That sameness was calming to some degree, it allowed me to experience a sense of order and control.

Throughout the book, Temple describes that she had to learn things, particularly things that were social in nature, that other kids might know intuitively.  However, she did learn, as she describes it, like putting data on a hard drive on a computer.  But it did take time.

Sean Barron, Temple’s coauthor who, like Temple, demonstrated “classic autism” at a very early age, writes this about manners and how he had to learn about being others-aware:

The rule of displaying good manners extends beyond please and thank you.  It’s not enough to make good eye contact and be sure the shirt is tucked in. Good manners also incorporate  inclusive conversation. 

Realize that Sean was quite language delayed when he was young, so any conversation was hard for him!  But he eventually learned  to say things like “Well, I’ve talked enough about myself.  I’d like to learn more about you.”

All of this progress was slow in coming, but the end result was that Temple and Sean are now able to bless others with the gifts they possess, and able to enjoy the satisfaction of being a very positive contribution to the society in which they live.

I’ve noticed that parents of kids with autism are often able to see beyond their “condition” to the giftedness that is within them.  A combination of compassion and discipline, will help to draw out that treasure that is assuredly there for all to see and experience.  I encourage you to not give up.  Your child has so much to offer, and your labor of love will eventually be a blessing to you, to your child, and to the many others who benefit from getting to know him!

Bev Linder

Comments or questions?  I’d love to hear from you!

Bev@special-heart.com

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Memorial Day is the last day of The Special Gathering’s annual camping experience called Camp Agape. Each year we take more than 200 people to a camp ground for four-days of fun and fellowship.  We return Memorial Day and those of us who have served as staff are totally and completely exhausted.  Our members are mentally challenged and most of them have a secondary physical disability.  As uplifting as this adventure into our cloistered sub-culture may be, it is also filled with mental stress and bodily exertion.

As a result for the last 24 years, Memorial Day has been a day observed but not a day of remembering.  Nevertheless, as the years of war have grown into almost a decade, I am more deeply aware of what these young men and women have given to us.  My heart is moved remembering the sacrifice of our youngest and best adults.

I am blessed to be old enough to remember the Korean War and the resolves made after World War II.  Again and again, we were told by our elders, “We must never again let tyranny and oppression threaten the world with destruction.”  It is the result of the horrible lessons learned during war that we weep at the horrors of battle but continue to send our young adults marching into the face of the unknown.

We pray for peace in the world.  However, we remember the history of the world.  Therefore, we are eternally grateful for the freedom we enjoy.  I always thank God when I read the slogan of a bumper sticker of a rusty and battered truck, “Freedom is not free.”

Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/simplelife/?p=625#ixzz1NMobbFU3

2011 Florida Summer

Get-Away

Monday, May 16 to Friday, May 20, 2011

at Lake Aurora inLake Wales

Cost is $545

for information, contact

Rev. Joe Trementozzi

321.723.2188

This is Special Touch Get-Away sponsored retreat/vacation for people who are developmentally disabled.  To see information about Get-Aways closer to your area, see the Get-Away webpage to see when and where all of these retreat are being held.

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