This morning I woke up at 3am and could not get back to sleep.  I was mentally reviewing what it would take to finish our newsletter today.  Unable to lull myself back to sleep, I got up at 3:20 and headed for my prayer time.  Then I started working about 3:50.  By 7am, I was tired enough to try to take a nap.  When that didn’t work, I called our South Carolina program director to work on her pages in our newsletter, Connecting Point.

Perhaps I haven’t written about Connecting Point until now.  The Special Gathering puts out a monthly newsletter.  We are a ministry within the mentally challenged community. Connecting Point is published for and by our members.  We include articles they write, their prayer requests and their activities for the month.  We also include a page about the advocacy issues that effect them.  there are four activity pages, a Bible study and a continuing story page.  Our members help with almost every part of the production, publication, and mailing of each issue. 

Everytime I finish the newsletter, I take a few extra minutes to review it, endeavoring to insure that it’s as good as I can make it.  This is a process that energizes me so much that often, like this morning, I can’t sleep.  I press and pat the finished copies trying to be sure that no black lines appear where I’ve taped the finished pages together.  For me, it is a labor of love, though I’ve been doing this for 20 years.  Our 12 page newsletter isn’t a masterpiece but it is published each month with an eye leaning toward excellence. 

It is one of the many things that we do that make me proud to be a part of the effort that makes The Special Gathering effective.  While I know that our model of ministry is God ordained.  There are also many small parts that bring our members and our staff joy.  I think they also bring the Father joy. 

I took the finished copy to the office at 11:30am.  I smoothed the pages with the palm of my hand as I quickly reviewed the text for the last time.  On Monday, it will be printed and it will be mailed to our members and the local churches by Friday.  We will send out between 1,000 and 1,200 copies. 

When my copy arrives in the mail, I’ll sit down and review it again.  Of course, there will be at least one mistake that I should’ve seen but didn’t.  But I won’t fester over the mistakes.   I will be happy that another issue is completed and I’ll begin working on the January 2009 edition.  There is such joy in knowing that God has called you and that He allows you to do a work that brings great satisfaction and peace.

What are some of the things you do that bring you joy?

This article was written by Rev. Richard Stimson, pastor and executive Director of Special Gathering, which is a ministry within the mentally challenged community.  It was published in the October newsletter, Connecting Point. 

      Well, my brother got his Tier letter and we are left with some hard choices. The best I can tell, depending on whether my brother, Bill, has to pay for transportation or not, he will receive from the State enough money to pay for two or perhaps three days to go to his day program.

            Here is what I do not get. Before the Waiver, Bill lived in the group home and went to ARC five days a week. He was transported to his day program by SCAT. The State of Florida decided to draw down federal dollars by using the money they spent on Bill to match money from the federal government (45 percent State, 55 percent federal). This meant a major increase of money.

            Agencies were given a major increase in what they were paid, and we still have thousands of folks on a waiting list.  But my brother will get less than before the Waiver. Can we at least do no harm? The State of Florida used my brother’s funding and thousands of other people’s funding to receive a 55 percent increase in funding from the federal government.

            Now Bill is being told he will receive fewer services than he received before the Waiver. The State of Florida used Bill’s funding to draw down money from the federal government. We were told this would mean more services for Bill, higher pay for agencies, and more persons receiving services.

            Can we at least do no harm? The State of Florida used my brother’s funding and thousands of other people’s funding to get federal money. Now they keep the federal dollars but take services away from Bill. Why do the cuts have to be applied to disabled folks?

            Are State employees’ paychecks being cut to what it was before the Waiver? Are agencies’ executives being paid what they were being paid before the Waiver? Are agencies’ reimbursement rates being cut to what they were before the Waiver? Oh no! We can’t do that, but we can cut services to persons with disabilities to below what they received before the Waiver!

            As my brother told me, “I don’t like this. It’s not fair!”

Today, I’m finishing up The Special Gathering’s monthly newsletter to our members, Connecting Point.  We named it that because we wanted our members to be able to connect with God, their local Special Gathering program, the community and each other.  It also has become a tool that we use to connect Special Gathering, which is a para-church ministry, to the congregations in our area.  At Special Gathering, our mission is to evangelize and disciple people who are mentally challenged.

Connecting Point is a pretty ambitious project each month.  There are twelve 8×11 pages.  However, we do pad the issue with three pages of puzzles and a cartoon page.  The post office also helps.  The postal rate we use to send it, requires that we employ at least a 20 point font.  There is a Bible study page and story page.  For years, one of our Bible teachers has authored the continuing stories for us.  She is E. Williams.  Ms. Williams is also a parent.

Each geographic area, which generally consists of two programs, formats their own front page, back page and two calendar pages.  These pages are personalized and oriented to the needs of the local groups.  The other eight pages are generic.  

Perhaps of all the things we do, this could be the most effective, other than our chapel programs.  Our members love receiving mail each month.  They especially delight in having their articles in the newsletter, seeing their names in print and finding our mistakes. 

If you would like to be added to our mailing list.  Just comment to this article.  Our e-mail address is lhoward@specialgatherings.com  Or our snail mail address is P. O. Box 6002, Vero Beach, FL  32961. 

What is the most effective tool you use to communicate with your members?  Have you been able to use the internet effectively to reach mentally challenged persons?  If so, what tools are you using to do that?