It is inevitable that conflict will come when two people live, work, play or worship together.  An extremely quotable pastor from years past, Jack Green, once said, “If two people live together, there will be conflict, unless one of the two people is dead.”

I’ve always assumed that if there is a conflict between two people at least one of those people is angry.  That does not mean, of course, that one of the two people is sinning.  The Bible clearly says, “Be angry and sin not.”  This makes it pretty clear that you can be angry and not sin.

I am area director of Special Gathering of Indian River, which is a ministry within the mentally challenged community. Our mission is to do classic ministry, evangelizing and discipling the people we serve.  Like every other pastor who ministers to a particular group, we deliberately tackle issues that are relevant to our members.  We talk about the sheltered workshop and having a job on the outside.  We try to deal with the issue of having to live with your parents FOREVER.  Proper behavior with your girl/boyfriend is a scorching hot topic.  Yet, I’ve never squarely faced with our members the issue of siblings–until last week.

Our sermon was on Jacob and Esau.  We are all familiar with the bitter rivalry that these men faced, even in the womb.  Both mother and father were guilty of fostering these battles, which eventually led to resentments.  This week in our sermon I explained to our members that their brothers and sisters have given up a lot for them.  Because many of them were sick as children and they always have had special needs, their siblings lives were different from others.  I urged them to say thank you to their brothers or sisters for helping them and for being kind to them.

I was surprised because one especially sensitive young woman, Michal, spoke up and said, “I don’t have to, my sister loves me.”  While I don’t often welcome interruptions during our devotion time, I was happy for this one.  As she spoke several of our members vocally agreed with her.  Obviously, I’d not made my point clearly.

“No!”  I tried to clarify.  “I’m not saying that they resent you so you need to say thank you.  I’m saying they have given up a lot for you, and for that reason you need to say thank you. Recently, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and said, “You are so involved with what you don’t have that you don’t appreciate what you do have.”

It is true that our members are discriminated against almost everywhere.  But in their homes, they often receive preferential treatment.  Siblings see it.  They may even be angry but it’s been my experience that few of them sin.  They embrace their disabled partner in family life and move on, helping where they can.  Siblings deserve a big thank you for their love, understanding, and caring.

Is there someone in your life that you need to thank?  Perhaps your husband or wife who does so many little things to please you?  What about one of your members who is careful to help you each time you meet?

This is an article which I authored that was published in the SpaceCoast Business Magazine.  It is part of a series that I call, “Learning from the Non-Profit.”

 

In 2005 when David Cooke, president and CEO of Bridges, walked into The Arc of Brevard, he recognized he would be an agent of change.  The Arc, a national organization, embodied a trusted reputation and name recognition.  While the mentally challenged (developmentally delayed) community remains a cloistered, sub-culture, parents knew The Arc sheltered workshop was a safe haven for their disabled children.  The individuals Arc served depended on the organization as a good place to work.  Even more, the business community knew Arc could service their employment needs in an assortment of ways. 

 

But time required change.  The consumers were no longer satisfied with The Arc name, an acronym standing for The Association for Retarded Citizens.  The word retarded carried luggage and hurts.  Cooke knew a name change meant breaking with the national organization, a major step. 

 

Other problems existed as well.  There were two facilities, one in Melbourne, another in Rockledge.  Bricks and mortar were a major overhead expense.  Could a growing organization continue to justify this kind of expenditure in a changing, mobile world? was the question Cooke had to answer. 

 

Additionally, state and federal cuts in funding were regular and expected.  Each time the state cut funding, they mandated more services be provided with less money.  Unfunded mandates were part of the cost of operating.  Innovative funding sources were converted into a necessity, not a luxury.

 

Yet, Cooke clasped the need to maintain a respect and honor of the past.  Stories of historical conquests and prejudice had been left uncovered and untold.  Families who suffered misunderstanding and rejection had valiantly worked with and without community cooperation to bring change.  As an agent of change, Cooke knew that successful transition only comes stabilized and balanced with the hard work of past labors.

 

Cooke knew the first obstacle which often impedes change had been breached.  He had the unwavering support of the Board of Directors.  They envisioned and desired change.  The board held a vision for a seven day a week/24 hour a day service center.

 

Methodically and slowly, he began to implement his second strategic requirement–communication.  From the first day he sat behind the president’s desk, Cooke was communicating to parents and consumers his future plan.  “If change is ever to be achieved, communication is the operative word,” Cooke emphasizes. 

 

Making more services available to more people was the goal.  Marjorie Williams, Senior Administrative Assistant, stressed, “The greatest benefit of these changes has been that we can serve more people with a variety of different services.”  Pointing to the Family Liaison Program one of Bridges’ most innovative programs, Cooke said, “We work hand in hand with families, students and the school system to provide much needed sustenance.”  The program is supervised by Terry Tomoka and Jim Gerhauser.  “This has also provided us with another funding stream, the Brevard County School Board,” Cooke said.

 

Moving the Melbourne consumers to Rockledge became a natural outgrowth of the new philosophy of meeting needs every day, all day.  “Do brick and mortar make a good center?  Or do the services we are able to provide make the center high-quality?  We believed and endeavored to communicate the answer to these questions.  We wanted to help reluctant parents to understand that their adult children would receive a better quality of service in a consolidated service center,” Cooke explained.  Of course, some families remained unconvinced and refused to budge but the families who made the shift see the wisdom of the merger.

 

Backing of the board, communication, increased and merged services made the final change easier.  When the name was changed to Bridges, all ties were broken with the national organization.  Consumers and parents were smoothly united behind this final change.  Bridges—Building Bridges to Better Lives—became the new name and a better indicator of the overarching philosophy.

 

            Yet, Cooke believes that these changes can only be fully embraced through the well-focused lenses of the past.  An employee for 25 years, Barbara Pyle, Coordinator for Transportation and Social Services, heads a project to tell the story of the past.  While adopting the vision for change, Mrs. Pyle has lived the history.  Working with parents and individuals, she holds the key to this final stage in embracing change.

 

Explicit board support, communication, innovative expansion of services, and a new vision embodied in a new name made the changes of the last three years successful.  However, Cooke believes that all could have been lost had it not been coupled with a fervent and grateful celebration of the past.