One of the most important things a person can provide for any person and especially for a man or woman who is developmentally disabled is a safe harbor–a place where they can securely share their thoughts, feelings and emotions. Because of their intellectual development, many people within the mentally challenged community are also stunted in expressing their deep emotions.
There are only a few vehicles wherein this population where they would be expected or allowed to share their genuine thoughts. All of us are heavily invested in teaching this population Scriptural principles. Nonetheless, unless the precepts become practical applications in their lives, they will never learn them effectively.
Therefore, it is vital to give our members the space wherein they are allowed to share their thoughts. How we do this is not easy. Though the answers regarding a “how to” may seem simplistic.
- You must aske targeted and pointed questions.
- You must allow the members to share without interruption.
- You must allow the members time to answer. When a question is asked, the leader of the group will often wait a few seconds and then answer the question themselves. Waiting is hard but it reaps great dividends.
- You must be sure that the answer to your questions are not to complicated or a vehicle to showcase how smart the examiner is. In other words, don’t ask trick question.
- You must give the members many successes with their answers. If a person give a totally off the rail answer, rephrase it until you have found an answer with which they agree.
- When asking an opinion question, be sure that every answer is given validity. No opinion is incorrect. An opinion is owned by the responder–not the asker.
- Give the answers extra validity by writing the answers down on a board of some type.
- It is most important that the answering party knows without a doubt that the questioner loves him or her. It takes time and a great deal of patience to truly show that you love your members.
It takes an extremely secure person to be able to express their opinions, thoughts and emotions. We must understand that most people within the disability community are not secure. Many of them know full range of their deficiencies better than anyone else. They must be given a safe harbor to insure that they are able to receive the healing that the Holy Spirit wants to give through your ministry.
When President George H. W. Bush gave the first Points of Lights Awards, one of them went to a NASA employee named Frank S. Howard who was a volunteer for The Special Gathering of Indian River.
The fact that Frank S. Howard was my husband and I am the area director for The Special Gathering of Indian River, I’ve felt a close connection to the organization. As President Obama and the Bush family celebrate this fine organization, I cannot help but remember the surprise and joy we shared when the award was given.
Frank Howard was an Technological Scientist at NASA. He had five inventions to his credit and many awards, including Kennedy Space Center Employee of the Year. Frank Howard was a Bible teacher for The Special Gathering. He loved and supported this population and he felt it was an honor to teach the members of his class.
The Special Gathering is a ministry within the mentally challenged community. Our mission is the evangelization and discipleship of mentally challenged (intellectually disabled) individuals. There are seven programs dotting the East Coast from Florida to South Carolina.
We all know that when you eat fish you will usually come across a bone or two no matter how carefully the fish has been filleted. We also know that the bones aren’t digestible and should be spit out. Fish bones, in fact, can be dangerous; but that fact never kept me from eating and appreciating fish.
I often approach authors in the same way. I almost never agree with everything that I read. At times, I’ve found that I’m wrong and that what I rejected was a truth that I didn’t want to accept. That is usually became of some pride or greed in my life. However, in reading, I simply spit out the parts with which I don’t agree.
In watching the new TV series, The Bible, I’ve done a lot of bone spitting. In this way, I’ve thoroughly savored it. The entire Bible is being speed-enacted in 10 hours. When you condense 6,000 years of history into five segments of TV, there must be some distortions and misgivings.
I confess that portions of the enactments have made me laugh. When one of Lot’s angelic visitors turned out to be a Ninja warrior, I roared with laughter as he whirled and spun with the ease and graceful moves of a Hollywood stunt man. In contrast, the Negro Samson wasn’t nearly as unrealistic as the nearly blond Jesus. I’d always picture Samson as a slight man who gained his strength when the Spirit of God came on him. But that could because all my life I’ve been surrounded by extremely strong men who were short in statue.
Yet, all in all, the series has been mind-bending to watch. A good friend said, “I’ve read the Old Testament many times but seeing it has made me think about things a bit differently. So many good men and women have been lured into sin by illicit sexual relationships.” Another friend laments that men and women of God are still making the same mistakes and justifying them with the same lame excuses.
As the viewership has soared, I’m thankful for the non-Christians who are watching the series. However, I’ve seen the most impact on people who know the Bible and love the Lord. Nevertheless, there is a bit of fish-eating that must be practiced in the process.
Over the past months, I’ve discovered the classics from Sir Walter Scott, James Fenimore Cooper, St. Augustine to Andrew Murray. Of course, most of these volumes were written in the early 1800’s. Unlocking the labyrinth of historical fact wrapped around the old English prose of that earlier century presents a challenge. Yet years of reading the King James Version of the Bible and Jane Austin relieves the struggle.
All of these books are in the public domain. Therefore, they can be found as free downloads through my iPad and iPhone. I listen to them through Audio-Books and when I find a volume confusing, I open it on the Free eBooks app and I read along with the audio. In addition, when I’m not driving or working, I listen and read to get a fuller sense of what the author is saying.
Yes, I must reread (or re-listen) to most of the volumes several times to truly follow the convoluted plots and fantastic adventures; but it’s an activity well worth the effort. Years ago, I discovered George MacDonald, the Scottish author, whom C. S. Lewis called his mentor. Even though, MacDonald died before Lewis because a Christian through MacDonald’s writings, Lewis credited MacDonald with understanding of the Kingdom of God; and he was inspired by MacDonald’s books and writings.
Sometime in the 1980’s a few of MacDonald’s books were rewritten in an attempt to make them easier to follow. It was these volumes that first introduced me to him. At time I learned that J. R. R. Tolkien as well as C. S. Lewis had patterned their fantasies after MacDonald’s wistful tramps through the lands that lived in his imagination.
The thing which has struck me is how much the Gospel is interwoven into the “secular” writing and novels. Of course, there are the Christian distractors, such as Nathaniel Hawthorne. However, the volumes I’ve chosen to read such as an obscure book called Work by Louisa Mae Alcott are dripping with the virtues of living for Christ and dying with the joy and peace that only comes from knowing and embracing the Living Christ.
In addition, there is a fresh sense of what life was like in a time when men and women were either dirt-floor poor or overwhelmed with wealth. It appears that no matter where people fell within the socio-economic struggles, their lives were much like ours. Love of the Lord was a thing to be cherished; and love of our fellow human beings could only be fully obtained through loving and obeying Christ.