Reformation Lutheran Church A Congregation of the ELCA

Monday, March 30
Read Romans 9:30-33

… they did not strive for it on the basis of faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone … (v 32)


My youngest brother, Dennis, is mentally handicapped, hyperactive, labeled as potentially aggressive and exhausting, but loving. I am now his primary guardian. He is a resident at Kansas Neurological Institute in Topeka. When my sister (his previous guardian) died, I was his contingent guardian. It took a little over a year to get that situation changed, and Dennis was essentially without a guardian for a while. During that time, the state Legislature once again threatened to close the two remaining state institutions for the mentally handicapped on the theory that community placement is preferable, or more normal. It is certainly cheaper, but the quality of care is nowhere comparable for someone of Dennis’ status.

I panicked. I wrote letters to every state legislator who had any clout with the committee. I knew that community placement was not appropriate for Dennis at that time. There were not and still are not any community sites with a minimum of two awake staff on a 24-hour basis — a necessity for Dennis. I testified at several hearings. I harassed my friends and relatives to do the same. I attended a rally in Topeka in favor of keeping the institute open. I couldn’t sleep at night and couldn’t stay awake during the day. I caught myself binge eating. I was unable to sit quietly and read, crochet or knit or do any other activity that might calm my nerves. I became forgetful. I prayed consistently, but it was a prayer to help me do this well, effectively, etc. I created a stumbling stone in my communication with God.

Finally one night, in desperation, I realized I had not given the problem to God. I had retained ownership as though I had the power to solve the problem. When I gave God the problem, I was suddenly at peace.

Gov. Mark Parkinson called off the closures. And I thanked God joyfully. The threat remains, especially in Kansas’ current financial situation. If closure is recommended again, I will write, testify and all the rest. But, prayerfully, I will remember that faith, not works, is the key. God will care for Dennis in his own way, and I can sleep peacefully knowing the situation is in God’s hands.

Jolene Dougherty

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