Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday Fun: Spirit Day!

Go Eagles!

Tomorrow, our Shepherds Eagles Volleyball team will compete in the Special Olympics State Volleyball Tournament held in Waukesha.

Today, Coach Sarah Kolkman led a Spirit Rally to cheer on the team. Teachers, staff and students were all encouraged to wear blue and orange to show their support.

Enjoy the pictures of the event!

Jocelyn and Daniela show up to cheer for the team.
Coach Kolkman gives the athletes some pre-event instructions.

The students sign up for a raffle.
Miss Houk and the students form the tunnel.
Sharon! (I couldn't catch a photo of Miranda. My camera stopped working for a moment.)

Amanda, Tess and Anne
Philip pauses for the camera as he waits for the fun to start.
Miss Houk is ready to lead the opening cheer for the rally.
Miss Pollard wants to wave that noodle!
Go Eagles!!
The teachers are acting a little too goofy for Miranda.
The first Minute To Win It event was the volleyball relay - students vs. athletes vs. teachers.
Mrs. Luchterhand is raring to go! She's ready to put the volleyball between her knees to run.
I'm not sure Mr. Kolkman's height is an asset in this game...
The second event is Over/Under. Girls against boys. Girls won!
The last event was called Garbage - students against athletes. The goal was to end up with the least amount of balls on your side of the court. Students won!
The raffle winners were announced.



Coach Kolkman ended the event with a prayer for the team, "Whether we win or lose, I pray that our actions and attitudes reflect You, Oh Lord."

Shepherds College - Guiding Your Transition to Appropriate Independence. Please visit us at

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Parent's Heart

Thank you to Shelly Kumfer for writing today's blog.

From the desk of a grateful heart:

November 27, 2012 was the anniversary of my salvation day.  I was thirty five years old when I fell on my knees and committed my life to God through Jesus Christ.  I came to salvation because of my desperate need for help with Charles, my only son.   I received salvation as a result of God’s grace upon me following the dark, lonely journey that lasted two and a half years of my life - the testing and diagnosis process of Charles and his ultimate diagnosis of autism.  It was on this day in 1997 when I was told after all the neurological tests and parenting interventions I humbly sat through, and what seemed like endless psychological tests and language therapy sessions on Charles, that someone had the courage to offer a diagnosis to us. Believe it or not, after all that we’d been through, it came as such a relief, a direction to go in, a path to take.  I invited God on the journey on that day and it’s been an incredible one, a journey I wouldn’t trade for anything now.  I have learned so much and continue to learn through my child.  He was never really my child, but a child of God’s. I happen to have the privilege of being his mom.  

One great benefit from all I went through is that I learned through parenting classes that any unacceptable behavior was unacceptable.  I used that as a gauge for my parenting boundaries.  If Charles misbehaved, there were consequences.  I really trusted the 1,2,3 Magic method of behavior modification and it paid off.  To this day people tell me how polite and well mannered Charles is to be around.  Of course, as his parent, I have questioned “are we talking about the same kid?  I do believe it now as evidenced by what I personally experienced this past Thanksgiving weekend at Shepherds College to be true.  Charles was nice to his Mom! 

Back to the story…

Up until I was born again, I was left to wonder what I must’ve done to cause this.  It had to be something in my past that caused Charles to have this “problem”.  Quite possibly it was my parenting (or lack of) that was causing these issues to appear in Charles.  I can recall feeling so down and insecure about my parenting skills even though I had done everything “by the book”… every book that is except the Bible.  I was so convinced that surely there was something I had done to cause his delays and deficiencies.  It had to be what I did in my life that caused Charles to have these issues, and surely I must be able to correct his issues myself if I just do something “more”.  For example, get him in more activities, host more play groups, give him more social opportunities, expose him to more culture.  Believe me, if there was something I could think of to help my kid, I tried it.  I can recall the TV program Murphy Brown.  Well, I am not a TV person and I doubt I’ve seen more than one full episode of that show, but I’ve been told I was a real life Murphy Brown.  I worked as a business professional from home, and I had Nanny’s hang out with Charles while I worked full time.  I would do all kinds of arranging of activities for him, and everything was always amazing and way over the top.  You see, I felt Charles was my gift from the start and I wanted to treat him as such.  I was so thrilled to finally have my own child.  He was wanted more dearly to me than I can possibly tell you and from the moment I knew I was pregnant, I delighted in the hope of my child being healthy and cute.  Charles is all that!  He was beautiful and healthy, a true Gerber baby, even today, just bigger.  Always beautiful and sweet.  My dreams for Charles were huge.  I wanted him to attend private schools and thought Cranbrook in Michigan would be a wonderful place for him to thrive.  I thought about all the wonderful things he would do and achieve with the right opportunities in life and all that I would do for him to achieve his best.  I had it all mapped out. 

My dreams, my plans were dashed.  You see, these were all my plans not God’s plan. 

Charles was born in Manchester, New Hampshire and we lived a very happy normal life for the most part except for his forever absent biological Dad.  That’s an entire story in itself, but suffice to say that I had full responsibility of Charles from the moment he was born – he was all mine to care for, make decisions about, and love pretty much on my own.  We moved to Michigan in 1995 to be near family, which was wonderful for me as I was born in Detroit and my family was in the area.  My oldest sister was my best friend and lived nearby. She was always a constant help and encourager to Charles and me until her passing in 2000.  I am one of nine children, and there is no other person within our family that has any “special needs”.   Most of them rejected us which was evidenced in so many ways, but most of all by the lack of effort shown by them to engage, to invite Charles over to their homes despite the countless occasions we had “cousin overnights” at our house.  It was my impression that they really didn’t know how or want to have much to do with someone who was different.  Charles had many quirky habits like eating ketchup on everything except fruit, and he ate the same things all the time, and loved movies and video games.  I am not really sure of how they felt, but I think Charles was more than they could handle. I often heard them say “it’s all the ketchup he eats or he plays too many video games”.  It was pretty hard not to believe that it wasn’t me that caused Charles’ problems. Needless to say with a large family, I had at minimum a dozen opinions at that early stage of Charles’ diagnosis - all of which I am sure were well meaning, but didn’t really help much.  I have found that people are willing to offer opinions, but never really willing or able to act on them.  I felt alone in my journey, but looking back I can see God’s hand in all of it.  

I had no reference back then to autism because it wasn’t as widely diagnosed and therefore whatever information I could gather was of my own research and attending Seminars, etc.  There have been key people I believe The Lord placed in our path that were directly God sent. This early research took place in the late 90’s, long before the internet is what it is today for information access.  I did my best to educate myself on the subject of autism so that I could assist others in their understanding, not of autism but of Charles.  I really wasn’t interested in becoming an expert in autism.  I just wanted to reach my kid.  When I committed my life to God on that day we received the diagnosis, I believe it brought me direction.  A framework in which to begin a new journey.  Quite frankly, a relief to the darkness of the unknown.  What I can see now is that direction was straight into the arms of God. The plan of salvation is better than any I could’ve dreamed up.  I got on my knees that evening, humbled myself and said “God, I need your help.  Please forgive me for all that I’ve done (He knew it all. He was right there with me while I was yet a sinner).  Help me with my child, I’ll do anything for you, just please help me with my child.”  I’ve never prayed a more sincere prayer, I don’t think.  That was the beginning of the real journey of my life.  My life with Christ.  A redemption story.  When all seemed lost - my dreams, my hope, my joy -  God proved Himself faithful to His word.  He has cleansed me (still a work in progress) of all unrighteousness, has made beauty from ashes and has shown me that the only true hope and dreams are found strictly in Him.  That my sin wasn’t the reason why Charles is the way he is, it’s because God wanted to use Charles to bring Himself Glory.  It was such a burden lifted to have that realization.  God gets all the Glory.  He has revealed His faithfulness toward me through Charles and my experiences as a believer.  He is constant in His love toward us and has consistently shown me that His plan is for our good, to prosper us and not harm us, to give us a hope and a future.  I have come to believe that plan and future has included Charles and myself before time began.  That he was fearfully and wonderfully made in my womb and what the devil meant for evil, God turned it around for good.  I am so grateful and blown away that He is mindful of me, of Charles. His outstretched arm is over us and His banner is love.  

We live in northern Michigan and I married a wonderful Godly man in 2005 who has been a Dad to Charles and a husband to me.  I like to say (most reverently) that God is my cupcake, and Bruce (my husband) is the sprinkles.  He’s been so wonderfully supportive and loving to us both.  He is a RN by profession and has been a great resource to me and a particularly Godly influence on Charles. I believe Bruce loves us with his life.

I have often thought that people like Charles are extra special to God.  It seems to me Charles and those like him are included in the ones the Lord said “let the little children come unto to me and do not hinder them”.  I believe that God uses Charles and people like him to test hearts.  I have witnessed this over and over again how people respond to those that are “different”.  I have felt that way when I meet people at Shepherd’s.  My responses are very thoughtful because each person at Shepherd’s is an amazing gift.  I am blown away at the students I’ve met there.  God’s plan for our children is a good plan as evidenced by what I witnessed at Shepherd’s College this past weekend during the 2012 Thanksgiving break.  I have such hope today through the fruit of joy, peace and goodness Charles demonstrated toward his family while visiting him.  I am amazed he knows harder scripture verses than I do, he’s lost 30 pounds, (I’d like to go on the Shepherd’s diet, please) and his overall demeanor is magnificent!   I cried tears of joy for the entire eight hour journey home.

Obviously, God is using Charles to impact my life. God has used him to bring me to Salvation and continues to strengthen and reassure me that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us and that with God all things are possible.  I have come to know that we walk by faith not by sight and it’s okay to trust The Shepherd as He is The Good Shepherd.  I had no idea that Shepherd’s College would be used to blow my doors off with Charles.  Letting go of my gift and trusting God and Shepherd’s College with him was a huge test of my faith.  God gave him to me 20 years ago, and I believed I was doing the right thing by walking in faith and trusting God would keep him safe so far away.  The time had come for me to let my baby bird fly and it was time to let God allow him to rise up on wings like eagles and soar.  The decision through much prayer and wise counsel was to send Charles to Shepherd’s College.  Charles did not want to go away from home.  I had peace about it or it never would’ve happened.  But, God has begun a good work and I am so hopeful He will see it through to completion for Charles at Shepherd’s College.  1st Semester appears to be a big praise to God academically and, ever so importantly for a person with autism, socially he’s making progress.  Yeah, God!! Yeah, Charles! Yeah, Shepherd’s! 

I can’t describe fully the incredible transformation that God is doing in Charles during his first four months at Shepherd’s.  Charles left home a somewhat depressed, sad kid with little confidence that he could do anything.  A gloomy cloud in his spirit and full of doubt as so many young people are today.  I am so pleased with the safe environment for growth at Shepherd’s. I witnessed the fruit in my kid this past weekend.  Charles told me at Thanksgiving dinner that he’s happier now than when he left home.  It melted my heart to hear such tender joy and assurance from my son.  He told me that he is glad we made the tough decision to send him to Shepherd’s College.  It’s all I needed to hear.  To know I had chosen well.  I chose well when I heard God call me those 15 years ago now.  I marvel at the journey of my life and feel grateful that I’ve been given such hope for my son.  My heart is blessed with joy that my child is happy and thriving. 

I hope that each parent, loved one and family member will experience the same joy I felt when I heard my child say he is happy.  I hope that each of us will savor our dear Savior’s birth with a twinkling of hope and wonder of how great God really is!  That when our children arrive home for Christmas break, we can love them the way God loves us, graciously and gladly.   There’s no greater feeling - hope.  I am overwhelmed with gratitude for what God is already doing in Charles.  Halleluiah, highest praise to God.  Glory in the Highest for His faithfulness toward those that love and trust Him.  He is good.  I could go on and on. 

Thank you Shepherd’s College for the hope that you’ve provided this grateful mom.  I am expecting His best for Charles!  You’ve been an instrument to deliver huge blessings to me and most of all to Charles.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Shelly Kumfer 

Shepherds College - Guiding Your Transition to Appropriate Independence. Please visit us at

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Office: Rock My Wordle!

From the desk of Cathy Harvey, Administrative Assistant to Shepherds College

My boss rocked my world today—my lil' ole world of schedules, emails, computer trials, glue sticks, pens, and scissors.  He introduced me to Wordle, a world of “Word Clouds” made beautiful by the power of technology and endless possibilities.

What in the world is “Wordle” you ask? 

It is the brain child of IBM’s Jonathan Feinberg, a software engineer of Collaborative User Experience (CEU) Research Group in the Boston area.  Feinberg created this fantastic idea of making colorful word collages out of any number of words you enter and giving emphasis to the most used words in your collection.  In the “olden days” we did something similar by cutting out words from magazines of all shapes and sizes and creating a collage of meaningful words about ourselves or about our life, family, friends, or goals.  “Wordle” is the electronic version of that old-fashioned cut and paste craft.
 Below is an example of the real assignment Mr. Terrill gave me today that had my creative juices spinning until I was dizzy!  Type “Wordle” in a search engine such as “Google” you will see something like this:

Search results
  1. Wordle - Beautiful Word Clouds
Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source ... - Cached

Mr. Terrill gave me a block of words he gleaned from an assignment he recently gave our students -

respect respect respect respect respect respect respect respect respect respect respect respect respect respect respect students students students students students staff staff staff staff staff right right right chores chores chores others others others others authority authority clean clean clean helpful helpful helpful helpful helpful helpful helpful listen listen listen listen listen volunteer volunteer kind kind kind kind kind kind kind kind leader leader leader leader encourage encourage community community community community responsibility responsibility responsibility responsibility responsibility responsibility initiative initiative initiative integrity integrity integrity integrity truth truth diligence diligence diligence discernment discernment discernment positive positive prayer prayer prayer prayer prayer others others others others others others others homework homework homework serve serve serve choices choices, role-model, role-model, role-model, leader

The assignment was for each student to write out three things they were personally going to do to improve the Shepherds College community.  His assignment came on the heels of a difficult month of behaviors.  Yes, we have those kinds of days too!  It was the Shepherds College way of creating a concrete way for students to apply the character of kindness toward their classmates.  It was hands-on life skills in getting along and being part of a larger community.  It was applying the six character traits we strive to teach throughout our program: diligence, discernment, initiative, integrity, respect, and responsibility.  This was just one of many ways we try to inspire our students to rise to a higher calling, of caring for others in all they do, here, at home, in church, or at a job.

Students were to bring their lists to Mr. Terrill.  He made copies of all their goals and compiled the word list based on how many times specific words showed up in their goals.  Based on all that, he asked me to copy and paste the words into “Wordle,” and it produces hundreds of possible designs that can be used for endless ideas: bulletin boards, T-shirts, posters, party themes, note cards, banners, stickers, and any number of advertising products.  

For a basement artist like me, this sent me straight to the hog heaven of design!  Mr. Terrill asked me to print out some samples for him, so I included just a few of the twelve I printed out in this blog.  I am not sure how he is going to use them, but it will, no doubt, be a delight and surprise to see where these show up in our future.

Mr. Terrill, you rocked my world today with “Wordle”! Now someone, please, help me find my way out of this crazy and colorful word maze!

Shepherds College - Guiding Your Transition to Appropriate Independence. Please visit us at