Reprinted by permission
New Van Will Increase Ministry to Handicapped
By John Rutledge
Baptist Standard Staff Writer
About 25 of the handicapped members of Bartimaeus Baptist
Temple in Dallas joined in a celebration service May 22 to dedicate a new van
specially equipped for wheelchairs. The purchase was made partly from $7,000 in
donations from the members and $22,000 from Dallas Association churches.
With two of the wheelchair-bound members stationed near the
door of the van, the other members held hands and prayed that the new vehicle
might be as effective as “another vehicle of long ago, Noah’s ark” in bringing
handicapped persons to salvation.
Pastor Don Whitmore—himself noticeably affected by a
quivering left hand that is a result of encephalitis—pushed one of the
wheelchair-bound members up the ramp and into the church while the others
followed, accompanied by the clatter of braces and the tapping of canes.
THE CHURCH has ministered to the handicapped, their
families and friends, Whitmore said, since 1959, first as a mission of North
Dallas Church, then of First Urbandale Church. In 1977 the congregation moved
to its present location, a small white frame building in Southeast Dallas, that
Berl Cavin of Dallas Association helped them buy.
Although several Dallas churches have Bartimaeus Temple in
their budgets, the church is almost self-supporting and consistently gives to
the Cooperative Program, as well as to foreign, state and associational
missions, Cavin said.
Perhaps the essence of Bartimaeus Temple is in the music.
The blind organist blends her chords with those of the pianist, Whitmore’s wife,
who is not handicapped. Don Potts, minister of music and youth minister, leads
Somehow the hymns take on a new meaning.
“Take my feet and let them be, swift and beautiful for
Whitmore chooses his text from I Kings, the account
of Elijah sitting under the juniper tree in discouragement and despair.
“If your back is turned away from the path God has chosen
for you, someday you’ll be sitting under a juniper tree, too," he tells them.
“Take my hands and let them move, at the impulse of thy
Blind Deacon Earl Webster rises to play Amazing
Grace on his harmonica during the offertory.
“I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I
AFTER THE SERVICE. Whitmore explains that after he
graduated from Howard Payne and Southwestern Seminary with plans to become a
missionary, he contracted encephalitis while stationed with the military in
Iceland during World War II. That experience damaged motor cells on the right
side of the brain, leaving him with little control over the left side of his
He was eliminated from consideration for a career in
missions, but his eyes were opened to the needs of the handicapped. Later a
deacon of a church he served whose son had cerebral palsy suggested he start a
church to work with the handicapped. That was the beginning of what became
“The church is named for blind Bartimaeus,” Whitmore
said. “He was a handicapped person who sought out Jesus. That’s what we want
He said the most difficult part of ministering to the
handicapped is finding out where they are.
WE CAN’T get rosters from companies to find the
handicapped, because of privacy reasons,” he said. “You would be amazed how
many are just sitting in a room somewhere, trying to isolate themselves, too
bashful to get out.”
Getting them to church is another problem.
“Transportation is one of our biggest problems,” he said.
“We had a 48-passenger bus, donated by a lady who visited our church one time.
But it was too old, too big for our needs, and cost too much to operate.”
The church has been praying for three years for a van like
the one that was dedicated. He said when association director Robert McGinnis
became aware of their need, he put a notice in the association page of the
Baptist Standard, and that started contributions coming in from churches.
“I know God’s in this,” Whitmore said. “That van is one