Jason and Elias spent a month serving at SharpTop Cove in the kitchen. Together they made thousands of meals for campers and leaders, they grew deeply in their faith, laughed a lot and learned more than they could have imagined.
They both both experienced community in new ways and are walking away from their time knowing that their experience was not isolated but something that will impact their day to day life. What a gift! Enjoy!
Ian struggles with anything new or out of his comfort zone. He found the courage to come to Capernaum Club and grew comfortable enough to sign up for camp. Ian and his parents were one of the first families to arrive at the bus to leave for camp, but Ian was one of the last campers to load.
His area had an incredible group of young men that came alongside the campers as buddies. One of Ian’s leaders had a buddy head over to help comfort and reassure Ian about the bus ride and the awesome week ahead.
Just a little background on Ian: At school, Ian is practically paralyzed when asked to answer a question or stand in front of the class. He has fears of making mistakes, being "stupid" or others making fun of him. When he joined the Unified Special Olympics basketball team he would not come onto the court for the first two practices because of these fears.
Camp changed Ian's life, the cabin full of friends and buddies changed Ian's life. God had a plan as buddies were being selected; 4 young men who were kind, caring and patient. Ian's buddy Drew found a common interest and played on it the entire week. Ian loves comic characters and he gave himself the name "Star Lord" and anytime he was afraid: on the ropes course, during the hike, while on the Screamer, the "Star Lord" would show up and they boys would cheer on Ian/Star Lord, pray with him and wrap their arms around him when he succeeded!
Their leader would witness Ian and Drew outside at a table writing in their journals and sharing life stories, dreams and struggles. Other campers would join and before you know it Ian had many people he could call friends. His walls were coming down through the work of Jesus and love of his cabin.
At the last night of camp as areas gathered to reflect and pray, the leaders asked for students to share if they wanted. There were about 150 in Ian’s group from Topeka and a couple of students raised their hands and shared, Including Ian! Ian, on his feet in front of 150 of his peers said, "This camp has been awesome, I was really nervous about coming and actually really close to not coming! All of the new stuff made me nervous but my new friends helped me through it and I ended up having alot of fun! I just want to thank all the guys in my cabin!”
Ian and Drew joined the new believer's walk the next morning and that night at Say-So, Ian stood up IN FRONT OF THE ENTIRE CAMP and said "I am Catholic and this week I felt God's love and talked to Him.
Camp brings out such beautiful stories of friendship, growth, bravery and community and an invitation to experience God’s love in deeper ways.
Jim Branch has written many great books that have been used in campaigner groups and leadership meetings.
There have been hundreds, if not thousands, of kids who have gone through them while serving on work crew or summer staff. It was exciting to hear that Micaela Otal took the time to create a booklet of Jim Branch’s book Beginnings to do with some of her Capernaum friends during campaigners!
She took time to include definitions of words that could be new or challenging, as well as included scripture and questions!
Huge thanks to Micaela for sharing it with us! You can just print the booklet out for each person in your campaigner group and you’re off and ready! Enjoy!
Thank you for this story YL Capernaum Phoenix! What a beautiful picture of meeting your friends where they are, so that the Gospel can take hold and transform!
When I first met Claire, it wasn’t immediately evident to me that she has an intellectual disability. You see, Claire, like so many of our friends, has intellectual challenges that have a huge impact on her day to day life, yet are unseen by the naked eye. People see her and expect a typically functioning young woman in the midst of adolescence. What they don’t realize is processing, understanding and relationships come much more slowly for Claire.
Even with the loving support of a Christian family that was active in the church, Claire struggled to believe that the woman, that God made her to be, was good enough. This led to some risky behaviors in high school aimed at feeling loved, resulting in low self-esteem and a deep longing and pain to be accepted by her peers and the world around her.
Claire began coming to Capernaum club. She tried to attend her high school’s traditional YL, but the size and pace was too much for her to track with. At Capernaum, her peers were eager to see her, they were welcoming, arms open, and excited to know her. She began hearing a Gospel message that was geared for her. She was loved by caring adults who reminded her that she was made ON PURPOSE, beautifully, wonderfully and just the way she is. That she, YES, SHE, was made in the image of the Creator whose eyes and heart beamed with pride the day she was born and every day since.
Claire began to let that TRUTH seep deep into her heart and take root. Claire became a natural leader
and friend to her peers in club. She began to study the Word more on her own, asking questions and thirsting for more. When asked about the possibility of training to become Capernaum peer leader, she didn’t hesitate.
She stepped into uncomfortable places and even helped give the message at the last club of the semester. In June, Claire helped lead our high school Capernaum friends at camp and tackled her fears to show campers that God gives us strength, doing things she had never done before, like the ropes course. She has taken the bold step to serve on summer staff with a coach helping her.
Claire, like all of us, continues to struggle and fall down. But because the Holy Spirit is alive and well in her heart, she gets up, asks for help, and most of all seeks the truth of the Savior. To be with Claire now is to see the fruits of simply pointing her to the Cross, and what a joy it is to behold the wonder of His transformative grace.
This summer, Claire served on summer staff at Lost Canyon alongside her coach and friend, her dad and mom who were on the assigned team, her brother who serves on property staff and sister in law who serves locally as the area director in town. This transformation in Claire means their whole family gets to minister to kids together!
Thank you, Kelly McGill, YL Tustin, for this great reflection! Thank you for creating new opportunities for your friends to experience camp in creative and thoughtful ways!
This summer with YL Tustin (California) Capernaum, we grew in all kinds of exciting ways! We teamed up with a nearby Capernaum area to create a local space where our Capernaum friends that cannot attend week-long camp at Lost Canyon could be known, loved, and hear/experience the Gospel.
This summer, Beach Cities and Tustin Capernaum put on our first ever day camp! We had 50 Capernaum friends that joined in the fun. While planning day camp, we thought that this would be an incredible opportunity to invite some of our Capernaum friends to be a part of our day camp Leadership Team. We had two of them, Cole and John serving on our Program.
Cole and John loved having the opportunity to lead our Capernaum friends, make them laugh, and serve Jesus in a new and exciting way. John told us that he cannot wait to be on the leadership team in the future and he hopes to go on Summer Staff at Lost Canyon next year!
During day camp, all of our Capernaum friends heard the story of the bleeding woman and learned that they are not alone in their lives, that they have a Father that loves them deeply, no matter what!
Our Capernaum friends had the opportunity to write on mirrors about how Jesus sees them. Our friends wrote: Loved. Beautiful. Accepted. Friend.
It was an incredible two days celebrating our friends’ identities in Christ. Some of them learned about who Jesus is for the first time. One of our Day Camp volunteers, Heather, said her favorite part of Day Camp was seeing kids and leaders of ALL abilities on stage at all times.
Our friends participated on stage with program, worship, leading games, and group prayer. Seeing the body of Christ at day camp participating in hearing, experiencing and processing the Gospel in an accessible way is something that we will never forget and cannot wait to do it again next year.
Ellie spent her time on Summer Staff serving in the snack bar! She dove into friendships, found deep joy in serving campers every day and loved growing in her relationship with Jesus throughout the month. Ellie has a desire to continue growing as a leader, encourages people around her to love others well and longs for kids with disabilities to know Jesus more!
Thank you, Niccole "Baldi" Ryan, Area Director-West Valley Young Life for this story!
On a warm summer evening I stood on a soggy pool deck listening to the squeals of teenagers slipping down a water slide. There were Young Life leaders and kids everywhere. Our area was having our annual summer pool party. There was something entirely different about this night, something one could miss if he or she didn’t know what to look for.
Upon further inspection you would find seven teen moms with babies, a dozen or so Capernaum friends, Capernaum parents, Wyldlife kids and literal scores of kids from traditional Young Life clubs. It was hard to not have my eyes overcome with tears as I poured spoonful after giant spoonful of simmering nacho cheese over hot Cheetos for kids to munch on.
My semi-watery eyes eventually landed on two individuals playing volleyball—Rocky and Pierce. About a year ago Rocky jumped in as a Capernaum leader and Pierce has been a part of Capernaum club for three years. Pierce is best known around the area for his Michael Jackson dance moves and requesting we play Billie Jean at every event. Rocky is a giant gentle bear and Pierce is a fierce 5 foot 1 inches. Rocky is an average 19 year old with wild dark curly locks and Pierce is 18 years old with down syndrome. They met at Young Life Capernaum Club and became fast friends, they love to sing together, dance, share meals, shoot hoops or compete in the game room.
One thing Rocky and Pierce have in common is having a life changing experience in Young Life. Rocky first became acquainted with Wyldlife when one of his older cousins invited him. He came to club from time to time meanwhile a Wyldlife leader pursued him regularly. When Rocky moved on to high school he was invited to be a part of campaigners. We tried to get Rocky signed up for camp and got a laundry list of excuses. Thank God Young Life leaders rarely take “no” for an answer! We kept Rocky on the prayer list and with camp about 10 days away went after him even harder.
One day as I pulled in my drive way I could see my garage door was open. I could see clothes from my Young Life skit closet flying across the garage and hear a commotion. I pulled the gate open and
was surprised to see Rocky, two of his high school friends and their Young Life leader. They quickly explained they all had decided they were going to Lost Canyon and they needed to start packing.
That summer Rocky had his eyes opened to the love God has for him. Rocky came from a broken home and was in need of reassurance that God is a good Father who made him and wants to know him. He started a relationship with Jesus that week. Coming home things were different, God gave him a heart to serve others. Rocky became a Wyldlife leader. However, the circumstance of his life didn’t become any easier, during his senior year of high school Rocky needed to move out of his family home and rent a room on his own. Rocky began to seek out full time employment to cover his rent and basic bills. Due to the change in his personal schedule being a Wyldlife leader no longer fit into his weekly calendar, but Capernaum did!
Rocky eagerly joined the Capernaum team. Capernaum friends love being around Rocky because he knows how to have fun, treat them with respect, include them and just be with them.
Jesus continues to powerfully transform Rocky’s life. The young people in Capernaum have been blessed to create a friendship with someone who gives himself so freely and willingly.
Many of our Capernaum friends seem to have innate understanding that there is a God who made them and loves them, but leaders like Rocky help our Capernaum friends be able to understand and articulate that in new ways. Rocky took what he saw modeled by Young Life and Wyldlife leaders and applied it to Capernaum.
It was clear Rocky had earned the right to be heard through shared experiences. Pierce was listening to what Rocky had to say both in cabin times and outside of it. But Pierce wasn’t the only one, there was the same thing happening with Dominique, Jordan, Chris, Michael and Noah. Capernaum Friends will forever have changed lives because of the way Rocky entered their lives and represented Jesus.
As Pierce left camp this summer, he wrote a letter to God that said “Thank you God for loving me, thank you for dying for me and thank you for finding me.”
I can’t think of better way to say that myself. Thank you God, for the mission of Young Life to go after every kid and share the Good News with them. We see God move in our communities when Young Life leaders, step into the lives of kids, regardless of their background or ability.