Tuesday, August 15, 2017

In School Club

During my year in Nashville, I was placed at Glencliff High School for contact work. Glencliff is the most culturally diverse high school in the state of Tennessee boasting over 47 different ethnicities and 33 languages amongst its students. The Life Skills class in which I spent my time reflected this demographic. After spending a whole semester in the class and teachers with no concept of Young Life- all I could dream about was getting them to club.

It seems there was a laundry list of things keeping my friends at Glencliff from coming to our Young Life club in town and ultimately hearing about a God who perfectly knit them together and a Savior that came to save the world. Lack of transportation, language and cultural barriers, and location just names a few. I have been praying for my friends since the day I walked through the doors that the Lord would bridge those barriers and my friends could have the same wild, giggle filed, holy club experience the rest of my Capernaum friends in Nashville get every Monday. The Lord laid on my and other Capernaum leaders hearts that club doesn’t matter location. It matters content. So we brought the club to them.

Because most of the students relied on school transportation, we had to have club during the school day. Before or after could not happen with bus schedules. This was both a win and a challenge. A huge gift of hanging out in the Life Skills class and my relationship with the teacher was his openness to having new faces in his class. For him, any people or activities I had in mind were a win because it meant more exposure for his students and the community. Not to mention, when I pitched the idea of filling a whole hour of activity for his class (an hour for him to catch up on paperwork, that he didn't have to plan, and could maybe eat lunch in silence) he was all aboard.

There are countless tricky parts of club in a public school. Of course the biggest- explicitly proclaiming the name of Jesus. We had three clubs for the Spring Semester- one per month. We picked subjects we felt would specifically speak to desires of our friends while alluding to something more. The subjects included:

  • Friendship: why we are there, why do we need it, and there is a perfect friend
  • Made on purpose for a purpose: you were created perfectly and with a story in mind 
  • Love: you are loved beyond imagination and you are chosen daily because of it 

Not being able open the word, sing content songs, or speak freely of Jesus is definitely not the dream. But for us in this season with Glencliff, an in-school club felt like a really sweet cracked door. We were able to call it Young Life- something to associate to. (which they ended up calling “a Young Life party”). We were able to use it as a stepping stone to invite them to day camp- which two attended and were able to get the authentic YL experience.

  • Transforming the room into club was my most favorite part of this experience. We planned for when the students would be coming back from lunch so that when they reentered the room it would be a whole new experience. We put name tags on in the hall, had someone passing out raffle tickets at the door, and they entered the room with loud music played from a portable speaker and leaders cheering. They were celebrated as they came in and cheered for. This is what Capernaum is all about. 
  • We stayed as true to club as possible: we had a skit, announcements, games, songs, raffle and talk.
  • We played YouTube video dance songs on their projector (whip, Juju on the beat etc) as our fun songs and subbed content songs for songs like “Lean on Me” and “World’s Greatest” that related back to the talk. If you have someone that plays the guitar- that really blew my friends away. A CONCERT IN SCHOOL 
  • Games were easy to clean up and minimal prep
  • The teacher allowed for us to use his computer and projector but we brought bluetooth speakers and adaptor cords. 
  • We had a treat at the end to reinforce sitting quietly for the talk- they are in school mode..but its also a party!! 
  • We had “cabin time” at the end of every talk. This allowed for us to reinforce ideas and hear their feedback. This would be a great time to differentiate groups by communication need. It was also really cool because traditional peer helpers contributed to conversation 
  • Lots of prayer. We always depend on the Holy Spirit to move the hearts of our friends, but it felt even more so with having to rely on Him speaking between the lines and stirring the hearts for something more 

What a gift it is that Young Life is not stationary. It’s not a place or a time. How lucky we are to serve a God that allows us to be creative in proclaiming the gospel!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

YL Ethiopia - Jesus is my life

Hakim was born with a disability and has been in a wheel chair his whole life. He lives in a city called Mekele, which is about 600 km away from the capital city of Addis Ababa.

Jima is a Young Life leader in Addis Ababa. He came to know Christ through the ministry of Young Life in Addis, knows Hakim as a long term family friend and when it came time for camp, the Lord placed Hakim heavy on Jima’s heart. Responding to God’s distinct call, Jima made the 14 hour drive to Mekele to meet Hakim, pick him up, and take him to Young Life camp where he would be able to experience the best week of his life in the presence of the Almighty God. Hakim has been very depressed and isolated with his disability for many years and Jima’s gesture of seeing him, taking notice of him, and making a huge sacrifice in loving him, spoke volumes to Hakim. He was deeply impacted by the ministry and message of Jesus Christ at camp. Join us in praying for leaders that know the tribal language of the city of Mekele to be led to go and begin Young Life ministry there.

(in the picture: left is Jima, middle is Hakim, right is Benaim, the YL leader of Jima)

Abai has been raised in a home that is divided. His father, opposed to Christianity; his mother, a believer. This has served as an interesting environment for him to grow up in as a paraplegic. He was always confused to what to take as truth until he was encountered by the love of Jesus as he was pursued by his Young Life leader Benaim. Benaim explained that, “When I met him in the school he had many excuses to not attend Young Life.” All of these excuses revolve around the issue of transportation. Transportation on a bus in Ethiopia isn’t necessarily very expensive but it is virtually impossible for someone on a wheel chair. Most busses can be seen packed as sardines with all sorts of people and even babies and chickens. So Benaim paid for a taxi service to assist Abai. Completely astonished by the love and care that his leader had for him, Abai began to lean in a little closer to the message of Christ. After attending camp, he began to ask many questions. He was conflicted with all the different things that his father, his mother, and Benaim believed. Benaim simply explained to Abai that Jesus is the way and the life. Benaim used the passage from John 8:12 to speak truth to his friend Abai:

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

It was the truth of this scripture that sunk into Abai’s mind and brought him to the feet of Jesus where
he decided to live for Christ.

Abai has returned home to face persecution from his father. But Abai is standing firm in the truth of the Lord as he tells Benaim that “Jesus is my life.” Join us as we pray for Abai as he continues to seek God’s face as he journeys in faith with Benaim.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Magic of Young Life Camp

Throughout the summer at Young Life camps, staff and volunteers are loving kids of all abilities. Please enjoy reading about how God is working:

Caring for friends with disabilities is one of my greatest passions in life. But no matter how much I love them, how much they make me laugh, how much I enjoy the time I spend with each unique individual, I always carry around this weight and worry that something might go wrong. What if my friend suddenly decides they are angry…. what if the schedule changes… what if they decide it’s time to touch a stranger’s face without warning… what if I can’t understand what it is they are trying to tell me… what if we’re too loud… what if I can’t fix all the problems as quickly as they need to be fixed before we make a scene. It’s hard to explain this worry unless you’ve felt it yourself. Preparing for our trip to Young Life Camp, this weight felt heavier than ever. While I should have been focused on the hopeful anticipation in each of their faces, all I could worry about was where the keys to the rental car were, how late we were getting on the bus, what I was going to do with this many picky eaters all week, how I was going to keep up with the meds, how we were going to survive 5 days without our electronics. 

But the minute we stepped off the bus, I realized Carolina Point was different. They cheered for us as we arrived, and the work crew grabbed up every single piece of our luggage (no small feat, we don’t travel lightly). Instead of the awkward encounters I sadly so often witness with my friends out in public, this camp staff actively engaged each of our friends as they showed us to our cabins. And a portion of that weight I always carry just began to melt away. Within the first hour, we had hugged approximately 257 strangers, held hands with people we never met, (asked some socially inappropriate questions), and made fast new friendships. I realized this week was not only going to be a breath of fresh air for my friends- it was going to be that for me.

I could never put into writing all the amazing experiences a week at Carolina Point provided for our friends. They paddle-boarded, swam, drove go-karts, zip lined, jumped off the tower, sang and danced their hearts out, pied us in the face, watched the fireworks. In a world that tells our friends “you can’t”, it’s hard to describe how glorious it was for every activity to be presented with a spirit of “you can”. Each one of our friends experienced a major win this week, and wow- was it fun to watch! But even more beautiful than that was the grace and kindness that followed each time we got to the top of the slide and decided it was too steep, got to the zip line and decided it went to fast, got to the go karts and decided they were too loud, and got to the dining hall and decided we hated what they cooked. Every single one of these instances was met with a smile, a measure of grace I cannot explain- but it mirrored Jesus Christ in a more tangible way than I have ever experienced. Each person at Carolina Point celebrated our friends anyway, told our friends how proud they were of them, how brave they were, how beautiful they were, and how much Jesus loved them. 

On our way home, we stopped at fast food restaurant for dinner. My friends were tired. We all looked a bit disheveled. We were very loud. One of us went in the wrong bathroom. And all the people eating in that restaurant were giving us those “looks”. I realized in that moment that I had been 5 days without those “looks”, and that Carolina Point might be the closest place to Heaven that I have ever been. Because at Carolina Point, people who are not always valued in our world were told every single day that they are treasured, celebrated, accepted, known, and loved by Jesus. And sure, there were lots of broken bodies, but man- that place was filled with beautiful souls. It made me desperately long for the day when the pain of disability is forever healed in the kingdom of Heaven. It made me long for a body of Christ that makes great sacrifices to bring my friends with disabilities to the foot of the cross. It renewed my passion to do whatever I can to give these friends a chance to look on Jesus’ mercy and kindness toward them. 

Our world may never celebrate and treasure my friends with special needs, but Jesus does- and we are so grateful for the ministry of Capernaum for declaring that to them so stunningly this week.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Quiet Room At Camp: The Sawmill Office

There is a new space at Carolina Point that is making the gospel more accessible for a greater number of people. I was privileged to experience God's extravagant love as I sat in this new space which is the “Quiet” room, named The Sawmill Office.

As soon as I arrived at camp, I heard about the new “Quiet” room beside the club room, and I could hardly wait to check it out. I have experienced Quiet rooms at many disability ministries - these are usually rooms that are provided for kids who are over-stimulated in order to give them time out; they are rooms where a student is separated from the activity and from their peers in order to calm down.

However, that is NOT what happens with the Quiet room at Carolina Point!
No, this room is connected to the activity in the club room but with the ability to control the volume and the lighting in order to meet the needs of the people in the room. As I walked in, I knew I had found a new home!

The experience of club hadn’t been working for one camper named John because he is afraid of the dark and doesn’t like loud noise, so he and his leaders tried the Quiet room. In there the lights and the sound could be adjusted to a level at which he was comfortable. Another young man, Andrew, had been remaining outside during club because of the noise level, I had a migraine, and a couple of adult guests were also uncomfortable with the noise level in the club room. The volume in the Quiet, sound proof room was perfect for all of us. So we didn’t miss a thing; we could see all of club through the great big window and hear it through the regulated speaker system.

In the Quiet room/the Office, we laughed, we sang, and we could talk freely about anything we might not understand fully. During the days I was at camp, I leaned in with 3 individuals with disabilities, 7 or 8 buddies and leaders that were with them, and an adult guest couple. We loved being at club, and we were able to hear the gospel in a way that worked for us. I am so grateful for the creativity and generosity of the people who have made this Quiet room possible and am hoping that there will be Quiet rooms added at many more of our camps!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Abdullah - YL Palestine

Abdullah is a blind teen from Hebron, a 99% Muslim town, who lives in at The House of Hope in Bethlehem, Palestine. The House of Hope provides care and a safe place for disabled people as most are cast out of their families. This is where Abdullah was introduced to Young Life.

The Young Life leaders of Bethlehem came to know Abdullah and after seeking him out they were able to lead him into an experience that would change his life. Abdullah went to visit Young Life camp for a day and was able to experience the goodness and joy of the worship songs being lifted to heaven. Although he isn’t able to see the silly costumes of program, the bright smile of his leader or the holy chaos that ensues when a Young Life club is dancing together, Abdullah’s ears have been filled with the heavenly words sung at camp. As he has continued to return to clubs and camps, he’s memorized all of the lyrics to each worship song he hears. 

Abdullah is truly gifted in his ability to memorize lyrics and sing and as he returns back to his village, he sings them freely and loudly there as well. The Lord has not only met Abdullah exactly in the way that he is designed and needs to be met, but the Lord is now beginning a new thing for so many of the Muslims living in Abdullah’s village who are able to hear the good news through his singing.

Abdullah was one of the first Capernaum kids to spark a fire that is fast growing in Palestine and Israel where many disabled teens are able to attend Young Life and are being loved and cared for by amazing staff in the area. 

Monday, July 3, 2017

Creative Contact Work

We love sharing great ideas like this!

Greater Sacramento Capernaum is doing creative contact work in their community, collaborating with a local business, and helping their friends develop their gifts & abilities!

They have been bringing their friends to Studio 48 Art Class which meets the second and fourth
Thursdays from 3:30-5pm. It is a time for their friends who are creative to tap into the gifts and talents the Lord has given them. They have a few art teachers who help teach their friends different forms of art. Some of the art mediums are drawing, ink, markers, pastels, chalk, paint, watercolor, 3-D art and clay. They work on individual art pieces that they can take home to family and friends and make pieces for their very own art show where their work is displayed and sold.

We place a small picture bio next to each art piece with the following information so those purchasing the artwork know who made it.

1. Birthplace

2. Hobbies

3. School attended
4. Favorite art medium

6. Favorite Capernaum moment or activity

What a wonderful way to help their friends express themselves and to be in community!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Arturo, Prayer and Young Life

Blog Post by Derek Cormell, New Mexico/El Paso Regional Capernaum Coordinator

I had the privilege of meeting Arturo a couple of months ago. Arturo loves Jesus deeply and has a special care for and understanding of disability… he also has Cerebral Palsy. 

Arturo and I sat down to talk about the mission of Young Life to reach every kid and how at Jesus’ table there is room for everyone! Arturo expressed that he had been in prayer for some time for a vehicle through which to proclaim the Gospel to people with disabilities in a relational way, little did he know, he was praying for what we do in Young Life. 

We also were unaware that our divisional team has been praying for Capernaum to begin in the city of El Paso. Arturo has joined our local high school Young Life team and is currently in new leader training. 

Our prayer is that soon, as we get a community of caring adults around Capernaum, Arturo will be a Capernaum leader here in El Paso! In the meantime, we are excited to have Arturo serving with us, bringing his gifts and abilities to our team as we learn together. His heart for all kids will impact Young Life, and we hope, help launch Capernaum. I am excited to see how God uses Arturo to live out the Gospel with high school students.