Young Life Capernaum

Young Life Capernaum

Monday, February 26, 2018

Helping Our Friends Grow in the Word by Suzanne Williams

Not too long ago I was having lunch with one of my friends from YL Capernaum. We were covering all of the usual topics like dancing, movies, boys and good food when we turned to talking about her church. I know she just loves her church so I was asking her about how it was going and what she loved the most about it. She told me all about the music and how she loves to worship there. Then she talked about how incredible her pastors are, how they are her friends and she asks them to pray for things her life. She didn’t mention their sermons, so I took the liberty to ask her about them. As we were talking about it, she shared that she has a really hard time following along and isn’t quite sure what they are talking about each week.

This conversation led us to talk about what it might look like for a few of us girls to get together to look at scripture in a way that may be a little easier for all of us to understand it more. I asked her what she would want to study if we did that and in a split second she clearly articulated, “Well, I know that Jesus was born on Christmas and died on Easter and did a lot of amazing things but I don’t know what he was like when he was with his friends. So I’d like to learn about that.”

Last weekend, we gathered together at a coffee shop with a handful of different bibles. We took turns
reading the same story in each version that we had until we decided which one we could understand the most. We talked about what we liked about each one, what the words were like, which ones we could imagine more clearly and which were just flat out confusing. I so appreciated the honesty and beauty of our conversation.

We’ll continue to meet throughout the spring to look at this same story, time and time again. We’ll get to learn what Jesus was like with His friends and how He interacted with people.

I was so encouraged by the honesty of my friend. Even though some parts of church are hard for her, she remains there because she can worship, learn and be loved. And in the midst of that, God provides other sweet ways for her to get to learn all about His friendships while she gathers with her own friends. It certainly is a privilege to be one of them. I can’t wait to learn from each of them!

And ultimately, we love that small groups like this one are happening all over the mission of YL. Kids with disabilities are gathering with their YL leaders to learn about Jesus and what it’s like to walk with Him. Join us in praying for all of these groups around the world!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Inclusiveness of Advent and “Favorite Things” by Lyn TenBrink

When I think of the scene of Christ’s birth I think of all the “favorite things” of many of my Capernaum friends.

Elizabeth’s Dream 💫Come True
Mary’s Choseness👯
Angels Announcements of 📣Good News
A Donkey🐴 as Transportation
The Music 🎶of Mary and Zechariah
The Birth of a Baby Winning🏆  over an Evil King
Sparkly🌟 Star
Gifts 🎄and Surprises🎉 from Fancy Magi
Animals 🐎🐄🐑in a Stable 
Silence 🙉and Holiness😇 in the Night
Baby 🍼 who is Christ the Lord!!!!

Right from the beginning God takes great care including a variety of sensory details in Jesus birth story. He does not want anyone excluded from the thrill of hope, peace or joy that Jesus has come to offer!!  What a thoughtful, detailed and inclusive God!

In Young Life we have a founding quote from Jim Rayburn that has been repeated in our mission for over 75 years, “It is a sin to bore a kid with the gospel.”  And it is.  Because God ensures that everyone is included whether it’s the sparkly star, the soft fur of a donkey or the beautiful music coming out of Mary’s lips….God, through his angels assures us….

“I bring you good news of great joy that will be for ALL people.”
Luke 2:1-20

May we thoughtfully include ALL people in our celebration 
of Jesus birth!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Boomsauce Advocacy by Christifer Tomoson

Advocacy is consistently on our minds regarding the population we serve. Parents, teachers, and Young Life Capernaum Leaders spend much of their time advocating on behalf of our friends. Beyond being loved by a God who never disappoints, as Capernaum leaders we want our friends to have a voice (whether vocal or not). I’ve spoken with many parents whose desire it is for their son or daughter to be able to advocate for themselves. Whereas this is a noble pursuit, I want something beyond advocacy for my friends…

I met my friend Tyler about two years ago now, and our first phone conversation was difficult. I remember answering the phone and hearing someone talking, but I couldn’t understand anything that was being said. I asked Tyler if he could text or email me so we could set up a time to meet because I thought that I might be able to understand him better in person. We met at a local coffee shop and he began to tell me his story.

“Hi, I’m Tyler. I have Cerebral Palsy. Some people refer to me as having a disability, but I see it as a gift from God. I have unique characteristics that make me Tyler. By the way, I like to be called ‘Boomsauce,’ it’s the highest degree of awesome. God has made me awesome. I’d like to volunteer with Capernaum.” I was speechless. In the 7 years, I’d been a Capernaum leader, I’d never heard someone speak so passionately and elegantly about the ability God has equipped them with. Tyler not only knew how to advocate for himself, he knew where his identity truly was and wanted to enthusiastically share it with others.

Fast forward to October 27th, 2017. Tyler and 35 of his friends came together to celebrate his 29th birthday. While we were at breakfast, Tyler passed out the following:

Tyler is an incredible young man of God. He has grown into being a discipler for Jesus and longs to serve others first. This took many years of advocacy from his teachers, parents, and friends. I hope we would all desire to have the enthusiasm for life that Tyler has and advocate beyond who we are in our present lives to what God calls us to. We are forever Boomsauce in HIS eyes, as are each of our friends.

Monday, October 23, 2017

In Full View of Them All

by Brad Mowry

“I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!” Mark 2:11-12

The crowd had gathered to get a closer look at Jesus – to listen to his authoritative preaching firsthand. They hadn’t expected to get a picture that would blow their mind.

This is so much of what we are doing and the ripple effects of impact are felt all around what we do as people are watching.

I had a glimpse of this several years ago. My 18-year-old daughter, Hannah, has cerebral palsy and the church we attended had arranged for several women to rotate in spending the service will Hannah so my wife and I could attend worship.

“I’ve got to tell you a story!” the woman who was with Hannah for this particular Sunday said. She went on to tell a story of an older man who walked in to the church with tears in his eyes and told her that he’d never seen anything like what he saw in the parking lot.

I searched my mind, “What amazing thing had I done?” I wondered.

“I’ve never seen brothers care for their sister like that,” he said, hot tears filling his eyes.

I recounted the morning: my wife was already in the nursery, so I had the kids (only 4 at that time). I got out and started the wheelchair lift. Eli took over while I went to get Micah out of his car seat. Isaac backed Hannah off the lift, wiping drool from her mouth. Eli raised the lift back to the van, then we were off and heading to the door.

Amazing, huh?

I couldn’t figure it out – that’s just living for us. But to this man, who sat in his car each week while his wife attended the service, he saw love in a powerful way through a little girl who couldn’t walk, talk, or wipe her own mouth.

A similar thing happened in that house in Capernaum 2,000 years ago. Jesus impacted a man and did it “in full view of them all.”

We now have the chance to do the same. I firmly believe that when we love our friends with disabilities – in full view of them all – there is a powerful impact. The world is watching and when Young Life, and the Church care for the “overlooked and ignored” (Matt. 25:40, MSG) people are amazed.

Brad Mowry works for Young Life – an international adolescent outreach ministry. Brad is the Coordinator for Young Life’s ministry with adolescents with disabilities in the Eastern and Greater NY Divisions (an area that covers everything from Ohio to Virginia to Maine). The Mowrys have 7 children and reside in Western Pennsylvania.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Disability to Disciple

by Kaitlyn Goehringer
Also, check out this video of Kate talking about Capernaum Friends Serving On Summer Staff and Work Crew

A tie-dye cat t-shirt, a bright pink backpack – straps pulled tight - resting uncomfortably high on her back, a contagious smile that makes you wonder what she’s thinking– Although she is surrounded by a sea of her peers, I can spot her almost immediately as she exits the school building. At first glance you might use a lot of words to describe Liz – joyful daughter, unintentional comedian, intellectual disability, but if you’re anything like me when I first met Liz, the word “disciple” probably isn’t one of them. I am ashamed to admit that for almost two years my self-righteous heart had kept me from seeing the disciple in Liz and so many others with disabilities like her. My prayer is that as you continue reading you will hear both the honest confessions of a self-righteous heart and the invitation of our gracious Father into the very depths of the Gospel through people with disabilities.

Self righteousness is our attempt – misguided as it may be – to try and earn or prove our rightness before God and others and even ourselves apart from the finished work of Jesus Christ. In all honesty, I live as if my own performance and abilities are somehow capable of earning or proving my worth to the world and to God. I live this way because at my core I want to believe it. I hate the thought that I can’t earn my own merit, because if I can’t earn it, I can’t control it, and I love being in control. What does all of this have to do with Liz or disabilities? Everything. You see, the way we view people with disabilities is a very clear window into the self-righteousness of our own hearts. Nothing diagnoses a self-righteous heart better than a poor or absent vision for people with disabilities in the Kingdom of God, and this is the very tool God used to begin to uproot the deep-seeded self-righteousness in my own heart.

Liz is 22 years old and was born with an intellectual disability. Make no mistake about it, Liz was created uniquely and purposefully this way to bring something to this world that I believe she could not bring if she fit our definition of “normal”. Liz lives life with an honesty and realness that I deeply crave. Nothing is fake with her and she doesn’t even have to try – it’s just who she is. When Liz prays, it is as if God himself is sitting right next to her, holding her hand and hearing her prayers. Liz’s relational lifestyle is one big, bold, risk – and so is her ministry. It doesn’t matter who you are – the grocery store cashier, a friend at school, the bowling alley attendant, the CEO of a fortune five hundred company – Liz will proudly and boldly share with you what she refers to as the “Gossip” of Christ. At this point I’ve lost track of how many people Liz has directly impacted with the Gospel. “Before I met Christ I struggled with my anger so much that I had to go to Shepheard Pratt Hospital for 10 days. I felt sad and worried and depressed. I didn’t believe in God or think he could help me with any of my problems” Liz would share. “I learned that Jesus died on the cross for my sins and came back to life. I decided I wanted a strong relationship with Jesus. I am more happy now that I have a friendship with Jesus. If you have a disability or don’t have a disability, God loves you the same. Don’t be shy about your disability. I thank God for giving me a disability because he made me special and he made you special too!”

Liz doesn’t know anything about theology. She doesn’t know the books of the Bible in order, or any old testament characters. She knows only one Bible verse by heart which took us almost 5 months to memorize. But Liz exemplifies this verse better than any person I know: “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” NOTHING. Not a single thing. Except Jesus. Liz may not know the definition of sanctification or even that a word like sanctification exists, but Liz knows and lives the only thing that matters –Jesus Christ, his life, death and resurrection, and that he changed her life. For a very long time I had a very limited vision for Liz and her faith, because to be quite honest – she has limited abilities. The extent of my vision for Liz was congruent with the extent to which I believed her abilities could perform – in life, in relationships and in God’s Kingdom. Essentially what I was living and believing in relation to Liz was that our abilities determine our usefulness in the Kingdom of God.

By sheer grace God began to reveal to me both the simplicity of His Gospel and the self-righteousness of my own heart through my relationship with Liz. Each day I would preach the Gospel of “justification by faith alone” yet live something completely different, and the more time I spent with Liz, the more this became glaringly evident. If I really believed that my faith is grounded and rooted in Christ’s performance and not my own; if my power and goodness and usefulness comes from Jesus Christ and him alone – what makes me any more “useful” to God in his Kingdom work than Liz?

This past April, after a year of leadership training, Liz was placed as a leader on our Capernaum team. My biggest fear for Liz as she entered into our leadership community was that she would be viewed as a “nice addition” to our team – that she wouldn’t be taken seriously or that people’s automatic reactions would sound something like “Aww, isn’t that sweet…” – like we somehow did Liz a favor by letting her become a leader. Let me be blunt: Liz does not need our sympathy. She has everything you and I have that matters: Jesus Christ. Our Young Life community in Baltimore desperately needs Liz. We need the picture of the Gospel that she provides. We need her unique gifting. We need the freedom she offers each of us as she reminds us daily that nothing can earn our place in God’s Kingdom. Our community is more complete because she is a part of it. Don’t get me wrong, training Liz and finding ways to uplift her special abilities was not and still is not easy. It certainly isn’t convenient or efficient by any means, but it is necessary. I am thankful to say that our leadership has welcomed Liz and sees her as an integral part of our community, but this was not by happenstance. A community-wide theologically correct vision for Liz took great intentionality from myself and from the area director with whom I work. While people with disabilities do not need you and I to pity them, they do need you and I to advocate for them. We need to be the people who are willing get our hands and knees dirty as we bend down on all fours and invite them to stand on our backs. This is the position of true humility, and it is the very position Christ willingly took for us in order to restore our dignity and bring us to himself. Jesus saw us as disciples long before we could do anything to earn it. Do you want to walk in the way of the Cross of Christ? Start by choosing to see a disciple, not a disability.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Danielle Taylor

My dear friend Danielle and I only see each other once in a blue moon these days and we laugh about how old we are getting. We live several hours apart and while I wish I could bring her with me to train and equip leaders and staff to understand and work with our friends who are nonverbal, Danielle still helps me in spirit through this beautiful piece we worked on many years ago. This past month I shared it with our entire assigned team as we prepared to welcome friends with many different abilities to camp, and Danielle became a voice for others. I am so proud to call her my friend and to have her ‘join me’ in ministry from afar!

Danielle Taylor

Who am I? My name is Danielle Taylor and I have Cerebral Palsy. I am a person that has what lots of people like to call “special needs.” I am not able to speak with you using my own voice or words. I am not able to walk, run, skip, or jump. I am not able to do any of my own personal care- including bathing, dressing, feeding, or toileting. I cannot run away from unpleasant circumstances, because, in a lot of ways, I am a prisoner in a body that doesn’t function “normally.”

I am a person, and I do the best I can with the abilities that God has given to me. I do have feelings. I do have opinions. I get angry, feel happy, giddy, selfish, hurt, frustrated, and even at times ignored and forgotten. I hate to sit and wait with nothing to do and no one to respond; it may look like sitting and waiting is all I can do, but my mind doesn’t just “sit and wait,” its ready for action and challenge! I answer “YES” with a smile and my head up, and I answer “NO” with a nod of my head and putting it down (when my body cooperates). Sometimes people perceive my movements to be stubbornness, when most of the time, they are just something that my body does without permission from my mind. I can also let you know by my facial expressions if I am happy or uncomfortable, or by using this really fancy machine called the Dynavox. My Dynavox is really the first voice I have ever gotten. Just like you had to learn to use your voice as a baby, I am slowly but surely learning how to use my new voice, so please be patient with me and try to allow me enough time to express what I am trying to say.

I enjoy lots of the same things that you do. I love to swim. I love to read and listen to good books. I love to eat pizza and chocolate any time of the day! I love good movies! I love to get all dressed up for proms and dances- you ought to see me in this chair when I get going! I love to go to Young Life and church to see all my friends and learn more about God! I love to have my hair look pretty, and I love it even more when people notice and tell me how great it looks. I have a great sense of humor, and I love sarcasm and any kind of joking around or pranks; when you have a disability like me, you have to laugh to make it through life!

I am not “retarded.” I know my addition and subtraction, and I even know my multiplication and division tables. I have known my ABCs for many, many years, and I am tired of having to prove it to people. I can write a sentence using my Dynavox, but it may take me an hour. I can read, but the physical aspects like holding a book, turning a page, or even vision make it very impractical, so I just listen and let you read.

I am a person with hopes and dreams. I want to be challenged. I want to show you who I am and what my abilities are! I want to be treated with respect. I need love and understanding, kindness and caring, maybe even sympathy, but I do not need pity. I am not a child, but a young adult, and oh how wonderful it would be if people would believe me when I say that, and treat me like a young adult. Please try to get to know me, and please, look past this wheelchair and these flailing arms to see the person inside. Do not talk about me when I am there, talk to me. My disability doesn’t affect my hearing or my ability to understand what you are saying to me. Listen to my Grandparents, friends, and assistants who truly know me and know my needs- they are my voice. Put yourself in my mind and get to know me, let me get to know you. Believe in me. I can do many things that may surprise you if you just allow me to. Have faith in me, I deserve that. I have no hidden agendas and I will not lie to you. Treat me as you would want to be treated- I am someone just like you- someone with weaknesses and strengths, abilities and disabilities, hopes, and dreams, but most of all- a person with HOPE. My hope lies in knowing that someday, I will leave this “handicapped” body behind, and my spirit will be free for eternity with God in heaven- and then you will see!!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Xuan's Story: Not Defined By Limitations

Guest post by Xuan Truong
I was sitting in the passenger seat of a pickup truck at Young Life camp. My head barely reached the bottom of the truck door window. I looked up and stared fearfully at my friend who had spiritually mentored me during my last semester as an undergrad. “What am I doing?” I yelled through the crack of the window. All I got for a response was a smile and a chuckle. I could tell she had been excitedly anticipating this moment for days. She was going to have a blast watching me from below. Fear began to take a stronger grip as we made our way up the mountain. I listened as the driver made small conversation with my zip-line partner, trying not to think about what I just agreed to.

Zip-lining itself was not my main concern. It was the impact of the stopping brakes at the end that I
feared would crush my bones. In this case, the camp staff decided not to use the brake, but instead have someone catch me. I thought that was the worst idea ever. Having my body crash into some guy I barely met. What am I even doing up here in the mountains, at the hands of strangers? I am just a little person, not even 3 feet tall. What am I doing going on a zip-line? My parents would kill me.

I have a condition called Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI) or brittle bone disease. Growing up, I was constantly reminded of my limitations. Statements like you can’t do this, you aren’t strong enough. You are too small. You are too weak. Your voice isn’t loud enough. You will always need help. Those phrases tore at my self-esteem, my core. They were repeated over and over again by not just my parents, but by most of my relatives and people who would barely know me. My world was a preset box of my inability.

But here I was on top of this cliff, watching as the crewmember attaches the hooks to the line. These hooks would be the security between the trench below and me. For the past five years I have been breaking the limitations my family has imposed on me one by one. It surprised them but more importantly, I surprised myself. From moving out on my own, attending multiple higher-level institutions and travelling abroad without my parents, I soon became known as the “adventurous” one in my family. Adventurous indeed. I was about to do something that many people in normal physical conditions would never choose to do. The lift that the camp employee was standing on began to lower. I was now fully strapped on to the zip-line. He let go and I slowly descended down.

The actual experience on that zip-line was a bit anti-climatic. Because of my weight, the speed at which I was carried down was much slower than expected. Nonetheless, when asked I told people
that this was my favorite part about camp. It taught me a lot about fears. Not just my own, but overcoming fears that others have placed on me. From then on, I realized most of the limitations I thought were my own were actually from others. Society has conditioned us to see the disability before the ability. In the country that my parents originate from, a person such as I going off to college was unheard of. Those restrictions they placed on my life were motivated by fear. In turn, I inherited their fears and subconsciously turned them into my own truths. When someone tells you it can’t be done, it’s more of a reflection of their limitations not yours.

As humans we all have our own individual limitations. That is what makes us unique. I have accepted long ago that I will never be able to walk. That alone closes a lot of doors both personal and career opportunities. However, recently I have started to notice how my own so-called “limitations” have been opening conversations about having a disability.

I now define my own limits. I know what I am capable of, when I need assistance, and when a task is not suitable for me to complete. My family, my friends, or society no longer defines these limitations. More importantly than that, I want others with disabilities to have opportunities to do something so daring that it transcends their own barriers. I want them to have my zip line experience.