On March 20, 2011 my husband, Kelly, and I got married and began our life in Howard County, Maryland. My husband grew up in Howard County but it was a new area for me and I really didn’t know many people. Some of the first people that I met were through our church Grace Community.
One of the families that I remember meeting were the Judges. We met Katie and Robert Judge (parents to Ben, Sarah and Rebecca) when we saw them at a tree farm in December getting their Christmas tree. We had recognized them from Grace and introduced ourselves. As we got to know the Judges, Katie shared with me about her daughter Sarah. One of the things that weighed heavily on Katie’s heart was that when her daughter would turn sixteen she would not be able to have a sweet sixteen party. Something so simple, yet so precious. It’s those little things that often get taken for granted. The reason that Katie said Sarah would never have a sweet sixteen is because Sarah has Autism. And in the world of teens with disabilities, opportunities to make friends and have a real social life are rare. “Who would come to the party,” Katie said, “her teachers?”
Six months prior to this conversation Kelly and I had felt the Lord calling us to start a ministry in Howard County called Young Life Capernaum. Young Life is an outreach ministry for high school students. Young Life is not affiliated with any one church but instead Young Life leaders go into the high schools. Young Life leaders go where kids are. They go to them on their turf, in their world, to build authentic relationships—relationships that take a lot of time, trust, and consistency. These leaders spend countless hours with these teens where they are, as they are. They model Christ’s love through these relationships so they can ultimately share Christ with these teens. These relationships are the key to Young Life. Young Life also has three programs to help build relationships and share about Christ. The first program is called Club. It is a weekly outreach program filled with two hours of fun, laughter, skits, singing, and games. At the end of each club a Young Life leader gives a talk that progresses through the gospel. For teens that have a relationship with Christ or who are interested in learning more, there are weekly Bible studies called Campaigners. Also, during the summer there are Young Life camp trips which are honestly the best week of their lives.
Over the years some branches of Young Life have developed that are specialized to meet the needs of different populations. For example, there is Wyldlife for middle schoolers, Younglives for teen moms, and Vida Joven for the Hispanic community.
Another one of these branches is Young Life Capernaum. Capernaum is a Young Life outreach ministry for high school students with disabilities. In Capernaum, we believe that teens with disabilities have the right to live life as God intended them—life to the full. So everything that we do from the action packed clubs, to our Bible studies, and even time just hanging out, is all about bringing these teens to the feet of Christ so that they have an opportunity to have a personal relationship with Christ.
Two summers ago Kelly and I began the ground work to start Young Life Capernaum in Howard County. And this fall we had our first Capernaum club. This has been an exciting year where we have gotten to know a lot of kids and families. We started our first club in September with 11 teens and had 25 teens at our last club of the semester We’ve had a blast taking our friends to baseball games, mini golf, pumpkin farms, the movies and a ton more. We have come a long way this year and we are excited for this ministry to continue to grow.
This January, Kelly and I got invited to Sarah’s Sweet Sixteen. Me, Kelly and all of Sarah’s friends from Capernaum Club huddled together in a small room waiting to surprise Sarah. When we all jumped out, Sarah’s face lit up with joy and excitement—and in that moment, we couldn’t help but think that this was a small picture of what heaven might be like.
For more information on Capernaum in Howard County you can visit: hococapernaum.younglife.org
You can also check out our Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/HoCoYL?fref=ts
What Kristin didn’t mention above is that Sarah’s party was BECAUSE of the ministry she and Kelly have given to Sarah and her friends—my son included. We are in AWE of these two and will be eternally grateful for their tireless efforts to SHOW Christ to our children—not to mention us parents!!!
This is not only a wonderful ministry for Howard County, Maryland. I spoke to a volunteer last week who told me her family member—in another state—also benefits from it. She told me how wonderful it was for a parent to have another incentive to encourage learning behavior, saying, “You get to go to Capernaum, tonight.” The child will do ANYTHING to make sure that happens.
Thank you, Kelly and Kristin! Thank you Young Life! I also want to thank those of you who are inspired to start one of these ministries in YOUR area!!!
Kelly grew up in Ellicott City and is a math teacher at Mount Hebron High School. He also coaches JV boys basketball as well as Allied Softball. Kristin grew up in White Marsh and works part time for Young Life Capernaum and part time for Smithouse Construction.
More pictures below …
Hanging out at club
Alex being a human bowling ball at club
Kristin and Danya hanging out at a basketball game
Kelly and Eric hanging out at Summers Farm
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