Kids with disabilities experience the love of Christ through Young Life’s ministry

By August 31, 2005

International (MNN) — Young Life is providing opportunities for growth, hope and adventure to kids with disabilities through their ministry outreach called the Capernaum Project.

The Capernaum Project is a way to bring hope into the lives of these special kids, says Young Life’s Nick Palermo: “Right in line with what Young Life is doing, we’re letting kids know about who Christ is and giving them the opportunity for relationship with Him, and building friendships with them.”

It’s an especially crucial need, says Palermo, “With kids with disabilities, it’s really, really magnified, because they are so isolated. They just rarely do anything during the week except school and coming back home. So they’re very, very much like a hidden group of people. (They have the) same dreams and hopes and fears as any high schooler, but rarely having any opportunity to experience a lot of just normal life that a teen experiences. So that’s what we’re doing with them. We’re trying to normalize their lives in every way – socially, spiritually, emotionally.”

Lives are being changed for eternity not only in the US, Palermo says, but also in 50 cities in 4 countries around the world, in Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Peru and the Dominican Republic.

There’s a number of things that the Capernaum Project is trying to do, Palermo explains: “One is they have a message of hope that they’re hearing. And they find out that they’re loved by God. One girl last year at our first Crooked Creek Week, said ‘I found out this week that I’m a masterpiece not an accident.’ So they get a sense that God loves them, that God didn’t make a mistake when He made them. That they have purpose, that there’s something they can do and contribute in the world, and that’s a message in direct contrast to what our culture says to them. Because our culture says, you know, ‘Power, performance, appearance. You’re a tragedy; you should have been aborted.’ And we’re giving a direct opposite message. So it starts there.”

Through Young Life clubs, camps and through the love of the leaders, the kids are invited out of their isolation and become part of a community. In that, they develop relationships and have the opportunity to grow.

The other thing that happens, says Palermo, is that they are given opportunities for adventure and new experiences.

The biggest need Young Life faces is more leaders. Because of the kids’ disabilities, they need more leaders to help with each activity. Palermo says it’s a huge need, but one that’s so rewarding and life-changing to the one who gives of themselves to help others. Palermo says they need “someone that’s willing to be a friend with the kids and get involved with them, and get out of their comfort zone and learn how to relate to someone who’s a little bit different.”

If you’d like to learn more about Capernaum Project or volunteer to be a leader, visit their website at www.capernaum-project.org.

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