“Do not despise small beginnings.” Haggai
Happy Birthday YL Capernaum!
Today is the 24th anniversary of the very first YL Capernaum Club here in San Jose, CA. It was March 10, 1986. After 3 failed attempts, the YL Capernaum Project as we first named it, burst from a dream into a reality. Twenty-four years ago, I turned the YL Capernaum Van into the school parking lot to see 5 screaming kids in wheelchairs, trying to leap out of their chairs. Their names are: Jim, Bret, Alison, John and Lori. Lori, by the way, has been a volunteer with us for nearly 20 years. As I watched this spectacle, I thought to myself, “What are they so excited about? They haven’t even attended club.” (That is because there hadn’t been one yet) I understood so little then. I was about to buckle up for a roller coaster ride for the next 24 years.
The ride to club made me wonder if they had been drinking because they were so excited. We gathered together, 5 kids in wheelchairs, 5 Campaigner kids (Ted, Susan, Sheri, Cynthia, Teresa) & 4 adult leaders (Kelly, Valerie, Mary Ann and Me). There was more joy, laughter and anticipation in that small gathering than in any other club I had ever attended. Nothing went smoothly, everything I normally did in club had to be adjusted, including the club talk. When I began my club talk they interrupted me and wanted to talk about death, because their bus driver had just passed away. So my first club talk was about death and Jesus. Over the next 24 years, there would be 22 other times to talk about death, as various friends from club passed away.
I didn’t have any experience then, but what I did know was that these were the poor in spirit that Jesus told us would inherit the kingdom. They ate up everything that was put before them: music, skits, laughter, friendship, food, drinks and Jesus! Wow! What a day! Later I found out from their teachers that they talked about club all week long until the next club.
Lori Semas, one of the first 5 kids, came for the whole next year and then graduated. Her mom asked me, “So is she just thrown out now?” That was the beginning of Club Beyond, our post high school club. Lori went on to volunteer in that same high school club. Today on this 24th anniversary, Lori and I will do the club talk together in the same club that began 24 years ago. Now we have 30 kids instead of 5, plus staff, college and high school leaders.
What a joy to look into our friends’ eyes with Lori and let them know this all began because God did not forget them. To let them know that there is a God so madly in love with them that He sent His son Jesus who said of people with special needs “they were born this way to show the glory of God.” (John 9:3) What a joy to look back 24 years ago and see the mother club that has birthed YL Capernaum Ministries around the world. As I look back, I am in a state of worship that with God nothing is impossible. And believe me, there have been many times when YL Capernaum seemed impossible.
You are a link in a chain that is growing larger and stronger every day. I want to encourage you to press on in the power of the Holy Spirit for the long haul. There were plenty of opportunities to quit and many times I wanted to. There was a span of time where my friends wanted me to quit and even my wife wanted me to do so.
But every time God met me in a kid’s face, and my call was renewed. As Paul said,
We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance, in trouble, hardships and disappointments; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and the left through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine yet regarded impostors, known yet regarded as unknown, dying and yet making many rich, having nothing, yet possessing everything. We have always spoken freely to you Corinthians (Capernaum kids) and opened our hearts wide to you.
2 Corinthians 6:3-11
I thank God that He gave me the grace to stay. I would never have seen all the miracles, wonders, signs and healings that He was going to perform. So my friends, by the grace of God endure hardships as a good solider of Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:3) because God has great things ahead for you and your ministry. I am so excited for the next 24 years!