A Call to Serve


In Mark 2, four friends in the village of Capernaum were undaunted in bringing their disabled friend to meet Jesus-even to the point of cutting a hole in a thatched roof so they could lower him on a mat before His feet in the midst of a crowd. For this very reason, the ministry of Young Life calls its focus on adolescents with disabilities "Capernaum," "because we don't think intellectual or developmental limitations should keep an adolescent from the presence of the One who promises fullness of life."

Like the disabled man in the Gospel story, people with special needs today often experience isolation and marginalization in society and in churches. Young Life Capernaum believes that ministering to their physical, social, and spiritual needs in likeness to the compassion of Jesus in Mark 2 is not only transformative for them but also for those who learn to see them with the heart of Christ whose love reaches all.

"Through being with people that have disabilities and experiencing their love, I've learned so much more about how unconditionally God loves me," says DBU alumnus Hayden Garner.

After volunteering for five years with Young Life in Arlington, Hayden was given the opportunity to come on staff full-time as Area Director for North Texas Capernaum, helping coordinate efforts to connect adolescents with disabilities to Christ throughout Dallas ISD and private schools.

"What gets me most excited about our ministry is seeing kids have an experience with Jesus and then being welcomed into the church. When churches not only make a space for people with disabilities to worship Jesus, but also help them have the opportunity to serve alongside, I think we see a clearer picture of the body of Christ."

Hayden's heart and calling to serve students with disabilities developed while studying missions and completing his master's in Global Leadership at DBU. In particular, it was his realization that these students, who often experience exclusion and neglect, are an unreached group right in our own backyard whom God desires be included fully in the body of Christ.

"God led me to work with people with disabilities who, throughout every culture and country, have faced isolation to some extent."

Yet this mission field needs more laborers who are willing to come alongside families in teaching and showing these kids that their heavenly Father and their spiritual family values them. Hayden shares, "We need more caring adults of all ages to step into the world of kids and share the love of Christ. Through being a volunteer leader, member of our local board, a financial supporter, or a church partner, people from all walks of life can have an amazing impact on our Capernaum friends and their families."

Written by Dr. Michael Whiting

Dr. Michael Whiting is the Director of Written Content in University Communications at Dallas Baptist University.