Junkyard Hearts

The Bloom brothers know a lot about salvage. Duane, Bruce and James Bloom live in a doublewide trailer in the middle of a junkyard in rural Delta County, Colo. It’s a piece of heaven for teenage boys who like to tear things apart and get greasy, with hundreds of cast-off cars and trucks calling from the front yard, begging to be broken down, parceled out and put to good use. So when the Bloom brothers met Bobby Sepulveda, it was a match made in heaven and a miracle made from car parts by three determined boys.

Bobby was a different kind of cast-off at the local high school. Born with cerebral palsy and raised in the middle of a family that was falling apart, Bobby knew very little about salvage. With two brothers in prison for murder and his dad doing time for drugs, it seemed that broken things and people were either locked up behind bars or set aside and ignored. After all, Bobby was serving his own life sentence in a wheelchair without possibility of parole.

But the Bloom brothers had a plan to break Bobby out of jail. If they could just get him to Young Life club, surely there he would find freedom. Surely there he would learn something about salvage.

Unfortunately, Delta is one of the poorest counties in Colorado with a shortage of social services for kids with special needs - needs like a van with a wheelchair lift to transport Bobby and his 300-pound chair. But who needs social services when you have three strong boys and a sea of rusting resources lapping daily at your door? With an expert eye, the Bloom brothers carefully selected the privileged piece of metal from their front yard to do the job. With a sturdy hood from an old car and a lot of teenage audacity, the boys used the scrap metal for a wheelchair ramp for Bobby. Then they loaded him into the back of Duane’s pickup truck and delivered him to club.

By last summer, the jailbreak was complete. Bobby was flying through the air on the zip line at Wildhorse Canyon, racing Ridge Runners around the track and tackling the ropes course just like any other kid. Sort of. Except that the lifeguards were standing ready to grab Bobby at the end of the zip line. And Area Director Todd Laws was riding shotgun on the Ridge Runner. And it took Bobby’s entire cabin to lift him up, over and through the obstacle course safely. But Bobby didn’t find his freedom in the air or on the track. He found it at the feet of a former policeman.

Bill Paige, special assistant to the president of Young Life, was the camp speaker that week - and another match made in heaven for Bobby.

"Bill comes to Young Life with a police officer’s background," said Todd, "And Bobby’s family comes with a criminal background. At first, Bobby said, ‘Do I have to listen to this cop? Cops are nothing but trouble for my family.’ But as the week unfolded, he said, ‘I see that I can trust him.’"

Bobby also saw that he could trust Jesus Christ. By the end of the week, Bobby had been forgiven and set free.

The dictionary defines salvage as "to rescue from ruin" or "things rescued." So goes the story of Young Life’s ministry to kids with disabilities. Faithful friends with an expert eye see the hidden value in what has been broken, and they rescue it from ruin. With limited resources and the audacity of the Bloom brothers, these staff, volunteers and friends keep delivering cast-off kids to Jesus Christ. And these kids keep finding forgiveness at His feet. It’s a story as old as Mark, Chapter 2.

In that chapter, four friends tear a hole in the roof and deliver a paralytic to Jesus. When they can’t get through the door, they take bold steps to the roof and create a window of opportunity instead. Through that window, we see Jesus in a different light. He’s not just the local miracle worker who heals broken bodies. He is the Son of Man with authority on earth to forgive sins. When Jesus has proven His point, Mark says, "This amazed everyone, and they praised God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’" And that’s what they’re saying today in Delta.

"Two days after camp, we started Campaigners," Todd said. The group met weekly this past year at a local café. "Our waitresses know Bobby’s family. They can’t believe what they see happening in Bobby’s life."

And people on the street can’t believe what they see happening on Sunday mornings. Bobby drives his wheelchair several blocks to church. In fact, Bobby started inviting his friend, Robert, to join him. The first Sunday Robert joined Bobby at church, the two went to Todd’s house for a barbecue afterward. Before they left Todd’s that day, Bobby listened as Robert prayed and gave his life to Christ.

The Bloom brothers must be proud. Apparently, Bobby has also developed an expert eye for salvage.