Am I Worth It?

It was the first night of camp in Peru. Club had just ended and it was cabin time. The question, “What’s your image of God?” hung in the air. While other kids spoke of seeing God as a father or friend, Lucho, a young man living with the effects of cerebral palsy, went for the jugular. He turned and looked at Edson, a leader who has used crutches his whole life after contracting polio as an infant, and asked, “Have you ever wondered why God let this happen to us, why He made us this way? Have you ever been angry or hated yourself, or wanted to die because of your disability?”

Lucho’s question was heavy and real. He shared about his years of pain and anguish wondering why he has cerebral palsy. Carlos Rojas, Lucho’s friend and Young Life leader, sat close, showing his support as Lucho poured out his heart.

First impressions

Christen Morrow, Young Life Latin America Capernaum coordinator, recalled seeing Lucho earlier that day. “I met Lucho the day camp began. Right away I was amazed.” Morrow was certain that with each step Lucho would fall face first on the ground. His steps are unsure and his arms are contracted upward so he looks as if he’s always bracing himself for a fall. “I learned that because Lucho didn’t have a wheelchair to get around as a kid, he taught himself to use a bicycle with training wheels.” She went on, “I watched him play soccer … and really play as he dribbled the ball and maneuvered it back and forth between his unsteady feet. I watched him ride his bike, climb a mountain, and share a deep connection with his leader and friend, Carlos.”

Morrow was impressed, but not as impressed as when she began to talk with Lucho. It was clear that, though his speech was labored and his cerebral palsy certainly affected it, he was an intelligent and thoughtful young man.

Anticipation

It was also clear that this wasn’t going to be an ordinary week for Lucho. His thoughtfulness and ability to look into the deep things of his heart opened the door for an amazing week. He listened closely to the club talks and was full of questions as he processed all he was hearing.

Lucho’s leader, Rojas, was excited to see what God had in store for his dear friend. He had met Lucho while visiting his school in Lima, Peru. He connected with Lucho immediately and spent time talking with and getting to know him. The two built a strong foundation of friendship and trust.

Rojas could hardly wait to see how the week would unfold and hoped Lucho would come to understand God’s unconditional love for him.

Hopes realized

Mid-week, Rojas’ dreams became reality. On the third day of camp, after several club talks and many conversations, Lucho approached his friends excitedly. “I just surrendered to Jesus,” he exclaimed. To another friend he said, “I accepted Jesus in my heart.” And to another, “I became a Christian and Jesus is my Savior.”

Rojas and Morrow were amazed, not only that it happened, but more so that Lucho’s understanding was profound enough to use three different phrases to describe what had taken place in his heart. God had truly revealed Himself to Lucho.

New life — new perspective

Lucho beautifully articulated his experience at camp and how his life has changed because of Jesus. “I received Jesus in my heart because I felt the necessity of Him in my life. My life was empty and in disorder. I used to think God was a distant being. Now I see Him close to me. Now He is in my heart, in my life. Everything has changed. I thought I was not important to anyone. I was depressed, dirty, unkempt and socially awkward. Now I know that I am so important, important enough for Jesus to die for. I feel like a real person. I feel so happy and joyful.”

Lucho went on to explain how God views him. “He sees that I am His son, He loves the way I am. I am important to Him and I am valiant. He loves me with my strengths and weaknesses and that makes me happy and complete.”

Walking together

Since camp, Rojas has continued to walk with Lucho, helping him grow in his relationship with the Lord and continuing to deepen their friendship. “He encourages me and helps me,” Lucho said. “He teaches me through his life. He has taught me through the Bible — through Jesus’ life and about the true love that is in Him; about the peace I can find in the middle of troubles and that there is always a solution in Jesus. He has been so kind. He has offered me His trust and friendship. It’s real friendship. I thank God for Him.”

Walking with Lucho and seeing him grow has also affected Rojas’ own walk with the Lord. “Seeing how Lucho has learned to depend on God and live each day stretches me. To see what Jesus is able to do in and through his life is amazing and impressive. I have grown in my faith seeing Lucho’s life transformed. More than a friend, he is my brother who encourages me every time I see him,” Rojas shared. He has seen this young man transform from a lonely, depressed, disappointed kid who felt worthless in his society, to someone who doesn’t give up. Someone who sees his life beyond his disabilities, and looks for ways to encourage others.

Passion for the future

Rojas, Lucho and Morrow share the dream of seeing Young Life Capernaum in Peru (and throughout Latin America) reach every kid with a disability. To give every young person like Lucho the opportunity to hear about Jesus’ love and ask their tough questions. In a culture that sometimes shuns those who are disabled, leaving many to a life of poverty and loneliness, Capernaum offers love, truth and hope for the future. To learn more about Young Life Capernaum in the United States or abroad, visit younglife.org.