“Being involved in Young Life with my family has brought us closer together and it’s made me realize the importance of serving.” – Emma Nieuwenhoff
To be human is to have the desire to belong. To be selfless is to put your purpose above your comfort. One shining example of living this way is Emma Nieuwenhoff.
Emma is a generous smile, a genuine heart, and an unforgiving laugh that’s sure to be heard straight across the room. Her life’s mission is obvious before even speaking two words with her. But if you ask, she would tell you she was put on this earth to love people. However, having a simple mission doesn’t promise a simple journey.
Growing up in a “Young Life” family, Emma was immersed in a culture of unconditional love and divine grace at a young age. Young Life is a Christian- based ministry that reaches out to youth all across the nation. Growing up in a home that regularly volunteered with the special needs community, Emma grew affection as strong for these people as she did for service. But most impressive of all, growing up in a family where it could be easy to lose your individuality, it’s apparent that Emma has become exactly the woman she was intended to be.
As Emma began seventh grade, she had discovered the opportunity of a lifetime and the perfect sync between both of her passions- Young Life and the special needs community. Two words. Capernaum Club. Capernaum was not new, a branch of Young Life founded in the late 1980s, but it was new to Tampa and it would be uncharted territory for the Nieuwenhoffs to conquer. “Capernaum” itself meaning, “village of comfort”, gave Emma direction in how the club should begin its outreach. A simple mission with a complicated task. However, because of the unparalleled leadership displayed by twelve year old Emma and the willingness of her family to stand behind her, Capernaum is now a revolutionizing presence in New Tampa. Just as involvement in Young Life had evolved into a sort of tradition for the Nieuwenhoffs, passed down from Emma’s grandmother and mother, Emma’s courage has created a new legacy for her family to uphold for years to come. In a family where she easily could have coasted under the umbrella of their involvement, Emma chose a path far harder. She chose the path less traveled, in fact she blazed her own path. She chose purpose over comfort, she broke stereotypes, and she became a true inspiration to all. This same fearless vivacity demands to be seen through her photos.
As she continues on her freshly blazed path, at Stetson University, she aspires to build Capernaum in her new city of DeLand just as she did in Tampa. Her journey is unwritten, but one thing is certain: wherever Emma goes, people will be loved.