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Rock Hero: Bobby Yates - December 2009
By Rock Church - December 24, 2009

It's hard to miss the smile. Wherever he goes, you get the feeling that Bobby Yates is enjoying life. Surely some of the joy comes from the new addition to his family: Robert Joshua Yates, born in the fall of 2009.

But even before his son graced the earth, "Pastor Bobby," as he is affectionately known, was spreading joy far and wide to everyone he came in contact with. That especially pertains to a category of people close to his heart.

Bobby is pastor of Luv-Em-Up Ministries, which reaches out to children and adults with special needs. Whether physically disabled or developmentally delayed, whoever comes to Luv-Em-Up gets loved up, just as they are.

"Everyday, it is not us ministering to them—but them ministering to us," said Bobby. "They teach us unconditional love."

Out of Pain, Passion

Bobby wasn't always full of joy. He spent close to 20 years addicted to drugs and alcohol. Out of that darkness, he finally turned his life around, and worked in various drug and alcohol diversion programs in San Diego County. He also volunteered in prisons, sharing with inmates how they could change their lives.

But he looked for an opportunity to serve God. He started in a clown ministry at the Rock Church. For years, he brought smiles to the faces of children all over the county. But then came the San Diego County's devastating Cedar Fire in 2003. Bobby's home burned to the ground. It was a devastating loss. In addition to all his possessions, the wildfire destroyed all his clown costumes as well.

Bobby didn't have insurance. But he knew in his heart that God had things under control. Out of the pain of the fire grew passion for the disabled. Luv-Em-Up was born.

To Laugh and Dance without Fear

Luv-Em-Up started as a Bible study for the the disabled. It grew quickly. A ministry of the Rock Church, Luv-Em-Up also partners with many other churches in San Diego County. These days a worship service and fun night on Mondays at a local church caters to more than 100 people. They come to worship among peers and find a place where they can dance, shout and laugh without fear.

Other services include behavioral counseling, personal empowerment, sharing personal lifestyles testimonies, community service, volunteering on different charity events, interacting with other social groups and just having fun! In addition to meeting on Mondays, volunteers take their Luv-Em-Up friends on Saturday daycamps, dances, and trips, such as Disneyland.

Bobby observes that society is generally not kind to people who are disabled. But he has a different take: "They are angels who have come to show us the purity of love and the joy in living," he said.

"Everyday, it is not us ministering to them—but them ministering to us," said Bobby. "They teach us unconditional love."

Luv-Em-Up  International

Luv-Em-Up is also expanding--overseas!

Bobby and other volunteers have visited Africa half a dozen times, working to plant a division of Luv-Em-Up there. They have plans to partner with Grace Ministries in Zambia to reach the disabled there. Recently they participated the Free Wheelchair Mission, a ministry that supplies inexpensive, free wheelchairs to developing nations. It's common in poor countries for the physically disabled to have to crawl on the ground or wait to be carried by loved ones to reach their most basic needs.

Spreading joy and changing lives through Luv-Em-Up. Congratulations Bobby Yates. Rock Hero for Decemeber 2009.