The battle had been raging for hours. Both sides refused to back down. Shot after shot had been fired; none had their desired impact. The competitor in the red hat wiped the sweat from his brow before stepping into position. “This one is for all the marbles,” he declared to all those who stood watching the combat. He took aim and sent the ping pong ball zooming across to the other side of the table. His opponent was able to swiftly return it. Unable to match the speed of his adversary, the man in the red hat crumpled to the ground in defeat. Although outwardly Danny Ducap was agonizing over his defeat, inside he was filled with joy. His opponent was a middle school student whom Danny had spent weeks with, helping him master the art of ping pong. This is just one of the privileges Danny has as the Outreach Coordinator for The Cove Art Center.
Danny is from Bancroft, a small village in Michigan with a population of less than 1,000 people. His childhood was filled with uncertainty due to his mother's battle with schizophrenia. It wasn't until he was around the age of six that he first noticed his mother was unwell. Her struggle affected him well into his teenage years. Danny missed about half of the third grade because he didn’t feel safe there. He didn't feel safe anywhere but when he was at home he at least knew how his mother was doing. He had a few good friends but they couldn't do much to help the situation. In spite of not knowing how to be normal, he has many good memories from childhood as well. Danny was blessed with a father who did his best to support his family through the challenging times. He made the most of it when he could: playing soccer with his son in the backyard or with air-powered planes in the park.
It has been a long journey coming to terms with his mother's illness and seeing the good through all of the negative. It is a battle that still happens at times even to this day. The road to Pittsburgh, and becoming a nomad, began on the fateful day when Danny met Omer, a man who would become his mentor. The Gandalfesque sage challenged him to forgive his parents, which helped him to better discover who he was. After he had become a Christian, Jesus healed him of the desire to take his own life which had plagued him for quite some time. However, he still lacked motivation as well as the hope that he could be anything of value. As his faith began to deepen, he felt like he was beginning to change in ways that others were unable to understand. He didn't feel like he was being heard and Omer encouraged him to travel to India as a means to grow even further. God used this experience as a way to challenge and push Danny to grow in new ways. It also helped him to better understand the hardships and challenges that other people face.
When he returned home, he moved in with his friend Garrett and worked a third shift job for about a year and a half. Eventually, Danny went on tour with his friend Christian Welch, a spoken-word poet, with the hopes of discovering where he should move next. They toured for a month, most of which was spent hanging out and enjoying the adventure. They didn't make much money but that was part of the experience. A highlight of the trip was the 27 hour drive from Michigan to New Mexico, which they made in a day and a half.
Upon briefly returning to Michigan he moved to Chicago, where he spent two chilly winter months waiting to move to North Carolina. He then moved in with Josh and Chris Stone of Outward Conversation, who he had met while on tour. Danny worked at the Boys and Girls club for about nine months, where he was greatly challenged by the non-Christian environment. He had a classroom of 30 kids who lived in the rougher areas of Statesville, North Carolina. Frustration set in when the only thing he could give them was homework and not the love that they desperately needed. His felt as if he was prevented from being a father-figure and interacting with the kids in a way that would bring vitality to their lives.
While he was living in North Carolina, he visited The Cove Art Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He knew Brittany Hartman, the Program Director and his current fiance, from touring and looked to her to provide a place for him to play a show in Pittsburgh. He stayed there for a week. Two years later he came back for another week and spent time with the kids who attended the afterschool art program. Upon returning to North Carolina, Danny began the process of waiting for the right time to move to Pittsburgh. He believed that The Cove was a dream to him and he greatly desired to be a part of the kids‘ lives in a meaningful way. In the summer of that same year he was encouraged by his housemate, Josh Stone, that God was calling Danny to pittsburgh now and that it was a dream worth pursuing.
Danny’s time at The Cove has been filled with joyful as well as challenging moments. Danny is in awe that he gets to call the space of The Cove his own each day while watching the ways in which others get to enjoy it as well. He sees how it could have remained an empty room, used only for storage, for many more years if God had not intervened. One of the challenges of working at The Cove has been his desire to give the kids more of his time while maintaining balance with knowing what is too much. It humbles him to have kids come everyday, many of which not wanting anything to do with God, and listen to the Bible lessons given at The Cove. He struggles with not letting the needs of the kids grow too big in his heart to the point that he becomes distracted from the rest of his responsibilities. Danny has greatly enjoyed the relationship that has developed between himself and one of his students who comes to The Cove. He has helped him through his struggles, issues with anger, and taught him how to pray.
He wants to give each kid what they really need, whether it's a fun game to play or someone to sit and cry with. A personal difficulty for Danny is humbling himself before God and allowing Him to lead him to whatever comes next.
Throughout his life, God has taught Danny that it's easier to trust Him instead of holding on to something that you think you deserve. He has also learned that life is always better when we say 'yes' to God and let Him give us so much more than we could ever fathom. This is evidenced in his three years serving in Pittsburgh and at The Cove, which have been the best years of his life.