By: Curt Williams, Founder & Executive Director
Back in late 1984, when I first began to take in homeless and troubled boys, I was street smart and spiritually naïve. I knew how to survive in a dark subculture, but walking with and trusting the Lord was new to me. The Father knew this, and He was kind enough not to dump on me what it would entail to follow Him all at once. I just wanted to help kids, and I knew that He was leading me to do this. I was not looking to raise money, stare at a pile of bills, or contemplate the very unexciting things like leasing a dumpster or repairing worn-out vehicles.
What I did not foresee were all the funerals. You see, I don’t get to do too many “good funerals” where a faithful saint of God has passed after years of fruitful life and ministry. I have most often presided over the funerals of those who have passed from AIDS, suicide, and overdoses, and the majority have been young.
Last month, when I was away on another unsuccessful bid at “vacationing,” I was notified that Cameron Combs had passed away. Cameron was a much-loved Youth-Reach son from 2019 who impacted all of us in a very real way. I received the call from his father Caleb, who is also a Youth-Reach son from over twenty years ago. Cameron, he told me, had been found dead at his home, and the cause was undetermined. Cameron was only 19 years old.
I was called on to be with the family at Cameron’s viewing, and it was all raw emotion; grief mixed with pain mixed with loss mixed with regret. The next day, aligning with Cameron’s personality, his Celebration of Life was informal, quirky, and somber, yet hopeful.
It was there that I was honored to share how, while at Youth-Reach and after months of wrestling with the claims of the Gospel, Cameron surrendered his life to Jesus. A few weeks later I baptized him in the pond.
Today, a few weeks removed from the shock of this loss, I realize what a bittersweet set of emotions have hit me. I feel great sadness that I will no longer receive Cameron’s text messages with his life updates, or again have the long phone conversations that I so enjoyed. Yet I also feel a great calm that my beloved son is in the presence of Jesus and that he is experiencing unfathomable peace.
All of this stokes the fires of my commitment to the boys we currently have here in our care and reminds me how grateful I am for those of you who financially support our work so that we can be available to the next Cameron that needs a fresh shot at a new life.