Every once in a while, something happens that causes us stop whatever we are doing and pray as hard and often as we can. Ten days ago, a young man from Grand Rapids, Cameron Young, was swimming with friends in San Sebastian, Spain. He dove into the water and accidentally hit his head on a rock, fracturing the C-5 and C-6 vertebrae in his neck, resulting in a loss of sensation below his chest. Cameron is a student at the University of Michigan, and he and his family were members of First Church, Grand Rapids, when Gary and I arrived there in 1993. While Cameron’s grandparents, Dick and Barb Young, are still at First Church, his family is now actively and faithfully involved in another local church.
When Gary and I heard the news the day after the accident, we began praying for Cam immediately. But we were also told of a website that had been set up the very day of the accident. The website, www.cameronyoung.org, not only contains medical updates on Cam but gives people around the world the opportunity to send messages to Cam.
By the time I typed in my message to Cam, hundreds of people had already done the same. Cam’s parents, Doug and Kim Young, who flew to Spain as soon as they heard about the accident, began reading the messages to Cam, who lies immobilized in the intensive care unit of Hospital Donostia.
Last Tuesday Cam had surgery to remove fractured bone pieces, clean up the fragments, and fuse the vertebrae together by using hip bone and metal plates. Cam has a tracheotomy as a precaution if complications should occur on the long ride home, so he cannot speak. During much of the day, Cam’s parents read his web site messages, which delight, encourage and inspire him.
Over this past weekend, Cam was able to engage the tricep muscle in his arm, which is good news. Unfortunately, he also developed pneumonia, and doctors are working to identify the infection. Despite this setback, Cam and his parents are eager to eventually journey back home to a rehabilitation hospital in the United States where Cam will receive intensive therapy and continue his recovery.
I have found myself indelibly touched by Cam’s journey. I have been moved by the thousands of messages that are written every hour of the day and night from all around the world. As of this morning Cam has received 2,600 messages, and there have been 22,400 hits on the web site. Without fail, the messages convey hope, encouragement, trust, support, positive attitudes and belief in the power of prayer. The body of Christ has become incarnate in Cam’s life through this web site. Whenever I read the messages, the tears start to flow because of the love that pours from my computer.
I have been amazed by the incredible power of technology to connect people with each other. In a time when newspapers, television and the Internet chronicle so much evil and sadness in our world, technology has played a hugely positive role in Cam’s recovery.
My own faith has been strengthened by experiencing the courage of the Young family in the face of this unthinkable accident. What happened to Cam is every parent’s worst nightmare. No one is ever prepared for tragedy. However, by having a solid grounding in Jesus Christ and being part of a church community, God somehow gives us the inner resources to live one day at a time in total dependence upon God. I sometimes wonder: how do people without faith possibly cope in times like this? The Young family is leaning on Jesus every day, surrendering to the peace that passes understanding and knowing beyond the shadow of a doubt that God’s angels are surrounding them.
The web site itself is a witness to the saving power of Jesus Christ. I am sure that some of the people writing messages to Cam are searching. They are not sure about their faith. They don’t understand why God would let this happen to Cam. They wonder whether God is at work in our world at all. The Young family and hundreds of others people are declaring that no matter what happens to us in this life, God is good and nothing can ever separate us from the gifts, grace and love of God.
Most of all, I realize anew that it will be impossible for Cam and his family to walk this journey alone. Doug and Kim continue to express deep gratitude for the support and blessings they are receiving. They will need the continued prayers and encouragement of people – friends, family and strangers alike – as Cam heals and recovers.
Doug, Cam’s father, wrote last week on the web site, “In spite of the trouble he is having, the ONE thing Cam wants is for us to read your emails to him. PLEASE KEEP THEM COMING–they are such a blessing! Kim and I feel helpless in trying to help Cam and ease his stress; BUT we know our FAITH in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will provide the grace and comfort we all want. Our prayer requests are to have Cam get more accustomed to his trach; to heal Cam’s spinal cord damage; to keep Cam protected from infection and complications; to keep him safe through the night; to get Cam strong and stable enough to travel; and to keep the sparkle in his eyes and the smile on his face.”
The one common denominator I have found in my Sunday morning visits around the district is that you include specific prayer requests in your prayer time. It is often the most moving part of worship for me. Will you and your congregation pray for healing for Cam and wisdom for his doctors? If you do, why not send a message of encouragement to Cam and his family?
“For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” Psalm 91:11