Meet Jake. The 23-year-old from Southaven, Mississippi recently completed one year with us here at Youth-Reach Gulf Coast (YRGC). He will be entering our transition ministry, and he plans to pursue a career as a pilot. His future is bright … but it didn’t always seem that way.
We talked with Jake’s parents, Sy and Connie Williams, and found that their son’s time at YRGC didn’t just change his life—it impacted their entire family.
Before landing at YRGC, Jake tried several other ministries and programs to help him get his life on track. The first one lasted 90 days and seemed to point him in the right direction. Unfortunately, just two weeks before he would leave to come home, he received a Dear John letter from his longtime girlfriend. This sent him spiraling, so his next stop was a transition home in Dallas, where he eventually hit rock bottom. Sy and Connie brought him home and he got a job, but it was clear his heart still needed healing.
Next, Jake tried a program in Louisiana. When he got into an altercation with another resident, the staff dropped him off at a Walmart and left him there without a phone. Still desperate for change, Jake tried another organization, but they were not able to help him, either.
Finally, the family discovered YRGC, but Jake wanted to check out a program in Arkansas first. When they arrived for a visit, the staff asked Jake if he thought he was saved. When he answered “yes,” they insisted he was deceived.
“We had been praying for God to open one door and close the other,” Connie said. “He slammed that door! We called Youth-Reach that night and talked to Jackson. He could hear the desperation in our voices, so Jake was allowed to come right away. He’s been there ever since and has done extremely well.”
Sy continued, “Every other place would call us immediately when something went wrong. At Youth-Reach, when someone messes up, they deal with it. They don’t get us involved. That was such a weight off our shoulders. They treat the guys like men, and there are consequences for wrong actions.”
“It’s not like any other rehab. You can’t even call it a rehab—it’s a family,” Connie said. “They all make mistakes, and they work it out together. There is grace and forgiveness, unlike all the other places that were so quick to kick Jake out at the first sign of trouble.
At first, we wondered how good this place could be since it was free. It has been absolutely life-changing. Not just for Jake, but also for his sister and for us, too. We are so much closer.”
“What we thought was a curse ended up being a blessing. Not just for our immediate family of four, but also aunts, uncles, grandparents—it has brought us all together,” Sy said.
“Youth-Reach really is one big family,” Connie reiterated. We go to visit every month and a half, and I tell them all the time, ‘You’re never going to get rid of us. We’re family now.’ I love those people. I love their kids. It’s like nothing we’ve experienced before.”
At Jake’s one-year celebration, there was an opportunity for everyone in the room to share their observations and encouragement. More than anything else, the counselors and residents noticed that Jake is slow to speak and quick to listen. He is a silent leader. Not one to draw attention to himself, he does what is right and leads by example. His life has been transformed, and the best is yet to come!