From Deep Darkness to Great Forgiveness

He gives people cowbells and tells them about Jesus. His name is Rob Young, and his story is a compelling drama of God’s faithfulness and forgiveness.

Young was a custom homebuilder in his early 30s — successful, connected, and financially strong. “I lived what most people would consider an ideal life: a beautiful wife, a thriving business, country club membership, big house, expensive cars, influential friends and so much more,” he says.

Then, he began to change. The things that had meant so much to him meant very little. He notes, “I became discontented, ineffective, and unfulfilled in every area of my life. All my accomplishments were quickly losing their luster. Everything I had put my hope in began to fall apart, and I began to self-destruct.”

His marriage soon dissolved. He got involved with drugs and alcohol for the first time in his life. He walked away from his business and moved to the Charleston area to party. Because of his financial position, he was able to indulge himself in what he calls “wine, women and song” without working at a job. After six years, he had lost just about everything. He landed in jail on drug and stealing charges. His life had hit rock bottom. He says, “My life was unrecognizable. Isolated and alone, my poor choices took me to the brink of destruction. Absolutely broken, I had come to the end of everything I had known.”

He spent four months in jail reading the New Testament for the first time. He had grown up in church and had Christian parents but had never really read the Bible. Christianity was all around him, but he was lost.

While in jail, God changed his heart and saved his soul. “It was in this deep, dark abyss that I recognized my need for a Savior,” he said. “Receiving His gift of salvation surpasses everything for me. Receiving the gift of repentance, the forgiveness of my sin, and the gift of the Holy Spirit became the cornerstone of my life.”

David Gay, who works at Triune Mercy Center in Greenville, talked with Young while he was in jail. Gay helped connect him to Haven of Rest Ministries in Anderson. Young stayed at the rescue mission for about 30 days before being recommended for a one-year intensive discipleship program at the Haven’s residential men’s ministry located on a farm in Belton. Sid Stewart, executive director of the Haven of Rest, got to know Young and become friends with him. He says, “As Rob started growing in the Lord, he began to sense that God was leading him and that his life was going somewhere. He felt like he needed to go back to school to be better prepared for whatever God had for him.”

Seventy-five-year-old Sam Buckner, a retired professor at North Greenville University, teaches a class in the men’s ministry at the Haven. He asked Young what he was going to do when he graduated from the discipleship program. Young mentioned that he wanted to go to school, but he did not know exactly what he was going to do next. Buckner invited him for lunch at the NGU campus and told him he had a friend he wanted him to meet. As the two sat at a table, a stranger approached and gave Young a hug. It was NGU president Jimmy Epting. Young says, “The first thing he said to me was, ‘Rob, are you born again? Do you know Jesus as your Savior?’ I said yes, and he answered with, ‘Are you sure?’ I said yes again, and he asked me to tell him my story.”

A few weeks later, Young received an unexpected phone call from Epting. He says, “I thought, how does he know my cell phone number? I thought this was such a cool thing. Wow — the president calling me. He wanted me to meet him in his office on Monday. He told me everything had been worked out for my education at North Greenville.”

Epting observed, “We all have trials and tribulations in our lives, and God allows these things to occur. These times are opportunities for us to grow and become better. Rob did not quit. He trusted Christ, and God brought him through it. He now wants to use those experiences to glorify God. That impressed me. We are excited that he is coming to North Greenville. I believe he will be a solid warrior for the Lord.”

Ecclesiastes 11:1 has become a favorite verse of Young’s: “Cast your bread on the surface of the waters, for you will find it after many days.”

During his year in the discipleship program, Young says he was not only discipled but also taught how to disciple others. One of his teachers shared his heart during a class and told how he and his sister were caring for their aged mother. Someone had given his mother a cowbell. She rang it all night. Young says, “That’s when it hit me that this is the way God is. He never stops ringing the bell in our lives.” Now, as he shares his story and the gospel, he gives people cowbells so they will remember that, regardless of what is happening, God cares and will keep on caring. He has given cowbells to professors and people on the street. (Editor’s note: I have one on my desk, serving as a reminder of the faithfulness of God.)

Young starts classes in August at North Greenville. He does not know what he will be doing, but says he is “committed to serving God in whatever way He leads.”