I spent my life in jail and God set me free
Rob Young changed from standover man to a man of faith
Born into a family of extreme domestic violence and crime, Rob Young seemed to have no chance of turning out okay.
Rob’s parents were heavily into growing and taking drugs, and drinking alcohol. He had an older sister and younger brother and was belted if he didn’t look after them.
“After that, there was no more God.” Rob Young
He also feels as if he watched his parents fight all the time.
“The only time my father took any notice of me was when he was belting me or when I was playing football,” says Rob. “So, I got good at football and even got into rep football for NSW.”
Rob had his first taste of positive family life at 12, when he visited a neighbouring family. He visited often and then started staying there more days than he was at home. They became like foster parents. However, as this family took him to church, he and another boy were groomed by an abusive guy in the church.
“After that, there was no more God,” says Rob sadly.
In his youth, life spiralled out of control. Rob says he didn’t really want to get involved in crime but his behaviour meant he was in and out of institutions.
“The first time I was in adult prison, I was just months off turning 18. Because I had been in ‘juvie’, I was like a ringmaster…I fitted right in and took control,” remembers Rob about his introduction to adult prison.
“I started dishing out beltings. I had no respect for any authority. I went through it like it was easy.”
“I nearly took me own life over a custody battle over my kids.” – Rob Young
The longest Rob was out of prison in his adult life – he is now 50 – was about six months. “I’d come out and then go in again. I tried everything; drug therapy, counselling and all the self help groups you can imagine. You start to believe that there is nothing and no one cared. No one picked up that I was having a breakdown over all my family stuff.
“I tried to slash my wrists. You get used to hiding the hurt and the pain. Just don’t worry; mask it. Nearly took me own life over a custody battle over my kids.”
More than five years ago, Rob knew something had to change. He couldn’t keep doing it. So, he picked up the Bible he used to roll cigarettes with and shook his hand at God – and asked him if he was real. “I was really angry at Him about everything.”
“A little while later, this chaplain guy thought I should do the Kairos Prison Ministry program, Kairos Inside. ‘Well,’ I thought, ‘I’ve got nothing to lose.’”
Kairos is an interdenominational Christian service that provides spiritual support to prisoners. In the middle of doing the short course Kairos Inside, Rob ‘saw’ his daughter as a newborn in his arms and could even smell her soft baby smell. “God told me He was going to teach me how to love again,” Rob recalls.
At times when he was released, Rob would sit in the backyard and look at his wife and kids and not know “how to feel it, love that is… it felt really strange.”
“I did stuff and hoped God was going to accept me but it didn’t work.” – Rob Young
The impact of the Kairos Inside program was profound. He had been to church in prison but it felt like he was just going through the motions. “After the programme, I went back to church in the prison. Finally, I could pick up the Bible and it started making sense to me.
“I had a few good fights with God… ‘You haven’t done anything for me!!’ and when I woke the next morning, I read the Bible. I read about Peter in the Book of Acts where a light shone in the cell and an angel of the Lord appeared. Wow! That was when I first realised that God did care about me and wanted to be in my life.”
When Rob became a Christian, he really changed. Instead of standing over, belting and bullying other prisoners, he ended up bullying the other prisoners into joining up for the Kairos Inside programme and going to church. He was now a good standover guy!
Rob was released for the last time about five years ago and, as a new Christian out of prison, he thought he would just go back to his old ways. That’s what had happened every other time. But Rod soon received a visit from Kairos volunteers. “These guys came around me and they really helped me and showed me how it was supposed to be. I have many friends now and they are so supportive.”
“I became like a blithering baby when God showed me that love.” – Rob Young
When asked what has changed, Rob answers without hesitation: “I had done so much and wanted to pay something back to the community. I slept out with the homeless. I tried to do things on my own. I did stuff and hoped God was going to accept me but it didn’t work. I still had a void.”
“[But] I found love, hope and faith when total strangers loved on me. I became like a blithering baby when he showed me that love.
“One day, He showed me so much about love… I had ended up in hospital spewing up blood. Next thing, I heard a lady get told that her mum wasn’t going to make it. I saw she had a cross on her neck and I said ‘Keep your faith, love’. She spun around. ‘Do you know God?,’ she asked. ‘Yes, I met him in prison 4 years ago.’
“She told me something that blew me away: ‘My mum has written to prisoners for many years.’
So, I went over to her mum who was dying and told her that when you wrote to prisoners you made a difference; I became a Christian in prison.’ She said ‘The Lord bless you’ and closed her eyes.”
Kairos talks a lot about ‘agape‘ love; the kind of love only God can give. A simple lesson was learned one day when Rob was late for church. “An old lady sat beside me and just showed me where the preacher was up to in the book.” Simple love – and some people miss that, according to Rob. He wonders why so many Christians don’t get excited about God. He is full on for God and everyone around him knows it.
God is restoring life for Rob now. His daughter wanted a baby but had trouble falling pregnant so he prayed. And now he’s been blessed with a grandson; the light of his life. Relationship with his daughter and other family members has healed.
God even repaired a relationship with a police officer who had arrested him. They are friends now. “If God can do that, when I had a profound hatred for police, he can do anything!” says Rob.