From Empty House to Filled Hearts: Gospel Transformation in Texas

By NAMB Staff

It sat empty for years. Besides an occasional “we-really-should-do-something-about-that-old-place” conversation, Ryan and Baylee Davis of Levelland, Texas, never thought much about the old, unused house at the back of their property. “When we bought our home, we had no idea what that other place was there for,” Ryan says. “Every so often, we’d be like, ‘Should we do something with it? Should we tear it down? Should we move it somewhere?’ There was just no rhyme or reason for it to be there. Not until God changed everything.”

Ryan Davis has an eclectic resume. He’s an ex-cop who now works in the oil and gas industry like many people in this town 30 miles west of Lubbock. Four years ago, he also somewhat unintentionally became the Youth Pastor at Levelland’s College Avenue Baptist Church. “The job at our church just kind of popped up,” he says. “We’d hired a few youth pastors to come in, but none of them ever panned out. And I’d never had any schooling in ministry, and it’s something we never thought we’d do, but God called us to it, and so my wife and I told the church, ‘Okay, we’ll jump in and do it.’”

They had no idea what they’d signed up for.

One Wednesday night in 2022, Ryan doesn’t remember when Damian—a kid who’d been attending College Avenue’s youth group—brought his friend Robert to church. Something noteworthy must’ve happened that evening because one morning soon after that, Ryan received a text from the two boys. “It said, ‘Hey, can you come get us and take us to school?’” Ryan says. “And I was like, ‘Yeah, of course.’ And that’s where everything started. I ended up taking them to school every day, and it was then that they started opening up. There was drug abuse from moms and boyfriends and all kinds of mess going on in their homes. It’s a wonder they were able to function as well as they were.”

After several months of weekday morning commute conversations, Robert and Damian showed up at church one Sunday morning, each carrying a backpack stuffed with all their worldly possessions. The two boys, who had both been living at Damian’s home for several months, had been kicked out of the house. “You could look at them and tell from the looks on their faces that they were just devastated,” Ryan says. “They were lost. They didn’t know what to do. And my wife and I, we’d already prayed about it, so we were prepared. We asked them, ‘Hey guys, we have the extra home on our property. No one lives in it. Do you want to come live there?’”

Ryan and Baylee gave Damian and Robert a house—and they also gave them a home. On the day the boys moved in—and then every day after that—the Davises and their three kids made two more spots at the dinner table. They started including Robert and Damian in all their family activities. And then, one day, Ryan shared the gospel with Robert, who up until then, had never been offered an opportunity to follow Jesus. “It was one morning at church,” Ryan says. “We’d had a few boys who were asking questions, and Robert gave a good statement of faith. And it was amazing because I knew what he’d come through. He’d obviously been paying attention at church. And I was like, ‘If you want to be baptized, we can do that.’ And that’s what he wanted. So, I baptized him the following Sunday, and it was awesome.”

Eventually, both boys’ mothers signed over guardianship to Ryan and Baylee. Now, Robert and Damian have a family. They’re growing in their faith. They’re on track to graduate high school this spring. After that, they both plan to attend college in the fall. “It’s amazing what Jesus and a stable home life can do,” Ryan says. “These boys are flourishing. Their grades, their speech, the way they carry themselves, everything about them is dramatically different now.”

Lots of people in Levelland say Robert and Damian are lucky. But when Ryan looks at the two new people living in the once-empty house on the back of his property, he sees something better than luck. “They both could’ve become a bad statistic. But now Robert has come to Christ, and both these boys are blessed,” he says. “And when I think about that, or even when I think about that house out there, it’s amazing how God can orchestrate every little thing for His purpose and His greatness. This has been a miraculous thing to be a part of, and I love to tell the story because it points to God at every turn.”

Soon after Robert (far left) and Damian (far right) came to live with Ryan and Baylee Davis and their three children, Robert gave his life to Christ.

Published April 25, 2024