The Robert Dayton Barnes Story
As told by Bro. Dayton Barnes at the inception of the GSBM in 1993.
Robert Dayton Barnes was born into this world November 30, 1977. The first time I ever saw Robert, I said, “Son, Jesus loves you and died for you.” The next morning when the nurse brought him for his mother and me to feed and hold, I took him in my arms and said, “Son, you are a sinner; but Jesus loves you and died for you so you can be saved.”
Robert grew up in a home where he was taught about Jesus and His will for his life. His mother taught him that smoking, drinking, cursing, nakedness, stealing, and lying were wrong. He became a witness at an early age. I remember one time when he went to a gunsmith with his brother Tim and me. Tim’s shotgun had jammed. As the man worked on it, he lit a cigarette. Being about 2 ½ or 3 years old, Robert began to pull on the man’s pants leg and tell him that smoking was sin. The man said, “I know it son.” Robert didn’t quit until the man put the cigarette out. Boy was I proud, and embarrassed at the same time, as Robert told the gunsmith that Jesus loved him and didn’t want him to smoke.
Robert grew up in a Christian school using the ABeka program. Being a child far advanced for his age, he excelled in studies. When we home schooled him the last two years, he was an A and A+ student in the ABeka Video Home School program. Robert not only excelled in school but also in love for his parents.
When he was about thirteen, Robert began to take more interest in the things of God. He had made a profession of faith at an early age, but just didn’t seem to have the joy of the Lord. He was a wonderful son, but just seemed to lack a real love for Jesus. In September of 1992 I had noticed a quietness about Robert. He was paying more attention to the preaching.
On October 5, 1992 Robert came out of his room and said to his mother, “Guess what happened to me.”
“What?” his mother asked.
He replied, “I just got saved!” Glory!
He began to tell others. He would stand up in church and let it be known that he had been a church member but now was saved. In a couple of weeks, his best friend Randy Newsom, (a good boy also and one raised in church at Midway) asked Robert how a person knew if he were saved. Randy got saved. Glory!
From then on Robert’s life began to take on service for Jesus. In the last year Robert began to realize his own unique gift of God. In ’92 he told me that if I would buy an organ, he would learn to play it for the church. God provided a miracle to give the church a new $10,000 organ for $500 from a Christian lady at Nichols Piano Company in Memphis. In two months Robert was playing any song that was requested–but only church music. People were amazed with what he could do with the organ.
He joined the Civil Air Patrol in May of ’92, and in 13 months hehad risen to the rank of Cadet Master Sergeant–a remarkable accomplishment. He was a member of the color guard drill team. Even in the Civil Air Patrol his Christian testimony was an honor to Jesus and to his parents. He would not let them curse in his presence. Robert used his handbook to show them the rule, page and article number that prohibited profanity. He also made them take him to church when they were out of town for encampments. The Civil Air Patrol honored him at his funeral by having the color guard drill team display the colors. The flags flew at half mast at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama in his honor and memory.
On July 12, 1993 my wife and I took the young people to Tri-County Baptist Youth Camp at Wynne, Arkansas. Five churches had leased the facilities for a week. I felt this would be a special camp to encourage soul winning. On Monday night, Bro. Kent Boykin preached; and then I preached on Ecclesiastes 12:1-7 “If I Were Young”. The last point was, “If I were young, I would dedicate myself to see people saved.”
During the invitation, Robert spent a long time at the altar; and then as the young people began to tell what they were going to do, he came and put his arms around me. He told the camp he was dedicating his life to win souls.
The next morning, Robert was the last one to leave the dorm when the boys went to swim. He had been taking swimming lessons, but he could not swim. He put on his jogging pants, got my clothes for me and said, “Dad, I’m going to the pool.” I wanted to say, “Wait on me!” but couldn’t. As he left the dorm, he looked back and said, “I love you, Dad” like he always told me and his mother. Something inside was bothering me. Within 12 to 15 minutes a young man came and said, “Bro. Barnes, your son just drowned.” I said, “No, he didn’t. No, he didn’t. No, he didn’t!”
I rushed toward the pool. The lifeguard had him on the side working on him. I was praying, knowing that God can do anything. The Lord told me not to go out there but to trust Him; so I went to the dorm where two ladies were helping my wife. When I went over to her she said to me, “He’s gone, isn’t he?” “I don’t know,” I said, “but if so, he’s in Heaven.” She then said that she knew this because at 4:20 a.m. this morning God let me know that he would die.”
The ambulance came, and I asked the ladies if they would take my wife to the hospital. I felt she would need a shot to calm her. Praise the Lord, she didn’t. Then I went back to the pool. The medics were putting Robert on a stretcher. Someone came and told me he had breathed a couple of times on his own. The ambulance took him to the Cross County Hospital in Wynne. I wanted to be with him in the emergency room but had to wait outside. My wife was in a room to the side. All the time I was praying and asking God to let my son live, but also saying that I knew He was doing what was best for Robert and for us.
Someone called me to the desk to get information about Robert and my wife. Still trying to pray and wanting to be with Robert, I heard Jesus say, “Remember why you are here.”
I said to the admittance clerk, “My son could be dead or die any time–but if so, he would be in Heaven. You could die today. If you did, what would happen to you?” She said, “It wouldn’t be good. I would go to hell.” She then told me she knew she was lost and needed to be saved. I led her to the Lord. One saved!
Back at the Camp, the young people had called a prayer meeting to pray for Robert. One young man, Paul Sims said, “I can’t pray for Robert. I’m lost.” Praise the Lord! He got saved!
Fourteen others accepted Christ that afternoon–thirteen at camp and one at the hospital. People began to call the hospital within the hour, and they began to pray. People were being touched. About 6:30 p.m. Robert was transported to LeBonheur Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. The doctor who saw him told us it didn’t look good; but he was a Christian and said, “God can do anything.” He told us he would be praying as well as doing all that he could.
All over the country churches began to pray. Preachers came, and the hospital staff said they had never seen one patient have so many visitors. The migraine headache medicine that my wife had been taking for about 1 ½ years caused her to pass out because of low heart rate. On Wednesday, July 14, many preachers came by to pray and to visit. That night my father-in-law and brother-in-law’s families came to Memphis from Searcy, Arkansas. After they left, I went in to see Robert; and my wife, while waiting for me to come out, collapsed again. They had to shock her to revive her because her heart rate had dropped to 29. Then they put her in the Baptist Hospital and discovered that the medicine she was taking was slowing her heart rate down too slow. The doctors took her off that medicine, and she began to improve. Thank God! She got out of the hospital on Sunday night and had the privilege of leading the 19 year old orderly that pushed her down to the car to the Lord!
Meanwhile, Robert was still in a coma. He looked good, and his breathing was good. The hospital allowed me to stay upstairs above Robert in a family suite in LeBonheur. From Wednesday until Friday, I led three people to the Lord. I also was asked to pray for others who were in LeBonheur. Thursday night in a prayer meeting with several preachers, God had given me peace that He was going to do what was right. On Friday I went downstairs to see Robert. The doctor in charge said he wanted to see me. He told me Robert had quit breathing and was brain dead.
I went to Baptist Hospital to tell my wife. When I went into her room, I discovered that she already knew. The funeral was held at the Eugene Woods Civic Center because the funeral home was not big enough. People from all over the South came to Robert’s home going. Miracles of all kinds happened. Bro. Kent Boykin’s wife was saved; Robert’s barber, Larry Dunn, walked the aisle and was saved–altogether seven were saved that day at the funeral! The Lord was honoring Robert’s dedicating his life to win souls.
That Sunday was to be our Mission Sunday. The Lord told me to change it to the Robert Barnes Memorial Mission Fund. Over $20,000 was given that Sunday. There have been many saved from the testimony of Robert’s life and death–82 souls that we personally know of from July 13th to August 30th.
The hurt has been so deep that only those who have been there would know. Oh, how we loved that young man! But God’s grace has been so wonderful that I can’t find words for it. Not knowing of Robert’s death, on September 16, 1993 the National Youth Leadership Forum on Security and Defense nominated him as a member, a high national honor.
Out of Robert’s home going was born the Good Shepherd Baptist Mission to glorify our great Shepherd in Robert’s memory. We ask that churches give us the opportunity to either come personally or allow one of our representatives come to tell about what God has done, is doing, and will do for His churches and His ministries.