Long Journey Home
Christian Reporter News EXCLUSIVE
by Kat Rowoldt
I had the wonderful opportunity to sit down and visit with Yantis Green just a few days before he reports in to serve his one year sentence. This wasn’t something that I had planned to do, but a few weeks ago I began feeling what I would call a nudging from God to make contact with Yantis to do his story. His story is done with hopes of helping folks process this situation and to also show God’s hand in bringing one of His kids back home.
For the sake of full disclosure, I had first met Yantis back in the mid-nineties when I began attending the weekly County Commissioners’ meetings. I was there as the “press” representing the local Christian magazine I was publishing at the time called the “Vineyard Ink Press.” I was the newbie on the block and Yantis was there every week, covering the court for KGKL. Yantis and Jeff Rottman (KKSA) took me under their wings at times to point me in the right direction. I appreciated the kindness of both of these veteran newsmen.
Almost twenty years later I am once again publishing a Christian magazine, now online, and I touched base with Yantis last summer to share with him what I was now doing. He too had changed job titles and was now serving as a County Commissioner. We met at his office and chatted, toured the remodeled courtroom, and it seemed so surreal having our paths cross once again in that same courtroom.
The last time Yantis and I had spoken prior to meeting to do this story was at the end of July. He had met me and my photographer at the County Commissioners courtroom to shoot a five second cameo for the commercial I was putting together to promote the Christian Reporter News.
I’ll never forget the shoot. Yantis’ line was, “For the complete story – Christian Reporter News.” It just took a couple of minutes and we were gone. When we were working on the editing, I noticed that Yantis’ lip was quivering throughout the cameo. We finally got it where it didn’t show and the commercial was now finished.
Just as we were about to start airing the commercial, one of the other cameo spots needed to do a reshoot. The morning we were headed over to do the reshoot, Yantis Green was the headline story in the San Angelo Standard Times. Piecing together the time frame, I realized he shot the cameo for me the day after he presented the letter to the Water Control and Improvement District Board. Those words, “for the complete story – Christian Reporter News” had an entirely different meaning realizing the timing on everything.
When I read the story in the San Angelo Standard Times my heart sunk. I was so sad for Yantis. Though I didn’t really know him personally, he had always struck me as a very kind and giving man. My immediate reaction was “oh my – but by the grace of God.” The reality that any one of us can fall and fail in life is such an easy thing to do.
So there I sat, in the customer waiting room at an automotive shop visiting with my friend, my helper when I was trying to learn the ropes of doing the “press” thing, and I couldn’t imagine what it would feel like to be in his shoes. How strange it felt to be the “press” doing the story on someone that helped me become comfortable being the “press.”
As I told Yantis, and he agreed, our time together to talk about what had happened was a God-thing. He felt safe with me – and I wasn’t there to do anything but discover “why” God had sent me there.
Facts: Yantis Green turns himself over to be incarcerated beginning at 2pm on Friday, March 1, 2013. Yantis has paid back 100% of the monies what were misused through that Credit Card. Yantis has paid his fine in full. The only thing left now to do is “the time.” He was sentenced to 1 year and will serve that in Big Spring.
This event not only cost him his job with the Water Control and Improvement District (WCID) and his County Commissioner seat, but it also cost him greatly in his personal life too. He and his wife were in the middle of building a beautiful new home when all this came to light. He said he had just hired the new auditor for the WCID who immediately noticed the lack of check and balances and quickly found the credit card issue. I commented on what a good job he did in hiring a really good auditor. We both agreed. He did do a great job. He hired a good auditor. Irony!
Yantis went on to tell me he made sure the home was finished for his wife and that is where she lives now. He lives in a townhome. Naturally, this whole event has been earth shaking and caused their marriage to take a big hit. Twenty years of marriage was also lost.
Two jobs, a marriage, his public image, a political future, the right to vote, own a gun, or hold office – all gone. He never would have traded a tank of gas, a business lunch, or a trip to a political meeting for any one of those things that he held so dearly. No one would. But – that’s how deceiving the devil is. One simple oops – I’ll reimburse and correct that error – that simply lead to another.
No good man purposes to do wrong. Yantis is a good man. He has shown his character in first admitting his wrongdoing, writing his letter to the Board of the WCID, removing himself from the County Commissioner’s position, admitting he was guilty in court instead of stringing out months and months of litigation at the taxpayer’s expense, and paying back the money misused in full, paying his court fine, making sure his wife was able to move into her new home, and now preparing to pay the final part of his sentence by doing “his time” in Big Spring. Yantis, like each one of us, is human and we have all failed in some capacity and sinned. A good man sets things right and turns from his wrongful ways.
I had to ask how this all started since stealing from the WCID was not something he planned in his heart. Every right thinking person knows that you will be caught, that it is wrong, and it’s just something you don’t do. Stealing a few dollars here and a few dollars from there is not worth the price you are going to have to pay if the theft is discovered. As I said before, it’s not worth losing everything!
The very first incidence happened in 2006 when he used the credit card to pay for a trip to Boston to raise money for Mitt Romney. He thought he had accumulated enough free airline miles on the card to cover the cost of the ticket. After the trip, when he discovered that the charges were not covered in free airline miles, he purposed to pay back the expenses.
Something so simple began the downward spiral. Each time he used that card, he said he felt it in his heart, but each time it got a little easier to do too. I think most of us can relate that to dieting. The first time we cheat on the diet we just chastise ourselves. We then either choose to get back on the diet and keep going or we continue to cheat and eat what we want and eventually declare ourselves to no longer be on that diet.
As a member of the County Commissioners, he had to attend regular trainings in many areas of importance and one of them also included ethics. He said they discussed what is called a CTE – Career Terminating Event. They would explain the various reasons someone would steal from the entity they were representing or working for. One of the reasons: “always intended to pay it back.” Yantis always intended to pay it back. It became a habit – and the dollar amount grew.
When the news began to break on what had happened, Yantis said that in his darkest hours, “God never lost faith in me.” As he began looking at his journey and what had happened, as he had begun to seek after and follow his dreams of moving up the political ladder, he had moved away from God.
Yantis was not raised in a practicing faith family. He said he might have attended church a half a dozen times during his childhood. His family roots were from the Methodist Church. As a young man of eighteen, Yantis sought out a faith for himself. He found it in the Catholic Church. Years later when he married, he did not marry someone in the Catholic faith. His wife was/is a Protestant. Reflecting on how having a split faith marriage had been, he realizes today that allowing a dual-faith household was not good. For him, it had weakened his faith and caused him to begin to fall away from having a close walk.
In 2004, he had the opportunity to attend the Catholic version of what we call the Walk to Emmaus: Cursillo. Since that time, he’s been having a weekly meeting with one of his brothers-in-Christ from that event every Tuesday morning. Jesse Martinez and Yantis have met weekly since 2004 for breakfast and fellowship. The morning that Yantis was going to hand over the letter to the WCID board, he first told Jesse, and Jesse led the two of them in prayer together over this matter.
The following week Jesse and Yantis began a new book study. It was called, “Facing Your Giants” by Max Lucado. Ironically, or is it God’s divine timing they will finish the book three days before Yantis leaves for Big Spring. Jesse did not shrink back from being there for his brother-in-Christ during this journey, but stood with him and encouraged him through it all.
In reflecting on his journey, Yantis recalled the two primary instructions that the WCID Board had given him. 1. Make sure the waste water keeps flowing, and 2. Protect the District’s water rights no matter what. Yantis took this to heart and felt that the more he gained political power and influence, the better he could serve in that capacity. As the years and the swipes of the card rolled on, his uses for the card began to be justified in his mind that he was working to improve his position for the benefit of the WCID. His mind began to justify his actions and his promise to himself to pay it back began to fade.
Isn’t that exactly what we all do when we begin doing a wrong thing over and over again? Consider the tax returns, the person you innocently flirted with at work, the extra piece of pie you ate, those new shoes in your closet that won’t go with a thing you own at the moment, etc. Just like Adam and Eve, we all have our reasons and justifications for doing the wrong thing! But – that doesn’t make it right!
What a journey! Through it all Yantis has felt that God was simply waiting for him to return home. Home to God! Home to his family! He commented that he has now spent more time with his family in the last few months than he had in total over the last twenty something years. God is once again number One in his life. Attending mass has taken on a whole new level of meaning to him and as he says it, “I need it.”
We talked about a lot of different things in our time together. He mentioned how his step-dad wouldn’t teach him the automotive business but insisted that he go to college – that he was “too smart” for mechanics. Today his step-dad has passed and his Mother runs the business with his brother overseeing the “mechanics” of the business. When he returns in a year, Yantis will apply his business skills to expanding the family business and hopes to take it to new levels, while writing a book about this journey, the course correction he’s been on.
He’s been overwhelmed by the compassion he’s received from so many people. He’s seen the finest in people through this experience. If he could say something to his friends he hasn’t spoken with he’d say, “I’m sorry. I love ‘em. I’m looking forward to the next phase after this debt is paid in full.”
“Because I’ve been so blessed, I think I owe it to others to live a full and big life. Prison is part of it too.” He’s got an amazing perspective and attitude about where he is in his life and what is ahead for him.
He was sharing about it being the season of Lent (atoning for sin) as he goes to prison. He said, “you know, when I come out it will be Lent again, how appropriate!” He mentioned March 1st was going to be the first day that the Catholic Church will be without a Pope in 598 years. Lots of ironic things!
Yantis will spend his 50th birthday in prison. As we began to conclude our conversation, I said, “You want one more thing to add to list of ironic timings? You’re turning 50. The 49th going into the 50th year is the Year of Jubilee. Biblically, that’s the year that all debt is wiped away and a fresh start begins.” His face lit up.
I’m not sure how this article will be received, but I hope it will cause you to pause and consider – but for the Grace of God, go I. Any one of us can fail, for the first step is simply so easy to do. Yantis has done all the right things to right his wrong – and now is going to go serve his sentence. He carries with him a wealth of knowledge in many fields that still has great value and usefulness in the years ahead.
Yantis will return as a sinner redeemed by the grace of God - just like me – just like you! God instructs us to love the sinner, but hate the sin - for all of us sinners are called to turn from our wicked ways.
For Yantis – this has been a Long Journey Home!
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Christian Reporter News Exclusive