Iowa pastor blesses community ‘from conception to last breath’

Iowa pastor blesses community ‘from conception to last breath’

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by Daniel Sunne

Pastor Ricky Rohrig Sr. of Crossroads Community Church in Red Oak, Iowa, told The FAMiLY LEADER why his heart was drawn to serving women in crisis pregnancies: “Because back in 1973, a 15-year-old girl became pregnant, and she chose to give me a chance for life.”

When Rohrig was adopted at three days old, his teenage mother couldn’t have known he would devote six years to helping young mothers like her through the Pregnancy Center of Southwest Iowa. Nor could she have known he would one day serve as chaplain to long-term elderly care facilities in Red Oak and Villisca.

“God has got me in ministry from conception to a person’s very last breath,” says Pastor Ricky of his unique pastor’s role. “The full spectrum.”

In May 2013, Rohrig, while pastoring a small church in Red Oak, started as chaplain for the town’s Good Samaritan Society long-term care facility. The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, the largest non-profit of its kind in the nation, is a 95-year-old Christian organization offering several options for senior housing and care.

Between the facilities in Red Oak and Villisca, Pastor Ricky today serves around 90 residents as chaplain, but his work only begins there. Even as he cares for residents through visits, daily devotions, regular church services, and simply watching Jeopardy with some, he counsels family members and acts as a liaison for other pastors who have congregation members in the residence.

“We want to provide spiritual care, not just to residents, but also to residents’ families,” he says.

His life verse is “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6 KJV). As Pastor Ricky describes his work with seniors, the wisdom of that verse becomes evident.

“When I started five years ago,” he told TFL, “one of the things I had no knowledge of was [how] on a daily basis they probably impact me more than I ever will them. Just gleaning that wisdom from them, just taking the time to sit down with them and learn!”

Pastor Ricky vividly described an elderly, Christian gentleman who daily visited to care for his wife. As the woman eventually became unresponsive, Pastor Ricky told the husband how much he respected him and his daily presence.

The man replied simply, “We’ve had our ‘for better,’ this is our ‘for worse.’”

That example inspires Pastor Ricky both professionally and personally: “I have so much respect for him, and I hope that we will all have that care.”

In addition to caring for residents, Pastor Ricky offers services to staff, provides counseling and a weekly Bible study, and chairs a committee that seeks to equip staff to “more fully share God’s love.”

“I’m blessed that I’m bi-vocational,” he told TFL, “but everything I do is ministry.”

His work as a pastor has not decreased either, of course. On the last Sunday of February 2014, Crossroads Community Church, a Baptist Convention of Iowa church plant, had its first service.

Pastor Ricky has been with the church plant since it began. He calls church planting the hardest thing he has done in ministry thus far, but appreciates the support other pastors and his denomination have provided.

“We’ve had mission teams from various states,” he said. “Southern Baptist mission teams have come up and worked on our building.”

Crediting a former Methodist pastor, Pastor Ricky sees his “office” as the community itsef. Every year, his church goes door-to-door, trying to reach the unchurched in the community around them.

“If you do the math,” he explains, “our mission field is the 7,400 around us who don’t go anywhere.”

His outreach to the community, his care for those around him, and his own special connection to the issue led Pastor Ricky to the Pregnancy Center of Southwest Iowa. In 2012, he started on the board of the pregnancy center, which describes itself as “a Christian-based organization that instructs, assists, and encourages women who are pregnant or think they may be pregnant.” The center and its team of both paid and volunteer staff offer a variety of services, including pregnancy tests, counselling, supplies, prayer, and ultrasounds.

The Knights of Columbus recently donated a brand-new ultrasound machine capable of detecting a heartbeat at 18 days.

“Eighty to eighty-five percent of all mothers will change their mind [on abortion] once they see a heartbeat,” Pastor Ricky says.

During two years that Pastor Ricky served as executive director, the pregnancy center moved twice, eventually making its home in a beautiful, two-story, former doctor’s office in Red Oak. Through the generosity of the seller and donors, the building was purchased with almost no debt. Pastor Ricky describes the process of getting the building as “one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen God do.” The center now plans to open a thrift store and potentially have an apartment to bless mothers in tough situations.

While Pastor Ricky is no longer directly involved in the pregnancy center, the new executive director attends his church, and the congregation still supports it.

Pastor Ricky Rohrig’s ministry remains to care for the whole community, from the beginning to the end of life.

“The big picture is Matthew 28,” he says, “one life, one person, one situation at a time.”

Daniel Sunne serves as policy liaison for The FAMiLY LEADER