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RISE-ing to the occasion: Roozeboom shares his personal story at Ocheyedan church

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OCHEYEDAN, Iowa -- Rob Roozeboom always knew there was a God. He was, after all, a pastor's son. He just didn't understand that God was at work in his own life.

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"I believed in a God, but I just didn't want anything to do with him," Roozeboom reflected. " I don't think I've ever lived my life believing that there isn't a God, but to believe in a loving, compassionate, caring God, that's a different thing."

Roozeboom has lived in Pella, Iowa, Holland, Mich., Worthington and Phoenix, Ariz., and now calls Sheldon, Iowa, home. He and his wife, Sharla, have two children -- Jager, 3½, and Riley, 1.

As a young boy, Roozeboom was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy. During his teen years, as Roozeboom struggled to come to grips with his body's reduced abilities, he got caught up in drugs and alcohol and attempted suicide twice.

"If you've every questioned God or been at a crossroads where you want nothing to do with God, that was the way I was from junior high until I was about 20 years old," he explained.

Roozeboom now relates the story of those struggles and how he discovered God's compassion in his own life, through RISE Ministries, which he founded more than five years ago.

"The ministry came about through my story, dealing with what I've walked through and continue to walk through," he said. "I was attending Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa, and I was at a crossroads my senior year. People had told me, 'You are here for a reason.' I thought, 'Everybody's here for a reason,' and they said, 'God's given you a story,' and I thought, 'What does that mean?'

"I was a business major. Banking seemed interesting to me, and I always liked agriculture. In my last semester, I could do an internship or I could take the finance and fed tax classes that I had left. I thought I'd try to get an internship at a local bank, but they were all filled. So I called a friend of mine who was working in a ministry and asked if they would take me as an intern. ... He thought about it, prayed about it, and talked to the board, and they finally agreed. So I was able to be a part of that ministry and saw how that ministry works, and it also allowed me time to work on RISE. I felt this tugging at my heart that I had to share my story. I was wrestling with God over it for a year or more, and finally I just said, 'Fine, I'll do it. Leave me alone.'"

But Roozeboom knew that speaking engagements alone wouldn't sustain the ministry and support his family, so he's developed several unique components. Until early this year, RISE published a magazine, Impact, geared toward youths.

"It's no longer in print form due to the fact that teens just don't read magazines anymore," Roozeboom explained. "It dealt with real lives, real issues and real God. We'd do interviews with bands and pro skaters, tell their stories, and deal with issues from dating to pornography, college, credit card debt. Right now, it's in transition. We're looking at launching a podcast, but it's on hold."

Roozeboom also records a daily radio message, "a 60-second food-for-thought message," that is broadcast on a couple hundred stations around the world. In the local area, the RISE message can be heard on KDCR out of Sioux Center, Iowa, KJIA in Spirit Lake, Iowa, and The Refuge from Spirit Lake and Worthington.

"Since we started that four years ago, I figure I've written 800 to 1,000 messages," Roozeboom said. "It gets tough after a while. It's a material-hungry endeavor."

With the help of the organizers of the LifeLight music festival in Sioux Falls, S.D., RISE launched its own music event, the RISE Above Festival, in 2005. Roozeboom said the event just about doubled in size in two years, with 5,000 to 6,500 people attending this year.

Despite such diverse enterprises, Roozeboom's personal story is still at the heart of the ministry, and he continues to do speaking engagements around the country. One such event will be Sunday at the Christian Reformed Church in Ocheyedan. Music will begin at 6:30 p.m. with Roozeboom's presentation at 7 p.m.

"I do a lot of my story," said Roozeboom about his speaking engagements. "The whole point is dealing with hope and believing in a better tomorrow. I think Sunday's message will be 'The Face of Love,' talking about the face of love, what it looks like and how you can be a face of love to others. But the underlying theme is hope and honestly believing in a better tomorrow."

People of all ages are welcome to attend the presentation. Refreshments and fellowship will follow.

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Beth Rickers
Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at http://lagniappe.areavoices.com/.  
(507) 376-7327
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