By MARY JANE SKALA Hub Editor
A cop and a coach are now college and Christian youth mentors.
Rick and Linda Roh are the first married couple to serve here as regional representatives of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, an international nonprofit sports ministry.
At first, the Lincoln couple resisted moving to Kearney. Along with their three adult children, the Rohs had prayed for two years to find out where God wanted them, but when FCA offered them Kearney, the two shook their heads.
“Rick came home and said, ‘We’re not moving to Kearney,'” Linda said. “I agreed. A small town was not appealing.
But God pushed them. “I felt like we said to God, ‘No. Kearney is not a good idea,” Rick said. Then, on a whim, they decided to visit Kearney anyway. “Linda loaded up her donkey – me – and we took a trip to look around,” he said.
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They went to an UNK basketball game and ran into an old acquaintance, UNK athletic director Marc Bauer, whom Rick had struggled with at the University of Nebraska at Omaha years ago.
“We knew a lot of the same people. I could see our relationships from 30 years ago coming together in Kearney. God had laid the foundation. He was like, ‘This is where you should be,'” Rick said.
Now, with eyes still twinkling, he calls their initial resistance to Kearney the “Nineveh moment”, comparing it to how Jonah ran the other way when God called him to Nineveh – but ultimately acquiesced. and came back.
Their titles are FCA Representatives for the University of Nebraska at Kearney and Buffalo County. This includes eight county high schools: Kearney, Kearney Catholic, Amherst, Elm Creek, Gibbon, Pleasanton, Ravenna and Shelton.
A “life coach”
Rick jokingly called himself a ‘lifetime’ coach when describing his career, which turned from FCA rep to youth pastor to police officer and back to FCA.
The couple, both college athletes, met during a Bible study at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Linda, originally from Omaha, played on the women’s varsity basketball team. “We played against UNK. I lost a lot of brain cells on that gym floor,” she said.
Rick grew up in Fremont. After earning a degree in public relations and image management from the UN in 1993, the couple got married. While Linda was completing her studies, Rick was working as a regional representative for FCA in Omaha. Linda graduated from UNO in 1995 and became a women’s basketball teacher and coach at Millard West High School.
In 1998 they moved to Des Moines, where Rick spent nearly four years as a youth pastor at First Federated Church.
From there they moved to Lincoln, where in 2001 Rick helped start Mission Nebraska, a youth initiative aimed at getting churches to work together in communities. “We encouraged the idea that we can do more together than apart,” he said.
But the 9/11 attack shattered those plans because the charitable donations that supported the effort dried up. The national tragedy inspired Rick to turn to police work, which he saw as another form of ministry.
“People like firefighters, but they don’t like police officers because we’re taking away their civil liberties,” he said.
“But the police deal with humanity when someone’s life is in danger, or there has been a tragic event or there is a desperate need and there is no one there. else to call. This is crisis intervention work with people at the worst times in their lives. Basically, this is also what ministers do,” he said.
Then he smiles. “The only difference in my life was that after 9/11 I was carrying a gun and driving a lot faster.”
His Ministry of Police
Rick spent 20 years on the police force in Lincoln, mostly at night. He spent his last four years as a school resource officer at two colleges. “It was a lot of fun. I tried to humanize the badge,” he said.
In this job, he used the ukulele that Linda bought him for Father’s Day in 2020. As a result, the two schools started ukulele clubs. “He did a creative job of building a bridge between the badge and the schools. When he left he got a lot of thank you letters,” Linda said.
Meanwhile, Linda stayed home for 16 years to raise their three children, but she didn’t sit still. She taught mathematics and served as a substitute teacher. She founded a basketball club and was, for six years, FCA chaplain for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln women’s basketball team.
When their youngest child entered eighth grade, she resumed teaching. She taught math for 10 years and coached for six years at Lincoln East High School. She took a two-year hiatus from coaching to watch their children compete in college athletics — their daughters played basketball and their son was a swimmer — then coached at Lincoln Christian High School for two more years.
“Athletics has been important in our family as a way to learn about life and build life skills,” Linda added.
Coming to Kearney
The couple had continued as FCA volunteers at Lincoln from 2002 to 2020. Now that their children were grown and gone, they were praying for their next adventure. Then came that moment in Nineveh when, despite apprehensions, they decided to explore Kearney.
This trip included an interview with Nate Lewis, the regional manager of the FCA. Their expected 15-minute conversation turned into a two-hour conversation.
“He said, ‘I see an opportunity for you two here,'” Linda said, “It was appealing. We’ve always ministered together, but in a different area. The idea that we would all be together was Very attractive.
The FCA had never had a woman on staff, but “they decided to bring us both in to have a woman to work with the female coaches and female athletes. The girls are really excited,” Rick said.
Lewis was impressed with the couple’s deep faith and their desire to share it with youngsters and coaches. They also had boundless energy and threw themselves into their work with enthusiasm ahead of their July 1 start date, he said.
“Their work is particularly important because many of these students will become coaches throughout this region,” Lewis added.
FCA stretches here from Kansas to South Dakota and from Kearney west past Ogallala.
Rohs get to know UNK coaches and athletes. This summer they hosted a distance camp for distance runners at UNK and an FCA leadership camp for grades 7-12. Each camp attracted between 150 and 200 young people.
Their focus is Three Dimensional Coach, where they talk about coaching the whole person, mind, body, and spirit. They also talk about bringing Christ into athletics.
“We try to help coaches understand that they have an incredible impact on kids today. Sometimes what coaches say has more impact than the words of parents and others,” Rick said. “We want to help develop quality people and get to the heart of the individual.”
Since the Rohs need to raise their own salaries and operating budget, they hosted a golf race and legacy dinner. They have found that by sharing their vision with the people they meet and asking them to partner with the ministry, contributions result.
“Athletes are so idolized in our culture. This is an opportunity for us to pick up an athlete who loves the Lord, especially in a world where so many negative messages are thrown at us. It’s a platform,” Linda said. “Plus, we really like being around kids. It keeps us young. »
The couple are “absolutely in love” with Kearney. They saw Crane River Theater’s “High School Musical” and “Sister Act” this summer and browsed Art in the Park. They helped UNK athletes build The Wall That Heals, the replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall at Patriot Park.
“People made it so much fun,” Linda said. Churches have also been welcoming and kind, they added.
“I’ve never been good at working in an office. Every day here is different,” Rick said. Then he smiled again. “I stopped carrying my gun,” he said.