Alva Review-Courier -

Travels with God

• New Zion Lutheran Church pastor Tim Roggow talks about faith, education and life


October 16, 2020

Kathleen Lourde

Tim Roggow is the new pastor at Zion Lutheran Church in Alva.

Pastor Tim Roggow's life has always centered around faith and education. He was a third grade teacher for seven years and a director of Christian education for almost 20. Maybe that's why he seems so deeply gentle, so kind to his core. Roggow is the newly ordained pastor of Zion Lutheran Church in Alva.

"We're just thankful that the Lord has placed us here," he said. "It's been good."

Most of Roggow's early life was spent in the northeastern corner of Nebraska, where his parents were Lutheran School teachers.

He and his wife, Annalisa, met at Concordia University in Seward, Nebraska. They've been married 32 years and have two boys, Aaron (26) and Jacob (24). Aaron and his wife, Grace, are computer engineers living outside of Detroit, and Jacob just moved to Ft. Myers, Florida, where he was installed as director of parish music at a Lutheran church there.

"My wife has an education background too and has directed preschools and taught middle grades, third and fourth grades," said Roggow. "She's looking at subbing in the area until a position opens up. She just got her teaching certificate in the mail the other day."

Finding Joy As a Christian Educator

Roggow received his degrees in elementary education and Christian education from Concordia University in Seward, Nebraska, near Lincoln. He worked as a DCE (director of Christian education) for 19 years and taught third graders for seven years.

His first parish as a DCE was in Fremont, Nebraska. From there, they moved every couple years – Missouri, North Dakota, South Carolina. Sometimes the change is enormous.

"When we moved from North Dakota to South Carolina, it was in May. When we left for the interview in South Carolina, it was still bleak and snowy in Fargo and then in South Carolina it was all green and nice," he remembered, laughing.

After South Carolina, Roggow moved to the St. Louis area as he finally listened to God’s consistent prompting for him to go to the seminary. Before starting the seminary, Roggow was principal of the Staunton, Illinois, Lutheran School for a year and then six years as a 3rd grade teacher at Zion Lutheran School in Bethalto, IL. It was then off to Concordia Seminary in St. Louis.

"I can think back over my life, choices I've made – because I never wanted to be a pastor! No, I was happy being a director of Christian education," Roggow said. "I didn't want more going to school. But God just kept putting that on me.

"When I was teaching – I taught third grade, and, man, I loved them! I thought, 'Okay, Lord, this is what you guided me to.' But he kept saying, 'No, no, go to seminary.'"

From California Vicar to Oklahoma Pastor

After seminary, Roggow did his vicarage – like an internship – at Faith Lutheran Church in Pleasant Hill, California, inland from San Francisco. The people in the church there were very similar to people in the church here, he said. "Maybe the culture and the environment might be a little different. We dealt with a lot more homeless people because (the weather is) nice throughout the year; winters aren't challenging. So you had those issues, but the people were still the same. The neighborhoods were great. We got out before the fires started this year. Talking with people back there, my goodness, living through that – and while having to deal with COVID!" Some of his former congregation members in California had family "who were up in the Napa area and two of them got severe burns while trying to get out, it happened so fast," he said.

The Roggows enjoyed their time in California, but one day Roggow's parents – Rev. Gerald and Judy Roggow, who live in Breckinridge near Enid – heard that Alva's Zion Lutheran Church needed a pastor.

"I thought, 'Wow! That would be good, because my in-laws live in Cherokee," Roggow said. Annalisa Roggow's parents are Don and Jean Carpenter.

"So working with the seminary placement is how we got here. It's been a blessing that way. We loved it in California, but it's a blessing to be near family."

And it's a sort of homecoming as well, because the Roggows had visited here many times to visit family.

"We'd come down almost every summer to visit family," he said. "Dad was from a family of 11, so we had a lot of cousins around. I worked on my uncle's farm two summers harvesting wheat, and I loved that."

When Jacob and Aaron Roggow came to visit this August when their father was ordained, Roggow said, "We were driving around Alva and Jacob said, 'Wait! That's the theater we went to with Grandma!' Because visiting (grandparents) in Cherokee, you'd come to Alva to go to Walmart or go to the Rialto! So, moving here – we've been here before!"

Following God

The family has moved a fair amount as they tried to follow as God led. Not knowing what may come can be stressful for any of us.

"I think we want to know right away," he said, reflecting. "I look back over my life, and I can see God's hand getting us to where he wants us to serve. We can cause a lot of stress for ourselves worrying about that, but if we rely on him in his time, and just leave it in his hands and follow his lead, it can make it easier. Not to say we won't continue to worry and stress –we're human! It's always good to look at the world (going) back to your faith and trying to see through Christ's eyes," he said. "I have to be continually reminded along with everyone else. Just because I'm a pastor – well, you know, you fall short.

"Through these times that we've had with COVID and everything, you continue to return to the one thing that doesn't change: Christ. And he is continually there for us. His word doesn't change; it's still there for us and we still preach the same thing, even though we have so much change right now. You hold onto that. That's what I look at, that hope that we can continue to share with others. We have to always remind ourselves, shake yourself a little bit, or maybe listen and hear that God's saying, 'Hey, don't forget I'm there for you.'

"So many times we want to try to fix things ourselves. But it's not anything that we can do; it's always Christ who does it through us. As human beings, we want to fix things, we want to make it right. God uses us as tools to do that, but ultimately He is the one that is doing it through us."

How do you know if you're handling something the right way?

"I think many times there's an inner peace that you can feel, that the Lord, the Holy Spirit, puts in you that guides you in the right direction. I know sometimes I want to say, "Write it down on a piece of paper for me, Lord, so I can know" but that doesn't happen. But He works through other people, too, in helping you make the right choices in a difficult situation."

Plans for the Future

Sometimes just a change of perspective can be so revealing. Roggow referred to people's worry about COVID-19 shutting everything down, and said he's found a new perspective on it.

"I look at the COVID thing as having really caused us as a church to find new ways to do ministry," he said. "Everybody was, right away, 'Oh, we gotta get online.' And we're not doing the best, but technology is helping the effort to "get the Word out to people," he said. "Someone said that in a couple months we probably have moved ahead 10 years in just our knowledge of technology, because all of a sudden we're having to do this. We're reaching more people, actually, because we're online. People are watching, friends of members are watching and are hearing the Word of God, and that's a neat thing to see. And they're even making comments on the video and it's fun to see things happening like that."

So one of their current projects is beefing up the church's technology to take better advantage of this unexpected opportunity.

Another thing Roggow and the church plan to focus on is expanding their youth activities. "Increasing our youth activities is a big desire too, and having them feel like they're involved and needed and wanted," he said. "We want to serve our kids and serve them the best we can. So we've had activities once a month so far with the youth. It's been a blessing and so promising; it's neat to see, because when you look at your children, I mean, that's the future of your church. If you don't continue to have them involved, the church will wither and die."

For now, the Roggows are happy to be settling into small town life.

"We're just happy to be here and be part of the community," he said. "It's been neat. We walked in the First Friday Art Walk, walked downtown just for that, and it was just so pleasant and nice. We started looking at the different murals, and we realized they're numbered, and we were like, 'Oh, we're at 24 – then there's at least that many! We've got a lot to look at!' It's a unique thing in this community. The small-town environment has been a blessing, and it's nice, too, being in a community where COVID hasn't hit so hard and people can enjoy somewhat of a normalcy."


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