Cherishing Life’s Little Miracles

A UGM Love Story To Celebrate

Rodger & Barbara’s Story

By Jenessa Chan

“As soon as Rodger saw me, he knew I was the one he was gonna marry,” Barbara says. Though it’s been over 40 years since then, she’s still bewildered by his certainty. “It was just a gut feeling,” Rodger explains. “I just said, ‘Uh oh, I’m hooped.’” 

Rodger and Barbara first crossed paths while waiting in the lunch line at Bible College. After ending up in nearly every class together, they instantly became close friends. “When Rodger started expressing his feelings as love, at first, I couldn’t get past it. Was this what love was supposed to feel like?” she explains. But with humility and the realization that together, she and Rodger formed a perfect partnership, their friendship naturally blossomed. And in less than a year, they’d become a couple, engaged, then husband and wife.

In the early stages of building a life together, a firm foundation is crucial. They spent five years learning to work together as a team before starting a family—so when they had a daughter and son, it brought incredible joy to share with their children the love and grace of Christ. “Faith is central in our lives. We always told our kids nobody is perfect; if we were, we’d be hanging on the cross,” explains Barbara. “But we’re not—so we were always apologetic when we were wrong and said, ‘This is why we have to have God.’”

Eventually, Rodger started pursuing an M.A. in Counselling and landed a practicum at UGM. Though he had initial reservations about working in the city, walking with the men in recovery opened his eyes and heart. “I learned you can’t label someone as their addiction,” he explains. “I started seeing them as people.” That compassion led Rodger into leadership as UGM’s Manager of Alcohol & Drug Recovery, where, in the past 25 years, he has grown our programs into comprehensive systems of care. His efforts have completely transformed lives, and introduced many people to Jesus. “Oh man,” he says, tearing up. “It’s so good to see that. Angels say, ‘Hallelujah.’”

Barbara joined Rodger at UGM 20 years ago as a Gift Processing Clerk, which aligned perfectly with her interest in banking. “They made me feel at home. It’s like a big family,” she shares. In her time as Gift Processing Supervisor and now, a Legacy Giving Coordinator, Barbara has made a deep impact with donors like you. “I’ve gotten to see how donors care. Like the story where the elderly woman gave all she had and was blessed, we have so many donors who are giving what they can and are blessing us,” she explains, gratefully. “That’s why UGM can grow, and do what we do.”

In the spring of 2019, Rodger suffered a cardiac arrest and stroke. While spending weeks in critical care, their family experienced an outpouring of love and care from their UGM family. “We saw how the staff cared, prayed, and were in touch with us—not as coworkers, but as God’s children,” Barbara explains. Unexpectedly receiving back the love they’ve invested into others at UGM has humbly given them a new perspective. “Changed lives at UGM are miracles, but we started noticing little things as miracles too—and that’s given us a different look on gratitude.”

Rodger’s stroke recovery has only deepened his heart and understanding toward the people working hard to restore their lives at UGM. “I think I finally get recovery. I have a family, a stroke group, two doctors, and I have to retrain my brain. Addiction recovery is the same thing,” he begins. “Maybe UGM is like a hospital and Aftercare is like rehab. They also have doctors, a sponsor, and their AA or NA groups. Recovery is all the time; it’s lifelong.”

Through life’s highs and lows, Rodger and Barbara have deepened their love and learned to draw upon God as their strength and purpose. “As long as we’re still here, God’s not done with us yet,” Rodger explains. Whether that’s continuing to pour into people at UGM, or soaking in little miracles like longer daily walks or faith budding in their four grandchildren, they know there will always be more of Christ’s love to give and receive every day—no matter what.

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Written By: Jenessa Chan