02 Apr Appreciating the Details
Wisconsin, 1943. Bob Rohlinger’s mother died just five weeks after giving birth to him. When asked how she died, Bob leaned to the side in his office chair, reached into his back pocket, pulled out his wallet, and opened it to reveal a small handwritten Post-It note that read, ‘acute bacterial endocarditis streptococcus’. He had to explain, “I can never remember the whole name, so I keep this in my wallet in case a doctor or someone should ask.”
Bob’s father, devastated and overwhelmed by the sudden loss of his beloved wife, sent his newborn son to live with his grandparents halfway across the country in San Diego. His father remained in Wisconsin to raise Bob’s then 2-year-old brother.
Bob remembered enjoying his early childhood years with his grandparents. It was all he had ever known for the first five years of his life before he was sent back to live with his newly remarried father and stepmother.
I was in heaven,” Bob recalls of his happy, easy-going life in San Diego. “And then it was like someone plucked me out of heaven and dropped me into hell.
Being uprooted as a child from the stability in California to the uncertainty in Wisconsin was just one difficult adjustment for Bob. Being raised in a Catholic household where only the children were expected to go to church and follow religious rules was another. Bob would attend mass with his older brother. The young boys were accustomed to being dropped off at the doorstep of the church on Sundays. These were challenges that caused a very shy Bob to become angry and resentful as he grew from adolescence into adulthood. All he could do was press on.
Bob later married, began a career in finance, and started a family of his own. Again, church was not a priority. He worked long hours, doing everything he could to provide a comfortable lifestyle for his wife and his three children: Michelle, Beth and Greg. But the stability he worked so hard to preserve would become shaky yet again.
In the fall of 1977, my wife and I split up. She moved out and our three kids stayed with me.
Instantly becoming a single father to his children, then 11, 10, and 7, Bob chose to play an active role in their lives. When they showed an early interest in playing sports, Bob signed them up to play T-ball, soccer, and basketball through Christian Athletic Association (CAA). And Bob was there to watch and cheer them on every chance he got.
A pivotal moment in Bob’s life came when his kids’ involvement in sports eventually led to one of the soccer moms offering to take the Rohlinger kids with her family to First Baptist Church, one of several churches that founded CAA.
Bob’s kids continued playing sports and attending church with their friends. Bob joined his kids at church where he made the decision to accept Christ. He was 37 years old.
In July of 1980, all four of us were baptized together.
Bob proudly remembered the year he began his personal relationship with Jesus. After being baptized, Bob decided to get involved with First Baptist Church, helping with their finances, and separately being appointed Chairman of CAA.
The Lord used that to help me overcome my shyness and develop confidence as a leader.
Over the next 16 years of his life and career, Bob’s leadership skills continued to develop while his faith continued to grow. He began to see glimpses of God’s marvelous work woven throughout the circumstances of his far from picture-perfect life.
With an already busy schedule in California, Bob also found time to help with his son’s church plant in Arizona. He later moved to Arizona and was given another opportunity to use his giftedness with numbers and leadership to serve the church, this time in an even greater capacity.
In 2006, Bob was hired to be the Chief Financial Officer at Palm Valley Church, the church founded by his son, Greg, and daughter-in-law, Lori.
I would never hug anyone when Palm Valley Church started. When someone would come up and hug me, I’d say to myself, ‘that wasn’t so bad’. But if they would have picked my pockets back then, I probably wouldn’t be hugging people today.” Bob reminisced with a smile, thinking about the early years of Palm Valley Church.
A belief in something bigger than life’s struggles was a challenge for Bob early on. Even after losing the mother he never knew; the wife he once loved; the father, stepmother, and grandparents who only wanted the best for him; and recently his son to a degenerative neurological disorder, Bob came to realize that the Lord had an extraordinary purpose for every detail of his story.
God brought Bob out of resentment, back to the church and into a relationship with Him.
Bob says the last part of Joshua 24:15 has been most relevant in his life, 'But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.'
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