'Barefoot Runner' Racing for a Cause
By Michelle Wilson
The 700 Club
CBN.com -Rick Roeber isn’t like most marathon runners. He covers the 26 miles on bare feet.
Rick recalls, “I ran 18 marathons with shoes and then I started running barefoot marathons. It really forced me to run better, and allowed me to run with better form.”
He grew up with a father who cheated on his mother and couldn’t hold down a job. They had to live in five different states before Rick turned 14.
Rick shares, “It really fed into my insecurity having to start new schools and I believe that it was just very hard for me to fit in in my formative years.”
Drugs helped Rick escape his insecurities and to fit in. He was smoking marijuana, taking LSD, and anything else he could get his hands on. One day, his brother invited him to church. While there, he says he felt compelled to follow Jesus. But soon he was back to his old habits, and felt worse than before.
Rick says, “I totally felt like a failure. I totally felt like I had given up on myself. I was horrified that I was addicted to the things that I thought that I could never be addicted to.”
Rick joined the Navy but after 10 months he went AWOL and was discharged. With no direction, he hit the highways with a backpack and wandered aimlessly across the country.
Rick says, “I hitchhiked from Florida to California and back. I lived in missions. I lived in places and worked day labor.”
He slept anywhere he could find shelter. At times Rick would think about a better life; one free of his addictions.
Rick shares, “I remember one time in New Orleans I was in a vacant lot and I had two mattresses propped up teepee style and it was raining and it was cold and it was miserable, and I thought, ‘God, if you're there, please rescue me.’”
While hitchhiking his way from Texas to Missouri, Rick caught a ride with a man who invited him to church. He says it was there he experienced God’s love. He also stopped drinking and using drugs.
Rick shares, “I walked with God for a year and a half and it was the most exciting time of my life.”
But Rick never got help for his addictions. Eventually, he started drinking again. He was in and out of church and struggling. He wanted God and his addictions too.
Rick says, “I knew Jesus Christ was the answer by that point, but I was still so addicted. I was still so trapped.”
Rick married and had three children but he was drinking heavily. After he was busted for a DUI his wife divorced him. Again, he decided to run and drove to Las Vegas to drink himself to death. But something stopped him.
Rick shares, “I got a word from what I call now from God in my heart saying that if I did this that I would die some ignominious death out here in the desert somewhere and nobody would even care about me and that God desperately wanted me to get back to Kansas City to sober up. I remember shaking and trembling and pouring out the vodka in the parking lot and I was saying, ‘God, I want to live again. I want to live again.’”
Rick drove home and started going to Alcoholics Anonymous. There, he finally realized why he had been running.
Rick recalls, “I didn’t like that I knew deep down it was Jesus Christ because then I would have to admit that I was wrong. That I would have to own up to my mistakes, and also that I would have to put my security in Him. And then I just said ‘God forgive me. Forgive me of living this selfish life thinking that I could control my destiny, thinking that I could live above addictions, thinking that I could live beyond You.’ That's when things started to change dramatically.”
Rick completed AA and has been clean ever since. He earned a college degree, and got a steady job and married Rebecca. He’s also a chaplain at a local rescue mission where he tells the homeless men there that no matter where you’ve been there is hope in Jesus Christ.
Rick says, “I ran from God for years and now I run with God. And I run to Him. He is the answer to all of life's problems.”
Rick ran his 62nd barefoot marathon in Jerusalem. He runs to raise money to help people who were just like him.
Rick shares, “If we run to Him, His arms are open. You may not think they are right now, but if you make that first step, if you get out of yourself enough to draw near to God, He's going to draw near to you. There's no doubt about it.”
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