ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Mark Rogers filled many roles in Abilene, and for the Southern Hills Church of Christ, it was that of college youth minister. His students and staff will meet Wednesday for the first time without him.
“It’s a lot of heartbreak right now. Just to put it simply, everyone’s just kind of grieving and coping with it in their own way,” said college group member and ACU senior Arlo Willis.
Rogers has been the group’s minister for the last 4 years. Every student there Tuesday has been touched by his teaching in some way, like Sean Ryan, an ACU sophomore.
“I didn’t necessarily think of him as a college minister. For me and several other guys, he was more just kind of a best friend,” Ryan says.
With his passing happening so suddenly, many, like his fellow staff member and high school minister Josh Hardcastle, are finding it difficult to make sense of the reality.
“When I got the call there was a lot of shock and confusion and I didn’t really know what to feel at the time,” Hardcastle says.
On Sunday, Southern Hills held their first service since Rogers passed. Hardcastle says it was during this service that he was able to get in touch with these complex emotions, and though he is not past the shock of the situation, he is finally to a place where he can help others cope.
“There was something that was very cathartic about going through that process to be able to move forward. Being able to feel those emotions even though their hard and I typically would push them down or away,” Hardcastle says.
Now as they look for meaning and comfort, they have Rogers to thank for the community surrounding them.
“And it’s showing now, the importance of that community, now that he’s gone. His mark and his impact are still here,” Hardcastle says. “We all need to at least try to have joy in our life to honor Mark in that way, because he brought so much joy to any room that he was in.”