The DOCK Clothes Middle, High School Students with Christ’s DNA

Written by Paul R. Kopenkoskey on . Posted in Local

Cutline No. 1-3dockSteve Roobol: “We show them the love of Christ by sharing the love of Christ.” Alexander "Xander" Szocinski became entwined with the tendrils of friends and fun when he started hanging out in his sophomore year at The DOCK, a year-round ministry at 4669 S. Division Ave. in Wyoming that's across from Kelloggsville Middle School.

"They have just about any board game you can think of," said Szocinski, a 2016 graduate of Kelloggsville High School. "Uno; that's the one I played the most with friends."

Szocinski stayed involved with The DOCK after high school, volunteering for a year where he says it helped him hone a work ethic. He also ran The DOCK's candy store for a time.

"Yeah, I was the candy man, that's basically what they called me," said Szocinski, who's a dishwasher/busser at a Mr. Burger Restaurant in Wyoming. "I had kids daily ask, 'When are you going to open it?'"

Meet Mr. Steve

Steve Roobol has been director of The Dock since 2016. It's a job where he wears several monikers: Mr. Steve. Rev. or Master P.

Whatever name he goes by, Roobol's mission is singular: To grow disciples of Jesus Christ by mentoring, tutoring, counseling, equipping, and discipling students in an environment that is safe, secure and fun.

"We show them the love of Christ by sharing the love of Christ," said Roobol. "We spread seed. We emulate Christ as much as possible with these students. They do test my wisdom. They even test how I finish my sentences."

The DOCK is a ministry that requires flexibility, or to put it biblically, to understand the times and know what Israel – or in this case – Wyoming, Mich. – should do (1 Chronicles 12:32).

"Sometimes I become the principle and not the pastor, sometimes the bouncer before I'm a friend," said Roobol.

The DOCK is for middle and high school students, primarily from the Godwin and Kelloggsville school districts, although students from other schools are also welcome to join.

The DOCK is an acronym that means Disciples Of Christ's Kids, so named because the renovated building The DOCK operates out of once included a loading docks and the name seemed to fit the ministry's intent.

"This old building used to have docks and the premise was this is a place where students can unload their stuff and give it to God and when they leave, they're free or freer," said Roobol.

Students, not kids

cutdockAlexander “Xander” Szocinski: “He’s (Roobol) done a lot of good with this ministry.”But as Roobol is quick to add, he doesn't call the young people who file into the building kids.

"I don't want to call my students 'kids,'" said Roobol, who relies on the help of 30 or so volunteers from area churches during the school year to help with homework assignments, among other responsibilities. "They have experienced more stuff than you can imagine. Some of the things they do endure causes them to have to grow up sooner than society wants them to. We are an urban youth ministry."

The students who file into The DOCK usually don't live a "Leave It To Beaver Life."

"Broken homes. (Some) are transient," said Roobol. "They don't' know where they're going to go from a month, three months or even six months from now. Lots of single moms, absent dads. I'm seeing a lot of that. Get into this community: Kelloggsville, Godwin their tests scores are lower than they should be, their graduation rates are lower than what they should be. Surprisingly, their pregnancy rates are lower."

The ways The DOCK helps make a difference in young people's lives is not to rely on one method.

They get to eat nutritious and hopefully what they consider tasty food (walking tacos, chicken, pasta, goulash, sandwiches). They wash it down with 100 percent fruit juice.

Smart tactic

But before they get to eat, they hear a devotion Roobol dubs Cross Talks. And the Cross Talks come first before they chow down. It's a smart tactic, said Szocinski.

     
 

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"He made sure to do it to where the snack or the food was always after the lesson," said Szocinski. "(The previous director) did the food first and then the lesson which didn't really work. You would get like 100 kids and then only 20 would show up for the end part."

The variation to when the food was doled out was not initially popular, but Roobol adeptly navigated the turbulent seas of teen angst (and hunger). The change proved fruitful.

"As the year progressed, the kids were getting into it and asked more questions," said Szocinski. "He's done a lot of good with this ministry."

Then there's the room dubbed the chill zone, which doubles as a sanctuary on Sundays for a church named The Pier.

The chill zone is where study hall is held but it's also populated with pool tables, board and card games and an air hockey table. The zone serves a dual purpose.

"They know if they have anything they need to talk to me about, this is the place," said Roobol. "I can't tell them how to do it. I can only show them options of what they can do. It's like a test: A, B, C, or D. Which one is best? Every option has a consequence and it's up to you to decide which option you want. We are a community center under the city of Wyoming bylaws and with that, they have some stipulations. We can't do counseling but we can do mentoring. I love mentoring because it allows students to put it into practice."

Weaved throughout their time together are the dual rudders of self-care and self-responsibility.

Clothing them with Christ's DNA

"Three basic needs students have are food, clothing and shelter," said Roobol. "At the end of the day did we meet those needs? The spiritual part we're clothing them with the DNA of Christ."

During the school's lunch hour, Roobol visits Kelloggsville High School where the Accelerate leadership development talks are put into gear.

"It's primarily for college bound students to teach them how they can be a better communicator, a better leader, self-evaluation, what we can do to help our community?" said Roobol. "I give them a challenge every week. Teaching students how to communicate verbally and nonverbally. If teachers are harping on you because you're not paying attention, sit up and pay attention."

The DOCK's summer program, for boys and girls, includes, but is not limited to, a three-day summer camp in August. This year it's at Camp Beechpoint, in Allegan (by Hopkins).

The DOCK is unabashedly Christian that Roobol says is interdenominational in its makeup of students

"We have some Muslims, Catholics, Baptists, unchurched, dechurched," he said, "and people who don't even believe. There's was one atheist who came very often and she graduated. We had the richest conversations. She came from an atheistic view to agnostic. It's a notch."

All things to all people

It's this segment of the Wyoming population that makes Roobol a good fit for The DOCK.

"I'm an ordained Wesleyan pastor that grew up Pentecostal that works at Baptist churches, that has been mentored by Father Nick Adams from a Catholic Church for three and a half years, and this place is ran by the CRC," he said. "So I am all things to all people."

What this all means to the students, even during some tough-love issues, is a demonstration of Christ's love.

"We help them navigate through what I call the happy crappies," said Roobol. "I try to help with students struggling with academics and their faith journey and introduce them to Father God. I'm not here to do theology with them, to wrestle with the semantics of Scripture, but to help them understand there is a God. He loves you and wants to be a part of your life."

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Author Information
Paul R. Kopenkoskey
Author: Paul R. KopenkoskeyWebsite:
About:
Paul R. Kopenkoskey is a full-time freelance writer and editor for an assortment of publications including Grand Rapids Magazine, Grand Rapids Business Journal, and Faith Grand Rapids magazine. He has completed his first novel with the working title, Karl Beguiled. He and his wife, Barb, live in Wyoming, Michigan. They have three children and five grandchildren.

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