At first, the Crossroads Pregnancy Center in Lewistown, Pa., turned Nelson Roth away. They didn’t have any male clients or need any male counselors. Roth, who had just retired with his wife to Belleville, Pa., after nearly 40 years as a teacher and pastor, left his contact information with the center. If the need arose, he told them, he was eager to volunteer as a pastoral counselor.
Not long thereafter, the first call came, and then another and another. Roth began meeting with men who’d come to Crossroads looking for relief from abusive relationships, broken homes and dysfunction in their lives. The workload grew, and now, nine years later, Roth sees clients four days a week at Crossroads offices in Mifflin, Huntingdon and Juniata counties, plus visits to jails and hospitals.
Though he holds a master’s degree in counseling from Shippensburg State University, Roth says his long experience as a pastor and a gift for sensitivity and connection are his biggest assets as a counselor. Often, the people he counsels reveal painful things about their lives they’ve never told anyone else. And unlike most counselors, Roth says, he does not try to avoid or minimize his own emotional involvement in his clients’ painful lives.
“We have Jesus to be our strength,” he says. “I don’t carry the load emotionally, because it’s up to the Lord … Scores of clients have experienced Crossroads as a place of learning, decision and new life in Jesus.”
In 2008, Roth was recognized for his work when he traveled to Washington D.C. to receive a Presidential Volunteer Service Award. He lives in Belleville with his wife, Emma Jane, and is active in the Allensville Mennonite Church. In addition to seeing clients through Crossroads Pregnancy Center, Roth also regularly volunteers as a counselor to members of his congregation, and is sometimes assigned clients by a judge in Mifflin County.
The past nine years have been a unique opportunity, which has resulted in a new kind of personal crossroads in my life,” Roth says. “I daily seek God’s mercy, grace and victory, both for myself and my clients.”
— Andrew Jenner