John’s father, Doug Roberts, shared with this site the following words, written for his church:
TRIBUTE TO LORD OF LOVE: by Doug Roberts
Dear Lord of Love Family. We said good by to John Roberts on October 17, 2007 and it was as sad a day as I can remember in my lifetime, but it was also a sad day for Lord of Love. To think back on what we had lost? So as Rose and I were trying to come to grips with the reality and putting the loose ends together we ran across a note from John that he wrote to the LOL congregation just as he was about to head out on his adventure in the Real World. After reading it we began to realize what we as parents had accomplished and also realized what Lord of Love had accomplished in John‘s life when he was here and growing up. Rose and I felt we needed to share it with you. Since we know the ending to the John’s story we hope you will enjoy the beginning.
The story begins at a place called “Roberts Trailhead” which is located in the Pine Ridge National Forest of western Nebraska and is part of the US Park Service. Roberts Trailhead (open to the public year round) is located 10 miles southeast of Crawford Nebraska and was owned by Willis Roberts, the Great grandfather of John Roberts. Willis and his wife Maude farmed and ranched the land while raising a family of 9 children through the rough depression years. Five of the children are still alive today, but when Willis passed away the children sold the land to the Park Service to be preserved for generations to come. It is from these roots that John got some of his zest for life and his sense of purpose. However never underestimate the power of our own surroundings and the impact we each can have on someone.
In his notes he refers to Micronesia as the place he will serve his time in the Peace Corps, but somewhere along the journey it turned into Vanuatu, which is also a poor Island Nation in the South Pacific and needing all the things he describes in his writings. John just told them to send him where he could do the most good and they sent him to Vanuatu instead of Micronesia. It was on the Island of Erromango, that John was accidentally killed by a falling tree while he was helping the natives clear some ground for a garden project that he had organized.
Hello, my name is John Roberts and standing atop the pine bluffs of Western Nebraska you can see the curvature of the earth as it spreads across a great expanse of prairie. My family started as simple ranchers in this place but as we change the values which are as solid as the hills themselves have never wavered. The views atop the pine bluffs are truly stunning and bitter sweet poetic. I realize that I am a reflection of this place, as the winds of the past blow at my back I look across a prairie that is as broad and infinite as the future itself. Combined with a forward looking family and a college education I have learned much in my life. I have learned the value of life and the fragility of mankind. I have seen the good and the bad that life has to offer. I have seen the diversity of cultures across the globe and the great voids between them which must be crossed to bring us all together. True world peace is not achieved through diplomatic discussion or the assured nuclear destruction of the enemies of the United States. In stead it is cultivated from teachers in classrooms and one neighbor helping another. I hold no grand scheme that the world can be brought completely together in my life time but I have seen the power of one man helping another. This is why as many of you who read the Love Letter know already I have decided to join the Peace Corp. Lord of Love has done so much to help me grow into the person I am today. Never doubt the light of this place in a dark world. I pray that those who attend Lord of Love never forget this. As my time with the church comes to an end I would like to say thank you, from a man about to start a difficult journey. It is not the road which shapes the man but instead it is the man who shapes the road. So, with a heavy heart I must also say goodbye and may peace be with you. I begin my journey for the Peace Corp. in early October. They are assigning me to the Pacific Islands region and most indication point to the fact that I am going to work in Micronesia. It is a small country of islands spread across thousands of miles of ocean. It sits about 2,000 miles North of Australia. I will be working on a combination of electrical and youth development tasks in this area. For two years I will live and work as the people in this area do. I can only grasp at what lies ahead for me in the future but the true test will not be from the road ahead but the strength of my heart.
Some of you who read the Love Letter, you have known me most of my life. Since before I could walk I have been a member of Lord of Love. As I have grown there have been changes. The building, the pastors and the congregations have all changed. But, unchanging is Gods love and the love with in the congregation. I have lived for only 22 years but Lord of Love and people who attend here have had a lasting effect on me. The family at Lord of Love has helped me grow into the person I am today. Yet, in life there always seems to be a little bitterness with the sweet. For me the bitterness is the fleeting time I have with Lord of Love. Of course I will come back and visit Omaha from time to time but the experience will never be the same.
For two years I will work and live with the people of the Federated States of Micronesia. As a former US colony they lack sufficient infrastructure to meet their population needs. I will be assigned to install and teach construction management for electrical systems. There will be no space between these people and me. I will live in their villages, obey their laws and customs, while hoping to bring a difference into their lives. Located on a series of small Island atolls North of Australia on the equator the sense of living with these people may become apparent very quickly. There will be many things to grow accustomed to and many challenges to face which I can not comprehend. But, I find that it is not the struggles in our lives which gives us the greatest trouble but instead it is the decision in our own hearts which we struggle with most.
Now like with all good things my time with the Church is coming to an end. . So, it is with a heavy heart and a tearful eye I must say good bye.
John Roberts, March 1, 1983- October 11, 2007
Peace Corps Press Release:
WASHINGTON, D.C., October 11, 2007 – The Peace Corps is mourning the loss of John D. Roberts, a Peace Corps Volunteer in Vanuatu. Roberts died as the result of an accident while working at his site on October 11.
A student was cutting branches from a tree at the school where Roberts and other students were cleaning the garden, and when one of the branches fell, it struck Roberts and another member of the community. Tragically, both were killed.
“John was an exemplary Volunteer who had a true heart for service,” said Peace Corps Director Ron Tschetter. “John’s death is a tremendous loss for his family, the Peace Corps, and the People of Vanuatu—in particular those in the community where he served.
John served as a Construction and Skilled Trades Education Volunteer in Vanuatu with the Vetumit Rural Training Center, located in a remote village called South River, on the island of Erromango.
John was 24 years old and from Omaha, Nebraska. He was sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer on December 8, 2005, and was approximately one month from completion of his service in Vanuatu. John is survived by his parents, Douglas and Rose Roberts, of Omaha, Nebraska.
In his aspiration statement when he joined the Peace Corps, he said: “Why I have volunteered is a question that I do not fully know the answer to. Coming from a stable farming family I was always taught to help my neighbors but I also feel an internal pull to help lend a hand. Somewhere back in my short life…I made a choice to serve and have been doing so ever since. Instead of a single moment defining my reasons to serve, a whole life time of learning is driving me to volunteer for the Peace Corps.”
As a Peace Corps Volunteer, John is credited for helping strengthen South River’s transportation, income generation, and communication capabilities. However, John’s lasting accomplishments can also be measured by the warmth of human relationships. As one community representative said, “John helped us develop our rural training center and community, but what we will really remember is that he lived with us, ate with us, played with us, grieved with us and rejoiced with us…he was our son.”