NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Roger C. Aker, executive director of Love In the Name of Christ, died unexpectedly Thursday, Aug. 27, 2009, in Nacogdoches. A passing motorist discovered his body lying in the lawn of the SFA Social Work Department, a place where he taught part time and led many crusades of service.
Paramedics began immediate CPR and dispatched to the hospital of an incoming heart attack victim. Efforts to revive Aker continued less than a block away at Nacogdoches Memorial Hospital.
Aker was the first director of the Nacogdoches organization, described as "a partnership of churches bringing together people in need and people who can help." He was hired in 1999 to direct the efforts of the fledgling organization. Love INC celebrated 10 years of service to the Nacogdoches area in 2008.
He had a long professional history in pastoral ministry, administration of not-for-profit agencies, social work, counseling and business management. He held graduate degrees in social work, administration and divinity and was an adjunct professor and field instructor in the SFA School of Social Work
Kathleen Belanger, president of the first Love In The Name of Christ board of directors and SFA associate professor in the School of Social Work, said Aker was literally the first graduate of SFA's Master of Social Work program.
"He walked the stage first because his last name began with the letter A," she said. "He has brought many students in and taught them how to be loving, Christian social workers. He'll be missed as a teacher, as a friend, as the hardworking administrator of Love INC."
Belanger said Love INC's first board was discussing formation of the organization when Aker graduated from SFA's Master of Social Work program in 1998. "After prayerful deliberation by our board and by members from many Nacogdoches churches, he was chosen to lead Love INC. We believe that God sent him to Nacogdoches for that purpose," she said.
"We started April 1, 1999, which was both April Fools Day and Holy Thursday that year," she recalled. "He sat in a little office above a downtown bank, prayed for the organization and opened its doors."
"God brought Roger and Love INC together to do his work in our community," Belanger said. "He was a Godsend."
Nacogdoches Mayor Roger Van Horn, was on the original board of directors and remembered Aker as a person who "never said no."
"To think what he has accomplished in our community during the time he has been director of Love INC is remarkable," he said. "When we were discussing programs and decisions, he always gently brought me back to a place that was Christ-centered instead of self-centered."
The current board chairman of Love INC, Dr. J. B. Watson, SFA associate professor of sociology, said Aker was the "best example of a servant-leader I've ever met."
"He sacrificially gave of his time and of himself," he said. "Sometimes he would even talk the board out of giving him a pay raise so the money could go to help meet community needs."
Watson said Aker was always looking over the horizon to the next unmet need in the community.
"Speaking for the board, we are committed to continuing the work of Love INC," Watson said. "We know Roger would want that work to move forward."
One of the most recent projects important to Aker was establishing a ministerial alliance of the pastors of area Hispanic churches to meet the needs of the Hispanic community.
Victor Rivera, a board member of both Love INC and the Christian Family Center, said he was recruited by Aker to help unite Spanish pastors to find and meet the needs of the Spanish community through their churches.