Mark Roskam, a man who believed in God and that the homeless people he served could break the cycle of poverty, died suddenly on Father’s Day. He was 63.
The chaplain at the Christ-centered homeless shelter Open House Ministries was a father figure to many he encountered during his 10 years with the nonprofit in downtown Vancouver.
“He understood how important those relationships were,” said his older brother, Mike Roskam. “Mark was a man of grace and mercy.”
An avid cyclist, Roskam and his nephew were heading home from a bicycle ride to Frenchman’s Bar when he suffered a brain aneurysm climbing the hill on Northeast Hazel Dell Avenue.
“We’re not quite to the point of understanding yet, because he was taken way too soon,” Mike Roskam said.
The brothers, both Salmon Creek residents, attempted to bicycle across the country on Route 66 last year to raise money for Open House Ministries and break the cycle of homelessness and poverty. The ride was cut short when Mike Roskam was hit by a pickup truck and needed time to recover.
Before embarking on the cross-country bicycle ride, Mark Roskam told The Columbian: “Somebody has got to step up, and I put it on our adults all the time — that it’s up to them to break the cycle. … We believe in what we are doing, so that makes it easy to bicycle across the country.”
Besides being a chaplain at Open House Ministries, Mark Roskam worked in the nonprofit’s bicycle repair shop, Wheel Deals Bicycles. He initially started as a case worker.
“It was a really broad ministry that he had there,” Mike Roskam said.
He recalled a story that was told at his brother’s memorial service. A man who was deaf and homeless came into Wheel Deals Bicycles after his tent had burned and all of his possessions were stolen. The staff outfitted him with a new bike and trailer.
After learning that the man had only the clothes he was wearing, “Mark literally gave him the shirt off his back,” Mike Roskam said.
During his tenure at the family shelter, Mark Roskam addressed people’s physical needs first, “but he addressed their spiritual and emotional needs, too.” While he shared his faith, he realized he needed to earn the right to do so.
Mark Roskam was ordained and routinely called on to do funerals or memorials, as well as weddings. He was heavily involved in the community and his church, Starting Grounds Church in Battle Ground.
On Thursday night, dozens of people gathered in Hazel Dell and walked to the spot on Hazel Dell Avenue where Roskam died. They shared memories and put a white cross on the side of the road.
Roskam leaves behind his wife, Gini Roskam, three daughters and five grandchildren.