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Rod Raver: The Call from God

Columnist Steve Lange thought he knew what to expect when he interviewed Rod Raver. He was wrong.

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I didn't know what I was in for, really, when I sat down to interview Rod Raver at the Dunn Bros. near the Elton Hills neighborhood where he grew up.

Oh, I'd done my research. In 1973, John Marshall's Rod Raver high jumped 7-foot-1 to set the high school state record, which still stands nearly 50 years later. I knew he'd gone through a rough patch. Knew he'd worked his was through some tough times.

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But a half hour into the interview, in which Rod told his story in the most straightforward of ways, I had goosebumps.

At the 42-minute mark – and I just listened back to the recording to confirm that – we were both slightly choking up in that "we're just two guys with allegies" sort of way.

Because Rod Raver's story – from Olympic high jump hopeful to career-ending motorcycle accident to a decade of of addiction to a guy who says he was saved by God – is as moving as it gets.

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“It was a hot day, July 9 of 1984,” says Raver. “I was hungover, and woke up in the woodshop. I was so sick of what I was doing in my life. I prayed and asked God to help me.”

Raver, he says, was never a religious man. Two months earlier, though, he was in Utah visiting his grandmother, who was dying. One night, he was lying in the backyard of his cousin’s house. “I was looking at the stars and thinking ‘What is life all about? I’ve got to get my act cleaned up.’”

Then all of a sudden, he says, a breeze came out of nowhere. He was covered in goosebumps. And covered, he says, in a feeling he’d never experienced before. “I crawled under my blanket like I did when I was a kid. I just felt that something special was happening and I didn’t know what it was.”

Now, on that hot July Rochester night two months later, with no AC in the house, he was lying in bed with the windows open, listening to the crickets chirping.

“I know it sounds crazy,” Raver says, “but I heard this little inner voice. It said ‘Rod, look out the window.’ I sat up and looked out the bedroom window and the voice said ‘No. Go to the living room.’”

Rod Raver got up, water bed sloshing, afraid he’d wake his wife. Afraid she’d ask why he was getting up. Afraid he’d have to tell her it was because he was hearing a voice.

He went to the living room window and looked out. It was completely still. He saw nothing. He went back to bed. Thought he was going crazy.

He heard the voice again. “Rod, get up and go look out the window.”

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He believed, then, it was actually God speaking to him. So he got up again. Looked out the open window.

“All of the sudden, out of nowhere, this breeze comes through the drapes, and I felt this overwhelming presence,” Raver says. “I can’t even describe it, but it comes over me and says, ‘Rod, I love you. I want you to clean your act up.’ It spoke in my terms. ‘I want you to clean your act up.’ It was the same breeze I had felt two months before. At that moment, I felt like everything had changed.”

To read Rod Raver's full story, check out "The High Jump. The Long Fall. The Call From God."

Steve Lange is the editor of Rochester Magazine. His column appears every Tuesday.

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