Vibrant Youth Pastor was Prepared to Die
Geno Roncone, the 23-year-old son of Highpoint Church (AG) Pastor Gene and Rhonda Roncone, passed away on July 15, 2016, as cancer claimed his young life. But Geno, despite his youth, was prepared to die, if that’s what God asked of him.
Geno was Highpoint’s youth pastor. When he was just 15 years old, he started taking classes through Global University (AG). In August 2011, just a few months following his high school graduation, he was licensed as an AG minister by the Rocky Mountain District. He would go on to attend Northpoint Bible College (AG) in New Haverhill, Massachusetts, for two years before returning to Aurora, Colorado, as Highpoint’s youth pastor while finishing his last two years of college at Colorado Christian University.
Geno, the grandson of former AG Assistant General Superintendent Charles Crabtree and his wife Ramona, said in a posted message that several months before being rushed to the hospital on Dec. 17, 2015, with intense abdominal pains, God told him change was coming in his life.
“Geno, get ready, I’ve got some major changes in your life,” were the words God spoke to Geno during prayer those months before. Geno said in his last sermon at Highpoint that for the next several months he had sought God for clarification — what were these changes all about? Then four or five days before Dec. 17, God revealed to him that he would battle cancer.
“He spoke to me so clearly and so distinctly that I couldn't argue with what He just told me,” Geno said, “and I said okay, when that time comes, I don’t know if that’s soon or later on in life, but I’ll be ready.”
When doctors told Geno that he had a mass in his abdomen the size of a grapefruit that was cancerous, he wasn’t surprised, shocked, or fearful as God had prepared him for the moment.
Doctors would diagnose Geno with Stage IV Burkitts Lymphoma — a rare, but very aggressive, and fast-growing cancer. He would survive chemotherapy, and for a time, it seemed that perhaps God would bring him through the disease and restore his body. But Geno was ready for whatever God’s plan was.
“Geno was an incredibly gifted artist and sculptor and wonderful character,” says Charles Crabtree. “We’re only finding out now the many things he did for others that he never talked about.”
“My grandpa was driving me home from the hospital . . .,” Geno recounts in his message. “I remember looking out to the mountains and telling God and praying to Him by myself, saying, ‘Lord, I’m 23. I got dreams. I got goals. I got things I want to accomplish in life, but if this is my time to die, and this thing takes my life, I’ll be ready for it.’”
Geno would battle the disease valiantly and in great faith, and even though he knew his grip on life was tenuous, he explained that the peace of God was evident in his life and that it wasn’t so much about what God was bringing him through, but where God was bringing him to.
“I’ve never seen anyone go through seven months of suffering like he did — he was without complaint,” says Crabtree. “The testimony that he left . . . , the nurses at the hospital, when he was in ICU, would come down from the cancer ward to see how he was doing, and when he died, they all cried . . . his main oncologist fell on (Geno’s mother) Rhonda’s neck, and just sobbed. He died as he lived — a wonderful Christian, a victorious saint, and what a testimony to all of us that the last chapter hasn’t been written.”
Geno’s memorial service has not yet been scheduled as the Roncone’s daughter’s (Geno’s sister) wedding was this past weekend. Arrangements will be posted to Geno’s Facebook page once finalized. In lieu of flowers or gifts, the Roncone family is requesting that donations in Geno Roncone’s memory be made to Highpoint Church’s Geno Strong Memorial Fund. The fund will be used to give scholarships to teens wanting to attend the Rocky Mountain District Youth Camp.