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I Love Life: An Evangelist’s Triumph Over Adversity

At the height of the Vietnam conflict, Dave Roever opened his mailbox and saw his draft notice.  Dave was caught off guard.  “It was almost scary.  I took my physical and was shocked I passed it!  It was the only exam I passed that year in college!   I tell people I got an O plus on the blood test.  I thought they were going to put me in the army, send me to Vietnam, shoot me or keep me in America.  I went out and joined the Navy.  I thought nobody would float a battleship in a rice paddy.  I’d be safe!  My second day in boot camp, they pulled my academic record.  I was the only guy in the entire recruitment that had any college at all.  They asked, ‘you went to college?’ I said, ‘yes, sir. I was going to Bible college and I was flunking out.’  They said,’ no problem, you’re leadership material!’  I call it naval intelligence.”

 Unfortunately for Dave just eight months into his tour of duty in Vietnam, his life was about to change forever.  The south Texan was burned beyond recognition when a phosphorous grenade exploded in his hand.  “Today I bring to you the worst moment of my life in physical terms.  I was on the bank of a river right on the border of Cambodia.  The Vietnamese people call it the Parrots Peak.  It was a very hot spot in the war and that’s exactly where our riverboats were.  I was a naval brown water black beret.   I picked up the grenade from my ammo box. I had a feeling the enemy was there.  I couldn’t see them, but I had this sixth sense they were there.  I pulled the grenade back to throw it and—in an instant it exploded in my face.  The grenade took off half my skin and sixty pounds of flesh in one second.  I went blind in my eyes, deaf in my ears, stripped my head down to my skull.  I looked down and saw my heart beating.  But, and this is the good news, I’m sitting here talking today because God is a good God.  A man told me once, ‘boy, looks like the old Vietnamese got the best of you.’  I said, ‘no way, they got the worst! I kept the best for Jesus!’

 While in the hospital, David got more than what he bargained for when he asked a nurse to give him a mirror. The gregarious Navy riverboat gunner was totally shocked!  “After my injury, I was shipped to Japan.  At that point, I hadn’t seen my face.  One day, I asked for a mirror in the hospital.  I always say I was stupid to ask and they were stupid to bring it.  The nurse held it right over my face.  I looked up at the glass.  The right side of my head was severely burned and the right side was swollen with my shoulder. I knew that my wife Brenda would not know who I was.  She was a teenage girl.  While I was staring in the mirror, the nurse put morphine in me.  I’ve never had a drug in my body before that day.  The morphine went to my head.  I start hallucinating.  My face in the mirror began to talk to me.  I remember as though it just happened.   My face spoke to me saying, ‘kill yourself.  You’re a half headed freak.  Brenda’s a beautiful girl.  Get out of her misery.  What I did next was wrong.  I make no bones about it.  I didn’t have a knife or gun or rope to hang me.  I unplugged a tube and waited to die—and, in a short time, I got hungry!  I pulled the wrong tube…I pulled lunch out and I’m so glad I did  ‘cause I wouldn’t be here talking to you today on this microphone.  Life’s good bubba.”

 It’s been Dave’s faith that has been a constant companion since the explosion.  “The Bible put it this way, ‘though I make my bed in hell, though art there with me.’  The best thing about being a Christian is knowing God’s always with you— regardless of what’s happening in your life.  It could be a divorce, job loss or a crippling injury.   During the year and two months I was in the hospital, the blessings of God came to me through friends, family, ministers, doctors and nurses…I can honestly tell you out of my tragedy has come a triumph.  People who have been hurt can look at me and say, ‘you know how I feel.’  God didn’t do this to me.  But, it’s been my faith and my loving wife, who is still with me, that carried me through the toughest time of my life. 

 Thanks to humor, Dave, one of the country’s most recognized inspirational speakers, keeps his heart and mind on the blessings of life.  Over the past 25 years, David has testified to more than 7 million high school students.  “When I give presentations at schools, kids look at me.  Some say, ‘holy blank!  What happened to you?  One guy asked me, ‘dude what happened to your face?’  I told him, ‘I was burned bobbing for French fries.’  Then he asked, ‘did you get one?’  I wanted to slap the little sucker!  Let me tell you something about self-esteem.  The thing that takes low self-esteem and transforms it into positive self-esteem is when you take what you see as a negative…use it for something good.  Lighten up on it!  Use it.  Make laughter of it!  I don’t mean ridicule.  People laugh with me and not at me.  I tell kids when they first get a lot at me—a man-eating hummingbird attacked me. They get a kick out of it.  I tell them about my ear falling off while I was speaking and I quickly put it back on.  Everyone thought it was a miracle and they all got religion.  Or my hair blew off and I had to chase it across the church parking lot.  You take your negatives and turn them into positives by using them to help other people who have been hurt.  Humor, happiness, joy, love—these things can all be yours!  When you come to people with that kind of attitude, you go from being pitied to being respected.”

 That best describes Dave Roever, who lives by this Biblical scripture:  Colossians 3:17:  “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father though Him.”

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