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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...




Connections: Dave Roever
Nov. 10, 2013


Battle-Scarred Truth


Dave Roever sustained devastating injuries from a grenade blast on July 26, 1969, while he served in Vietnam. For more than 40 years, he has shared his story of a very painful but miraculous recovery. Today, Dave and Brenda Roever continue to lead an array of ministries to U.S. service personnel and civilians alike. Dave Roever spoke with Scott Harrup, Pentecostal Evangel managing editor, about the power of hope and his continuing passion to connect hurting people with Jesus Christ.

evangel: You’re ministering today to service members and veterans at one of four locations where you do wounded warrior training, including two Eagles Summit Ranches you founded with your wife. Describe some of the deep needs that motivated you and Brenda to establish the ranches and Operation Warrior RECONnect.

DAVE ROEVER: We have a passion to never again allow the nation’s focus on our returning veterans to be so negative, as it was on Vietnam veterans. The price we paid should never have been paid, and it should never be repeated.

The United States military sends returning warriors to us. I’m sitting in my office right now next to a roomful of soldiers who have been wounded. They come here for their emotional healing and restoration. We can’t address their physical wounds, but our program, Operation Warrior RECONnect, teaches them lessons I had to learn when I returned from Vietnam but that no one was around to teach me.

evangel: When you talk to wounded warriors of their journey to recovery, what continuing challenges of your own recovery do you share with them?

ROEVER: One of the great problems they face, and that I have had to bring under control in my life, is simply — memories. There are times I lie awake at night and remember faces. I remember events.

Warriors deal with pain that never goes away, pain that no drug can touch. Only God’s grace helped me survive my own suicidal thoughts the first 20 years of my ministry. I was preaching all over America and the world, and I was suicidal just like many of our warriors today. Suicide is the number one issue in the U.S. military today. On average, an active-duty U.S. soldier takes his or her own life almost every single day. Among veterans, the numbers are far higher. About 22 veterans committed suicide each day in 2010.

God helped me beat the demon of suicide. Now I have the privilege of traveling and talking to our troops around the world, at our military’s invitation, and sharing a suicide prevention program with tens of thousands of men and women.

evangel: What differences do you observe between the experiences of soldiers returning from the war on terror and what you encountered when you returned from Vietnam?

ROEVER: There’s actually a huge difference. We came home to a country where many called us “baby killers.” We faced dishonor and discredit. Today, warriors come home to a host of material benefits and programs; they are honored for their service.

But in spite of every material benefit they receive that my generation missed, there is another area in which this generation is truly impoverished. We are sending to war young people who do not have the first pylon under the foundation of life principles needed to get through this time.

They have no faith. Often, they have no idea what marital commitment really means. They have grown up on video games, and are suddenly confronted with the reality of war and returning from war. When they come back, they are completely unprepared.

When these warriors come through our program, we start building faith underneath their crumbling lives. Faith is the key to salvaging them.

evangel: Wherever you speak, your message is one of hope. Why is hope foundational to everything in the gospel?

ROEVER: I remember times when pain would push me to the edge and make it look as if the easiest way out was to take my life. Hope brought me back from the brink. I never let hope fade. Every single day I imagined myself walking out of that hospital. Every day, when it hurt the most, I imagined the clearest what it would be like to leave that hospital with a suitcase in one hand and my sweetheart in the other.

The biggest difference I see between my experience and that of warriors returning home today is that I was born into hope, was bred in hope, and hope became part of my DNA. Without a background connected to God, many warriors today simply have no hope. And until we’re able to infuse hope into their lives, we can’t even start them on the road to restoration.

evangel: You’re describing our increasingly post-Christian culture. Despite growing restrictions on talking about Christianity in the marketplace, you communicate the gospel in many public venues outside of churches. How can followers of Christ discern open doors for outreach?

ROEVER: Public schools trained me for over 30 years in how to function in a hostile environment with a message of hope in Christ. I learned where the edges of the envelope were, where to keep in view my restrictions, and how to operate within them.

If you want to be effective in any environment that wants to keep your mouth shut for you, you have to make yourself an expert in the subject of their greatest weakness. Even the ACLU doesn’t complain when people pray in schools after there has been a mass shooting. In the military, it’s amazing how the chaplain has total liberty when he’s with a bunch of fallen warriors. But you put him in his chapel, and he’ll have all kinds of criticism and restrictions on certain subjects.

In my ministry, I determined to become a master on the subject of suicide, based on my own pain. I became a master on the subject of drinking and driving after I preached the funeral of 24 kids and three adults in the worst drunken-driving accident in American history. Their bus was hit by one drunk going against traffic on a Kentucky highway on May 14, 1988. I made myself a master on the subject of sexual purity and longevity of marriage because Brenda and I were virgins when we married, and we have enjoyed more than 45 years together.

I talk about all those things that are fundamental principles of Christianity because God helped me become a master in those subjects and communicate them in a way that makes the gospel accessible even when you can’t come right out and say the name of Jesus.

evangel: You mention the strength of your marriage and family and the role they played in your recovery. Was there anyone else who was a significant part of that process?

ROEVER: Laurell Akers was our district youth leader when I was growing up in the South Texas District of the Assemblies of God. From the time I was 12 till I was 19, he mentored me. After I was injured in Vietnam, he was by my side at my hospital bed. When I got out, he was at my side letting me preach in his church. He was on my board of directors until he died three years ago. My children always knew him as Uncle Laurell. Laurell brought more stability into my life than any other minister I’ve known.

evangel: Laurell sounds like a great example to any church that wants to better serve veterans long-term beyond the customary remembrances of Veterans Day or Memorial Day.

ROEVER: The key to helping veterans is simply building relationships. The way you do that is over a cup of coffee. You just step out of your own box, that little two-by-four world you’re comfortable in, and take a risk and be vulnerable and listen to a warrior unload his or her pain. Until a warrior can talk about those things, he’ll harbor them. Painful memories are an infection that can fester until it turns deadly.

Laurell never served a day in the military in his life. All he knew was that a kid he had mentored for years was laid up at Brooke Army Medical Center, and Laurell wasn’t about to let my hope die. He had worked so hard to help me find my way to a pulpit, he was not about to let that investment be lost.

Laurell was the kind of friend who refused to let a friendship die, even if you did your worst to try to kill it. I remember such a time early in my ministry. Laurell recognized I was so focused on my injuries back then that my ministry was in danger of faltering.

“When the war in Vietnam is over,” he said, “your ministry will be over.” I was so angry I stomped out of his house and let five terrible years go by without making contact with him.

But the Holy Spirit wouldn’t let me rest until I made that right. At the end of the fifth year, I called him. I’d barely said, “Laurell ... ?” when he said, “Dave! Where are you?” I told him I was in Houston, and he asked me to come to his house.

The day I had stormed out of his home, my chair fell back at an angle against the wall. I had slammed down my half-finished cup of coffee on a table. Five years later, when I walked into his home, that chair was at a 45-degree angle against that wall, and Laurell had kept a half-cup of coffee sitting there waiting for the day I’d come home.

“I am so sorry, Laurell,” I told him. “You were right. And because of you, I built a ministry on the Word of God. Not on a war, not on an injury, not on a testimony. I built a ministry on the profound Word of God that, when all war has passed away, will never pass away.”

Laurell died, continuing to be my best friend and my greatest mentor. I miss him deeply.

evangel: Do you have any concluding thoughts?

ROEVER: On Sunday morning, as people sit in their congregations, there will be no Taliban hand grenade rolled down their aisle. There will be no Al Qaida truck bomb in their parking lot. And on the Saturday night before they practiced their freedom of religion, they slept peacefully in their homes.

They enjoy all of that thanks to a United States military that stays up all night and serves them around the clock to defend them and to preserve those rights. Freedom is never free.

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