When a phosphorous grenade exploded in Dave Roever’s hand in 1969 in Vietnam, it burned off a significant portion of his face and hand and left much of his body covered with third-degree burns. As his face was destroyed and his body was still smoking from burning phosphorous, medics believed he was dead.
At that moment in time, and for the next 14 months as Roever was hospitalized and roughly reconstructed, no one could have imagined how God would use his highly disfiguring injury followed by the excruciatingly painful months of burn therapies and major surgeries to minister to people around the globe.
AN INFORMAL PARTNERSHIP BEGINS
Today, Dave Roever’s ministries are known worldwide, especially in the military as he’s had a strong focus on coming alongside wounded veterans. However, God has used Roever to minister to a wide variety of people and nations.
Roever, despite his physical appearance being marred beyond recognition, went back to Vietnam in 1974 with a compassionate gospel message. While there, he used and distributed International Correspondence Institute (ICI) materials. The relationship was informal, but strong — ICI had what Roever needed and provided those materials. ICI may sound familiar to some as years later it merged to became Global University.
Al Roever, Dave’s brother, notes, “Dave has always said, ‘During the war I came with an M-16, but after the war I came back with John 3:16.’”
Yet the initial effort into the country was short-lived. When the Communists took control of the country in 1975, Roever had to leave . . ., but not before a young boy heard him speak.
THE BEGINNING OF A MIRACLE
When Roever came to Dan Dang’s school in Vietnam as an AG evangelist in 1974, the boy couldn’t understand why he was there. Roever had every reason in the world to hate the Vietnamese — just look at what was left to his face — yet here he was, loving on them!
Dang was so impacted, he told his father, “I will follow that man.”
At the time, it may have just seemed like the impulsive words of a boy. A few months later, as Dang and the rest of his family were drifting on an overloaded boat of refugees in the vastness of the Pacific Ocean for nearly a month, those words were lost — simply surviving was the focus.
A U.S. Navy ship spotted the drifting, barely afloat vessel and brought the haggard refugees to the Philippines. Several months later, Dang and his family were relocated first to Guam and then to the United States — Omaha, Nebraska.
Neither the culture nor climate of Omaha have much in common with Vietnam, but the freedom the Dang family now experienced often brought tears of gratitude to their eyes.
COMPASSION LEADS TO . . .
As Dang grew up in the Midwest, Roever’s evangelistic ministry in the United States took off. He became a highly sought-after evangelist, as his humor and powerful messages saw him speaking in churches, youth camps, corporate settings, to veterans, and in high-profile events throughout the United States.
In 1994, Roever returned to Vietnam on a mission of compassion. He worked with the government to build a hospital and provide clothing for street children.
“He brought in other vets and they worked together to bring healing, physically and emotionally,” states Al Roever, current executive director of REAP (Roever Educational Assistance Program) International. “Dave brought in (to Vietnam) the first heart catheterization lab in the whole country.”
Although he didn’t publicly speak about Christ, Roever repeatedly demonstrated Christ’s love and compassion for the Vietnamese people.
In short, Roever and his associates have given so freely, and demonstrated such consistent compassion, that they became readily welcomed into a country where, even today, Bibles are not permitted.
Also, during this time, Roever cultivated a strong relationship with the North Texas District Council and its missions director, Assistant Superintendent Rick DuBose (currently the assistant general superintendent of the Assemblies of God). Many of REAP’s successes can be linked in part to the district’s generous support. That strong tie remains intact today.
Dang was a good student and ended up going to college and earning his MBA. He worked for a community college and then transitioned to managing a national electronics store. As he was successful, the corporate offices decided to use him to help other stores gain or regain their footing.
“I remember saying that no matter what, I am not going to move to Texas — it was just too hot in the summers,” Dang recalls.
God has a sense of humor; Dang was transferred to Lake Worth, a suburb of Fort Worth, Texas, for three months.
“There were 7,000 stores in the country, and they sent me there!” Dang says, recalling his exasperation at the news. It was 1991.
“We were in the process of remodeling a building for our new offices,” Al Roever says. “We didn’t have much money, so we were doing it ourselves.”
During the remodel, Al and Dave discovered they needed a new piece to fix their sound system, so Al walked across the parking lot to the electronics store . . . the very store Dang was temporarily managing!
“We began to talk and I learned Dan was from Vietnam,” Al recalls. Soon shivers began to run down Al’s back as the dots were connected and Dang shared what he had told his father about following Dave. “I asked him if he would like to meet Dave — he was just 30 yards away.”
Dang did meet Dave and their visions for future ministry were highly aligned — so much so that Dang followed through on his words spoken as boy and became part of Roever’s organization! He currently is the executive vice president of REAP International and the superintendent of REAP International schools.
John Arroyo, vice president of the Roever Foundation and COO of REAP International, sums it up. “In ’69 Dave is blown up, in ’74 he goes to Vietnam and happens to hold a meeting in Dan’s school, Dan expresses his desire to follow Dave, 17 years later Dan somehow ends up working in a store 30 yards from Dave Roever’s front door, and now they’re working together to make a difference in the world — it’s amazing!”
Dave Roever was using the approach of “compassion leads to conversion” in many of his ministry efforts. The problem was, if a person can’t talk about Jesus — and people don’t know who Jesus is — that makes for a difficult assignment.
In 2007, after a decades’ long informal partnership with ICI/Global University, the relationship became official. Roever needed materials that explained the Christian life and what it means to serve God. Global University “just so happened” to have produced the twin 18-book Christian Life study guides and Christian Service study guides — exactly what Roever was looking for.
With those materials in hand and continued strong financial support by the North Texas district, Dave began to use those materials as his ministry has now expanded to 37 countries around the world — the materials have opened doors and are making a huge impact on generations of children, young adults, and leaders.
“God is moving by His Spirit, we can’t claim credit for what He’s doing,” states Gary Seevers, president of Global University, about the success of the Christian Life and Christian Service materials. “God has opened the door and we are trying to keep up with what God is doing.”
Seevers explains that the Christian Life (CL) series of booklets thoroughly explain the basics of what it means to be a Christian. The Christian Service (CS) booklets take more of a leadership approach. However, in order to teach the materials and maintain the integrity of the program, certification is required, which includes passing a 360-question test that covers all 36 booklets.
Al says that REAP is using the Global University CL and CS materials in schools, rehabilitation centers, with veterans, and for other types of educational purposes outside of the traditional church. Within national churches, many AG missionaries are finding the CL and CS materials highly valuable.
“We now have Bible curriculum for grades pre-K through 12, with a number of additional children’s materials,” Seevers says. “And our partnership with REAP has become an effective and active relationship that has been going on now officially for 15 years — it’s simply growing stronger as more and more people are being equipped and reached for Jesus in dozens of countries.”
According to Dang, REAP International is already impacting the lives of 150,000 people. The organization has built one school, has an online presence for testing, and is preparing to build many more schools as doors continue to open.
This is just one small story revealing God’s miraculous orchestration in Dave Roever’s, Dan Dang’s, Al Roever’s, Gary Seevers’, and countless others’ lives. And it all began more than 50 years ago when a young Navy riverboat gunner’s earthly life seemed utterly destroyed . . . only to be redeemed for God’s glory in ways no one, but One, could have ever imagined.