Scars that heal

 
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Photo by Suzy Brooks on Unsplash

Dave Roever was born in 1946, in a quiet town in south Texas. Although he had been a troubled teenager, by the end of high school Dave was converted and baptized in the Protestant church where his father was pastor. His dream now was to become an evangelist. Brenda Roever, who would become his wife, played a major role in his change.

Less than a year after their marriage on March 1, 1968, Dave began training in the U S Navy. The Vietnam War had intensified in the previous two years, so many military incorporations had been made. Dave was among those sent to war after revieving a draft notice. “I’ll be back without a scar on me”, he promised Brenda when he left. He stood out during the extremely tough training, so by the time he left for Vietnam, he was part of the US Navy elite, a “Brown Water Black Beret”.

During a confrontation, a phosphorous grenade that was intended for the enemy camp exploded in his hand as he prepared to throw it. He deafened instantly because of the explosion. Then he saw himself in flames, with pieces of skin falling around him. He threw himself into the water, but every time he came to the surface the oxygen continued to fuel the phosphorus, which kept burning his skin.

When he was recovered from the water by his colleagues, no one thought he was still alive. They covered him with wet blankets to make sure he wouldn’t keep on burning, and began writing letters announcing his death.

Nevertheless, he made it to the hospital alive, where morphine was immediately administered. The right side of his face was gone, his chest had burned, and in the doctor’s mirror he could see his internal organs between his ribs. He had third degree burns on 40% of his body and had lost 27 kilograms due to fluid and skin loss. Nobody gave him a chance; he didn’t want to be given one.

He had made the mistake of asking the doctors for a mirror. Terrified, he saw a monster reflected in it. Lying on the hospital bed, after the doctor left, he pulled on the tube he thought was keeping him alive. He had no reason to live.

Fortunately, the tube he removed was the glucose tube. When he returned to the United States, he saw with horror how the wives of the burned soldiers came one by one with the divorce papers in their hands. With a heavy heart, he waited for Brenda. With no trace of horror on her face, she approached, kissed him on the left cheek, and said, “Welcome home, Davey! I love you!”

Dave would later say that her gesture saved him. Now he was ready to fight for his life. He had to endure terrible pain, 13 operations including numerous major surgeries, the prejudice of those around him, and psychological effects that are difficult to heal. But all this prepared him for the work of an evangelist. The scars brought him closer to God and to suffering people.

“Everybody has scars. Mine just happen to be on the outside.” With visible scars, however, he was able to see better the ones hidden in people’s souls, and he was able to speak in front of thousands of people about the healing offered by the gospel.

This is part of what makes Dave’s message so inspirational. Despite the devastating injury, Dave continues to travel as a public speaker, having founded two non-profit corporations—the Roever Foundation and the Roever Evangelistic Association. Instead of letting his war experiences end his life, Dave has channeled them into his new work.

“Everybody gets hurt,” he said, according to an article posted by the Wounded Warrior Program in 2011. “That’s not the question. The question is how (does one) react to getting hurt?” For Dave, the answer was to take the adversity he faced and channel it into a mission which uplifts himself, others in similar situations, and the God he serves.