Roy Robertson Remembered

From the first moment that Roy responded to the invitation of Navigator shipmates, which was the night before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Navigator movement has been deeply impacted by Roy’s example of faith and faithfulness. As the first Navigator missionary, Roy laid the foundation of a ministry that continues to grow and multiply through the lives of thousands of men and women all over Asia.

In the founding of TEL and the tireless example of selfless service in some of the most difficult parts of the world, Roy’s life has continued over the years to influence many Navigator leaders.

And in supporting and encouraging his daughters Janet Lewis and Susan Rice in the significant pioneering and leadership roles that they and their husbands continue to hold in the Navigator work, Roy has given back to the ministry which nurtured his faith and vision.

We give thanks for the life and victory of an extraordinary servant of God.

—Mike Treneer, International President, The Navigators

We’ve just received the news of Roy’s passing. What a welcome in heaven! We thank the LORD for both Roy and Phyllis and what they mean to us—their passion for the Lord Jesus, their absolute surrender and commitment to the Lord’s calling in their lives and their faithfulness over all these years in Asia.

They were responsible for the foundations of the Navigator work in Singapore—and building so many lives including ours.

Roy’s passion for evangelism never waned—both personal as well as mass evangelism. He was motivated to see the Gospel preached to every person. All of us trained by him knew how to present the Gospel using the Bridge illustration. We were to evangelize “in season and out of season” and to follow-up decisions within 48 hours. He founded TEL to train evangelists and to ensure follow-up was well done.

There were also other times I enjoyed—playing tennis (I could not beat him), and chess, and jogging during training programs. Roy had amazing stamina.

In a March 1995 personal letter, Roy recounts “our chats and fellowship at the A&W (in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia), the personal evangelism projects at Bethesda Katong Church, when you mobilized the young people who I think reached some 800 people for Christ—lots of wonderful memories.” He ends the letter by stating, “my prayer for Singapore today and elsewhere is for men of faith and godliness. Where are they? We must find them, challenge them, direct them, train them.”

I do thank the Lord for Roy Robertson—man of faith, rugged pioneer, evangelist, trainer, co-labourer, fellow-soldier and friend.

—Jim and Selene Chew, New Zealand Navigators

In his own way, Roy was always a hero to me, and I expect he has received a hero’s welcome in glory.

  —Waldron “Scotty” Scott, The Navigators

Roy Robertson was a true “missionary.” As The Navigators’ first missionary he headed to Asia and blazed the way for an international Navigator ministry. I met Roy as a young man in my twenties. His first words to me were, “It’s a big world out there, Lauren, and we have a big God.” Very few people minister as an international ambassador for Christ for 60 years. Today we stand on the contribution of people like Roy Robertson.

—Lauren Libby, Vice President of Public Ministries, COO, The Navigators

Roy Robertson and I have been friends since the early days just after WWII. It really was good to fellowship with Roy. I was challenged by his life—particularly his desire to be in the Word and his desire for missions. I was also encouraged by his going to the mission field so young. Dawson Trotman sent him over as a single man in 1947 to China.

Roy never spoke much about his military experience. I learned from others that Roy flew fighter planes off the aircraft carrier USS Langley.

In later years, I visited Roy in Singapore and Indonesia. One of the thrills of my life was going to meet a fellow from Roy’s office in downtown Jakarta. I was so surprised to find out as we got to the street, Roy got his bicycle and I sat on the cross bars as Roy peddled through the traffic in Jakarta. I was amazed at how much he smiled as he saw the fear on my face as we traveled along!

In these later years, Roy and I have been working together at the annual Key Men’s conference in Wichita Falls, Texas. Roy has been a total blessing to many men through his workshops and personal counseling. He has also used this conference to recruit men to go to the mission field.

We are going to miss Roy’s fellowship down here but we are sure proud of his promotion and particularly that now he and Phyllis are in the presence of Jesus.

—John Crawford, The Navigators

I remember the first time I met Roy Robertson. It was September of 1971 in the hills of Virginia. I was a young Naval Academy Midshipmen in Book 3 of the Studies in Christian Living. I was a two-year-old believer and had just committed myself to serve on The Navigators’ ministry team at the Naval Academy under the leadership of John Ed Robertson. It was his first year on full-time NavStaff starting a new ministry. A small group of us were at a Labor Day Planning Retreat to plan our ministry year.

I basked in Roy’s wisdom and vision as he spent time with us, sitting around a picnic table outside our cabin. I listened to his stories of growing in Christ, his attending his first Nav rally in Pearl Harbor on December 6, 1941 (the day before the Pearl Harbor attack). He explained how he made a Lordship decision the next morning as his ship was being bombed. He survived the attack and went on to become a Navy F-6 Hellcat pilot. The Lord sowed seeds of faith and vision in me during that time. Those seeds have sprouted into much fruit in my life and ministry.

He had a powerful impact on that small group of Naval Academy Midshipmen who have gone on to be laborers, missionaries, and Christian leaders across the world.

Later on, in the early 1980s, my wife Lani and I were a young NavStaff couple and got to spend a day with Roy and Phyllis at their home in Denton, Texas. They graciously gave us time to chat, made lunch for us, and encouraged us in our ministry.

Many have had the benefit of knowing that Roy was on task, partnering with us in our Calling, serving Christ across Asia and China. We have been encouraged and influenced in our own faith and service as we have seen how the Lord guided and used Roy for His purposes.

I wonder if John Ed and Roy have gotten together yet upon Roy’s recent entrance into heaven. I’d love to be with them!

—Rusty Stephens, U.S. Field Ministries Director, The Navigators

Roy Robertson was a hero in Southeast Asia. I believe he visited us a few times when we were in Malaysia. During our time in Indonesia he came to our house several times in Surabaya—always unannounced. He was like the wind that “blows where it will.” But he was always an inspiration.

—Paul Hensley, The Navigators

We feel the loss with you of Roy’s call to the House of the Lord. May his family be comforted by the Holy Spirit, and may the memory of his life truly be a blessing to the world.

—Mr. Indarto, Administrator for Indonesia Navigators


  1. A question that Roy gave me hit me hard as we traveled together on a train in India. “What is the gospel, Waylon?” I began with the Roman Road verses. He said, “That’s not the Gospel! What is the Gospel?” Good night, I thought: if John 3:16 and other John verses aren’t the Gospel, I’ve really messed up!

    I’ve led dozens of men to Christ whose lives were changed and they in turn reproduced. So I said to Roy, “You tell me.” Roy replied, “Where does the New Testament use the word GOSPEL?” “Oh,” I said, “now I know what you’re getting at.” And I shared from I Corinthians 15:1-4.

    “Finally, you got it”! he smilingly replied. “You’ve got to get those points into the Gospel presentation to have a complete biblical presentation!” I’ve also used and taught the Bridge Illustration which he created. Roy made such an impact on my life that years later my college-aged son Bruce lived one summer with him in Plano, Texas, for training. And Bruce also spent some weeks in East Asia with Roy and a team biking and doing ministry in various villages.

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