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Zuver’s Muscleland Ministry

The Sunday School Times and Gospel Herald, July 1, 1972
Sylvia Storms

The sandy-haired youth in the jeans frowned slightly and jammed his hands into his pockets. Then, with a shrug, he reluctantly followed the probation officer through the black iron gate. Just inside, the young man stopped dead in his tracks and stared.

“This is a gym?” he exclaimed. “You’ve got to be kidding.”

The officer smiled. “This is the place I’ve been telling you about!”

The sight before the boy was hardly that of an ordinary gym. Zuver’s Gym and Muscle Hall of Fame in Costa Mesa, California has to be one of a kind. And the same goes for its owner, Bob Zuver, an ordained minister and former weightlifter, who originated and built the gym and its equipment. He says that it’s a fun place to work out.

Bob Zuver on the “Big Phone”

Inside the heavy iron gate stands a fearsome-looking fiberglass gorilla. Not far away are a ten-foot superman and a fiberglass elephant lifting a barbell with its trunk. The door leading into the main gym weighs two tons!

Everything inside is big. There are a 1,000-pound lift, a 500-pound blog, and several unique racks. Bells ring and lights flash when they’re lifted. There is also the world’s biggest drinking fountain, made from a fire hydrant.

How has God chosen to use the gym and its fantastic equipment to win souls to Christ? Let the Zuvers tell it.

“You need something unusual to interest the kids and the others who com in regularly to keep in shape,” said Bob. “The main purpose of the gym, “added Jean, his dark-haired wife, “is to build fitness and strength, not only in the physical realm, but also in the mental and spiritual realms.”

Zuver’s Gym has an amazing outreach. Six hundred members work out regularly, and thousands of others—men, women and children—have visited the gym on tours and have heard of Jesus Christ. Housewives, former drug addicts, ex-convicts and yes, even musclemen, belong to the club. And the ministry doesn’t stop there. Bob is available for counseling, and he works closely with police and probation authorities. Additional gyms have been set up in the juvenile hall, at Joplin Ranch and at other youth and prison farms.

Zuver’s name is a household word to muscleheads and weightlifters throughout the world. Not only is the name synonymous with the zany gym, but it also stands for equipment made by the Zuvers in their own factory and sold to gyms throughout the country.

Some of the biggest names in weightlifting have visited Zuver’s Gym to set records. An All-Orange County lineup of lifters Bob coached won the 1968 United States Senior National Powerlifting Championship team award. The gym has more unusual heavy-duty equipment than any other training facility in the world. Because of this, many of the country’s strong men have heard of Christ.

“Weightlifters need Christ, too!” declared Bob. “That’s why God literally built this gym!”

It all began in a small garage in 1960. After a whirlwind conversion at the age of 30, Bob Zuver attended a Bible college and became a nondenominational minister. During this preparation, he taught Sunday school. One Lord’s Day after class, two boys came to him and asked whether he would teach them a few things about weightlifting. Bob agreed to help out with a few pieces of equipment he had in his garage. The word spread. Within a month, one hundred boys were meeting there. Within three months, the garage was bursting at the seams with boys, and Bob realized he’d need to find a bigger place quickly.

“We started out with a makeshift bench and one set of weights,” he explained. “Gradually we added to it and expanded. Every time we reached a point where we needed money, the Lord provided. When we were ready to pour the foundation for the new place, the Lord sent a Christian who owned a cement company and who happened to hear of our need, with several thousand dollars’ worth of cement. We stepped out in faith, and the Lord met each step.”

Asked for past history, Bob and Jean emphasized, “We’re interested in what God is doing now and is going to do in the future. This is His ministry, and we’re just working for Him.”

Bob had been a contractor and a Navy frogman before his conversion, and Jean had been a professional dancer. They were married later, while Bob was stationed in Virginia with the Navy. After his discharge, they came to California. Bob was a loose ends, and his nerves were very bad. He was searching for peace of mind. “For some reason, I was on my way to China to find it. I thought, how many problems can you have just walking around in a bunch of rice paddies?” he said seriously.

But the Zuvers never got to China. One evening not long before they were to sail from California, Bob was on his way to a gym. He passed a little Assembly of God church, and decided to go in. The Lord saved him that night. Within a short time, his entire family of 15 (two brothers, their wives and their children) were brought to Christ through his witness. One brother became a minister and a missionary to Mexico. The other is a Christian businessman. In each case, God has used the background of the individual to fulfill His purpose.

Bob and Jean both had been trained for the physical fitness and beauty contest business. God was to use them in this special field.

“We have prayed over every piece of equipment in the gym, and for every person who walks through the door, “Jean said. “The Lord has shown us that if you claim big things for Him, you’ll get them. That’s the reason for the ‘God Is Big’ sign on the wall. God isn’t limited in His thinking. We shouldn’t be either. Everything we have in the gym is big. It’s a means of bringing people in to hear the gospel—a conversation piece and a fun place as well.”

The Zuvers don’t push religion down the throats of their members. If the Lord leads, He’ll open the way to speak His Word, they believe. Many people come into the gym out of curiosity.

One curious man saw the ‘Christ is the Answer’ sign, which is located at the end of the room. (It’s 12 feet long!) He saw the ‘Gospel Barrel’ which holds tracts and devotional material. Bob spoke to him briefly about the Lord. But it was a year and a half later when the man came knocking on the Zuvers’ door at home. “I remember the things you told me,” he said to Bob, “and I’m ready now to accept the Lord.”

The same sign has been instrumental in other decision for Christ. One man who came to the Zuvers’ door early on a Sunday evening asked to see the gym. He didn’t see much more of the gym that the sign, though. “I’ve been running from God,” he said to Bob, “and I believe He sent me here to talk to you.”

The Zuvers work most frequently with youngsters. The police and probation officers send many kids to the gym. As a result, many of these have found Jesus Christ, including several gang members in Costa Mesa. Others come from Calvary Chapel, Melody Christian Center, and other churches located throughout the county that work with young people for physical rehabilitation. Bob helps rebuild their bodies, which many times have been wasted from drug addiction. And he encourages young converts to grow in grace at the same time.

Jean works with the ladies on Tuesdays and Thursdays in weight reduction and fitness programs.

Many have confided in her their special problems, and she has often been able to point them to the one answer, God’s Son. “A lady came in one day with a load of troubles,” she recalled. “She’d been coming in quite regularly, but I was waiting on the Lord before I approached her. When everyone else left, I was able to lead her to Christ. Now He is carrying her burdens.”

Zuver’s Gym has a young man named Mike who works out with the men on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and a half day on Saturday. He told me he had barely made it through high school. He had done time in jail for three counts of burglary, and he had taken drugs. God dealt with him through Campus Crusade, and at the age of 21, he accepted the Savior at a Billy Graham Crusade in Anaheim. When he first visited the gym, he was a longhaired new Christian.

“I was probably the first longhair Bob ever allowed in the gym,” he said with a smile as he pointed to the posted list of gym rules. “He’s pretty strict with the rules, be he bent them a bit that day! Finally I learned to cut my hair and clean up!”

Mike felt the Lord leading him into the gym business, but he had his doubts. “How can you have a ministry in a gym, I thought, with all those muscleheads running around?”

But he went to Bible college in preparation, and Bob gave him a job.

“I had a lot of learn about God’s ways, “Mike declared. “He’s so big and powerful that we can’t box Him in. The gym is not just a physical thing. We’re here to win souls. Nobody in the gym business has ever sprung forth in this way for God, to my knowledge.”

It’s the prayer of the Zuvers that other Christians interested in the business will catch the spirit and open Christ-oriented gyms throughout the country.

“We’d like to see a Christian gym in every major city,” they said fervently. “We believe that Christ is the answer for everyone, and we’re willing to help any church or Christian couple by teaching them how to run a gym and by setting up the gym at near cost. Something is needed to replace the non-Christian health clubs, and this is a fantastic means of winning people to the Lord!”

And this brings us right back to Bob’s statement earlier that “weightlifters need Christ, too!” And it’s a wide-open ministry.

The Gospel Herald, July 1, 1972

A Zuver’s Memory

The Pistol Packin’ Wife
Jean Zuver, late 1970s

It was 9PM, almost closing time at Zuver’s Gym in Costa Mesa, Ca. Ordained minister and muscleman Bob Zuver was about to lock up the gym and send every one home. I was waiting for Bob to come inside for his late dinner when I heard a woman’s voice yelling and cursing loudly at someone still inside the gym. “Come out here, you little cock roach or I ‘ll come in there to shoot you!” she yelled while swinging her hand gun in the air. She was yelling at her husband, who was still inside the gym.

Hearing the commotion, Bob stopped the angry woman at the door.  “Hold on, lady. You are not going to shoot your husband in MY Gym…tonight or any other night!” Then after he took the gun away from her, Bob brought her and the gun into our living room and sat her down on the couch.   After I made about my 100th pot of coffee  for the day, I sat down with her in the living room. After a few sips of the strong coffee, Bob said to her, “Okay, now let’s talk.”

After hearing her berate her husband, he learned they were a very violent couple, with drugs and booze being the main cause. Bob had been counseling the husband in the gym now for many months and he had mellowed out for the better. And this had angered his wife even more. She had truly intended to kill her husband that night.

Long story short: Bob and I were both able to quiet her down that night in our living room.  And she finally found peace  from our Spiritual counseling.  Later on the couple moved from Costa mesa to a new town to start a new life, and we worried they might slip back into drugs and booze again.  But many months later the wife called me on the phone to tell me all was well and they would not return to their old lifestyle. They told me they loved their new Christian lifestyle, found a great little home church and had even found a good little gym to work out at.

I thank God He led them to us so we could be a part of this happy ending.  God is still Strong. He is still Great and He certainly is STILL GOD!

Jean Zuver, 2012

9 Responses to 'Zuver’s Muscleland Ministry'

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  1. Dave Yarnell said,

    on February 29th, 2012 at 6:29 am

    Awesome stuff!. I can’t get enough of Zuvers!

  2. Kelvin Neilson said,

    on March 1st, 2012 at 1:18 am

    Kudos to the Zuvers for their dedication, conviction and many efforts to serve. Excellent examples of their faith in action. By all means—lead on!!

    Thanks also to Dave Draper and his organization for bringing this story to his audience.

    Happy trails, kel

  3. on March 1st, 2012 at 7:11 am

    Great new pics Ive never seen before, very cool!

  4. Mike Lanway said,

    on March 1st, 2012 at 7:12 am

    Wow! God can use anything and uses everyone for for their well-being and for His glory – thank you for the statement of faith in Jesus!

  5. Gary S. said,

    on March 3rd, 2012 at 6:33 am

    What a breath of fresh air! The world could indeed use more people like the Zuver’s & places like Zuver’s Gym to carve the minds & bodies. Great pictures. Must be a wonderful place to train and think big.

  6. on March 9th, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    […] weights.” Paleo Nutrition for Vegetarians and Vegans Solutions for the Skinny-Fat Ectomorph Zuver’s Muscleland Ministry Female weightlifters couldn’t compete in the Olympics until 2000, but that didn’t stop […]

  7. Anonymous said,

    on March 4th, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    Best lifting gym ever !!! I lifted there 1970 thru 1984.

  8. Robert Zuver said,

    on May 2nd, 2013 at 10:16 pm

    This is to the last comment by Anonymous.
    I would like to talk with you about your training at Zuver’s.
    please contact me at Mrbsfab@gmail.com
    Also anyone that trained at any of the three Zuver’s Gym’s feel free to contact me also.
    Robert Zuver

  9. Anonymous said,

    on July 5th, 2013 at 8:40 am

    My heart is heavy today. I just found out that my Aunt Jean passed away on July 1, 2013. She is with her Lord today. God Bless you! Debbie Zuver

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