A letter from Tom and Judy Harvey in England
Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert Isaiah 43:19.
Dear Friends and Partners in Mission,
Years back when I trained to work as a firefighter in northern California we were given the sage advice to “expect the unexpected.” That has proven true at the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies (OCMS). Founded over 30 years ago to transform people and society through the research of scholars and leaders from Asia, Africa and Latin America, OCMS continues to address the unexpected and in so doing confounds traditional barriers to mission in order to assist in the transformation of peoples, societies and their worlds.
In December Dean of Bethlehem Bible College and OCMS student Munther Isaac was struck by a car in Bethlehem. With multiple fractures to the skull, he was rushed to the hospital in a coma with bleeding on the brain. Munther is a key Palestinian Christian leader in the Middle East and was scheduled in January to defend his thesis for the Ph.D. degree. In March he was to lead the Christ at the Checkpoint 3 Conference that would bring key Jewish, Palestinian and global Christian leaders together to pray and address critical issues facing Palestinians, Christians and Jews in Israel/Palestine today. Thus all of OCMS entered into prayer for Munther, Rudaina, his wife, and 1-year-old son Karam. Put on 24-hour intensive care, within a few days he regained consciousness. By January he was back at work. In March he led Christ at the Checkpoint 3 and a week later successfully passed his examination. He also gave the sermon at OCMS Chapel—the title, naturally, the “Power of Prayer.”
Back in 2012 I met Wang Wenfeng, founder of the Forum of Chinese Theology. This remarkable Chinese Christian leader is dedicated to informed Christian engagement in China at the highest levels of society. Wenfeng saw in OCMS a neutral venue outside China where contentious scholars and leaders could meet and discuss critical issues facing China. Further, he saw how OCMS would provide a platform for leading Chinese and global Christian scholars to contribute. Not only did the 2013 6th Symposium of Chinese Theology succeed, it produced the Oxford Consensus 2013, which committed the Christian, Confucian, Liberal and Leftist Chinese delegates present to address critical questions facing China together for the good of the nation. This surprising success has been reported widely in China and made OCMS the preferred venue for the 7th Symposium of Chinese Theology in 2015, which will examine the pursuit of justice, equality and human rights from Chinese Christian and non-Christian perspectives. Once again the unexpected has come to OCMS and produced blessed fruit.
At OCMS we have come to “expect the unexpected.” With Munther, a horrible accident became an opportunity for prayer and that prayer reminded us of the necessity of grace in mission and ministry. That grace continued to show itself at the conference in Oxford as difficult issues were addressed and strongly held positions given voice along with a willingness to pray and seek reconciliation. Through a serendipitous encounter, the China Symposium at OCMS came about that challenged scholars of varying perspectives to seek agreement. Like the conference in Bethlehem, it brought together persons sharply at odds over how China should move forward in light of the various challenges it faces. Yet within that division a consensus was formed that will encourage further dialogue and development.
Further, OCMS’s growing partnerships with key institutions in the Middle East and China are nurturing this mission centre to take a leading role in bringing together mission and public engagement globally.
Closer to home, Tom visited churches in Bakersfield, Fresno and Merced, California. It was a joy to meet up with new congregations keenly interested in global mission. Visiting Central Presbyterian Church in Merced was a reunion of sorts. Tom’s grandfather served as pastor of Central in the 1950s, and it was a true blessing to be welcomed back to this thriving church that is actively supporting one of our OCMS recent graduates serving in Romania. Judy took time on both sides of the conference in Bethlehem to visit the holy sites in Jerusalem, Jericho and Galilee. It served as a few days of vacation in what has been a very busy year. Emma is in her final year at Durham University and studying hard for examinations. Joe continues his work as a Research Associate at Duke and Paul was just accepted into the master’s program in Academic Counseling at the University of North Carolina. (Oh dear! We have become a house divided.)
Without your prayers, notes of encouragement and financial gifts we would not be able to serve abroad and we are deeply thankful for the grace and generosity you’ve shown to us. For those of you who may be reading about our work with OCMS for the first time, may I invite you to come alongside us and support this important ministry through your prayers, encouragement and financial support. We know these are challenging times economically and financially both for individuals and churches. So do know that we are in prayer for you even as you keep us in your thoughts and prayers.
The 2014 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 309
Read more about Tom and Judy Harvey's ministry