An Interview with Brad Harvey
(Follow-up to Tammie's interview last month)
Brad became a Christian his sophomore year in High School. He joined, Ben Davis Christian Church, and became immediately involved in youth group activities. At a youth retreat in Terre Haute, IN his Senior year, he committed himself to full time ministry. Brad choose to attend Milligan in order to study both Bible and Business. It was there that Brad was convicted to become a missionary. Brad took a linguistics course at Milligan that he found interesting and came quite easily, while other students complained about the difficulty. In addition, Rondal Smith, then the vice-president of PBT, spoke two different years in chapel about Bible Translation. This seemed to be the best work suited to Brad's gifts. Upon graduation from Milligan, he and Tammie were married and moved to the Dallas area all in the same week, in order to begin linguistic and other training with PBT.
When we first joined PBT, we offered to go wherever the mission needed us most. We trusted the administrators to match our skills and previous experiences with a particular field and branch. The Kibali project was top priority because it is more important to revive a dormant project rather than start a new one. But after being here for several years now, and having lived in about 4 African countries, I am sure it was the right choice. There is something unique about the mixture of Christianity and Islam coming together in the atmosphere of animism that gives Africa a certain mystery as well as presents quite a challenge. I like a challenge, and I am rarely ever bored here.
What was your biggest heartbreak?
Having to leave Zaire after only putting in 2 years of work. We were mentally prepared to stay in Bomili village in the middle of the Ituri Rainforest for 10 or 20 years or however long it took to get at least the New Testament translated. Our departure was not what we desired, but given the circumstances, we had no other choice. God is God over circumstances, because with the onslaught of the civil war, we would have been forced to evacuate anyway shortly after we had already pulled out.
Your Greatest Sorrow?
My parents divorced when I was about 6, and my older brother and I lived with my mom. My dad moved back to his hometown about 70 miles away, so we saw him a few times a year. But I never really developed the kind of relationship with him that a boy needs growing up. Consequently I am next to clueless when it comes to how to be a father to Bradley Jr. I can read books and learn ideas from seminars, but these things are not engrained in me and don't come natural. My dad is a Christian thankfully, in the Christian Church even. Our relationship has continued to grow during my adult life. But my mom and brother are not Christians, and it is a tough decision to go to another country to minister when those closest to me are not Christians. But I honestly believe the best thing I can do is obey God and go. They think I am a little strange, they even think I am selfish for going overseas and taking the kids with me and not living close to home. How about that, selfishness as motivation to be a missionary. I do hope that over the years my relationship with both of them will improve. My half sister from my dad's second marriage is married and living in Ohio with their child. They are considering going into a full-time Christian service job at a children's home. It doesn't surprise me. Of everyone in the family, she and I think the most alike.
Your Greatest Joy?
My children. Even though I may not know what the best parenting decision would be at times, I still think I am an awesome dad, which is reflected by my awesome children. My goal is that my kids will not grow into adulthood with unresolved childhood conflicts that we hear so kids and love much about these days. I think that is impossible. I used to have the goal of being a nondysfunctional family (I guess that would be a "functional family"). But I think every family is dysfunctional in some way, because we are all human. So my goal now is just to be gentle and patient with my kids and love them and spend as much time with them as I can. I often travel for 2-3 weeks at a time while we are here in Africa, and that is really difficult on everyone in the family. The funniest thing I do is hug my kids and roll around with them and laugh together. I need to do it more. Bradley is 6 1/2, and I guess I was about 7 when my dad left, and I think about that a lot lately. I can't imagine how that must have felt.
Favorite story from the mission field.
Tammie already took it, so that is what I get for procrastinating. It is my one favorite story, but I have about a hundred stories that tie for second place. About my third day in the jungle village in Zaire, I went hunting for a crocodile in my pink underwear. (And how he got in my pink underwear I'll never know.) Tammie had tried tie-dying some things, so I volunteered my underwear to be tie dyed red. They came out solid pink. So I got invited to go with 2 other missionaries to shoot a crocodile that was encroaching on the fishermen's area, and they were getting scared. Before we started out, I asked if I would have to get in the water, and I was told no. We crossed the river in a canoe, hiked in the jungle about 15 minutes, came to the shore of the river, and one guy started taking off his pants. I asked what he was doing. He said we need to wade through about 50 feet of water and get to a rock that was like a hunter's blind. The other guy who had told me I would not be getting in the water said, "Oh yeah, I forgot." They had put some branches on the rock the week before for us to hide behind. From there we would be able to see the crocodile sunning himself on a rock in the middle of the river and still be close enough to shoot. Well, the croc saw us coming and slipped in the water. So I was given the choice of wading through waist deep water, knowing the croc had already seen us and submerged himself, or I could wait on the shore by myself while these guys waded out. They each had a shotgun, and I had a slingshot. So I pulled by jeans down to get ready to wade through the water, and I realized of all days, that day, I had worn my pink underwear. As we waded out, I just kept repeating to myself, "This is stupid, this is stupid." And it was. I have not done too many things that stupid since. So we sat half on the rock and half in the river for a few hours, and little black flies ate me up on my ankles and around my underwear band. I itched so bad from their bites, I could hardly sleep for a week. We missed the croc that day, but we got him a few days later. Over a year later some people in a fishing village downstream said they found a crocodile with a gun wound trapped in their fish nets and they ate him. We said, "That was our croc." So mom was right, always put on clean underwear. She just didn't warn me about wearing pink underwear.
Progress that we are making through our Bible Translations?
I usually don't use the word "progress" when I think of our accomplishments. What we set out to do, we weren't able to do, and that which we didn't set out to do is the very thing we have done. We have laid a lot of groundwork and helped prepare a lot of other people who have gone on and made great progress, but I am convinced someday it will all pay off. There is an explosion of progress just building up and getting ready to happen. A change in my views since we first started as missionaries? I realize I don't know it all after all. I am not nearly as cocky and opinionated as I used to be. I have become a more well-rounded individual, a kinder and gentler missionary, and more willing to evaluate the opinions of those who disagree with me. Most of the time a lot can be learned from opposing opinions. I still love to be right and I think I usually am, but let's just say I have read "How to Win Friends and Influence People" twice, and it wouldn't hurt me to read it again. God is definitely still workin' on me.
What is your personal demon?
Well, it has to do with responding to God in a very immature manner when I don't get my way. I have adopted the philosophy, "If you disagree with God, then He's right and you're wrong."
What do you miss the most by being on the mission field?
Worship services in English, especially Doug's preaching and Rob's song leading. (That will surely get us a raise in support next year). But I really do mean it.
What do you miss the least?
Being cramped in a small apartment where we didn't feel comfortable letting the kids play outside by themselves.
James 1:2-3 Read it in The Message. The whole book of James was written because the Church is made up of people, and people are not perfect, and there will inevitably be conflict wherever two or three are gathered, especially if of one of them is me.
What question is on the top of my list for God?
Why handicapped people, especially people with atrocious deformities? Where do they fit in the overall scheme of things?
What does the body (the church) not understand about what you do?
Not so much what I do but what I experience by living and working over here. People think we are so holy or spiritual for doing what we do, and that we are making such a sacrifice. We sacrificed certain things, but nothing we couldn't live without obviously. To live in American society and to conform is to be trapped and enslaved. Modern or pop-culture is so far away from what God considers pure and holy, but because of living in it and never knowing anything else, most people are trapped and don't even know it. I love the orderliness and the way that utilities in America work without hardly a hitch, but there is something refreshing about the event-oriented simplicity that is the foundation of much of African culture. I hope the people who came over on the missions trip got a sense of what I mean. When we are gone for 3 and 4 years at a time, it is startling how much American culture has changed, regressed, and how much lower the cultural norms have fallen. It is not so obvious to people living in the midst of it. But unfortunately, after about 1 week back in the states, Africa is the farthest thing from my mind and I am totally absorbed back into my American culture. It is good and refreshing to live outside of it for a while, but it is and always will be my culture. I just have the opportunity that most Americans never get; I can step outside of it and evaluate it from a distance. How does that relate to the question? So much of what Americans think is "church" is really just "culture." It is difficult, almost impossible, to objectively separate the two.
Finally, It’s Here!
Many of you have been praying for us to get the new car out of port, and we finally got it! It came out of port last Thursday, and the clearing agent got tags and things like that on Friday. It has been worth the wait. It drives very, very nicely; The only problem being that it is built to go much faster than the speed limit, so it is a bit irritating, knowing it could go so much faster but holding it down to 55 mph. We want to thank everyone who contributed to help buy it; it is a tremendous blessing. Sorry we don't have any off-road pictures yet, but just give us a few weeks, then rainy season starts. Plenty of photo-ops will present themselves. The kids really like it, especially getting to ride in the very back. Tammie says it is "beautiful;" she picked out the color. I chose the limited slip differential axle. So everybody is happy.