Not in the sense that someone took something from me, but rather in the truth that God gave me something I did not deserve.
I first met Rob Harvey when he came up to me at an International Orality Network meeting in 2016. At the time, I was the Director of Operations for the Issachar Initiative and (though acquainted with Orality as a discipline) attended this annual event in order to learn more about those advancing this practice globally. It was during a break (as I remember) that Rob approached me and I was immediately taken by his warmth, his genuine interest in our work, and my personal involvement in it. Of course, I thought, “I like this guy, but he sure is young.” Understandable, because Rob looked younger than his life experience and age would reveal. We parted, but he told me that he would be in touch … that he wanted to get to know me better.
We remained “in touch” and, from time to time, discussed our shared belief that there was too much separation among ministries seeking to reach the unreached people groups around the world. It was a desire we both deeply shared and wanted to see corrected. I continued to help lead Issachar and Rob continued to “pop up” at the various network events being held across the world. At such meetings, we would always share a cup of coffee … and I continued to get “Rob’d.”
As we approached the end of 2017, I was looking for men and women to help round out our leadership at Issachar and asked Rob to join us for an “at-home” week in CA. Since he had so much expertise in orality, he would sit in that chair. He came. He contributed. He “Rob’d” everyone in the room for a full week. Three months later, when my service with Issachar ended unexpectedly, Rob was perhaps the first person to call. This is when I first, truly, began to understand his gift. I was hurting. God used Rob to heal. He reminded me of who I was in Christ Jesus. He began to tell me (if you are reading this and knew Rob, then I am certain you have heard these same words) that I was a “gift.” I had never felt more “Rob’d.” (Side note: Later on, we made a joke of it. He would never agree, but I told him that perhaps I was a “White Elephant Gift.”)
When I started my own ministry in August of 2018, I knew I would need to gather the right people around me to shape and guide what we should be doing. It would only be a couple of months before I asked Rob to help. We didn’t have any money (not unusual for a start-up), but we had plenty of purpose and Rob believed in what we were trying to do. God allowed us to go deep together. I valued his discernment and wisdom, but perhaps equally, his intercession. We never parted without him asking that he be allowed to go to the Father on our behalf. When Rob prayed, you knew it came in the middle of an ongoing conversation. Just … more … Rob-bing.
Our collaboration within the organization didn’t continue, simply because I could not find the funding. If I had possessed unlimited resources, I would have created a position of CEO (Chief Encouragement Officer). Yet, Rob was more than that. He was intelligent, well-read, and current on what was needed to fulfill the Great Commission. He added value.
We remained in touch over the past year. Every so often, I would just set up a call (or he would) so we could update one another. We had moved into the realm of deep friendship. We longed to talk, to visit, to share about life. I was in Kuwait on March 2, when I got a message from him. “Hey Bro. You available for a quick call? I could use your counsel.” That ramped up our communication over the following days and we were excited to learn that we would be in CA at the same time, March 12-13. It wasn’t easy to work out the timing, because we were both there for different reasons, but we so longed to see each other that I picked him up at his hotel on the 12th at 7:30 pm. We then headed to local restaurant where we sat and talked until they ran us out.
We laughed. We expressed our mutual excitement over how God was at work in our ministries. We spoke of how God was uniting His church to finish His task. We loved on each other and then I drove him back to his hotel. When we arrived, we just sat together and I told Rob how much I admired his (and his wife Mary’s) strength in the loss of their son (years ago). I went on to talk about my own losses and how they had shaped me (and my wife, Cindy). We agreed, together, that this temporal life is just a moment in an endless eternity … that we must live forever, now. Our losses had forged our theology.
Then, I “Rob’d” him. I grabbed his arm and I prayed for my brother. I asked the Lord to give him wisdom and understanding for his meetings the next day (he wasn’t sure what was going to happen and we actually chuckled about it) and then I thanked God for his friendship. I told him one more time that I loved him. It was goodbye. Rob Harvey is now enjoying the in-person presence of the One whose presence He has known and cherished for a long time.
My life was changed by this man. This is not an overstatement. The imprint he left will remain until I join him in eternity. I was “Rob’d” and today, tomorrow, and any days I have left, I plan to “Rob” as many people as God will allow!
Dr. David Pope is President and Founder of POPE Initiatives, a non-profit organization committed to providing executive-level management and support services for major global mission efforts.
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