By Don Graham
RICHMOND, Va. (BP) -- Jordanian authorities are investigating the death of Southern Baptist worker Cheryll Harvey, whose body was discovered in her apartment in Irbid, Jordan, on Tuesday, Sept. 4. Foul play has been confirmed in the death of the 55-year-old single woman from Texas.
Harvey had served the Jordanian people for 24 years, demonstrating the love of Jesus Christ through teaching English and other subjects in connection with the Jordan Baptist Society.
"Cheryll was greatly loved by both our personnel in the Middle East and by her many students," IMB President Tom Elliff said. "We are faced once again with a sobering reminder of the brevity of life and the importance of faithfully serving the Lord to the very end of our time on earth. Cheryll has left for us a great example that we should follow.
"She ... will always be remembered for her quiet and unassuming spirit, as well as her passion for sharing the Good News," Elliff said.
Harvey was a member of College Heights Baptist Church in Plainview, Texas, and grew up attending First Baptist Church in Sudan, Texas. Family and colleagues in the United States have been notified and await word about the circumstances surrounding her death. Harvey is survived by two brothers who reside in Texas.
"As with any event such as this, it is imperative that we remember Cheryll's surviving family members and friends," Elliff said, "and that we lift them up in prayer during these days. We best honor her by giving honor to the Lord Whom she so faithfully served."
Robert Roecker, pastor of First Baptist Sudan, said the church is in a "state of shock." Harvey had visited her childhood church several times since Roecker became pastor, offering slideshows of her work in the Middle East.
A friend of Harvey's relayed to him that "Cheryll talked about how when she retired she might just stay in Jordan. She just really loved it there and loved the people."
"The thing that always astounded us was when you heard her speak she was just a meek and mild person with just a soft voice," Roecker recalled. "It's not the picture you have in your mind of someone who is on the front lines in Jordan. To have that courage and faith was amazing to us. The folks who knew her here were always saying how surprised they were at what was God was able to do through her."
LaDelta Vernon, Harvey's third-grade teacher who would often talk to her while when Harvey came home on occasional furloughs, said she always imagined the quiet, well-behaved girl with the distinctive laugh would grow up and raise three daughters. As it turned out, she never married. She was a helper, Vernon said, so her teaching English wasn't a surprise. Her teaching it in the Middle East was, however.
"She was a good student. If she was your friend, she was your best friend. She didn't talk behind people's back. She was just a sweet, sweet girl," Vernon said. "She was doing what she wanted to do, what God called her to do."
Don Graham is a senior writer with the International Mission Board, with additional reporting by Jerry Pierce of the Southern Baptist Texan.