In Jordan, slain Southern Baptist teacher honored by gathering of friends, students
Sep 21, 2012

HONORED A mourner writes a message in the guest book honoring Cheryll Harvey prior to a memorial service in Ajloun, Jordan. “She teach us not only English, but how to live and hot to love life,” one student wrote. “She was like a candle who burned herself to show others the light.” BP photo
IRBID, Jordan (BP)—A warm breeze whips sand around cars creeping down the main street of Irbid, Jordan. A man gestures to catch the attention of a carload of Americans, then lays his hand over his heart.

He knows there is only one place they can be going. It seems the whole city is mourning the death of Southern Baptist representative Cheryll Harvey.

“Even now, I can’t believe she has died,” said Eman, a young Jordanian woman, as she clutches a small cup of the bitter, Arabic coffee typically served at wakes. 

Eman is among dozens at the wake, shedding tears, sharing stories and paying their respects to the woman who “loved everyone and was loved by everyone.” They are crowded in the small classrooms in Irbid where Harvey taught.

“Many people loved Miss Cheryll,” Eman said, “many, many.”

Harvey, 55, from Sudan, Texas, taught English and other subjects in Jordan for 24 years. She was found stabbed to death in her apartment Sept. 4. Robbery was the apparent motive, according to police reports.

Brian Barlow, mission pastor at Hillcrest Baptist Church in Pensacola and a former IMB worker in the region, said Harvey was a long-time friend and colleague.

“It’s so sad. She loved Jordan and the Jordanian people. She will be missed,” Barlow told Florida Baptist Witness. “She was an excellent teacher, much loved by her students.”

To students, friends and colleagues gathered at the center in Irbid Sept. 10, the love is apparent and no motive will ever make sense.

“I have not been able to sleep since I heard the news,” said Muhammad, a young man Harvey tutored at his home after a problem with his legs made him unable to attend classes.

“I did not sleep, either,” said his brother Ahmad, also Harvey’s student. 

“Many of us have not slept,” echoed one of Harvey’s colleagues.

They smile as they remember Harvey, they recall the many hours she spent working.

“She was the most selfless person I knew, and the busiest. I don’t know how she did all she did every day,” another colleague said. “She started this center in 2000, and from the very beginning, people came and it grew and grew. And she spent so much of her time visiting the students in their homes. People just met her and loved her immediately.” 

People like Muhannad, who met Harvey on the first day the center opened. Harvey reached out to the shy, young man who rarely talked. He invited her over for Friday lunch, and she “entered the heart” of his entire family.

Harvey ate with them nearly every Friday for the past 12 years, Muhannad said.

“I loved her as a mother, and she loved me as a son,” said Muhannad, who had her listed as “Mama” in his mobile phone. “But she didn’t just love me. Anyone who asked her for help, she would help.”

For several hours, Muhannad sits at one of the classroom desks, recounting detail after detail of Harvey’s gifts to Irbid, as if he can’t get them out fast enough.

“She helped me pass college and nursing school. She sat with me and my sister one day for hours in the hot sun while my sister applied for the army. She took a friend who had cancer back and forth on the long drive to the hospital two or three times a week,” he said.

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