forgiveness • peacemaking • reconciliation
equality • poverty • missions


David Harvey: A Peace That Lasts

February 14, 2019 by

David Harvey in Egypt as a young man

This past November, a good friend of mine, David Harvey, died peacefully. He was ninety – that’s a lot of living, and he owned every intense minute of it. There is glorious significance in the word peacefully that I penned to describe David’s death. Peace, elusive yet always sought, was not something he ever took for granted.

Perhaps this was because he unconsciously expected you to take him on his own terms. They were not necessarily demanding terms, but they could be unnerving and unrelenting, and they were often decidedly different from yours. Of course, this approach made working and living with David a bit bumpy, certainly not naturally peaceful, but reliably unpredictable, even exciting.

David’s conversion is a case in point. It helps to know he had joined the British army quite young, at the impressionable age of sixteen. How? He simply re-invented his birth date to suit his purposes. Later, with a decade of soldiering under his belt, David was posted in Kenya, policing with the British army during the Mau Mau years of terror.

During this period he witnessed a British captain walk down a line of Kenyans and slap each one brutally on the side of the head. Something snapped in David. Could he, a dedicated member of a peace-keeping military force in Kenya, continue to believe that such arrogant behaviour by those in power could establish peace?

As the officer walked past him, David stepped forward to inform the man that if he treated one more person like that he, David, would personally shoot him. David pulled out his small pistol, cocked it, and pointed it at the offending officer. Startled, the man sized up David and stopped his violent, demeaning treatment of the Kenyans.

From this point, God became the source and protector of peace for David, and his loyalties to the British army waned. His unconventional conversion set the direction for the rest of his life.

David and Marion Harvey on their wedding day

Soon after this experience, David married Marion and left the services, only to find civilian life frustrating. Jobs were hard to hold down and people difficult to get along with for a man with a short fuse, non-negotiable behaviour, and a barrel full of distressing memories. David eventually found steady employment until his retirement in the late 1980s. Retirement – the lack of meaningful work – depressed him initially, but David gardened lots, walked regularly, and, notably, he and Marion became involved in their local church.

Life could have rolled pleasantly along for them, but both David and Marion grew disturbed with what was lived and preached in their church. They found it unbiblical. After pondering the situation for a long time, they pulled away from church work, and consequently lost a number of friends. They were growing haplessly isolated.

Intriguingly, David and Marion’s paths crossed with the Bruderhof’s just at this time. One Sunday in 1996 they pulled into an Open Day event at our Beech Grove community in Nonington, Kent specifically to see the beautiful listed building on the property. Much to their surprise, they discovered more than fascinating architecture; they found what they were searching for, and have been a part of our community ever since.

David Harvey, member of the Bruderhof, an intentional Christian community

As David himself said, “I traded my six remaining friends for more than ninety here which I consider a jolly good swap!” Living in community however meant much more than having plenty of friends. David had heard a call and wholeheartedly answered it.

Even though over these last twenty years, David’s underlying feelings have not always been easy to read, he never pretended to be what he wasn’t. He wasn’t a saint. He was, nonetheless, a genuine brother, which is all that is ever asked of any of us.

In addition, and much to everyone’s delight, David possessed a sharp wit and could spin endless, entertaining tales. His refreshing, sometimes disconcerting character remained fully intact, even as age gracefully seasoned it with a quickening sensitivity to those around him.

During his last months, David’s health failed; he appeared frighteningly fragile. He experienced hellish moments: confusion, restlessness, burdensome memories, even doubt that he had been truly forgiven, which he had been.

And then it happened. Forgiveness flooded through David and took root in his very soul. The ultimate gift: a lasting peace.

On David’s second to last morning, as he slipped in and out of sleep, John Menz, a fellow Bruderhof member, sat quietly next to him. John held David’s hand – a most uncharacteristic gesture since David was not a demonstrative person and eschewed signs of intimacy or support.

David broke the silence, “John, who’s holding my right hand?”

John said, “I’m holding your hand, Dave.”

“That’s my left hand you’re holding. I said, ‘Who’s holding my right hand?’”

John, the only person sitting by David, paused, and then said, “That’s your guardian angel, Dave. I can’t see him, but I’m sure that’s who it is.”

“I know.” David smiled.

Later, David rallied again. “John, can you help me?”

“Sure, anything, Dave. What do you need?”

“I need to know how to say ‘thank you’ to someone I’ve been married to for sixty-three years.”


About the author

Ann Morrissey photograph

Ann Morrissey

Ann Morrissey lives in Beech Grove, a Bruderhof in England, with her husband, Dave. They delight in the English countryside...

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  • Thank you, Jacquie. God’s gift of peace to David was so strong, it was tangible – a strengthening to his wife and a comfort to us all.

    Ann Morrissey
  • I was so moved by this piece and I am glad David Harvey found his peace. God is good.

    Jacquie Watson