I am excited about the topic of Kingdom Gardeners. It goes to the heart of God’s call on my life to participate in his mission. As a young veterinarian I wanted to use my skills and passion for animal health in God’s mission. As I shared my vision, I frequently received the response that “Animals don’t need the gospel, so why would a veterinarian be useful in mission?” While I didn’t have the understanding of wholistic mission that I now have, I had a deep conviction that demonstrating God’s love through care for animals was a legitimate way to bear witness to Jesus. A person who particularly inspired me is one of Interserve’s foremothers.
Rosalie Harvey lived in the city of Nasik, Northern India, for 50 years from the late 1800s. Her legacy included raising 1500 abandoned babies and establishing a community for hundreds of homeless people ostracised because of leprosy. Her other legacy was establishing an animal hospital. Her biographer narrates:
Miss Harvey “took personal charge of the Bhisti (Water Carrying) Bullock Relief Corps. For the three hundred and sixty-five days of the year these animals would know no break from drawing water for the people of Nasik. This Relief Corps of bullocks provided periodic rest for the hard-worked beasts of burden, and one may be sure that Miss Harvey delighted in the task of bringing relief to these patient creatures of God.”*
Rosalie’s advocacy for the wellbeing of hundreds of beasts of burden that kept the city of Nasik functioning resonates clearly with the teaching of Exodus 23:12: “Do your work in six days. But on the seventh day you should rest so that your ox and donkey may rest”.
Speaking of donkeys … Rosalie was also known for her impromptu inspections of the donkey herds moving through the hustle and bustle of the Nasik marketplace. “It is too bad,” she explains, “They make them carry the heavy loads of stones one way and then trot them back to the quarry so that they get no rest either way.” On one occasion, she ordered the packs to be removed from two donkeys—one was lame and the other had nasty saddle sores— sending the donkey boy with his charges to the animal hospital.**
Rosalie discipled many people over her lifetime as they encountered Jesus. Hers was a witness that incorporated care for the marginalised, care for animals and sharing God’s word.
John 3:16 tells us God loves the world—all that He created and proclaimed as good. Rosalie Harvey’s story is just one part of our heritage as an organisation committed to caring for all creation. I am excited about many roles where our workers can address various environmental issues as servants of the gospel. I could tell you about organic farming projects, sustainable coffee production in the rainforest, regeneration of wetlands, eco-tourism and other projects throughout Asia and the Arab world where reconciliation of all creation is an integral part of the transformation of lives and communities that Jesus brings. I count it an enormous privilege to journey with Interserve workers, encouraging them to bring glory to God and demonstrate his love in the ways they interact with all people and all creation.
Dr Christine Gobius is the National Director of Interserve Australia. Her background is in veterinary science and public health.
*Miller, A. Donald. ‘Aayi’: Glimpses of Rosalie Harvey of Nasik and her friends the lepers (The Mission to Lepers, London, date unknown), p19.
Pictured: Christine as a young vet.