Longtime Navigator Harvey Oslund went home to heaven on June 5, 2008, at age 79. Fellow Navigators from around the country traveled to celebrate his life at a memorial service in Fulton, Maryland, on June 10.
By his own account, Harv led a fairly “wild life” as a young man until he gave his life fully to Jesus while serving in the Navy. Shortly thereafter, he encountered The Navigators and was captured by their commitment to evangelizing the world through one-to-one mentoring and spiritual multiplication.
In time, Harv believed God’s promise in Isaiah 60:22: A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation. While Harv didn’t consider himself “great,” he was encouraged that as “a little one,” God could use his life to impact the lives of hundreds or thousands of lost souls and new believers.
From that time on, Harv searched and prayed for people in whom he could invest his life. Another promise he claimed reads, Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give men in exchange for you, and people in exchange for your life (Isaiah 43:4). Harv’s investment in others became his passion and life’s work for the next 55 years.
In 1955, The Navigators’ founder, Dawson Trotman, invited Harv to move to The Navigators’ headquarters at Glen Eyrie in Colorado Springs and commissioned him to “develop the largest Christian publishing house in America” to provide materials for other ministries. Harv set up the ministry’s first print shop that later grew into NavPress. In an e-mail to veteran Navigator Jim Downing on May 19, 2008, Harv recalled, “With our little presses, we produced 50,000 Beginning with Christ memory packs and Bible studies for Back to the Bible . . . worked night and day . . . and we were committed!”
What Harv had initially envisioned being a short-term “business” challenge soon became a life-long partnership with The Navigators, as God infused in Harv’s heart an unquenchable passion to reach the lost and train them to become disciples for Christ. In 1959, The Navigators asked Harv to establish a ministry among Marines in the Jacksonville, North Carolina area. This was the first of numerous field assignments Harv embraced as God’s calling on his life. “Harv recruited more people to The Navigators than anyone I know of,” says Downing. “He had a great heart for people and the unique ability to make every member of his team feel totally accepted and equally important.”
In 1962, Harv married Maydelle Hedstrom, “the jewel of his eye.” The couple went on to have three children—Jane, Dawson, and Joan—and continued their ministry with The Navigators for the next 46 years. Harv was known for his passionate commitment to his family, as well as to reaching the lost.
Downing says, “[Harv and Maydelle] made a lasting impact for Christ, not only in North America, but also, through the many they raised up, in Japan, the Pacific Islands, other parts of Asia, Australia, Africa, Europe, and the uttermost parts of the world.”
In 1972, The Navigators participated in Campus Crusade for Christ’s EXPLO ’72, a week-long evangelism and discipleship training conference in Dallas that filled the Cotton Bowl with 85,000 students. Known for bringing energy and enthusiasm to Christian gatherings, Harv was asked to lead the delegation of 100 representatives from The Navigators.
“Harv’s vision led him to think big and creatively,” recalls Downing of the 1972 event. “He was the inventor of the convention book bag. He and his team designed and assembled 18,000 burlap bags with The Navigators’ Wheel illustration in large print on the back. After the first day, Bill [Bright] said to me, ‘I have to acknowledge that The Navigators has stolen the show from Campus Crusade, but if anyone was going to do it, I am glad it was The Navigators.’ Harv was the creative genius responsible for [many] successful events.”
The Navigators’ U.S. Director, Alan Andrews, agrees, “If there is a Navigator program in heaven, Harv is probably leading it.”
Of Harv’s leadership style, Andrews adds, “He was incredibly gracious, even when he disagreed with you. Harv was a model Navigator.”
Harv ministered to men and women in various ways throughout his life, even into his final months on earth. “Harv was a hero of the faith and a mentor to me,” says University of Maryland Navigator Matt Nichols. “I brought a few student friends to take Harv out for breakfast. On our way out, Harv grabs me and says, ‘Matt, you gotta really teach these guys how to love the Scriptures. Not just read it, but love it, live in it, and see it become alive in their lives.’”
Harvey’s memorial service included a dozen such testimonies from believers whose lives and ministries he had impacted. Among those in attendance was former Navigator staff member Bob Lewis, who writes, “Harv and I were colaborers for a number of years. He had ministered to some folk, one of whom turned out to be the Sunday school teacher who embarrassed me into Scripture memory. The rest is history, but, in large measure, it began with Harv.”
Navigator associate Paul Watson concludes, “The apostle Paul said to ‘follow my example as I follow the example of Christ’ (1 Corinthians 11:1-3). We followed Harv as he followed Christ. He modeled that God will give men in exchange for your life. His was a life lived well.”
Harvey is survived by his wife, Maydelle, their three children, and ten grandchildren. Memorial donations in Harv’s name may be sent to The Navigators at P.O. Box 6000, Colorado Springs, CO, 80934.
To request a DVD or CD of the memorial service, please e-mail Harv’s daughter Jane.
To download recorded messages by Harvey Oslund, go to discipleshiplibrary.org.