Campus wide, College of Christian Studies

New chaplaincy center director named

By CSU Media | October 5, 2020

Following the announcement of the new Charleston Southern Dewey Center for Chaplaincy this summer, Dr. Ron Harvell joined the CSU team as founding director of the center. 

Harvell recently retired from 34 years as a North American Mission Board missionary to the U.S. Air Force. He was promoted to Brigadier General and served as the Air Force’s Deputy Chief of Chaplains. Following the Air Force, Harvell and his wife, Marsha, were looking to where the Lord would have them serve next. They were thrilled, thankful, and surprised God called them to CSU and Charleston.

Chaplains are a vital part of God’s work in the world. A chaplain is often the only person of faith people who are unchurched know. A chaplain is also often the only person who brings faith, who represents the Lord, during times of crisis. For people who do not have a pastor, the chaplain becomes their pastor, helping them in their journey. 

There are many types of chaplains such as medical, military, prison, first responders, corporate, government (nonmilitary), educational, disaster relief, community, sports, and organizational. Harvell said, “Having a wide variety of chaplains is a good thing because this expands ministry opportunities. Chaplains are insiders to their organizations and a part of the lives of the people in their company, base, or hospital. They have access because they are one of the team.” 

The recent pandemic illustrates why there is an increasing value for chaplains in the world. Medical chaplains moved toward those in need, the sick, their families, and the caregivers. Moving toward those in need is a common reaction for chaplains dealing with crisis.

The Dewey Center’s purpose is to prepare chaplains and ministry-minded people to be able to perform their ministries more effectively. The two rails CSU will use for equipping are academic courses and formal training.  

On the academic rail, the Dewey Center, as a part of the College of Christian Studies, has developed the first chaplaincy course, “Introduction to Crisis Ministry: What Do I Do When?” which will be taught in the spring of 2021. This course fulfills an experiential learning requirement for current CSU students by creating learning events for providing ministry in hospitals, prisons, first responders’ locations, military bases, educational environments, and industrial sites.

The second course, once approved, will be in advanced chaplaincy ministry and will be launched in the fall of 2021. Biblical counseling and chaplaincy internships will complete the initial chaplaincy core as the College of Christian Studies is moving to approve a Chaplaincy Ministry major and minor. The long-range vision is to offer a master’s degree and a doctorate in chaplaincy ministry.

The center’s training rail will provide certifications, continuing education credits, and conferences such as the inaugural Dewey Center Conference in May 2021. This conference will have the Rev. Rob Dewey, the center’s namesake, as a participant and Senior Mentor. 

With the Lord’s power, the Dewey Center’s training capacity will be exceptional, international, and vital, making an eternal difference as we equip ministry-minded people to care for themselves and others better.  

With the long-range vision in place, the next steps are to discover needs and opportunities as they develop. “We have gone from zero to 200 miles an hour in three months in both the academic and training rails,” said Harvell. “With the Lord’s help, we are figuring this out as we go.”

“For Ron Harvell to be ‘figuring it out as he goes’ is like Boeing’s chief engineer building an aircraft while it flies,” said President Dr. Dondi Costin. “That the Lord would send the most experienced, highest-ranking active duty Southern Baptist chaplain to serve as the founding director is evidence aplenty that God’s hand is all over the Dewey Center for Chaplaincy. I can’t wait to see what God’s hand does through Ron’s hands as the center takes flight.”   

In addition to a bachelor’s degree and three master’s degrees, Harvell holds a Doctor of Ministry from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Asia Graduate School of Theology in Transformational Leadership for the Global City. He has pastored numerous churches, and his military career includes specialty ministry opportunities such as serving as the Senior Pastor at Dover Air Force Base, where he supervised the ministry for the Dover Port 

Mortuary, worked with the International Mission Board providing mission support to Kenya and Somalia, worked with the United Nations Somalian refugee camps, and served as hospital chaplain for the trauma center at Baghdad International Airport in Iraq.

While in their youth, Ron and Marsha independently felt called to be foreign missionaries. When they were in seminary that calling became refined as a missionary to the military people group, specifically, the Air Force. The Harvells have lived overseas for 11 years and ministered and/or visited 56 countries. 

Marsha is an author and conference leader. The Harvells lead a ministry called God’s Greater Grace Ministries which features their work in praying for families and discipling new believers. The Harvells have authored numerous books, including The Watchman on the Wall devotional series, volumes 1-4, The Covenant Maker: Knowing God and His Promises for Salvation and Marriage, and 50 Steps With Jesus: Learning to Walk Daily With The Lord.

Harvell said, “The Lord has let us do some amazing things. Getting to come to CSU has to be on or near the top of the list.  We pray that we will get to see eternal things take place as we launch the Dewey Center for Chaplaincy and have the honor of ministering with the CSU family.” 


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