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A month ago, I wrote about the mix of tears and joy, suffering and glory that Iris Ministries in the Democratic Republic of Congo is experiencing. While people are losing their children and the women are raped by soldiers; miracles are abundant and the church has a burning passion for God. This paradoxal relationship between the cross and the glory may be hard for Western people to understand, but it is very real. Today I want to introduce you to a missionary who also experienced this in the Congo – but 50 years ago. Her name is Helen Roseveare.
After studying medicine in the UK and feeling the calling to be a missionary, Helen went to what was then Belgian Congo and started to develop the pretty much non-existant health care system. She was the only doctor for two and a half million people, saving thousands of lives. In the early 60’s, civil war broke lose as the Congolese people wanted to be liberated from Belgian colonialism. The war was extremely brutal. Helen was raped, twice.
Government soldiers came to my bungalow, ransacked it, then grabbed me. I was beaten and savagely kicked, losing my back teeth through the boot of a rebel soldier. They broke my glasses, so I could not see to protect myself from the next blow. Then, one at a time, two army officers took me to my own bedroom and raped me. They dragged me out into a clearing, tied me to a tree, and stood around laughing. And while I was there, beaten and humiliated and violated and ridiculed, someone discovered in the bungalow the only existing hand-written manuscript of a book I had been writing about God’s work in the Congo over an eleven-year period. They brought it out, put it on the ground in front of me, and burned it.
It takes less than that for others to leave both the country and the faith. But Helen knew the power and love of the living God, and she knew that He had called her to Congo to be an instrument of grace and peace. In an interview with Jesus Army, she told about the revival fires that her church saw in the midst of chaos: