A Woman of Whom the World Was Not Worthy: Helen Roseveare (1925-2016)

Dr. Helen Roseveare, a famous English missionary to the Congo, has passed away at the age of 91

“In October 1955, she was asked to transfer seven miles away to run an abandoned maternity and leprosy center in Nebobongo. Working with local Africans, Helen helped to transform the center into a hospital with 100 beds, serving mothers, lepers, and children, along with a training school for paramedics and 48 rural clinics.”

 

“God never uses a person greatly until He has wounded him deeply.
The privilege He offers you is greater than the price you have to pay.
The privilege is greater than the price.”
—Helen Roseveare

Dr. Helen Roseveare, a famous English missionary to the Congo, has passed away at the age of 91.

Helen Roseveare was born in 1925 at Haileybury College (Hertfordshire, England), where her father taught mathematics.

Raised in a high Anglican church, Helen’s Sunday school teacher once told their class about India, and Helen resolved to herself that she would one day be a missionary.

Despite the Christian heritage of her family, and faithful attendance at church, Helen sensed a void in her life and distance from God.

She enrolled in Newnham College at Cambridge University to study medicine. There she joined the Cambridge Inter-Collegiate Christian Union (CICCU) through the invitation of a student named Dorothy. She became an active participant in the prayer meetings and Bible studies, reading the New Testament for the first time. But she later said that her understanding of Christianity was more head knowledge than heart engagement.

In the winter of 1945, the Lord seemed to meet her in a personal way during a student retreat. She gave her testimony on the final evening, and Bible teacher Graham Scroggie wrote Philippians 3:10 in her new Bible, and told her:

Tonight you’ve entered into the first part of the verse, “That I may know Him.” This is only the beginning, and there’s a long journey ahead. My prayer for you is that you will go on through the verse to know “the power of His resurrection” and also, God willing, one day perhaps, “the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death.”

She felt an increased sense of calling toward missions, and publicly declared during a missionary gathering in North England, “I’ll go anywhere God wants me to, whatever the cost.”

Afterwards, I went up into the mountains and had it out with God. “O.K. God, today I mean it. Go ahead and make me more like Jesus, whatever the cost. But please (knowing myself fairly well), when I feel I can’t stand anymore and cry out, ‘Stop!’ will you ignore my ‘stop’ and remember that today I said ‘Go ahead!’?”

After graduating from Cambridge with her doctorate in medicine, Helen studied for six months at the Worldwide Evangelization Crusade college at Crystal Palace. From there she went to Belgium to study French and Holland to take a course on tropical medicine as she prepared for her appointment as a medical missionary in the Congo.

In mid-March of 1953, at the age of 28, she arrived in the northeastern region of the Congo (later named Zaire).

In the first two years, she founded a training school for nurses, training women to serve as nurse-evangelists, who in turn would run clinics and dispensaries in different regions.

In October 1955, she was asked to transfer seven miles away to run an abandoned maternity and leprosy center in Nebobongo. Working with local Africans, Helen helped to transform the center into a hospital with 100 beds, serving mothers, lepers, and children, along with a training school for paramedics and 48 rural clinics. Outside of these facilities, there was no other medical help for 150 miles in any direction.

Exhausted, Helen returned to England in 1958 for a furlough, during which time she received further medical training.

The Congo became independent from Belgium in 1960, and civil war broke out in 1964. All of the medical facilities they had established were destroyed. Helen was among ten Protestant missionaries put under house arrest by the rebel forces for several weeks, after which time they were moved and imprisoned.

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