Dr Helen Roseveare, the renowned English missionary to the Congo, has passed away at the age of 91.
As a young woman, Helen felt an increased sense of calling to the mission field and once announced publicly: “I’ll go anywhere God wants me to, whatever the cost”.
She went on to serve the Lord over two decades in Africa, enduring war, imprisonment and great personal suffering along the way.
Serving the Congo
Helen studied medicine at Cambridge University, and then spent six months training at the Worldwide Evangelisation Crusade College in London.
In 1953, she travelled to the north-eastern region of the Congo, where she founded a training school for nurses – who would operate as evangelists at the same time.
Two years later, she was transferred to another post, seven miles away, where she helped transform an abandoned maternity and leprosy centre into a working hospital.
The new facility had 100 beds and served mothers, children and people affected by leprosy, as well as operating as a training facility for paramedics.
Tragically, when civil war broke out in 1964 all of the medical facilities Helen had established were destroyed, and she was put under house arrest.
After trying to escape, she was brutally beaten and dragged back. Helen said of her captors:
They “were brutal and drunken. They cursed and swore, they struck and kicked, they used the butt-end of rifles and rubber truncheons. We were roughly taken, thrown in prisons, humiliated, threatened”.
However, her lowest point came on 29 October 1964 when she was raped.
Helen recounted that at this time, she had reached “what seemed to be the ultimate depth of despairing nothingness”.
But she later recognised the goodness of God, despite the harrowing attack.
“Through the brutal heart-breaking experience of rape, God met with me—with outstretched arms of love. It was an unbelievable experience: He was so utterly there, so totally understanding, his comfort was so complete—and suddenly I knew—I really knew that his love was unutterably sufficient.”
After a brief return to the UK, she went back to Africa in 1966.
This time, she established a medical facility in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo, which included a 250-bed hospital, maternity ward, leprosy centre and training college for doctors.
In 1973 she returned to the UK for health reasons, settling in Northern Ireland, where she wrote several books.
She died on 7 December 2016.