Dr Helen Roseveare, who has died aged 91, was a missionary doctor in the former Belgian Congo whose traumatic experiences during the Simba Rebellion paved the way for a worldwide ministry of writing and teaching
Born into a middle-class High Anglican family, Helen Roseveare made a commitment to Christ at Cambridge University in 1945. Shunning a lucrative career at home, she sailed for the Congo in 1953, setting up a hospital and medical training centre in Ibambi before renovating a disused leprosy clinic in nearby Nebobongo. Working with local Africans, she built this into a 100-bed hospital and training centre, and established 48 other local clinics.
All this was destroyed after civil war broke out in the newly independent Congo in 1964. Hundreds of expatriates and thousands of Congolese were executed. Helen was one of ten Protestant missionaries imprisoned for five months, and was raped and beaten. Yet her experience of God’s love in this trauma shaped her life and ministry ever afterwards. She often spoke of the “sheer privilege” of serving Christ even through pain and setback.
“Through the brutal heartbreaking 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 time recovering at home, and a further seven years at a new hospital in Nyankunde, she settled in Northern Ireland in 1973. A string of books followed, notable for their profound Bible teaching and brutal honesty. She became a sought-after speaker, where she combined simplicity and humour with a passionate call to Christlike living. Many found her messages life-changing. Unusual at the time as a female speaker she was something of role model for young women and also served for many years as President of the Girls’ Crusader Union, a Christian youth organization.
Helen Roseveare continued these ministries well into her 80s. Her life has been portrayed in the 1989 film, Mama Luka Comes Home. She is survived by two sisters, Jean Ross and Frances Sinker.
“If you think you have come to the mission field because you are a little better than others, or as the cream of your church, or because of your medical degree, or for the service you can render the African church, or even for the souls you may see saved, you will fail. Remember, the Lord has only one purpose ultimately for each one of us, to make us more like Jesus. He is interested in your relationship with himself. Let him take you and mould you as he will; all the rest will take its rightful place.” ― Helen Roseveare, Give Me This Mountain
Dr Helen Roseveare, 1925 – 7 December 2016