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Scripture Memory: The Lamb of God

VERSE: John 1:29 “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”

 

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O Worship the LORD in the Beauty of Holiness

11 June 2017

8am & 11am: Worship Service

Rev Charles Seet (How to be Strong and Do Exploits, Daniel 11:2-35 )

6:00 pm Evening Service

Rev Colin Wong (Answers to Spiritual Depression, Psalm 42)

18 June 2017

8am & 11am: Worship Service

Eld Lim Teck Chye (Father’s Love, Luke 15:11-32)

6:00 pm Evening Service

Rev (Dr) Jack Sin (O Send Out Your Light and Truth! Psalm 43)

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THE HISTORY OF CHRISTIAN MISSIONS (Part 17)

 

(Extracted from Jerusalem to Irian Jaya – A Biographical History of Christian Missions, by Ruth A. Tucker)

 

Helen Roseveare

 

       Helen was born in England in 1925 into a proud and well-respected Cornwall family of many generations. Her father, who had been knighted for his patriotic service during the war, was a renowned mathematician, keenly interested in the education of his children. At twelve Helen was sent to an exclusive girls’ school, and after that to Cambridge, where she received her medical degree.

       It was during her freshman year at Cambridge that Helen underwent a conversion experience that caused her to turn away from her Anglo-Catholic background and join the ranks of evangelicalism. Her commitment for missionary service was natural. Her father’s brothers and her mother’s sister had served as missionaries, and from childhood she had looked forward to being a missionary herself.

       That day came in 1953, when she sailed for the Congo to serve with the Worldwide Evangelization Crusade there. She immediately realized that the traditional concepts of missionary medicine would never even begin to solve the serious health problems all around her. Instead of establishing a regional medical center where a doctor worked around the clock and still fell short of meeting the needs of the sick, she envisioned a training center where nurses would be taught the Bible and basic medicine and then sent back to their villages to handle routine cases, teach preventive medicine, and serve as lay evangelists. 

      It was a far-reaching plan, but from the start Helen was blocked at every turn by her colleagues, who believed that a mission had no business involving itself in training the nationals in such fields as medicine.

       Two years after arriving in the Congo and after spending months in building a combination hospital and training center in Ibambi, and just after she had bathed in the glorious victory of seeing her first four students pass their government medical exams, Helen was forced to relocate at Nebobongo, where there was an old leprosy camp that had become overgrown by the jungle. Helen bitterly argued against the move, but to no avail. Nevertheless she accepted the decision, moved to Nebobongo, built another hospital, and continued training African nurses.

       Despite her setbacks, Helen loved her work. She particularly loved teaching, and she loved the Africans with whom she worked – perhaps too much – at least in the eyes of her colleagues. When differences prevented warm fellowship between her and other foreign missionaries, she spent time with her African friends; and it was an old African pastor to whom she went for spiritual counsel. That a missionary would humble herself before an African in such a way was unacceptable even for the 1950s and thus her associations created even greater strain between her and her colleagues.

       Without defending Helen’s attitude, it is safe to say that such traits might have been overlooked in a male medical doctor, but as it was, the strong-willed Dr Roseveare seemed to be a threat to many of her male colleagues. So in an effort to keep her in her place, it seems a decision was made at the annual conference in 1957 to relocate John Harris, a young British doctor, and his wife to Nebobongo and to make him Helen’s superior.

       Helen was devastated, and as her biographer has so vividly portrayed, Harris’ takeover was a bitter pill to swallow: “In her terms, he’d just taken over Nebobongo – her place, which she’d built up out of nothing, out of her dreams, out of her heart, out of the money she’d raised. This was the place where she’d dug the water holes, cleared the ditches, fired the bricks.

       She had acknowledged the facts that you could not have two people in charge, that he was a man, and that in Africa a man was the superior being, so she handed over the keys. Then she found she couldn’t take it. Perhaps she had been her own boss too long. But now she had lost everything. She had always taken Bible class; Dr Harris took it now. Dr Harris organized the nurses, and Helen had always done that. Everything that had been hers was now his.

       WEC missionaries were scheduled for furloughs every seven years, but Helen, who was suffering ill health, was all too ready to go home for a break when she was offered leave in 1958 after only five years on the field. She left for England disillusioned with missionary work and, according to her biographer, “feeling that it was unlikely she would ever return to Congo.”

       But Helen was too dedicated to the cause of missions to quit that easily, and she began to convince herself (as she had suspected while she was serving in Congo) that her real problem was her singleness. If she had a doctor-husband who would work with her and stand by her during the difficult times, everything, she reasoned, would be all right. Helen had asked God for a husband (in fact, she had “told” Him she would not go back without one). But God, like most humans, did not work fast enough to satisfy her.

       It was while she was taking additional medical training (to better prepare her for her work in Congo) that Helen met a young doctor – a Christian doctor whom she decided would be a perfect mate for her. She bought new clothes, got her hair permed, and even resigned from the mission in an effort to win him, but to no avail. He truly cared for her, but not enough to marry her. It was a very trying time for Helen, and she struggled against what she knew was best: “The Lord spoke very clearly during my furlough that he was able to satisfy me.... I wasn’t interested in a spiritualized husband. I wanted a husband with a couple of arms. Well, in the end I jolly well [spoiled] the whole furlough...I couldn’t find a husband in the mission, so I got out of the mission. God let me go a long way, and I made an awful mess. Then God graciously pulled me back and the mission graciously accepted me back.”

       Helen’s return to Congo in 1960 coincided with that country’s long sought after independence. It was an uneasy time for whites, and many missionaries believed the risks were too high. Some wanted to leave with their families immediately. Helen, however, had no intention of turning around and going home. If God had truly called her back to Congo she was convinced he would protect her. Her stand, along with that of other single women, made it difficult for the men. How would it look if they slunk away while the women bravely stayed on, and who would protect the women if they were gone?

       But in Helen’s mind, such reasoning had no merit and was, in her biographer’s words, “pure male chauvinism.” The very fact that most of the men were married made their circumstances different from hers. Obviously they had heavy family responsibilities to consider, and as to protection, there was little a male missionary could do (besides relinquish his own life) if truly perilous conditions did develop.

       Helen’s decision to stay offered her tremendous opportunities for service. John Harris and his wife left for a well-deserved furlough, and she was once again in charge of the medical facilities at Nebobongo.

       Much was accomplished in the three years that followed, despite the political uneasiness as the Simba Rebels gained strength in their opposition to the new government. Reports came periodically of attacks against missionaries elsewhere, including reports of missionary women who had “suffered” at the hands of the rebels – an act so degrading and humiliating it could not even be named. Helen herself endured a burglary and an attempted poisoning, but always in her mind the situation was improving – and even if it was not, too many people depended on her. She had to stay.

       By the summer of 1964, the Congo was in the throes of a bloody civil war as the Simba Rebels violently took control of village after village. On August 15 the mission compound at Nebobongo was occupied by soldiers, and for the next five months Helen was in captivity, though she remained at the compound, living in her own house until November. Brutal atrocities were committed in the name of black nationalism, and few whites escaped the violence and bloodshed. Helen was no exception.

       On the night of October 29, while the compound was under rebel occupation, she was overpowered by a black rebel soldier in her little bungalow at Nebobongo. It was a night of terror. She tried to escape, but it was useless: “They found me, dragged me to my feet, struck me over head and shoulders, flung me on the ground, kicked me, dragged me to my feet only to strike me again – the sickening, searing pain of a broken tooth, a mouth full of sticky blood, my glasses gone. Beyond sense, numb with horror and unknown fear, driven, dragged, pushed back to my own house – yelled at, insulted, cursed.”

       Helen’s rescue on the last day of 1964 was more than she had dared hope for. For months she had faced the almost daily threat of death, and she hardly knew how to deal with her new found freedom and the rude shock of suddenly being back home. There was a sense of joy and relief, but also a sense of great sorrow as she listened to horror stories of the martyrdom of some of her dearest friends and colleagues.

       At first the thought of returning seemed remote, but as the Congo political situation improved and as heartrending letters from African co-workers and friends arrived, the pull to Africa became intense. She was needed now more than ever. How could she say no?

       Helen returned to Africa in March of 1966 to resume her duties as a medical missionary and particularly her work of training nationals. Her initial arrival at the devastated mission compound was greeted with jubilation, but she soon discovered that life in the Congo had irrevocably changed since her first term in the 1950s. Things would never be the same. The new spirit of independence and nationalism had penetrated every area of society, including the church, and no longer was there an automatic feeling of respect and admiration – especially from the younger generation – for the lady doctor who had sacrificed so much for the Congo.

       Despite her remarkable sacrifice and great accomplishments during those seven years, Helen left Africa in 1973 broken in spirit. Students had rebelled against her authority, and even her colleagues questioned her leadership ability. It was a tragedy, at least in human terms, that her 20 years of service in Africa ended in such a way.

       Helen returned home to face a “very, very lonely period” in her life, but again as with so many other disappointing experiences, she turned to God. Instead of bitterness there was a new spirit of humility and a new appreciation for what Jesus had done for her on the cross. God was molding her for an even greater ministry – one of which she herself could never have dreamed.

       In the years that followed she became a much sought after internationally acclaimed spokes-woman for Christian missions. She continues today to write and speak from the heart, and her honest forthrightness has been a refreshing breeze in a profession that too long has been stifled by its image of super-sainthood.

(To be continued) 

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1)        Life B-P Church Camp 2017. Campers going for the church camp are kindly reminded to meet tomorrow (12 Jun 2017) in church at 6.45am or Harbourfront Cruise Centre at 8am. Please be punctual and do remember to bring your passport.

2)        Pastoral Help. Members who need pastoral help during the church camp week (12-15 June) may contact Rev Colin Wong at 9665-8160.

3)        LTF/YF Conference on four Saturdays: 1, 8, 15 & 22 July 2017. Contact persons: Theodore & Shawn. Please sign up at http://tinyurl.com/LTFYFC17.

4)        Combined B-P Churches Reformation 500 Conference from 9 to 12 Aug 2017. Speaker: Dr Michael Barrett. Venues: Calvary BPC (9 & 10 Aug) and Life BPC (11 & 12 Aug). Please register at http://www.lifebpc.com/reformation-conference.

5)        2017 Women’s Conference organized by The ‘Fisherman of Christ’ Fellowship, 13-15 Jul. Speaker: Dr Lisa La George. If interested, please call 8238-0299.

6)        Catechism Class for Anniversary Baptism on 15 Oct 2017 commences on 9 Jul 2017 at Beulah Centre Rm 2-1, 9.40am. Please pre-register by emailing Doris Chik or filling up the form available at the front counter. Those seeking baptism, reaffirmation of faith and transfer of membership must attend the catechism class. Closing date: 2 Jul 2017.

7)        Congratulations to: (1) Mr & Mrs Tan Soon Hui on the birth of a baby boy on 1 Jun 2017. (2) Mr & Mrs Jeremy Lee on the birth of a baby girl on 7 Jun 2017.

 

Preaching appts: Rev Seet at Indonesian Service, 4 pm. Rev Quek at Thai Grace BPC Camp (10-11 Jun). 

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

December 3 & 10 - Holy Living

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 2 Peter 3:11