I am sure that most of us have heard the saying, “No pain, No gain.” Life is a roller-coaster with all its ups, downs, and loops. For us to win the game of life, we have to get to know ourselves and our Creator. There are many things in life we cannot change, but we can always change our perspective or reactions towards these unchangeable things.
One of the most iconic figures in proving that pain can indeed be transformed into tri-umph is Helen Roseverare. although brutally rapped and beaten she turned pain into ministry to the most marginalized in society.
Helen Roseveare was born in 1925 at Haileybury College (Hertfordshire, England), where her father taught mathematics. Raised in a high Anglican church, Helen’s Sun-day school teacher once told their class about India, and Helen resolved to herself that she would one day be a missionary.
She enrolled in Newnham College at Cambridge University to study medicine. She be-came 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 Scrog-gie 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.”
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.
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 sev-eral weeks, after which time they were moved and imprisoned. She describes the hor-ror of what happened after she tried to escape:
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 sicken-ing searing pain of a broken tooth, a mouth full of sticky blood, my glasses gone. Be-yond sense, numb with horror and unknown fear, driven, dragged, pushed back to my own house—yelled at, insulted, cursed.
Her captors, she wrote, “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.”
On October 29, 1964, Helen Roseveare was brutally raped.
She later recounted:
On that dreadful night, beaten and bruised, terrified and tormented, unutterably alone, I had felt at last God had failed me. Surely He could have stepped in earlier, surely things need not have gone that far. I had reached what seemed to be the ultimate depth of despairing nothingness.
In this darkness, however, she sensed the Lord saying to her:
You asked Me, when you were first converted, for the privilege of being a missionary. This is it. Don’t you want it? . . . These are not your sufferings. They’re Mine. All I ask of you is the loan of your body.
She eventually received an “overwhelming sense of privilege, that Almighty God would stoop to ask of me, a mere nobody in a forest clearing in the jungles of Africa, some-thing He needed.”
She later pointed to God’s goodness despite this great evil:
Through the brutal heartbreaking experience of rape, God met with me—with out-stretched 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. He did love me! He did understand!
She also wrote:
[God] understood not only my desperate misery but also my awakened desires and mixed up horror of emotional trauma. I knew that Philippians 4:19, “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus,” was true on all levels, not just on a hyper-spiritual shelf where I had tried to relegate it. . . . He was ac-tually offering me the inestimable privilege of sharing in some little way in the fellow-ship of His sufferings.
He didn’t take away pain or cruelty or humiliation. No! It was all there, but now it was altogether different. It was with him, for him, in him. He was actually offering me the in-estimable privileged of sharing in some little way the edge of the fellowship of his suf-fering.
After returning to African in 1966, she soon left Nebobongo to establish a new medical center in Nyankunde in northeastern Zaire, producing a 250-bed hospital, maternity ward, training college for doctors, a center for leprosy, and other endeavors.
The gain through pain was a productive life impacting people at the point of their deepest needs. God uses people to extend His love to the world.