Helen Roseveare (Heroes of the Faith)

Heroes of the faith are all around us — if we know where to look. Many are simply unknown to the world-at-large as they quietly struggle through a lifetime of isolation and hardship. But many others have written of their journeys and shared the ways God has divinely shaped their paths to fit His perfect plan. One of those missionary-authors is Helen Roseveare, favorite “missionary mentor” of Debbie Crawford. I’m pleased to have Debbie — a fellow blogger and missionary — sharing a glimpse of Helen’s life. I hope it encourages you to learn more about her!

Helen RoseveareHelen Roseveare: A Missionary of Perseverance

Beaten and raped by rebels during the 1960s Simba rebellion of what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo, Helen Roseveare persevered through many trials. She joined WEC International in 1951, where she served as a missionary for over twenty years. The ministry the Lord gave her included establishing village hospitals, clinics, along with a training school for national paramedical workers. Since 1973, God has used her in sharing her life experiences through speaking engagements and writing books. Even though I have only grown to know her through her books she has become my missionary mentor.

I first met her in the book Stand: A Call for the Endurance of the Saints by John Piper and Justin Taylor. Here she shared about one of her heroes, Caleb, in the Bible. She wanted to be like Caleb who “wholly followed” the Lord. She encourages everyone to have the motto: In everything to please him.

The next book I would read of hers was He Gave Us a Valley. After having to leave the country of 1964 because of the rebellion, she answered God’s leading to return in 1966. She would spend the next seven years involved in a medical project to establish a 250 bed hospital/maternity facility, a training college for national paramedical workers and other medical centers. After a heart wrenching event she resigned from her post. Of this event she writes:

“’No,’ He quietly rebuked me. ‘No. You no longer want Jesus only, but Jesus plus…plus respect, popularity, public opinion, success and pride. You wanted to go out with all the trumpets blaring, from a farewell-do that you organized for yourself…You wanted the other missionaries to be worried about how ever they’ll carry on after you’ve gone…All this and more. Jesus plus…No, you can’t have it. Either it must be “Jesus Only” or you’ll find you’ve no Jesus. You’ll substitute Helen Roseveare.”

After much reflection she would finally tell Him that she wanted ‘Jesus only.’

In her later years she wrote a series of books: Living Fellowship, Living Faith, and Living Sacrifice. In Digging Ditches: The Latest Chapter of an Inspirational Life, God gave Helen the words:

“Make this valley full of ditches!”

She explains:

“So I was to learn to go deeper down, to ‘dig ditches’, that were often unseen and unrecognized by others, but which God promised to fill with blessing for others. My first instinct was, ‘OK, God, I’ll dig you a Suez Canal!’ but that was not what He asked for! My Lord wanted just daily, small obediences; He wanted me to do whatever needed to be done next, without needing to be thanked or recognized, without a pedestal or a halo.”

Other quotes from Helen that have challenged me:

“And if He sees that even a tiny scrap of self-pleasing has crept into my service, if He knows that I am beginning to rely on my being able to do what He wants me to do, and not wholly on His being able to do what He wants done even when I cannot…then He must strip me of myself, of my dependence on my ability, even of my apparent ability to know Him, and share Him with others.”

”Can I not accept to work for the joy of His fellowship, the privilege of being called His ambassador, His co-laborer? Why do I hunger to see results? Why do I need to know that I am needed, that I am a ‘success’, when I have the certain joy of knowing that He has chosen me and sent me to bring forth much fruit.”

Finally in response to the question ‘Why does a God of love allow suffering?’ she answers:

“God led me then to realize that it is because He is a God of love that He suffered for us, and that now He invites us to share in His sufferings.”

Helen’s writings challenge me as a missionary to persevere in following Him and trusting Him through the trials of life.


Your turn! Do you have a favorite missionary? Share their name in the comments!

And I’d love to share YOUR post (400-800 words) about a favorite Christian hero! Email me for more details!


Debbie CrawfordDebbie Crawford is a Christ-follower with a passion for missions, lover of books, theology, Mexican food and coffee. She and her husband serve with Samaria Mission of Polokwane, South Africa where she has opportunity to disciple women in Mozambique. She writes about missions and God’s work in her heart as she strives to follow hard after Him at her blog Telling of His Wonderful Deeds. You can also find her on Facebook and Pinterest.

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