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Gwynne Johnson's picture

Suffering - Imposition or Entrustment?

Several years ago I had the privilege of hearing veteran missionary, Dr. Helen Roseveare, speak at a staff conference for field missionaries of Entrust, International, in Hungary. As a result I read her book, He Gave Us a Valley.  In it, Helen describes her twenty years of ministry in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo. I think perhaps her life and experience may inform on how to respond in the challenging times in which we live

Helen went to the field in 1953 and her twenty-year ministry spanned the Congolese civil war where she found herself captured, beaten and brutally raped.  Nevertheless, she returned to the Congo in 1966 to assist in the rebuilding of the nation.  She details the challenges of rebuilding and training medical workers while the nation and individuals attempted to breach the racial hostility and distrust remaining from the civil war. 

As a result of that racial distrust, the last graduating class of her training school turned in rebellion against their white administrators and rejected the sacrificial and loving training they had received.  Helen’s struggle was to surrender to God even this final, unjustl suffering and discover Jesus alone sufficient. 

I ask myself in reading her story, “Would I be as willing to suffer for Christ as she was.  Would I be able to lay aside my pride and relinquish my “rights?”  Helen’s perspective is that in these experiences God invited her into the privilege of sharing in the suffering of Christ. (Phillipians 3:10)  In her conference messages to us she reflected on the question she sensed during her abuse that God was asking her.  “Can you thank me for trusting you with this experience even if I never tell you why?” That counter-cultural thought that suffering is an entrustment provides a new paradigm for evaluating whatever suffering that we face as well. In the future this understanding may provide courage to stand alone in an increasingly hostile culture.

I am challenged by such a sacrificial life. Helen’s example motivates me to continual surrender, to be willing to reframe whatever I suffer as an “entrustment” rather than an “imposition” and find Jesus alone sufficient.

An interesting afterword: After returning from the field Helen ministered powerfully in challenging and motivating students and missionaries to lives of surrendered service with special emphasis on missions. Her books provide classic truths for godly living.

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