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Suffering – A New Paradigm

In April I had the privilege of hearing veteran missionary, Dr. Helen Roseveare, speak at a staff conference for field missionaries of Entrust, International, in Hungary. Today I finished 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. 

In April I had the privilege of hearing veteran missionary, Dr. Helen Roseveare, speak at a staff conference for field missionaries of Entrust, International, in Hungary. Today I finished 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. 

Going to the field in 1953, her twenty-year ministry spanned the Congo civil war where she found herself captured, beaten and 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 the training school turned in rebellion against the white administrators and rejected the sacrificial and loving training they had received.  Helen’s struggle was to surrender even this final suffering to find Jesus alone sufficient. 

I had to ask myself in reading her story if I would 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 view is that in these experiences she was invited into the privilege of sharing in the suffering of Christ. (Phillipians 3:10)  In her messages she reflected on the following question that she sensed that in her abuse God was asking her, “Can you thank me for trusting you with this experience even if I never tell you why?” The thought that suffering is an entrustment is a new paradigm for considering whatever suffering that we face.

In my world of comfort and entitlement I am challenged by such a sacrificial life. Her example motivates me to continual surrender, to be willing to reframe my suffering 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.

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Gwynne Johnson

Gwynne Johnson currently serves on the Board of Entrust, Inc., an international education and training mission where she authored the Entrust curriculum, Developing a Discerning Heart. She recently served as Co-Chair of the training project, Christian Women in Partnership, Russia and as Senior Director of Women's Ministry at Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas. Gwynne has a M.A. in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary. She currently lives in Huntsville, Texas with her husband of 58 years, Don. She works part-time in her daughter and granddaughter's bakery "The Best Box Ever," where she gets paid in cookies.

2 Comments

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    Sharifa Stevens

    Helen Roseveare is one of my
    Helen Roseveare is one of my formative seminary mentors, though I have never met her. One of my first classes was an introduction to world missions, and she is the person whom I chose to learn more about, in part because she is a woman, and in part because she was a person who persevered after being raped and sexually assaulted (too many of us share this story). She is an inspiration to me.

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