Monday, 11 February 2013

The day I finally met Dr. Helen Roseveare!

In the recent weeks many have been on the look out to see who will take what in various categories whether Oscars or Golden Globes nominations. In our world heavily influenced by pop culture we are always eager to know who is who in Hollywood. So we ask who is going to be the best actor of the year? Who is poised to scoop the best actress award? I wonder whether so and so is going to be nominated for the best director? The list of questions goes on! Yesterday we witnessed yet more nominations when Bafta Awards were announced. As those who received the awards strolled in on the red carpet one could tell the joy in their hearts for such great achievements.

I then posed and wondered, what makes these awards special? It is for the simple reason of people who have played their role well; they gave their all without reservations I suppose! These nominations and awards help put our Christian life into a little bit of perspective.

Looking at the Christian ministry I find one who has been exemplary in her service to the Kingdom of God. Just to be clear am not proposing in anyway whatsoever that we have awards for the same but just to remind ourselves of those that have executed her tasks with precision and humility. 

It is no other than Dr Helen Roseveare from Northern Ireland, a missionary for 20years in the Democratic Republic of Congo having left home at the age of 28. She presents to us a spirit of willingness to follow God wherever He leads, as well as the struggles, pain and success that come long with responding to that call. 

Since my passion for Christian missions started blossoming in my heart, the story of Helen Roseveare kept coming into the scene. My mentor kept sharing about her until I could almost recite her story off head. I kept saying that I would love to meet her face to face someday and get to hear her wisdom but little did I know that it would come true.

Through some friends I met a lady excited for missions and through our chats she mentioned that Dr. Helen Roseveare was her mentor! I knew my chance of meeting her at last was now or never! I used my new found friend as a messenger to go and ask her if I could meet her. After few emails a date was set.

Long before even a possibility of ever meeting her came up I had read her books, watched a Mama Luka video about her, searched youtubes on her, followed interviews with journalist just to try and unearth who she really was.
Deep inside I said to myself, I have read enough on her encounters; stories told of her and by herself too and therefore I needed no more of the same stories. I wanted to know what she is doing with herself presently. As true as that was, there was something inside me still that kept telling me, please do not let this opportunity escape you, ask her about money and missions, theology of suffering, missions and family, faith and partnership and in response to that voice I scribbled few notes.  

As I stepped out of the train to meet her as scheduled, it was raining and there were few people on the platform therefore became as little hard to pick her out of the crowd. Just as I was trying to elbow my way out I saw one lady walk towards me as she looked me right into my eyes and I knew it was her. With my left hand I took off my cap while I stretched by right arm to greet her as I asked…Dr Helen Roseveare I presume? To which she responded, yes you are right! How appropriate!! 

‘You are younger than I expected’-was her first reaction of me.

At the age of 87 I expected her to be weak, frail and probably less bothered with the debate of missions. It was through our walk to the house and chats that I was to be proved wrong as she responded to matters at hand with passion, energy and vitality rarely matched.

We sat and talked for hours and I kept on thinking I should have asked for the whole day. She spoke to my life in a very great way. 

I forgot to ask any premeditated questions I had, but two things she said that I will never forget. While talking about her experiences she posed and said…..”I know many have written about my sufferings but I do not see it that way. I see it as a privilege, nothing more nothing less.” What a profound thing to be said by one who underwent very terrible experiences like her! 

She did not stop there. In her own reflections she said…..”Gerald, I can look back and have nothing to regret about, for sure am now old but do not even own a house and having never served in my own country, I have no benefits but am so happy for the Lord who sustains me and refreshes me always.” What a lesson to those of us who rushes to join ministry for good name, prestige or monetary value accrued to it?

After the meeting she escorted me back to the train station. As I sat down near the window and she waved me bye, one thing was running in my mind-- What an incredible story of a faithful woman and an extraordinary God!