Pastor Tim: Real life heroes

The Rev Tim Smith, pastor at Hele Road Baptist Church in Torquay. Photo: Contributed

The Rev Tim Smith, pastor at Hele Road Baptist Church in Torquay. Photo: Contributed - Credit: Archant

According to superhero actor Christopher Reeve, famous for playing Superman on the big screen when I was a teenager, “a hero is an ordinary person who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles”.   
We’ve heard the word hero used quite a lot over the past year, to aptly describe the commitment and sacrifice of many in our hospitals working in the most trying of conditions, helping to save lives. 
Hebrews chapter 11 in the New Testament, describes the Biblical heroes we read of throughout the Scriptures as those who “lived by faith”; they were men & women who trusted God, even in the midst of the worst of circumstances.   
When I think about heroic Christian people of more recent times, one woman who comes to mind is Dr Helen Roseveare, who was 91 years old when she died in 2016.   
Dr Roseveare worked as a medical missionary during the 1950s and 60s in what was then known as the Belgian Congo in Central Africa, and you can read something of her life story and experiences in a number of books she authored, including “Give Me This Mountain” & “Living Faith”.   
In her early years in the Congo, Helen founded a training school for nurses, training Christian women to serve as nurse-evangelists, who in turn would run clinics and dispensaries in different regions.  During her years of service there, the Congo became independent from Belgium in 1960, and when civil war broke out in 1964, Helen courageously stayed to continue her work, even when many others left.    
In the midst of increasing unrest, nearly all of the medical facilities that she had helped establish were destroyed, and Helen was among ten protestant missionaries put under house arrest by rebel forces for several weeks, before being moved and imprisoned.   
Here’s how she describes the trauma of what happened to her after she tried to escape:  “They found me, dragged me to my feet, struck me over my head and shoulders, flung me on the ground, kicked me, dragged me to my feet only to strike me again—the sickening searing pain of a broken tooth, a mouth full of sticky blood, my glasses gone. Beyond sense, numb with horror and unknown fear, driven, dragged, pushed back to my own house—yelled at, insulted, cursed”.   
On one terrible night in October 1964, Helen was attacked and raped by the leader of the rebel group.  Although her trust in God remained throughout these fearful experiences, Helen rarely spoke publicly about that particular night.   
She wondered if God would ever be able to use what she had endured, for his good purposes?   
Many years later, Helen was giving a talk in America, during which she spoke briefly about those particularly traumatic events.  
At the end of the talk, a girl came up to her in tears. She too had been raped just a few weeks before. And Helen was able to comfort her in a unique way because she’d endured a similar experience.   
She later reflected, “When God could have saved me from the horror, he actually trusted me to go through the ordeal with Him, so that he could use the experience later to help others.  So, I have thanked God again for letting me know, at least in some small measure, the “why” of that long-ago night in the Congo.  God didn’t have to show me why he allowed the ordeal, but now I knew that at least one young girl had been helped to come to terms with the shock she had endured, because I was enabled to share from my own experience”.   
Dr Helen Roseveare lived her long life for the glory of God, whom she loved, and for the benefit of others.  She continued to trust in the Lord’s love for her, even in the most hideous of experiences, when his good purposes were hard to fathom.   
And so, to me, she is a real-life hero of faith.