Eleven years ago I met Helen Roseveare for the first time. She had not long celebrated her eightieth birthday. I’d read her books and knew her story and somehow or other I had been invited to stay. It was great to actually meet one of my heroines. She was not only encouraging, she was challenging. It was an environment – all be it just for a weekend – where i felt safe to be honest with her and Pat, her friend, about the challenges and struggles of my own little life. Even though she had been through so much herself (if you don’t know what I mean then read her books) my problems didn’t feel too insignificant to share. And the words she gave me before I left on the flight from Belfast to Inverness were straight forward – just telling me to keep on going. And I’m thankful to her and to God that I have through His strength.
After that she came over to my congregation to do a conference. It was at this conference that she gave, as part of her message, four little words that I believe are the backbone to her life and reinforced, for me, the message of her books, the message she gave me before I left Belfast and the message her Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, gives all believers.
“Jesus is Worth it”.
Towards the end of that conference I had the pleasure of taking her and Pat for a tour of the Black Isle – a Scottish peninsula near Inverness. What took place at lunch that day is one of several distinct ‘Helen and Pat’ memories that will stay with me for the rest of my life. If you’ve not met either of them – let me describe these two women of God…
They’re smart. Neither of them are short in the intelligence stakes. They both graduated in medicine at a time when to be a female graduate in any discipline like this was rare.
They’re cosmopolitan. Both women have travelled extensively – and they travelled before the easy days of online booking and satnav.
But if you, a stranger, were to sit down at a table next to them you wouldn’t look twice. You would presume – like the people sitting next to us probably did – that they were just two little old ladies. But that’s one point where the church and the world differs – God’s kingdom never puts the word ‘just’ before any category of person – particularly little old ladies.
Our neighbouring diners were given a visual and audible lesson in this when after lunch Pat and Helen’s conversation started as follows:
“I don’t think we’ll ever be able to get back to Afghanistan but it is a beautiful country, and the Lord is at work there…” – or words to that effect.
As my chin dropped I could see the looks on the people at the table beside us as they turned and stared. Two women they had just spent the last hour ignoring were talking about a trip they had made to what was now one of the most notoriously violent countries in the world.
Helen and Pat started reminiscing about people who had lived and worked in that region and about the brief time they had spent in a nation that was now in the thick of a conflict that threw up words like Taliban and Terrorist.
I drove them back to my parent’s house and before too long they were on their way back to Belfast discussing no doubt their plans for the development of the girls clubs they were involved in and the future fundraising for their local church.
So don’t make assumptions about little old ladies… especially when you hear the word church and missionary in the same sentence … they may very well have been where we will never go, have done what we wouldn’t dream of, and have given up what we just aren’t willing to.