Heroines of the faith: Helen Roseveare

Helen Roseveare was one of my heroines when I was in medical school. Although I never met her personally, I knew various of her family members.

Born in England in 1925, Helen Roseveare became a Christian as a medical student at Cambridge University (my father-in-law, Donald Dale, was a medical student there at a similar time.) Helen went out as a missionary to the Congo (which became Zaire) where she was the only doctor for 2.5 million people. She built two hospitals during the 1950s. She returned to England for a couple of years but then returned to the Congo in 1960.

At that time the Congo was in turmoil following their independence from Belgium and the seizing of power by Mobutu. The conflict was part ethnic struggles, part anti-colonialism, and it left 100,000 dead. Helen chose not to leave during that time, but in 1964 she was taken prisoner by the rebel forces where she remained for five months, enduring  beatings and rape.

Here’s a description from Alan Burgess’s book Daylight must come: The story of Dr. Helen Roseveare:

She tried to escape, but it was useless:  “They found me, dragged me to my feet, struck me over 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.”

Later she said of that experience, “Through the brutal heartbreaking experience of rape, God met with me – with outstretched arms of love. It was an unbelievable experience: He was so utterly there, so totally understanding, his comfort was so complete – and suddenly I knew – I really knew that his love was unutterably sufficient. He did love me! He did understand!

He understood not only my desperate misery but also my awakened desires and mixed up horror of emotional trauma. I knew that Philippians 4:19, “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus,” was true on all levels, not just on a hyper-spiritual shelf where I had tried to relegate it….He was actually offering me the inestimable privilege of sharing in some little way in the fellowship of His sufferings.” 

She was taken to a village where the rebel soldiers had gathered 800 local men. Helen was to be tried in a people’s court, the men having been given the instructions to shout “She’s a liar!” They would then be asked, “What shall we do with her.” They were to respond, “Crucify her! Crucify her!”

Here’s what happened, from an interview with Tonya Stoneman.

During the trial scene, Helen was struck over the face with the butt of a gun.

The moment of judgement came.

Roseveare couldn’t see her jury; her eyes had nearly closed from the beatings… but she could hear. “I heard a sound I had never heard before and will probably never hear again. I heard 800 strong men break down and cry.”

They were weeping.

 Now instead of seeing her as the hated white foreigner, they saw her as their doctor.

They have a word in Kibudu which means, “blood of our blood, bone of our bone,” she says. They rushed forward and said, “She’s ours. She’s ours.

“They took me into their arms and pushed the rebel soldiers out of the way.”

After her release, Helen went back to England but returned to help rebuild the nation in 1966, establishing another hospital and medical school. She served there until 1973. She now lives in Ireland where she continues to minister through speaking and writing.

Information for this post came from here, here and here.

What you focus on counts

Over the many years I’ve been a follower of Jesus, I’ve noticed a trend. What I focus on makes a difference.

Every few years, it seems the Lord leads me to study a certain area/doctrine. Often it’s a matter of necessity. For example, when we lived in a very poor inner city area for many years, there were so many people with major problems, I longed to find a way to help them.

Usually my study comes in the form of questions. I’ll think of all the things I want to know about the topic and then read the Bible noting every verse I can find that provides an answer. As I study, I’ll make copious notes, and read different books on the topic. Finally, I’ll usually write a summary of what I’ve found. Sometimes the subject will occupy me for  a few weeks; other times two to three years.

At the same time, I find myself involved in that area in a practical way too. It’s as though God is giving me not just the theoretical background but a useful skill set too. And then I find God uses me in whatever area it is I’ve spent time on to train others.

Some examples:

I spent two years looking at inner healing and deliverance–and have not only spent time with many people to see them set free, I’ve trained others to do the same.

When we moved here to the States, I spent much time looking at church from a different perspective–now I write books on the topic and we’re involved in training simple/organic church planters.

For years, but especially the last two to three years, I’ve been looking at the topic of women–and I’ve just finished compiling a book on this subject. Who knows where this will go.

God wires us all in different ways. I’ve been trained to think and study, and so some of this comes naturally to me. But I’ve also learned to take notice when I find myself with an interest in a certain topic or a focus on a certain need. Who knows what God wants to accomplish through that if I’ll follow it through.

Have any of you found the same?

Photo Credit: the bbp via Compfight cc

The whole body of Christ

I recently wrote an article on women called “The Whole Body of Christ” for the new online House2House magazine. Here’s how it starts:

One Saturday morning a few years ago, Tony and I were enjoying a lie-in when his cell phone rang. It soon became apparent from his end of the conversation that the other person was interested in publishing a book I’ve written.

“Put it on speaker,” I whispered.

The conversation continued: “Of course, we’ll put both your names on the front cover.  This book is far too important to have been written by a woman!”

To find out what happened, click here.

Heroines of the faith: Ursula of Munsterberg

Ursula of Munsterberg (1491-1534), was the grand-daughter of King Georg Prodiebrad of Bohemia. Like most other nuns of the time  in Germany, she was placed into a monastery as a child. She hated the rigors of the monastic lifestyle–the night vigils and fasting–and longed to escape. She spearheaded a project to smuggle some of Luther’s books into the convent, and she, along with most of the other nuns in the convent, were affected by this Reformation “heresy.” Ursula decided to escape.

On October 6th, 1528, she and two other nuns fled by night, and never returned. She stayed for a while with the Luther family.

Ursula’s escape became a matter of political controversy. The powers that be feared her example would lead other nuns to “embrace a godless life.” Ursula defended her actions in a bold tract that clearly showed her full understanding of the difference between her old beliefs and her new understanding of Reformed beliefs.

“The only hope lies in faith. By baptism we have been received into the Kingdom of Christ.To say that the monastic vow is a second baptism and washes away sins, as we have heard from the pulpit, is blasphemy against God, as if the blood of Christ were not enough to wash away all sins. We are married to Christ, and to seek to be saved through another is adultery. The three monastic vows are the work of men’s hands.”

Photo Credit: gari.baldi via Compfight cc

Information for this post came from here and here

Heroines of the faith: Katherine Zell

Matthias Zell was a Catholic priest, who, after his conversion to Protestantism during the Reformation, married and was one of the first priests to be excommunicated from the Catholic church. His wife, Katherina (1497-1562) was a writer, who loved to converse about the Kingdom of God. She said of herself, “Ever since I was ten years old I have been a student and sort of church mother, much given to attending sermons. I have loved and frequented the company of learned men, and I conversed much with them, not about dancing, masquerades, and worldly pleasures but about the kingdom of God.” Those who visited her home said that she “conversed with them on theology so intelligently that they ranked her above many doctors.”

After her husband’s death, Katherine’s grief was profound, but she continued on the work. When a minister was forced to leave his church because of the retaliation against Protestantism and 150 men of his parish were evicted, Katherine looked after 80 people in the parsonage (which she had been allowed to keep) and fed 60 in her home for three weeks. She also defended  Protestantism in a letter to the people of Strasbourg. She also helped feed and clothe thousands of  refugees who fled to Strasbourg after their defeat in the Peasant’s War. When criticized once for speaking against a minister who claimed that she disturbed the peace, she replied, ““Do you call this disturbing the peace that instead of spending my time in frivolous amusements I have visited the plague-infested and carried out the dead? I have visited those in prison and under sentence of death. Often for three days and three nights I have neither eaten nor slept. I have never mounted the pulpit, but I have done more than any minister in visiting those in misery.”

Sounds like the apostle Paul’s claims, to me (1 Corinthians 4:10-13).

Katherine Zell defended her equality to a critic who suggested women should be silent in church by quoting Galatians 3:28–there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for we are all one in Christ.

Information for this post came from here and here

Guest post by Sean Steckbeck: Demonstration of Power

Sean Steckbeck is a good friend who sees God working in power in the lives of unbelievers on an everyday basis. It’s easy for us to think, “God does it over there.” It’s time for us to expect him to do it here too. John Wimber used to say, “You spell faith, R-I-S-K.” Sean’s post is a challenge for us all to get out of out comfort zones.

Driving in the back roads of southern Judea, we come to a small Palestinian village. We climb a rough mountain with our car and have arrived.  As we get out, we are immediately invited for tea and coffee and are welcomed with a great smile typical of Arab hospitality. My partner and I are Israelis. He is a Jewish Israeli who immigrated to Israel from South Africa and I am married to a native born Jewish Israeli. My wife’s brother was killed by a Palestinian PLO operative in Lebanon in the early 1980’s and politically we typically are right-wing. My partner is also well known for his garnering support for Israel and the Jewish people in South Africa.

Returning to the story, our hearts were pounding as our Muslim Palestinian hosts asked us , “Why would you come here? Don’t you know it is dangerous for you to be here?”

We smiled and answered, “There are many people who are willing to die for hate, we are willing to die for love.”

We saw that it clearly touched their hearts as they opened up and expressed to us that we had their trust.  We began to tell stories from the New Testament and ask questions, and then were called to eat dinner with them. As we ate dinner, my partner and I started getting words of knowledge about certain sicknesses that were in the room. This led to an outbreak of healings which the whole village gathered to see.  We spoke of Jesus’ healing power, and then went back home with a promise to follow up the next week.

When we arrived the next week, one young man fell asleep on the coach. As we tried to waken him, he fell on the ground and started manifesting demons. My partner and I started casting out demons, and again the whole village came to watch this display of supernatural–they had never seen anything like it before.

This led to the opening up of a seeker group, which eventually led to several other small house meetings throughout the area discussing both the power of God and stories from the Bible. Here and in other places we have now seen over six generations of simple church multiplication and 36 home groups and seeker groups both among Jews and Muslims.  This has also led to Jews reaching out to Muslims and Muslims reaching out to Jews!

Why would two Israelis be willing to risk their lives for their seemingly Palestinian enemy in a Hamas infested area?

I believe there are many reasons, but I would like to briefly discuss two:

“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power” – 1 Corinthians 2:4

In chapter of 1 Corinthians 2, just like today’s simple church movement, Paul desired to do things simply.  His message didn’t contain many words, but rather demonstrations.  He even boasted in his weak communication skills as an advantage! The one thing that Paul said that was working for him was demonstrations of power.

When I look at the ministry of Yeshua, as an example for us, we see his main apostolic methods were building a family and team in which to work through, telling stories, asking questions, eating at people’s homes, and demonstrating the power of God through healings and miracles.  Of course, Yeshua did this not in grandiose church buildings, but in the homes and marketplaces of everyday life.

I would like to challenge those in simple church and organic church who  have mastered storytelling, eating in homes, asking interactive questions, and building family; where are the demonstrations of power?  Do you have this missing element for starting a disciple-making movement?

Do you come with great methods, or do you also rely on demonstrations of power?

Do you consider healing the sick as optional, or a command to be obeyed?

Practice: Make a list of potential unbelieving neighbors who need a miracle in their life. Invite yourself over for dinner,  ask if they need prayer, and watch the power of God work!

This painting, entitled, “Grace,” hangs in the main foyer of our company. 

God lets people choose

I’d like to propose a theory. In his incredible love and mercy, God opts to work within the constraints mankind allows him in order to reach his people.  For example, God desired to speak to all the Israelites directly at Mount Sinai when he gave them the law,(Exodus 19:9) but they were so afraid, they asked him to speak only through Moses. (Exodus 20:19) God honored that decision. We know it was not God’s will for Israel to be governed by a king, ( 1 Samuel 8:5-20) but once the nation had chosen to go that route, God worked within that context. The argument could be made that God didn’t want a temple built for him; it was David’s desire to build him one. (2 Samuel 7: 5-7; Acts 7:49-50) Yet God chose to bless the temple that Solomon built.

God’s original plan was for men and women to rule over his creation together. But God lets people choose. And the Fall corrupted mankind.

However, the New Covenant that Jesus ushered in through his death and resurrection changes everything.  Under the New Covenant, God’s laws are written on our hearts and we can all know him, from the least to the greatest. (Hebrews 8:8-12) Jesus, himself, is our Lord and King. We have become the temple of the living God. (1 Peter 2: 4-5)  And under the New Covenant, there is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, for we are all one in Christ. (Galatians 3:28)


The story behind House2House

In the fall of 2000, Tony and I were approached by Jim Mellon and David Underwood, leaders of two other house church networks here in Central Texas. We met at an IHOP in Waco.

“We’ve had this idea. God is obviously up to something. What about a magazine that would reach out to this emerging movement of house churches?” In those early days, the terms, simple church or organic church hadn’t come into use.

We thought that was a great idea. We had seen the impact of magazines in the British House Church Movement we were part of and knew that they had played an important role in other movements in history too.

And so House2House was born. It was a true periodical–it only came out when there was enough money. We decided early on that we wanted it to be a quality production, so it was full color. We printed between 25,000 and 50,000 copies per issue, and they all disappeared–fast. There were great articles. There were loads of stories about what others were doing. It went all around the world and became a shop window on what God was doing in simple/organic church.

Our own network of churches had been going away for a long weekend over Labor Day for several years. When we opened it up to others via the magazine, it grew into the national House2House conference where hundreds came to learn.

But the way people communicate their message was changing. Magazines were less and less a feature of life. And, let’s face it, it’s expensive to produce a glossy magazine. So the magazine became a website that seeks to resource the simple/organic/house church movement.

Over the years, many people have asked us, “When are you going to bring out another issue of the magazine?”

We ran a Kickstarter campaign to gauge the interest, but fell $400 short of our $14,000 goal. What was God saying to us? The result is an online magazine. Check it out here.


Heroines of the faith: Blandina

Blandina was martyred in AD 177.  A slave, she and her master were part of a Christian community in Lyon,  (now in France). They were among a number of people who were arrested and brought to trial in the forum under the imperial legate in the reign of Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Those who renounced their faith were released, but those who persisted in claiming they were Christians were condemned to torture and death.

Blandina was frail and those arrested with her were afraid she would not be able to stand firm. She was tortured for so long that her torturers became exhausted and “did not know what more they could do to her.”  They had never know an woman suffer that much and for so long. Whatever question they asked her, the response was the same. “I am a Christian, and we commit no wrongdoing.”

Blandina was bound to a stake and wild beasts were let loose, but according to legend, they didn’t touch her. She survived longer than all the other martyrs, but finally she was scourged, enclosed in a net and trampled by a bull. She was eventually killed with a dagger. Several days later, the bodies of the martyrs were burned and the ashes thrown into the Rhone river.

 Photo Credit: Ramura via Compfight cc

Information for this post came from here and here

Concerned about health insurance and Obamacare?

I don’t often talk about our company, The Karis Group, but with the deadlines on health insurance looming and the state pools opening in a month, I’d like to present another option.

Christian healthcare sharing programs have been around for a long time–our company has been negotiating bills for them for more than 15 years, so we’re very familiar with how well they work. We personally use them to pay for any health needs we might have. And what’s even better, their members are automatically exempted from any of the penalties within the Affordable Care Act.

This is how they work. Based on Galatians 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens,” each month, we send  a contribution to a family with medical needs. No huge deductibles (just $300 per incident), no co-pays, no having to stay within network. Our daughter, who has a C-section due next Tuesday, has had all her bills for the pregnancy (except for the $300) paid by other members of the program. Compare this to her last pregnancy when she and her husband had traditional insurance and had to pay more than $3,000 in out-0f-pocket expenses.

The Karis Group has taken the largest of these healthcare sharing organizations, Samaritan Ministries, and we’ve added a number of other benefits (like discounts on dental, pharmacy, 24 hour phone access to a physician, etc) to form an entity called The Health Co-op. Most families can cut their health insurance costs by at least 50%. We’re excited about the potential of not just families, but Christian organizations and businesses being able to save hugely on their insurance costs and having more money available for use in the Kingdom.

Check us out at thehealthcoop.com.