Edited by Robert V. Rakestraw (Nov. 21, 2016)
Would you sing choruses after being raped?
[The country of Congo received its independence in 1960, and in 1964 a major rebellion broke out against the policies and greed of the new government. The rebel troops (“Simbas”), many of them undisciplined, angry youth—even children—armed with guns, spears, knives, and truncheons, took the law into their own hands. The ensuing chaos led to government forces fleeing, blocked roads, villagers armed with bows and arrows, looting, raping, beatings, killings, and everyone in fear. During the latter half of the rebellion all “whites” were counted as enemies by the rebels. Helen Roseveare, a missionary doctor from England who had been serving leprosy patients, maternity patients, orphans, and others in northeast Congo since 1953, kept a diary of her experiences during the horrendous civil war. Here are some excerpts from her diary.]
“August 30, 1964. George, our student nurse from Gambia, [escaped]. . . . He tells us that over 900 (perhaps 1,000) have been killed in Paulis, ‘the streets piled with bodies and running with blood’—hewn down with machetes and spears and arrows, terribly mutilated and wickedly treated in batches by these barbarous folk before eventually being killed. Paulis nurses are being made to bury them, in piles of 50 in common graves. We gather Paulis has been in the home news, and our folks will now know that we are in rebel-held territory. . . .
“October 29 to November 1. Thursday night ‘they’ came, somewhere between 1 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. . . . We opened the door and in surged five or six armed bullies, using awful language and demanding my husband. I explained my situation, [that I was unmarried], and they cursed me as a liar, saying that I had hidden him and demanding to search the house….[They] were brutal and coarse and stole anything they wanted. . . . The Liotina [Swahili for Lieutenant] took me . . . at the point of his pistol, forced me into my bedroom, ordered me first to dress and gratefully I grabbed any garment I saw. Then he roughly pushed me on to the bed—and oh, dear, dear God, a terrible half hour of mental and physical agony—but I cried unto Jesus in pain and fear and shame and misery—and claimed the precious blood.
“Then he let me go and ordered me to dress, standing over me with his torch . . . –he even dared to demand that I choose my best dress and a clean jersey, as I was now his wife, and he was taking me to Paulis and wanted to show me off! Then he hustled me out and I was bundled into the cab with three others and driven off to Ibambi. I tried to sing choruses as we went, in Swahili, to quieten my own terrified heart and that they might hear the Name of Jesus and the devil in them should fear and tremble. . . .
“December 30-31. [After two more months of unrelenting terror, we were rescued.] Supper in state—we sang the doxology, and several of these toughened soldiers joined in with us, with tears down their faces. We have no luggage, we are filthy dirty (and their water supply has failed them today!) but we . . . have our lives and liberty. Our whole hearts give praise to God for His great goodness to us, . . . Our hearts are too full for words. [On January 1, 1965, we flew] from Brazzaville, en-route for Amsterdam and London by 11 a.m. tomorrow. . . . And so ends a strange five months’ nightmare.
“[After Returning to England]. No amount of ‘rebellion’ can crush the light that has been lit in Congo, but there is the frightening possibility of a terrible persecution for the Christians. The Church can stand without the missionaries, but not without our prayers.”
From Doctor Among Congo Rebels, by Helen Roseveare (London: Lutterworth, 1965, pp. 22-23, 30-32, 51-53, 101-104). This selection, along with other items and articles, may be found on Dr. Rakestraw’s website/blog gracequestministries.org., where you may sign up to receive free regular postings such as the above, and where you may order his books GraceQuest and Heart Cries. You may write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org .