Last weekend, I finished He Gave Us A Valley by Dr. Helen Roseveare, an English missionary doctor in the Congo during the 1960's through the early 1970's; and I Dared To Call Him Father by Bilquis Sheikh, a wealthy divorcee and descendant in a royal Pakistani bloodline and grandmother who converted from Islam to Christianity in the late 1960's, even under a lot of pressure from her community and family.
Helen and Bilquis are honest about their own human weaknesses and sins such as pride, short tempers and being controllers. They share the personality traits of being intelligent strong willed and having leadership qualities. They are also sincere about their strong desire to follow Christ as much as they can no matter what the circumstances or the prices they needed to pay. They also describe times of extreme suffering under the threat of death where they experienced intense peace and reassurance of God's love.
Helen was gang-raped on several occasions while held captive during a rebellion. She spent a year at home, healing. She started to get letters from her African friends to please return, and after several agonizing prayers, she did, even though the country did not stabilize and threatened to be overturned again. When she returned, everything she had done for 11 years had been destroyed and the communities were worse off than before she first arrived. She headed up a relief effort to reach the most inland and cut off villages. She also helped build a hospital and organize a teaching school which was successful in training many medical assistants and badly needed mid-wives, only to have her students mistrust her and turn against her. Helen finally realized that her great accomplishments were acheived by God working through her, and that His appreciation for all she had given Him was enough, and her deepest rewards were the fellowship of His sufferings and working alongside Him for the people that they both loved.
Bilquis was under several death threats, and no protection was assured to her by the police even if a family member was to murder her. Her family, over time, melted by her loving concern for them. She became a quiet and loving influence not just by her words but mostly by her service to her community that had ostracized her. When the government turned from secular to fundamentalist Islamic rule, Bilquis left her family's ancestral palatial home with a suitcase and her grandson never to return until 1997 when she died at the age of 97.
I did not know that I would be reading such rich biographies about such inspiring women! Their stories occured around the same time frame in the 1960's, in different parts of the world. Bilquis Sheikh spoke at a Billy Graham Crusade in Singapore, and Dr. Helen Roseveare spoke at Urbana some time ago.