Helen Roseveare was an English missionary from 1953 to 1973 in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire). She used her skills as a doctor to minister to the many physical needs in a politically unstable country, founding hospitals and a medical school, while at the same time sharing her faith with people who had known great suffering.
Throughout her ministry Roseveare found herself in need of financial support to carry on her work. In spite of many pressing needs, early in her ministry she established the practice of tithing (giving ten percent) of any gift that came in, giving it back to God in faith.
One morning in her first year of clinic work, she slipped away to her house, hoping for ten minutes of quiet. She found on her doorstep a man with his wife and two small children. He informed her that he had been sent to her for work. She told him that she didn't have any work for him, and that he should inquire of the missionary down the road who might hire him. The man adamantly insisted that he would work for her, and informed her that he had been cooking for missionaries for eighteen years. When Roseveare asked why he had left his previous employers, he rolled up the sleeve of his shirt. Roseveare recognized at once that the man was infected with leprosy.
The young missionary doctor's heart sank. She felt a deep conviction that this man's coming meant God wanted her to begin a new work for the treatment of lepers. She was not afraid of leprosy, but the stigma the disease carried meant they would need separate facilities, costing more money and more of her already scarce time. Yet though she clearly could see the cost that this work would entail, Roseveare believed that if God wanted it to go forward, He would provide the resources. In faith, she hired the man named Aunzo to be her cook.
They built a small mud-and-thatch building to serve as a leprosy clinic, and sent off for medicine, bandages, and equipment. The supplies came with a bill for 4,320 Belgian Congo francs, money that Roseveare did not have. She prayed that God would provide the money, then slipped the bill into her Bible.
The mission had a strict policy that all bills must be paid by the end of the month. As the month's end drew near, Roseveare expected God to provide the needed amount, but no funds appeared. As the first day of the next month dawned, Roseveare went to work discouraged and confused.
At lunch time, Aunzo greeted her with a large brown envelope. It had been delivered the previous day to a different missionary by mistake! Inside the envelope was money that came to the sum of 4,800 francs. Roseveare quickly subtracted the tithe in her head, which left 4,320 francs, the exact amount needed to pay the bill for the supplies. She writes:
"The total was made up of three gifts, from an unknown couple in North America, from two prayer partners in Northern Ireland, and from a Girl Crusaders' Union class in southeast England. The North American gift had been on the way some four months, transferred from our Philadelphia office to the London office, from London to Brussels, Brussels to Leopoldville (Kinshasa), and finally upcountry from Leopoldville to Paulis (Isiro). Every transfer involved a certain percentage cost. At the end, the three gifts had arrived together to make the exact sum needed, and two of the gifts were designated: 'for your leprosy work'—and I did not have a leprosy work when the money was actually given!"(1)
God does not always work so neatly and obviously, but extraordinary provisions such as this one serve as a reminder that, "your Father knows what you need before you ask him" (Matthew 6:8). God had a leprosy clinic in mind long before Roseveare thought of it, and he put it in the hearts of his children to give the money for that work. In the days to come, days which would bring scarcity, hard labor, and very real danger, this was a promise that Helen Roseveare could keep close to her heart. Even as you read this, God is anticipating your needs and making provision for them. You can bring them to him with joyful anticipation that He is expecting you.
Betsy Childs is associate writer at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.
(1) Helen Roseveare, Living Faith (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1980), 43.