Book Review: Helen Roseveare: On His Majesty’s Service

Roseveare Helen Roseveare was a missionary to the Belgian Congo in Africa, later named Zaire, from 1953-1973. I first became aware of her through Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God by Noel Piper several years ago. I wanted to read more about her, so when I saw Helen Roseveare: On His Majesty’s Service by Irene Howat on sale for the Kindle app, I decided to try it, even though it was part of the Trailblazer series of biographies for children.

The first few chapters deal with Helen’s childhood in England: terrorizing nannies with her brother, moving several times due to her father’s job, going to boarding school in Wales. She had a strong desire to be first and best at as much as she could, and she didn’t make friends very easily. In a Sunday School class, she decided she wanted to be a missionary even before she became a Christian. Confirmation classes in her church caused her to take a more serious look at herself, but it was in a camp some years later that she became a believer. She became quite conscientious.

As a teenager during WWII, Helen wrestled with the devastation and unfairness of it all, especially the unfitness of young people losing their lives. Once when a German plane was shot down, Helen was horrified to learn that her mother was among the people trying to save the young man, though he later died. Her mother explained that he was just a boy fighting for his country, like their boys, and had a home and family.

Helen became involved in helping at camps and the GCU (Girl Crusader’s Union) while in college. She never lost her desire to be a missionary doctor, and soon after college she went through missionary training and then went to the Congo. She was plunged into medical service right away. From her earliest days she felt the need to train the national workers and open a nursing school. She had to set up a hospital from the ground up, with students and church members and even patients helping.

But civil unrest was rumbling in the distance and drawing ever closer. Helen had opportunity to leave many times, but she felt she should remain. Finally rebel soldiers did take over Helen’s area. Probably because this is a children’s book, the author did not go into much detail or mention the multiple rapes Helen endured. She sums it up this way:

Things too terrible to tell happened to her at the hands of Congolese rebel soldiers, things so horrible and shocking that she wished she were dead. In a way that we cannot understand they were part of God’s plan for her and she knew that, even at the time. With her body battered and broken and her back teeth kicked out, Helen survived when others did not. But she survived to endure further months of terror.

After several months of captivity and cruelty, Helen and a few others were released and sent back to England for a long recovery.

After fifteen months, went back to Africa, to Zaire, building more hospitals and training more medical workers.

When Helen went back to England years later, she stayed active speaking at schools, GCU gatherings, and churches. When someone wanted to make a film of her life, she traveled back to a warm welcome in Zaire and was thrilled to see how the work was progressing.

One of the most well-known stories of her life was one I had heard but didn’t realize happened to Helen until I read it in Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God. It’s told in detail here. A woman had come to the hospital in labor with a premature baby. They could not save the woman, but the baby was safely delivered. Yet they had no way to keep the baby warm: they usually used hot water bottles, but were out. The baby also had a two-year-old sister. When Helen had prayer with the orphan children the next day, she told them of the little girl and baby and the need for hot water bottles. One ten-year-old girl named Ruth began to spontaneously pray:

God, please send a hot water bottle so that this little baby doesn’t die. And, God, it will be no use sending it tomorrow because we need it today. And, God, while you’re at it, will you send a dolly for the baby’s sister who is crying because her mummy has died.

Helen “didn’t think the Lord could do that.” But that very afternoon a truck delivered a parcel containing soap, bandages, babe sweaters…and a hot water bottle and a doll! Helen tells this story here:

Since this book was published in 2008, it doesn’t contain information about Helen’s death in 2016 at the age of 91. Zaire is now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The writing in this book is not the best: it’s a little choppy, with several odd scenes involving unnamed people that I think were made up in an effort to illustrate something in Helen’s life. But It’s still a good book overall, with a good overview of Helen’s life.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books,  Literary Musing Monday, Carole’s Books You Loved)

 

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Laudable Linkage

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Here’s another round of notable reads found recently:

How to Avoid Becoming (Heavenly) Hangry on Vacation.

What Your Child Needs More Than Self-esteem, HT to Story Warren.

A Parent’s Guide to the 5 Skeptics Who Want to Shame Your Kids for Being Christian, HT to Challies.

When You Don’t Enjoy the Little Years. Even though you love your little ones dearly, some days are hard.

Can I Trust God With My Child’s Suffering? HT to True Woman.

How to Bring the (Whole) Bible to Life for Kids, HT to True Woman. Though I chafe at the phrasing of the title (the Bible IS living – John 6:63), I know what the author meant, and there are some great ideas here.

When the Content Police Came for the Babylon Bee, HT to Challies.

Hope for People With Food Allergies, HT to True Woman.

The Real Story of Christopher Robin, HT to Glynn. Sad, but I hope on some level the family retained some joy that the Pooh stories were such a dear part of many people’s childhoods.

Several people have asked me if I’ve heard of the recent ruling to remove Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name from a literary award. I’m not surprised, especially in today’s climate. There were characterizations and incidents in the books that we cringe at today. But I hope this does not lead to a pulling of her books from shelves or reading lists. We encounter what we would consider wrong attitudes in a number of older books, even classics. If we tossed books that had anything in them we disagreed with – well, we wouldn’t have much left. It takes long years to change cultural thinking. The better way, I believe, is to realize that every person and every generation is a mixture of good and bad and to educate about both sides. A couple of good articles I’ve seen on this are Scrubbing Laura Ingalls Wilder is a Dangerous Step Toward Ignorance (HT to Melanie) and How to really Read Racist Books to Your Kids, (HT to 19th Century Classic Children’s Books You Might Have Overlooked, which I found through Story Warren). I wouldn’t agree with every point in the latter (mainly the evolutionary lens), but both articles make good points.

I usually like to close these posts with a funny or thoughtful picture or meme – but I don’t have one handy and need to get on to today’s tasks, so I’ll wish you a Happy Saturday!

Book Review: Invincible Louisa

AlcottI had not heard of Invincible Louisa, a Newberry medal-winning biography of Louisa May Alcott by Cornelia Meigs, until I saw Tarissa’s review of it last year. I found a Kindle version and saved it for this year’s Louisa May Alcott Reading Challenge.Even though the book was written for children in 1933, I found it immensely readable.

Louisa was born the second of four daughters to Bronson and Abigail (called Abba here, Abby in other sources) Alcott. In some ways Bronson was ahead of his time. He was an abolitionist when such a stance was not popular, helped runaway slaves, and even enrolled a black girl in one of his schools, refusing to dismiss her despite protests which led to parents pulling their children out of the school, which led to the school’s closing. He had some forward-thinking practices in his schools, but also some controversial methods. On the other hand, he was more of an impractical thinker/dreamer/philosopher (“He once said that the sort of life which would satisfy him completely was to walk through the world all of his days, stopping to have conversations with people by the way”). He tried to start a Transcendental community with friends, but it failed. He very nearly joined a Shaker community which would have required him to leave his family. “In the first twenty-eight years of Louisa’s life, this household was to achieve the record of twenty-nine moves.” Though he worked hard, he could never manage to support his family very well. One family story tells of a friend giving the family a load of firewood. A poor man with a sick baby and no fuel came to Bronson, who gave the man all he needed and helped him take it home. Abba reminded him of his own baby and the need for fuel in the harsh, cold weather. Then another neighbor, unaware that someone else had helped the Alcotts with fire wood, brought them a load.

Abigail was industrious and practical. She was also more spirited. “Abba was a person of varying moods: excitable, quickly moved, always devoted to them all, but often too harrowingly uneasy concerning the family welfare to be entirely calm.”

The couple had four daughters in all, plus a son who did not live. Anna and Elizabeth were more like their father in temperament; Louisa and May took after their mother. But all the children learned industriousness, frugality, and generosity. “They were all of them generous to the utmost degree, so that it was by Abba Alcott’s consent, as well as by Bronson’s and the three girls’, that they habitually gave away everything that could, or could not, be spared.” “It was one of the Alcott beliefs that no matter how poor a person is he or she always had something which could be given away.”

Because the family’s financial situation was always so precarious, Louisa felt burdened to help as much as she could. She sewed, taught, worked as a governess, and did whatever came to hand. She wrote stories and sold them here and there. Family friends were Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, so Louisa grew up under their influence and example. “To Louisa [Emerson] gave the freedom of his library and all that went with such a privilege.” “All their lives the members of this haphazard family were singularly lucky in friends, in people who appreciated and loved them and would do anything in the world for them.”

During the Civil War, Louisa went to Washington to help in a hospital. She sent home letters telling about the hospital itself and stories of the patients she encountered. Some of her letters were published, and people liked them so much that she wrote more and eventually put them into a book called Hospital Sketches, her first real literary success. “Louisa had told of the life with extraordinary effect; for she was not straining after romance now, but had given the truth simply, graphically, and with great spirit.” She caught typhoid fever, had to be taken home, faced a long and grueling recovery, and was never quite fully healthy again.

A publisher asked her for a book for girls. Louisa refused at first, saying she liked boys better and wouldn’t know what to write for girls. The publisher kept asking, however, so Louisa wrote some stories based on her own family. Louisa was Jo, Anna was Meg, Elizabeth was Beth, and May was Amy. The publisher was not terribly impressed, but he gave them to some young girls to read–and they loved them.

Several scenes paralleled the Alcott family. Elizabeth really did die of scarlet fever. Louisa did feel that Elizabeth’s death and Anna’s wedding were the beginning of breaking up the sisterhood. But there was no boy next door on whom Laurie was modeled: Louisa based him on a younger man she met while traveling abroad as a paid companion to an invalid girl. Some sources say there was a romance; this book says Louisa thought he would be better for May and hoped they would meet. Louisa herself never married, saying she would “rather be a free spinster and paddle my own canoe.”

The success of Little Woman and Louisa’s subsequent books helped the family finally get on a solid financial footing. Although “Louisa never could quite put aside her taste for startling events and her love for writing tales which bordered on the fantastic,” “she had begun to see her work in its proper light; she understood also that [the more realistic] stories were needed for young readers instead of the sentimental and tragic tales with which their minds were usually fed.”

I had known a little bit about Louisa’s life, but I enjoyed learning more through this book.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books, Literary Musing Monday, Colletta’s Book Club, Carole’s Books You Loved)

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Here are noteworthy reads discovered this last week:

Reaching for the Light. A mom’s struggle to spend time with the Lord and four kids.

Why I Took My Six-year-old Son on an Overnight Trip. Thoughts on Scripture’s instruction, “Son, give me your heart.”

The Hardest Part of Mothering.

Youth Group or Frat House? HT to Out of the Ordinary. Wisdom about youth group activities that humiliate.

In Defense of Preachy Children’s Books. HT to Story Warren. “Kids want to be entertained and delighted. The first thing you can do is erase the words moral, teach, message, and lesson out of your vocabulary…keep authoritative figures, like parents, teachers, or older siblings, in the background. Lastly, never let the adults in the story tell what the main character should do. Remember, it is a sin to preach in fiction.” The author counters this advice with examples from beloved children’s classics, and I agree with her. There was something in me that rose up to meet and welcome moral instruction in stories. It can be overdone, of course. And there are times to let readers realize what the story is about rather than telling them directly. But, “Rather than detracting or distracting from the story, were these passages giving me the names of the lovely ideals I sensed in the characters I admired? Were they revealing to me an eternal, universal world of Courage, Sacrifice, Hope, Joy, Love that, unlike the long-ago and fairytale story-lands I longed to enter, was near at hand for me to dwell in? Could this be why didacticism, properly woven into story, does not ruin but elevates it?”

100 Summer Crafts and Activities for Kids, HT to Story Warren.

And a thought for the day, HT to Jody Hedlund re writing, but applicable to many areas:

Book Review: Where the Red Fern Grows

Red FernI had seen the 1974 film version of Where the Red Fern Grows when my two older boys were elementary-school age, some 25 or so years ago. I enjoyed the film, but I don’t remember if I knew then it was based on a book. I wish we had read it back then! But I was glad to finally listen to it via audiobook this month.

The book begins with an adult Billy Coleman leaving work and coming upon a dogfight. When he sees the dog being attacked is a hound like one he used to have, he rescues it, takes it home, feeds it, and lets it rest, then releases it. That stirs up memories of the dogs he used to have.

Billy had grown up in a poor family in the Ozarks. There was nothing he wanted more than a dog to go coon hunting with – but not just any dog. He wanted hounds. His parents could have gotten him a mongrel dog, but they could not afford a special breed, no matter how much Billy pleaded.

I suppose there’s a time in practically every young boy’s life when he’s affected by that wonderful disease of puppy love. I don’t mean the kind a boy has for the pretty little girl that lives down the road. I mean the real kind, the kind that has four small feet and a wiggly tail, and sharp little teeth that can gnaw on a boy’s finger; the kind a boy can romp and play with, even eat and sleep with.

One day Billy found a magazine some hunters had left behind at their campground and found an ad for two Redbone Coonhounds for $50. Without telling anyone, he performed odd jobs, dug up and sold worms for bait, picked and sold blackberries, and did anything he could think of to earn money. It took him two years, and when he finally showed his savings to his grandfather and told him what they were for, his grandpa helped him order the dogs. But the dogs would be shipped to a town more than a day’s journey away. Billy took off on foot alone to pick up his dogs and bring them back, helped by a kindly station master.

The dogs were a brother and sister. Billy named the brother, who was strong and quick to react, Old Dan. The thoughtful, intelligent girl dog was named Little Ann.

Billy went to work training his dogs to hunt coons, selling coon hides and giving the money to his father, and having many adventures with his dogs. Tragedy struck a couple of times, the second occurrence shaking Billy’s faith.

This is a wonderful “boy and his dogs” and coming of age story, even if readers are not all that interested in hunting. Strong themes of loyalty, perseverance, family, and faith undergird the novel. There are a couple of gruesome parts (one boy has a hunting accident with an ax, a dog in a fight with a mountain lion is severely injured), and the author tells them realistically but not gratuitously. The ending is sad but ultimately hopeful.

People have been trying to understand dogs ever since the beginning of time. One never knows what they’ll do. You can read every day where a dog saved the life of a drowning child, or lay down his life for his master. Some people call this loyalty. I don’t. I may be wrong, but I call it love-the deepest kind of love.

Wikipedia shares the interesting background story of how Wilson Rawls wrote the story, destroyed his manuscript, then wrote it again at his wife’s urging. I also enjoyed reading 12 Things You Might Not Know About Where the Red Fern Grows. Though Rawls wrote for children, his first publisher oddly marketed the book to adults. Sales were slow until Rawls spoke at a conference for teachers and librarians who took the samples of his book back to their schools and libraries, where children loved it.

I listened to the audiobook wonderfully read by Anthony Heald. I didn’t know until just now that there was a 2003 remake of the movie. Some day I would like to see it.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books, Literary Musing Monday, Carole’s Books You Loved)

Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge 2018 Winner

Congratulations to Rebekah for winning the Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge this year! Thanks to all of those who participated. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did! I already have plans for next year!

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Here are recent reads that have captivated my attention:

Love Like Birch Trees.

How to Sit at the Table With Those Who Hurt and Offend You, HT to Linda. “Extending love to someone who offended you does not mean you’re accepting such treatment – it means you realize you cannot thrive in a place of anger and resentment.”

What to Say Instead of “I Know How You Feel” to Someone Who Is Struggling, HT to Linda. Sharing our similar experience in an effort to let someone know they’re not alone often just draws attention to ourselves and makes the other person feel unheard. This gives a helpful distinctive.

When Our Heroes Don’t Live Up to Their Theology, HT to Challies. How do we think about spiritual giants who were blind to the wrongness of slavery.

Helping Your Daughter by Being Her Emotional Coach, HT to Story Warren.

You Can’t Have Ethics Without Stories, HT to Story Warren.. “We often forget what the Bible actually is. If not a dictionary or an encyclopedia, what is it? The Bible is, among other things, he writes, ‘a faith-forming narrative.’”

Why Children’s Books Should be a Little Sad, HT to Story Warren.

How DNA Testing Botched My Family’s Heritage, and Probably Yours, too, HT to Challies.

And finally, this dog has a dedicated owner:

Happy Saturday!

(Links do not imply complete endorsement of sites or authors.)

Book Review: The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden.

Most of the time we tell children isolated Bible stories. Jonah and the big fish. Daniel in the lion’s den. The three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace. David and Goliath. Stories capture attention and imagination, and they’re probably also easier to convey to a child than, say, the outline of the book of Romans. The danger with knowing just individual stories, however, is that we miss the big picture, the way they fit into the overarching story of the Bible.

Biggest StoryTo try to rectify that, Kevin De Young wrote a book called The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden. “Snake Crusher” comes from Genesis 3:15, where part of God’s judgment on the serpent who tempted Adam and Eve is that some day their offspring would bruise the serpent’s head, the first foretelling of Christ’s coming. Designed for 5-11-year-olds, the book is 129 pages and ten chapters, yet most of the pages contain only one to a few sentences, and some pages are entirely illustration.

The story begins with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, their perfect, beautiful life, and their temptation and fall. It progresses quickly through Noah, the beginning and growth of the sons of Israel, the kings, the prophets, and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Major themes of the Bible are emphasized throughout the stories: People continually sin and sin requires judgment. Though people reject God and His ways, He still loves them and seeks them. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies about a coming righteous Deliverer. He lived the perfect live we could not and gave Himself for our sins so we could finally be reconciled to God.

Re the time of Noah:

Things got so bad so fast that God decided to start over. The people on the earth were terribly wicked in their hearts, all the time, every day, nonstop.

They didn’t deserve to enjoy God’s world anymore.

So God took it from them.

Or, more exactly, he took them from it.
_____

It just didn’t seem right that the One destined to crush the Serpent would be crushed himself. So when Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the living God, died on the cross that Friday afternoon, it seemed a shocking evil beyond belief.

And it was. The worst thing that’s ever happened in the world.

But it was also the best thing that’s ever happened in the world. Just as we would expect from God. And just as God planned it.

We break promises, so God keeps his.

We run from God, he comes to us.

We suffer for sin, so the Savior suffers for us.

The book does a wonderful job accomplishing what it set out to do. The Bible’s overall story is told simply and clearly, with the individual stories taking their place within the “big” story. This is an excellent resource for children, especially for parents to share with children.

The only negative for me is the illustrations. There’s nothing wrong with them, they’re not bad at all – they’re just not to my own tastes. These images from the book are from Amazon:

Snake crusher 1

Snake crusher 2

Snake crusher 3

I like more realistic than stylistic illustrations. Plus a lot of it just seems too busy for me. Susan, from whom I won the book in a drawing some time ago (thank you, Susan! I’m sorry it took me so long to get to it!) described them as almost Ukrainian. Nothing wrong with that – it’s just a matter of taste. Other people seem to love it, according to the reviews, and perhaps a child might enjoy looking at some of the “busier” pages and seeing all the elements.

The book is a high quality hardback with a ribbon bookmark. The story itself is excellent. Highly recommended.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books and Carole’s Books You Loved)

Laudable Linkage

Here are some noteworthy reads discovered in the last week or so:

The Christian Life Isn’t Meant to Be Effortless. Very helpful, especially dealing with a couple of ways of looking at Christian life that I thought were a little off but I couldn’t quite articulate why.

When God Gives Us Too Much to Handle.

Love and Entitlement. “But, you’re getting it all wrong, girls. Love isn’t a laundry list of behavior requirements.”

Member of the Family. Interesting thoughts about the difference between books where a child character feels like he is contributing to the family vs. the ones popular with the “misfit/outcast archetype in children’s literature. There is a strong trend in fiction for young people that consists of jettisoning of one’s God-given family and cobbling together a new one on a road trip.” I agree we need more of the former.

Expositional Imposters. Though this is written to preachers, I think the points he makes are good for general Bible study as well. We can pull the wrong lesson from a passage if we’re not reading it carefully.

I’m Done Making My Kid’s Childhood Magical, HT to Ann. Nothing wrong with a lot of what is mentioned, but I agree every day, every lunch, etc. doesn’t need to be Pinterest-worthy, and there’s a lot of magic for childhood in everyday life.

Your Middle-Aged Brain Is Not on the Decline, HT to Janet. That’s encouraging!

Bringing the Prairie to the Hood. “Black people (at least the ones I know) do not watch Little House on the Prairie.…So how did Little House on the Prairie mosey its way into my Southeast D.C. home?”

And to end with a smile:

Paper

spiderHappy Saturday!

Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge 2016 Wrap-Up


It’s the last day of February and so it is time to wrap up our Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge. If you’ve read anything by, about, or related to Laura this month, please share it with us in the comments. You can share a link back to your book reviews, or if you’ve written a wrap-up post, you can link back to that (the latter might be preferable if you’ve written more than one review — the WordPress spam filter tends to send comments with more than one link to the spam folder. But I’ll try to keep a watch out for them.) If you don’t have a blog, just share in the comments what you read and your thoughts about it. We’d also love to hear if you’ve done any “Little House” related activities.

I like to have some sort of drawing to offer a prize concluding the challenge, and as I thought about it this year, I decided to offer one winner the choice of:

The Little House Cookbook compiled by Barbara M. Walker

OR

Laura’s Album: A Remembrance Scrapbook of Laura Ingalls Wilder by William Anderson

If neither of those suits you, I can substitute a similarly-priced Laura book of your choice. To be eligible, leave a comment on this post by Friday telling us what you read for this challenge. I’ll choose a name through random.org. a week from today to give everyone time to get their last books and posts finished.

Personally, I read and reviewed Little Town on the Prairie here. I am still working on Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Pamela Smith Hill.

Thanks for participating! I hope you enjoyed your time “on the prairie” this month. It always leaves me with renewed admiration for our forebears and renewed thankfulness that I live in the times I do.

The drawing is closed: the winner is Melanie!