In 1960, the Belgian Congo gained independence as the Republic of Congo. Soon after, various provinces attempted to secede, and there was a political struggle for control of the country. In 1964, the Simba Rebellion, led in part by Pierre Mulele, a communist who received guerrilla training in China, brought further unrest, especially in the Kwilu District. Pierre had trained many of the youth, the Jeunesse, in guerilla warfare and terrorism.
Ruth Hege and Irene Ferrel were two single missionaries in Mangungu. Ruth first came to the Congo in 1933, with Baptist Mid–Missions. After three years in the Congo she spent eighteen years in Venezuela, then in 1957 returned to the Congo. With the upheavals at independence in 1960 she left the country, but returned the following year with Irene Ferrel.
The two single missionaries went to Mangungu, where they operated a Bible school, a primary school, and a dispensary, which became the center for a small hospital.
With the Simba rebellion many foreigners left the country. Ruth and Irene made preparations to evacuate, but before the helicopter came the Jeunesse attacked, on 25 January, 1964. The Jeunesse, armed with clubs, hatchets, arrows, and knives, broke into their house, looting and taking whatever they chose. The drug–crazed youth then dragged the women outside. Irene was shot in the neck with an arrow, which she pulled out, saying ‘I am finished’ as she fell to the ground dead. Ruth also had an arrow wound and was bleeding, but not as severely. She lay on the ground as if dead; thankfully the Jeunesse decided she was dead and left her alone. The school house was set ablaze before the Jeunesse left in the morning light.
The next three days were filled with terror, as Ruth went into hiding, then was twice
discovered by Jeunesse who said they were going to kill her. Each time she was able to remain calm and share the love of Christ with the young man. Each time she could see his face change, and he left her alive. Finally, four days after the initial attack, the helicopter came to evacuate Ruth. She recognized her deliverance was all from the Lord:
It is all the work of the Lord. When I was afraid, He gave me peace. When I was weak, He gave me strength. When, many times, men threatened to kill me, I spoke to them the message of Our Savior and the Lord changed their hearts. … I could see the change come over their faces.
Ruth’s trust was in God, and she found strength from Psalm 46, ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear.’
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.