Missionary week and the story of the Floods
Good stuff was happening this week at a local church on Long Island as women gathered to hear how the call to service was paying dividends, continents away. This was the inspiration for my blog. I didn’t have to look that far; it came to me during a mission’s luncheon to celebrate all the good works happening outside our borders by dedicated missionaries.
These amazing women were visiting from Europe, South America and Africa converging on Long Island for multiple events held in their honor. Those attending were moved to tears, as stories of faith, courage and miracle work, were spoken of.
Listening in awe, the women described how their families have made this their life’s calling; sacrificing personal well-being and the comforts we all take for granted. This is a dedicated way of life. Some of their efforts included risking their lives intercepting sex traffickers in Europe and Africa; building a school in the center of a dump and erecting a safe house for children in the middle of a war zone in Nicaragua; and other amazing acts of humanity. Powerful works, moving mountains by so few, to serve so many.
People called to do this realize how hard it is as well as dangerous, something the women at our luncheon conveyed. Frankly it is at times downright harrowing. Yet, they do it anyway.
Sitting there surrounded by good food, clean water to drink, and nicely dressed women; I felt inadequate. What can I do? I can write a check, I can pray for them, I can raise money, but what kind of seed can I plant? Where do I even start? It’s so overwhelming.
The needs of many are bigger than what one person can do. Or is it?
We were reminded on this day of the true story of David and Svea Flood. Two missionaries from Sweden in 1921 who answered the call to go to Belgian Congo, where they met another young Scandinavian couple, the Ericksons. After much discussion the two couples set out to bring the message of the Gospel to the remote village of N’dolera, leaving the comfort of the main mission station.
As the story of the Floods and Erickson’s continue, they arrived at this remote village, but the chief feared their presence would alienate the local gods, he didn’t want any part of them. Convinced they could do some good, the two couples respectively built mud huts a half a mile away, their only contact was through a young boy the chief sent to sell chicken and eggs. They worked hard to find ways to interact with the villagers, but their efforts were largely ignored. Their sole contact remained with this young boy who visited twice a week. Undeterred, Svea Flood who was tiny in stature, under five feet tall, would share with the boy her faith, the Gospel and Jesus.
It was a hard life; they were alone and completely shunned by villagers they had convinced themselves God had led them there to serve. Instead repeated bouts of malaria and illness struck the family. The other couple, the Ericksons decided they had had enough illness and would return to the central mission station, David and Svea Flood remained, going it alone. Shortly thereafter, they found out Svea was pregnant and when it came time to give birth, the chief took pity on them, sending a midwife to help deliver the baby. The delivery of a baby girl, Aina on April 13, 1923, so weakened Svea who was fighting malaria, she succumbed to the illness days later.
In that moment, David Flood lost his faith. Overwelmed, he had to bury his twenty-seven-year-old wife in a crude grave, take his children, (which included a two-year-old older brother to Aina), back to the main mission station. When he arrived there, he gave his newborn daughter to the Ericksons, stating, God has ruined my life. I cannot take care of this baby. I’m going back to Sweden. He headed home rejecting his calling, and God.
From what has been written about them, eight months later the Ericksons contracted a mysterious sickness; some documents indicate they may have been poisoned, they died within days of each other. The young baby was turned over to an American missions couple who decided to call their new daughter Aggie, for Agnes. Upon their return to the U.S., Aggie flourished, the couple raised their daughter in South Dakota never returning to Africa; fearing legalities that stemmed from getting her out of the country. Instead, they continued their mission work state side. Aggie grew up, went to college, married and also became active in missionary life. Her husband, Dewey Hurst rose to become president of a Christian college in the Seattle area. It was at this time Aggie became curious about her Scandinavian heritage.
The timeline is a little sketchy, but from what I was able to uncover for dates, one day, in 1963 a Swedish magazine appeared in her mailbox. She had no idea who had sent it and couldn’t understand any of the words. Flipping through the pages she stopped on a page that contained a photo of a grave with a white cross on top. Immediately recognizing the words: SVEA FLOOD, she contacted her husband and together they found a translator to interpret the article. The article told the story of missionaries who had come to N’dolera long ago, given birth to a child, the mother dying soon after.
Just when the story should end; it begins.
Remember the young boy, who came twice a week to sell chicken and eggs? When he grew up, he persuaded the chief to let him build a school in the village where he began teaching the students about all the things he learned from Svea, including Christ. The children shared with their parents what they were learning. Over several years, the entire village converted to Christianity, including the chief who had been against the missionaries living there. It was the early sixties when the article came out and it describes how six hundred believers at the time now lived in that village. All due to the sacrifice of David and Svea Flood.
Fate through God’s hand has a way of intercepting one’s life. When Aggie and her husband celebrated their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, the college Dewey headed, presented them with a trip to Sweden. It was the perfect opportunity to see if they could find her biological father. It had been fifty years since her father had last seen her.
On their vacation, they searched Stockholm for five days, and on the last day they received a tip on where he might be living. She was concerned by what she might find, and for good reason; David Flood had become a bitter man and was dying of liver disease. According to several sources, her father had remarried after leaving Africa, had more children but was haunted by memories and ravaged by alcoholism, and the physical effects of a recent stroke. Her request to speak with him and meet her brother and half-siblings was granted, it was to be a wonderful reunion with one rule; no mention of God, because God had taken everything from David, it was a house-hold rule. She was warned: he would fly into a rage.
However, Aggie had other ideas. When she entered the room, he was bed-ridden. Weeping, he recognizing her immediately, telling her he never meant to give her away. She reassured him that God did indeed take care of her. He stiffened up but listened to the story she came to tell him. She said, you didn’t go to Africa in vain, mama didn’t die in vain. The little boy you won over grew up and continued to water the seed you planted.
Sadly, their time together would be short lived. While she was able to restore his faith, her writings indicate he died peacefully while she was on the plane back to the states.
While tragic, there is more to this remarkable story as you continue to read.
More revelations would soon come her way. Years later, Aggie and her husband were attending a conference in London in 1976. A report was being presented by Ruhigita Ndagora, Superintendent of the Pentecostal Church from the nation of Zaire at the time, formerly the Belgian Congo (it is now called the Democratic Republic of the Congo), representing 110,000 Christians. The stories he told riveted Aggie and Dewey on how the message of the Gospel had spread through his nation. Afterwards, Aggie went up to him and asked if he had ever heard of her parents; David and Svea Flood.
In French, using a translator, with tear-filled eyes, the man told her, he was just a boy at the time, and that yes indeed, he knew her parents from selling eggs and chickens to them. He told her; her mother, is the most famous person in their history. He invited them to visit, which they accepted. When they arrived, a huge reception from all the villagers met them. Aggie was escorted to her mother’s grave where the pastor of the village read; I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. John 12:24
The story of the Floods is a powerful parable that demonstrates the ripple effect of our actions. When we think that we are just one person, one tiny voice; we’re really greater than that. We have the opportunity to plant seeds every day, our efforts, and God’s blessing over them, is never in vain.
Unfortunately, information about Aggie Hurst is sparse; I learned that in her fifties she wrote a book about her life’s journey titled, Aggie: The Inspiring Story of a Girl without a Country (formally called, One Witness). Currently out of print, published in 1986, after her death in 1981. Her husband Dewey died in 2017.
If you would like to become a missionary, or help support one, there are so many opportunities. Here is a link to the local church, where the luncheon was held, to learn more about mission’s trips and donations.