God determines whether or not we have been successful in life by our faithfulness to Him. To often in the “church world” we define success by the world’s standards; how many people attend our meetings, the size of our buildings or budgets, how many programs we have or how many people we reach during an event, etc. The Lord doesn’t judge success like men do. All through the Bible we have example after example of this truth. See Hebrews chapter eleven.
The story of David and Svea Flood is one of my favorite missionary stories. It is a little long, but it conveys the truth that we don’t always judge success like God does. Everything we do in obedience to the Lord makes a difference. Lord, may we know You more and hear as You hear and see as You see!
In 1921, a missionary couple named David and Svea Flood went with their two-year-old son David, from Sweden to the heart of Africa—to what was then called the Belgian Congo. They met up with another young Scandinavian couple, the Ericksons, and the four of them sought God for direction. In those days of much tenderness and devotion and sacrifice, they felt led of the Lord to go out from the main mission station and take the gospel to a remote area.
This was a huge step of faith. At the remote village of N’dolera they were rebuffed by the chief, who would not let them enter his village for fear of alienating the local gods. The two couples opted to go half a mile up the slope and build their own mud huts.
They prayed for a spiritual breakthrough, but there was none. Their only contact with the villagers was a young boy, who was allowed to sell them chickens and eggs twice a week. Svea Flood — a tiny woman missionary only four feet, eight inches tall, decided that if this was the only African she could talk to, she would try to lead the boy to Jesus. And in fact, after many weeks of loving and witnessing to him, he trusted Christ as his Savior.
But there were no other encouragements. Meanwhile, malaria continued to strike one member of the little band after another. In time the Ericksons decided they had had enough suffering and left to return to the central mission station. David and Svea Flood remained near N’dolera to go on alone.
Then, of all things, Svea found herself pregnant in the middle of the primitive wilderness. When the time came for her to give birth (1923), the village chief softened enough to allow a midwife to help her. A little girl was born, whom they named Aina (A-ee-nah).
The delivery, however, was exhausting, and Svea Flood was already weak from bouts of malaria. The birth process was a heavy blow to her stamina. After seventeen desperate days of prayer and struggle, she died.
Inside David Flood, something snapped in that moment. His heart full of bitterness, he dug a crude grave, buried his twenty-seven-year-old wife and took his children back down the mountain to the mission station. Giving his newborn daughter to the Ericksons, he said, “I’m going back to Sweden. I’ve lost my wife, and I can’t take care of this baby. God has ruined my life.” With two year old David, he headed for the coast, rejecting not only his calling, but God himself.
Within eight months both the Ericksons were stricken with a mysterious illness (some believe they were poisoned by a local chief who hated the missionaries) and died within days of each other. The nine month old baby Aina was given to an American missionary couple named Berg, who adjusted her Swedish name to “Aggie” and eventually brought her back to the United States at age three.
The Bergs loved little Aggie but were afraid that if they tried to return to Africa, some legal obstacle might separate her from them since they had at that time, been unable to legally adopt her. So they decided to stay in the United States and switch from missionary work to pastoral ministry. And that is how Aggie grew up in South Dakota. As a young woman, she attended North Central Bible college in Minneapolis. There she met and married a young preacher named Dewey Hurst.
Years passed. The Hursts enjoyed a fruitful ministry. Aggie gave birth first to a daughter, then a son. In time her husband became president of a Christian college in the Seattle area, and Aggie was intrigued to find so much Scandinavian heritage there.
One day around 1963, a Swedish religious magazine appeared in her mailbox. She had no idea who sent it, and of course she couldn’t read the words. But as she turned the pages, all of a sudden a photo stopped her cold. There in a primitive setting in the heart of Africa was a grave with a white cross and on the cross was her mother’s name, SVEA FLOOD.
Aggie jumped in her car and drove straight to a college faculty member who, she knew, could translate the article. “What does this say?” she asked.
The instructor translated the story:
It tells about missionaries who went to N’dolera in the heart of the Belgian Congo in 1921… the birth of a white baby girl… the death of the young missionary mother… the one little African boy who had been led to Christ… and how, after all the whites had left, the little African boy grew up and persuaded the chief to let him build a school in the village.
The article told how that gradually the now grown up boy won all his students to Christ… the children led their parents to Christ… even the chief had become a Christian. Today (1963) there were six hundred Christian believers in that one village.
Because of the willingness of David and Svea Flood to answer God’s call to Africa, because they endured so much but were still faithful to witness and lead one little boy to trust Jesus, God had saved six hundred people. And the little boy, as a grown man, became head of the Pentacostal Church and leader of 110,000 Christians in Zaire (formerly the Belgian Congo).
At the time Svea Flood died, it appeared, to human reason, that God had led the young couple to Africa, only to desert them in their time of deepest need. It would be forty years before God’s amazing grace and His real plan for the village of N’dolera would be known.
For Rev. Dewey and Aggie Hurst’s twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, the college presented them with the gift of a vacation to Sweden. There Aggie met her biological father. An old man now, David Flood had remarried, fathered four more children, and generally dissipated his life with alcohol. He had recently suffered a stroke. Still bitter, he had one rule in his family: “Never mention the name of God because God took everything from me.”
After an emotional reunion with her half brothers and half sister, Aggie brought up the subject of seeing her father. The others hesitated. “You can talk to him,” they replied, “even though he’s very ill now. But you need to know that whenever he hears the name of God, he flies into a rage.”
Aggie could not be deterred. She walked into the squalid apartment, with liquor bottles everywhere, and approached the seventy-three-year-old man lying in a rumpled bed.
“Papa?” she said tentatively.
He turned and began to cry. “Aina,” he said, “I never meant to give you away.”
“It’s all right Papa,” she replied, taking him gently in her arms. “God took care of me.”
The man instantly stiffened. The tears stopped.
“God forgot all of us. Our lives have been like this because of Him.” He turned his face back to the wall.
Aggie stroked his face and then continued, undaunted.
“Papa, I’ve got a little story to tell you, and it’s a true one.
You didn’t go to Africa in vain. Mama didn’t die in vain.
The little boy you both won to the Lord grew up to win that whole village to Jesus Christ. The one seed you planted just kept growing and growing. Today (about 1964) there are six hundred African people serving the Lord because you and Momma were faithful to the call of God on your life.”
“Papa, Jesus loves you. He has never hated you.”
The old man turned back to look into his daughter’s eyes. His body relaxed. He began to talk. And by the end of the afternoon, he had come back to the God he had resented for so many decades.
Over the next few days, father and daughter enjoyed warm moments together. Aggie and her husband soon had to return to America—and within a few weeks, David Flood had gone into eternity.
A few years later, the Hursts were attending a high-level evangelism conference in London, England, where a report was given from the nation of Zaire (the former Belgian Congo). The superintendent of the national church, representing some 110,000 baptized believers, spoke eloquently of the gospel’s spread in his nation. Aggie could not help going up afterward to ask him if he had ever heard of David and Svea Flood. “I am their daughter.”
The man began to weep. “Yes, madam,” the man replied in French, his words then being translated into English.
“It was Svea Flood who led me to Jesus Christ. I was the boy who brought food to your parents before you were born. In fact, to this day your mother’s grave and her memory are honored by all of us.”
He embraced her in a long, sobbing hug. Then he continued, “You must come to Africa to see, because your mother is the most famous person in our history.”
In time that is exactly what Aggie Hurst and her husband did. They were welcomed by cheering throngs of villagers. She even met the man who so many years before, when she was less than a month old, had been hired by her father to carry her down the mountain in a soft bark hammock.
The most dramatic moment, of course, was when the pastor escorted Aggie to see her mother’s grave, marked with a white cross, for herself. She knelt in the soil of Africa, the place of her birth, to pray and give thanks.
(An excerpt from Aggie Hurst, Aggie: The Inspiring Story of A Girl Without A Country [Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1986].)