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[Florence Young riding a Chinese wheelbarrow. Pearls from the Pacific, 1925. Public domain.]

DURING THE EARLY YEARS of her life, Florence Selina Young, the daughter of Plymouth Brethren parents in New Zealand, lived in terror of Christ’s Second Coming. But when she was eighteen, attending a prayer meeting, she was suddenly able to apply the promise of Isaiah 43:25 for herself (I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake) and felt a surge of love for Christ. She felt free to partake of the Lord’s Table and to be baptized. 

Immediately she began working for the Lord. In her first ventures teaching the Solomon Islanders who worked on plantations in Queensland, Australia she taught the gospel in pidgin English using pictures and a large-print New Testament. To explain the Resurrection, she used a chrysalis. Her efforts resulted in the formation of the Queensland Kanaka Mission. After several years working with Solomon islanders in Queensland, she turned the work over to others and joined Hudson Taylor’s China Inland Mission. She had become conversant with Chinese when events (including a nervous breakdown) forced her to return to Australia. However, her mission training would serve her well.

Beginning in 1900, the Christians in her circle were drawn by a desire to pray for the Holy Spirit. They felt the need to extend the Queensland work to the Solomon Islands and gradually brought it about. Young would eventually administer the South Sea Evangelical Mission and tour the islands repeatedly between 1904 and 1926. In 1904 Young made her first trip to Malaita, largest of the Solomons. But the start of the mission work was plagued with difficulties, including attacks of malaria that prostrated all the missionaries. Young was forced to return to Australia. However, other workers were able to obtain land and build a mission house. 

Meanwhile, revival broke out in 1905 among the Solomon Islanders working in Queensland. The men prayed long hours, and sought the filling of the Spirit of God. That same year, despite warnings of danger, Young visited Malaita again to encourage indigenous workers. The serious difficulties and dangers faced by sailboats caused the missionaries to pray for a motorized boat. When Young addressed a 1906 meeting in Sydney, Australia, she sensed that some surprise was in the works. It was: the assemblage presented her with £417 they had secretly raised toward purchasing just such a boat.

In 1907, the Queensland work ended because Australia’s recruitment laws had changed, requiring the planters to send the Solomon Islanders home. Young and other missionaries toured the islands in their motor-powered boat, taught in villages, called the fallen back to Christ, provided medical care, and operated training centers. The work was arduous and fraught with danger. Because of long-established blood feuds, many Christian workers met violent deaths. Others died of common hazards: storms, drownings, malaria, and untreated medical conditions.

However, the islanders themselves learned to preach simple but effective messages. One, preaching on 2 Corinthians 5:7 (If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature) said in pidgin English:

Suppose you savee [know] about Jesus, [does] that save you? No. Plenty white man savee Jesus along [i.e.: in the] head. That no good. We must believe in Jesus along heart.” He compared knowing Jesus to knowing a certain missionary who was currently away in Australia but would soon be back. So would Jesus be back. “By-and-by He come, we look along face belong Him and then we plenty glad!

A wonderful testimony to God’s power came in 1909 when an old and filthy witchdoctor—a man so evil he had cooked and eaten his own wife—came to Christ. The woman’s son had fled when ordered to fetch water to cook his mother. After signing up to work on a plantation he had become a Christian, returned home, and brought his father to hear the gospel.

By the time of Florence Young’s death, on this day 28 May 1940, in Killara, New South Wales, 7,900 islanders had come to Christ.

Dan Graves

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Learn about more notable women of faith in Great Women in Christian History

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