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Florence Fry

Retired Missionary to the San Francisco Peniel Mission
"No Regrets"
By Laura Coulter, Intern, adapted by Kateland Vernon, Staff Writer, January 2021

Having lived a life dedicated to serving the Lord and others, retired missionary Florence Fry said she wouldn’t change a thing. “I’ve had a good and happy life and wouldn’t change it,” began Florence. “The Lord has been good to me all my days.”

Born in Republic, Ohio, in 1923, Florence was the youngest of four children. Although she grew up in a good home, it was not a Christian home and her family rarely attended church. After Florence came to know the Lord at a community revival service, she started attending prayer meetings with other people.

In the 1940s, Florence was visiting friends at Kentucky Mountain Bible Institute, when she was preparing to return home at midterm. A teacher encouraged her to stay, and Florence started school there the next semester. She graduated from KMBI (now Kentucky Mountain Bible College) in 1949. She later received a BA from Marion College (now Indiana Wesleyan University) and a BS from Ball State Teacher’s College.

Even before attending KMBI, Florence felt called to Christian service. At first, she felt she was called to a foreign field, particularly India. However, when that door closed, Florence went to San Francisco Peniel Mission in 1956 on a one-year trial basis. She ended up serving as a missionary there for 38 years.

When Florence first came to the mission, she made hospital visits, held street meetings, and helped lead the evening services. Later, she became the director of the mission. The mission held services every night of the week except Monday and served meals. Florence oversaw the cooking, set up, evening services, and volunteers. The food service required a lot of work for the missionaries, including Florence, who often spent all day cooking. They had to purchase and prepare food for a large number of people, and before they got an electric stove, all food had to be cooked on hot plates. In the 1980s, the mission started a morning Bible study, and they served donuts and coffee.

People of all ages and races came to San Francisco from all over the country and the world, and those who came to the mission were just as diverse. “You never knew where they were coming from,” Florence shared. Although the mission primarily ministered to men, women with children also came.

Many of the people who came to the mission were very lonely, and they found fellowship at the services. Many also had drug and alcohol addictions and other issues, but the mission “gave them a hope if they wanted to latch on to it,” Florence added. Although the missionaries had to deal with problems such as drunks disrupting services or lying in front of the iron gate of the mission and having to be moved, most of the men had tremendous respect for the workers and the mission.

Florence didn’t always see the fruit of her labors, but she appreciated what the mission did for her and for others. Some of the people she ministered to came to the Lord and changed their lives. Many people loved the mission and were helped and encouraged by the staff. One volunteer was so interested in their work that when the mission needed a new building but the property prices were too high, he bought a building in the area and gave it to the mission.

In a 1972 issue of Call to Prayer (now The Call), Florence wrote, “Sinners do not read the Bible much, but they do read lives which have been transformed.” Her life, transformed by Christ, touched many other lives during her time in San Francisco.

Even after her retirement from the mission in 1994, Florence continued to help people. She trained to be a nurse’s aide and worked at the Judson Palmer Home for needy and retired women in Findlay, Ohio, until she fully retired in 2009. On January 10, 2021, Florence went to be with the Lord. She felt that dedicating her life to serving others wasn't work at all because she enjoyed it so much. She didn't regret a moment of it.

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