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Women of Purity: Florence Steidel
Hearing God’s Call and Stepping Out
By Selma Komisky
In 1924 Florence Steidel prayed and knew God was calling her to go to this land as a missionary. The vision Florence had seen made her aware that she was to minister to the sick. As Steidel’s vision unfolded she saw dark skinned people who were needy and helpless in Africa crying out in agony. She questioned, “Why is no one doing anything to help them?” She knew in her heart there was no one available to help. She was reluctant to heed the call at first. She cried, “Not me, Lord!” She was a bit insecure and quite timid and only had an eighth grade education, but she finally said, “I know I can help these people and bind up their wounds.”
With God’s help she went to night school and finished her high school education, and later did some nursing training to become a missionary nurse. Additionally, in 1928 she enrolled in the Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. She was 35 when she finished her biblical studies in 1932. Steidel sought God in prayer for direction and desired to serve God more than ever. She applied to be a missionary in Liberia and got accepted. Steidel was sent to work at the girl’s school in Palipo. Her vision became a reality 13 years later. The house was exactly as God had shown her in her vision years ago. She was assured this is where God would have her be.
A short time later, they moved this school to Newaka and word started to spread that Steidel was not only a teacher but also a nurse. Therefore, many sick people would come to her for treatment. Many of these people were suffering with Hanson’s disease, also known as leprosy. Steidel’s heart broke as she saw the devastating disease. Infected sores, claw like hands, and impaired eyesight. She learned that many children were also becoming lepers before the age of 15, catching it from other family members. In 1946 she was released from her duties at the school and now was free to pursue her dream and build this town.
Gradually the need grew and more leprous people needed help. So Steidel prayed for plans to make a town where she could care and treat these people. She took classes in elementary building construction. Steidel oversaw the construction of a well planned-out town. The shelters were insufficient and she prayed for God to give guidance and to provide.
Some tribal chiefs gave her 350 acres of land located about 2 miles away in the middle of the jungle. Steidel would be able to build her town. Construction took place and her first house, which was a 12-room building. There were seventy permanent buildings and six main streets. Soon, 68 lepers were living at Newaka in shelters. This was the beginning of her project, a town for lepers. She would name it New Hope Town.
Steidel introduced hope and gave life to thousands who were literally dying both physically and spiritually. About 90% of the lepers found life in Christ. Steidel was a godly woman who had great faith, great vision and a desire to serve God. She died in 1962 and her life impacted thousands of lepers. Each year some lepers were released symptom free. The Lord was faithful and had met every need.