For several reasons, I rarely present anyone from the 20th century in these little histories. Today, I’m going to make an exception.
Florence Almen had been serving in a Baptist mission in French Equatorial Africa. After a short furlough in America she bought passage on an old, rickety ship called the Zam Zam to return to Africa. The plan was to sail to Brazil and then across the Atlantic to the Cape of Good Hope. There Miss Almen hoped to catch a steamer to Matadi and then a river boat back to the city of Bangui. She and about 200 other passengers including missionaries, boarded the Zam Zam on March 21, 1941. All seemed to go well until the night of April 17, 1941 when the ship shook everyone awake as the shells of a German U-boat raked the hull.
Miss Almen and her two roommates dressed and put on life preservers, racing to their assigned life boat. When they found it riddled with holes they climbed into another which was then lowered into the water. They had been floating for only a few minutes when they realized that it had been hit as well.
Florence didn’t know how to swim, but she volunteered to go overboard to lighten the load, knowing that her soul was secure in Christ.
After some time in the water, she and the others heard the sound of a motor boat. The captain of the submarine Tamesis had sent a launch to pick up any survivors. The next day the passengers were transferred to the Dresden, where they lived for a month as prisoners of war, suffering all the privations captive solders would have faced. Eventually, the Dresden reached German-occupied France. Then after the intervention of the American ambassador to Spain, the missionary and other passengers were returned to New York. Incredibly, the Lord had protected all aboard; there were no casualties whatsoever.