November 8, 1924 – January 12, 2012
During her childhood, Florence Gilroy and her mother were the only Christians in the family. Florence was born the youngest of seven children in the tiny Upper Peninsula town of Manistique, MI. At the age of 8, she became a Christian and then a member of the Free Methodist Church the following year. By the time she reached her early teen years, she felt a call to full-time Christian service.
Florence attended Spring Arbor Junior College for two years. There she met James Mannoia. In 1945, she and James were married. For two years immediately following their marriage, James and Florence lived in Chicago. They served as assistants at a Chicago church and in children’s mission work in a run-down, impoverished area of the city. The Mannoias also served two pastorates – Beloit, WI, and East Peoria, IL. James then taught for seven years at Spring Arbor College. During that time, Florence completed work for a B.S. degree at Eastern Michigan University and taught for several years in a public school in Spring Arbor.
James and Florence applied for missionary service and in June 1962, the General Missionary Board appointed them to Brazil. Reaching the field in September of the same year, the Mannoias began to fulfill a long time dream of working with Latin peoples.
James, by then Dr. Mannoia, served as president of Brazil Theological Seminary. When he came to the seminary he found about five students attending school on a rural campus in Mairipora. Under his leadership the school relocated in Sao Paulo, one of the world’s fastest-growing cities. New buildings were built, enrollment soared and multiple training levels were developed to meet the needs of the Brazil church.
Always ready to do God’s will, Florence was also eager to supplement her husband’s efforts in kingdom work. She expressed the passion she and James had for their ministry in Brazil: “Our nationals must be trained to fill competently the role of leadership which will fall to them and we must not fail them. Along with quality academic training we want to share, through example and assimilation, the genius of our heritage as a holiness church around the world.”
James and Florence, along with their children, served in Brazil for almost a decade. Florence wrote about some of the family’s experiences in “Amigos,” a book for the Free Methodist children’s missions program.
In 1971, James was asked to take on responsibilities that brought the Mannoias back to the U.S.: Executive Secretary of the World Fellowship, Latin America Area Secretary, and then pastor of the Pearce Memorial FMC, North Chili, NY. After teaching at Asbury Seminary, Wilmore, KY, James retired in 1994. He passed away April 20, 2001.The James and Florence Mannoia family includes three children – Jim, Jr., Sharla and Kevin – and many grandchildren.
Florence’s Colleagues Write
Missionary colleagues Roy and Doris Kenny write, “Florence Mannoia was a gracious Christian lady, always able to take any circumstances in her stride, including the missionaries that would pop into her home. She was a special mother to her three children and a great support to her husband. A special memory for us was a Christmas gathering in her home.”
Colleagues Clancy and Doris Thompson write, “Florence was a faithful and devoted wife to Jim, her husband, a loving mother to James, Sharla and Kevin, a gracious and gifted homemaker and hostess, and a gentle and committed follower of Jesus Christ. Florence diligently served our heavenly Father in the Brazilian and Nikkei Conferences of the Free Methodist Church, and in the Free Methodist Theological Seminary in São Paulo, Brazil, alongside her husband. Her talents and gifts were utilized in every area of her life and ministry. Thank you, Lord, for Florence and her impact in our world!”