Continuing the Legacy of Johanna Veenstra in Nigeria

Like Veenstra, the women who are leading Christian education in Nigeria today are instrumental in God’s mission to save the lost and renew all things.

The Christian Reformed Church is celebrating an important anniversary this fall: 100 years ago, Johanna Veenstra stepped onto the steamer Mauretania and crossed the Atlantic to serve as a missionary in Nigeria. At age 25, she not only became the Christian Reformed Church’s first female missionary – she became our denomination’s first overseas missionary.

As Veenstra traveled from village to village in Nigeria, she announced that the good news of Jesus was for women as well as men. It often surprised the people she met, but Veenstra knew that God did not discriminate based on gender. She not only invited women to follow Jesus, but she pressed them to lead others to Christ. “You must tell others what you know of Jesus …” she told them (“Women and Missions,” Missionary Monthly, Feb. 1926).

Veentsra answered God’s call and worked hard to raise up female ministry leaders. It’s a legacy that Resonate and the CRC are still living out in countries throughout the world today through the work of Resonate missionaries like Sarah (Kluitenberg) Aderemi.

Today, Nigeria is still a male-dominated society, said Aderemi. Women in Nigeria are rarely seen in church leadership positions.

Women have, however, made great strides in Christian education. “Education, both primary and secondary, is a female-dominated field and women are at the forefront of seeing Christian education flourish in Nigeria,” said Kluitebnerg, who works with and equips these strong female Christian leaders through her work with the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI). That’s how she met Mrs. Ezepue.

Mrs. Ezepue was working in the public school system as a trained teacher when her husband came home one day with a burden that God laid on his heart: to raise up a new generation.

As a pastor, he didn’t know exactly what that looked like.

Mrs. Ezepue, however, felt a strong call to start a Christian school to raise up the next generation to follow Christ wholeheartedly.

In 2000, she started a school with only one child. But year by year, the school grew. Today, Mrs. Ezepue leads faculty and staff who teach and disciple 400 students from pre-nursery to secondary school.

She said that Resonate’s work with ACSI has been a great resource to her and her school in gaining a deeper understanding of Christian education. “The ministry of Christian education has opened up doors for women in Nigeria to flourish in ways that other ministries might stifle,” said Aderemi. “It should only give us hope to see women, like Mrs. Ezepue, shaping the lives of the future generations.”

Like Veenstra and the women she worked with in Nigeria, Aderemi and the women who are leading Christian education in Nigeria are instrumental in God’s mission to save the lost and renew all things.

“Women in Nigeria are at the forefront of building up a generation of innovative Nigerians who desire to serve Christ and serve others in all spheres of life,” said Aderemi.

This article was made possible through a partnership with CRC Ministries within Canada.


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