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Veenstra, Johanna (1894-1933) | Heritage Hall, Hekman Library

Name: Veenstra, Johanna (1894-1933)


Historical Note:

Johanna Veenstra was born on April 19, 1894 in Paterson, New Jersey. Veenstra attended school as well as received training from a business college. At the age of 14, she commuted to New York City for work as a secretary.  Even though she was earning good money and received a promotion, she still felt a longing for something more. One Sunday at the Second CRC in Paterson, she made her public confession of faith.  She became determined that her purpose in life was to become a missionary. She promptly became involved with mission projects, and enrolled in the Union Missionary Training Institute. She graduated from the Institute as valedictorian.

At the age of 20, Veenstra wanted to travel to Africa to begin her missionary work, however there was an age requirement of 25. In the meantime, she studied Reformed Doctrine at Calvin College, took practical medicine classes at Bellevue Hospital, and worked with the Paterson Hebrew Mission.  In October of 1919, Veenstra finally got to set sail for Africa. With a stop in England, Veenstra boarded another boat for Nigeria. It wasn't until January 20, 1920 that she was able to set foot on Africa's soil. Veenstra still had a long trip ahead of her, 300 miles inland.  Veenstra travelled once again by boat then by bicycle to her new home of Takum.

Once she settled in her village, Veenstra found that life wasn't any easier. Veenstra had to boil the water before drinking it, and wore boots so she wouldn't get bitten by poisonous snakes and scorpions. She also had to learn a completely new language to communicate with the native people. Even with all the dangers, Veenstra was determined to spread the gospel.

In 1921 Veenstra was assigned the new task of opening a new post at Lupwe. New grass huts needed to be built as well as a new school. When the only male missionary became sick, it was up to Veenstra and her helper, Miss Haigh, to carry on the mission. The two women continued to preach to the villages of the surrounding villages on their own. After two years, Veenstra's left Nigeria for home on furlough. Once back in the United States, Veenstra spoke to churches about her mission work. Veenstra was anxious to return to Nigeria. Once she returned, she opened a boarding school and a dispensary. Over next few years she expanded the school, the clinic, and organized a church for the converted. In April of 1933, Veenstra was struck with appendicitis. Although she had a successful operation, she still passed away on April 9, 1933. She was buried in Nigeria.






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