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Johanna Veenstra (1894 - 1933) was the first missionary of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) to go to Nigeria. She was born on Thursday, April 19, 1894, on Hopper Street in Paterson, New Jersey. Her parents were William Veenstra, later a Christian Reformed pastor, and Cornelia Anna De Hoop. In 1915 she was challenged by Karl Kumm of the Sudan United Mission (SUM) to be a missionary in Africa. On October 2, 1919, she left New York on the Mauretania for England; on December 31, 1919, she took another ship to Africa, arriving in Lagos in January 1920. In February 1921, she arrived at her station in Lupwe, which is near Takum, now in Taraba State. Two years later Johanna Veenstra assumed leadership of the work in Lupwe. She was engaged primarily in medical work and in preaching. During her ministry in Lupwe, a number of people especially of the Kuteb tribe became Christian. The roots of the Christian Reformed Church of Nigeria (CRCN) lay in part in the work of Johanna Veenstra.

In March 1933 Johanna Veenstra became ill. She traveled to the Sudan United Mission hospital in Vom, which is in present-day Plateau State. On Palm Sunday, April 9, 1933, Johanna Veenstra died and was buried in Vom.

In addition to her missionary work in Nigeria, Johanna Veenstra is significant for presenting the mission needs of Nigeria to the Christian Reformed Church. In 1940 this church adopted Nigeria as a mission field. Today the Christian Reformed Church of Nigeria is a strong independent African church. The seminary of the CRCN, Veenstra Seminary located in Donga, is named after Johanna Veenstra.

Select Bibliography

  • Beets, Henry. Johanna of Nigeria. Grand Rapids: Grand Rapids Printing Company, 1937.
  • Palmer, Timothy. The Reformed and Presbyterian Faith: A View from Nigeria. Bukuru: TCNN Publications, 1996. (Available from Africa Christian Textbooks.)
  • Smith, Edgar. Nigerian Harvest. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1972.
  • Veenstra, Johanna. Pioneering for Christ in the Sudan. Grand Rapids: Smitter Book Co., 1926.


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