Brightly dressed men and women danced to beating drums as they celebrated the Christian Reformed Church of Nigeria’s (CRCN) centennial in the hot African sun on Nov. 12, 2005.
Thousands of people, both black and white, celebrated at Takum, a town close to the site where Johanna Veenstra, the first CRC missionary to Nigeria, began her work 84 years ago.
The seven-hour celebration included a parade through Takum that was accompanied by singing and dancing. The governor of Taraba, the host state, gave the CRCN a van and a financial gift. The traditional chief of nearby Donga and other prominent Nigerians also showed their generosity through word and deed.
The president of the Reformed Church of Christ in Nigeria (RCCN) thanked God for the work the CRCN has accomplished and called on the church to make its second century, like the first, one of missions and continued growth.
At the end of the celebration, people from the CRCN’s 12 classes danced around the podium, thanking God for 100 years of ministry in Nigeria.
When the first British missionaries visited Nigeria in 1905, most of the country’s Middle Belt was either “pagan” (traditionalist) or Muslim. In 1905, only 10 percent of the country was Christian, and most believers were in the south. Today, half of Nigeria’s 130 million people believe in Jesus.
Initially, progress was slow. The Sudan United Mission from England began the work. Johanna Veenstra joined the British mission in 1919 and arrived in her station near Takum in 1921. She died in 1933, but seven years later the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA) adopted this part of Nigeria as one of its mission fields.
Over the decades, missionary work flourished. There are now more than 75,000 CRCN members worshiping in 100 churches. Numerous evangelism sites, preaching centers, and church plants throughout Nigeria are supervised by these 100 churches.
Today the three Reformed sister churches of the CRCN together are larger than their CRCNA “mother church.” We relate not primarily as a sending mission and a receiving church but rather as partners in ministry.
The past century of the CRCN was one of grace, and we look ahead with hope as we strive to expand God’s kingdom in this new millennium.