posted August 25, 2009

Book Shows Service in African Mission Work

A new book produced by the A.C. Van Raalte Institute at Hope College provides insights into the foreign-mission experience through the writings and correspondence of long-time medical missionary Tena A. Huizenga.

The book, "Aunt Tena, Called to Serve:  Journals and Letters of Tena A. Huizenga, Missionary Nurse to Nigeria," focuses on Huizenga's service in remote Lupwe, Nigeria, through the Christian Reformed Church from 1937 to 1954.  The volume has been published by the William B. Eerdmans Company of Grand Rapids, Mich., and Cambridge, United Kingdom, as part of the Historical Series of the Reformed Church in America.

"This intensely human volume guides us through 17 memorable years of Nigerian mission history," said Eugene Rubingh, former executive secretary of Christian Reformed World Missions.  "Drawn from Tena Huizenga's own letters, the events are sketched through the lens of joy and tears, of small victories and unimaginable obstacles.  Both candor and love transform mundane facts into a warm and lively account of a life poured out for God."

The book's managing editor is Dr. Jacob E. Nyenhuis, who is director of the A.C. Van Raalte Institute and provost emeritus and professor emeritus of classics at Hope.  Serving as co-editors were Dr. Robert P. Swierenga, who is the A.C. Van Raalte Research Professor at the Van Raalte Institute and professor of history emeritus at KentStateUniversity, and Lauren M. Berka, a 2008 Hope graduate who was a student research assistant at the institute and is now a graduate fellow in history at ArizonaStateUniversity.

 "Aunt Tena, Called to Serve" tells its story primarily through Huizenga's correspondence with family and friends, but also through journals and articles that she wrote.  The 976-page book also includes chapters by historian Harry Boonstra that provide biographical and historical context concerning Huizenga and her service as well as the Christian Reformed Church's support of missions in Nigeria.

Born in 1907, Tena Huizenga grew up in Dutch-American West Chicago.   She continued to work as a nurse after leaving the mission field for health reasons in 1954.  She died in 1978 at age 70.

The book's title reflects the Nigerians' practice of calling all female missionaries "Aunt," but the designation also applies more literally.  The book was commissioned by Huizenga's nephew, Peter H. Huizenga of Oak Brook, Ill.  Peter H. Huizenga's father, Petro (Peter), was Tena Huizenga's younger brother, and was a regular correspondent during her mission years.  In fact, nearly 300 pages feature Petro Huizenga's letters to his sister.

Nyenhuis noted that Petro Huizenga's letters not only demonstrate the strength and importance of familial bonds across time and distance, but also provide insights into the character of life back in the Huizengas' Chicagoland neighborhood.

"The extensive letters from Tena's brother Pete offer marvelous insights into the Dutch Reformed subculture of Chicago's West Side," he said.  "Because his scavenger company later evolved into Waste Management Inc., those letters are especially valuable.  Pete's winsome descriptions and witty dialogue with his sister add a Chicago flavor to this book."

Tena's nephew Peter H. Huizenga is a member of the college's Board of Trustees and chairman of Huizenga Capital Management. He and his mother Elizabeth had provided a major endowment gift to establish the Van Raalte Institute, which opened in 1994, and he has remained active in supporting the institute's work in the years since.

Copies of "Aunt Tena, Called to Serve"are available for $49 at the college's Hope-Geneva Bookstore.  The bookstore is on the ground level of the DeWitt Center, which is located at 141 E. 12th St. on Columbia Avenue at 12th Street, and is open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. as well as until 8 p.m. on Tuesdays, and on Saturdays from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.