Janzen, Aaron A. (1882-1957) and Janzen, Ernestina Strauss (1879-1937)
Aaron A. and Ernestina Strauss Janzen: pioneer missionaries in Zaire (Democratic Republic of Congo) for a combined total of 70 years, working in evangelism, medicine, education and agriculture. Aaron was born on 24 May 1882 in Mountain Lake, Minnesota, USA, the third of 10 children (including one that died in infancy) of Aron F. Janzen (19 May 1851, Sparrau, Molotschna Mennonite Settlement, South Russia - 13 October 1938, Mountain Lake, Minnesota) and Anna (Neufeldt) Janzen (24 August 1857, Schoenhorst, Chortitza Mennonite Settlement, South Russia - 6 July 1928, Mountain Lake, Minnesota). Ernestina was born on 15 July 1879 in Mountain Lake, Minnesota, the eighth of 10 children of Johann Gottlieb Strauss (1836, Volhynia - 25 June 1902, Mountain Lake, Minnesota) and Alvina (Gloeckler) Strauss (15 July 1841, Prussia - 30 April 1923, Hepburn, Saskatchewan, Canada). Aaron and Ernestina were married on 4 July 1911 in Mountain Lake and had two children: Alvina and Aaron. Ernestina died on 24 September 1937 in Congo, and Aaron died on 19 August 1957 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He was buried in Mountain Lake.
Aaron was raised on a farm near Mountain Lake, where he attended grammar school and Bible school. Later he studied at Moody Bible Institute and the German Baptist Seminary in Rochester, New York. At age 24, he experienced a radical conversion, was baptized, and joined the Mennonite Brethren Church on 8 July 1906. Ernestina studied nursing in preparation for mission.
Upon marriage in 1911, the Janzens left for the Belgian Congo, serving with the Congo Inland Mission (CIM) at Nyanga (1912-1920). They encountered untold hardships: hostility of the Bapende people, inadequate diet, tropical disease, and death of their only two children. In anticipation of establishing a Mennonite Brethren mission, the Janzens found Kikandji near the commercial center of Kikwit. They made the 480 km. (300 mi.) trek in 1922. The people were receptive to the gospel, but physical conditions proved intolerable. Two years later they relocated to Kafumba, the "elephants nest," 10 km. (6 mi.) away and built a mission center on a 120 acre land grant from the government. In 1926, they baptized 37 people and founded the Mennonite Brethren Church of Zaire without official support from either the Mennonite Brethren Mission Board or the CIM. During their first furlough (1927-1928), the Janzens renewed contact with home churches, stimulated interest in Africa, and received financial support.
Ernestina died on 24 September 1937. Africans mourned the death of "Mama Nkende," mother of mercy. A man of prayer and faith in God, Janzen wrote, "Thou art more to me than all earth's brimming cups could be." After six years, Janzen married Martha Hiebert (30 October 1904, Cottonwood County, Minnesota - 11 November 1995, Mountain Lake, Minnesota) on 24 January 1943 in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Martha was a missionary at Kafumba since 1929. The Janzens experienced two highlights: a growing national church, and the acceptance of the work by the Mennonite Brethren Board of Missions in 1943. They stayed at Kafumba until 1956. Aaron Janzen has left a wealth of written material on mission both theological and cultural, but none has been published.
GRANDMA (The Genealogical Registry and Database of Mennonite Ancestry) Database, 6.06 ed. Fresno, CA:, 2011: #36104.
Toews, J. B. Mennonite Brethren Church in Zaire. Fresno, CA: Mennonite Brethren Board of Christian Literature, 1978: 39-55.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, pp. 462-463. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
©1996-2013 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.
To cite this page:
MLA style: Kasdorf, Hans and Richard D. Thiessen. "Janzen, Aaron A. (1882-1957) and Janzen, Ernestina Strauss (1879-1937)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. January 2012. Web. 19 June 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/J36922.html.
APA style: Kasdorf, Hans and Richard D. Thiessen. (January 2012). Janzen, Aaron A. (1882-1957) and Janzen, Ernestina Strauss (1879-1937). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 19 June 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/J36922.html.