Abe and Carol Vreeke have once again finished undergoing Christian Reformed World Missions’ intense orientation sessions before leaving for Nigeria to serve as missionaries.
Involving nine partner missionaries who will work in Asia and Africa, the week-long orientation took place recently at the Grand Rapids, Mich., office of the Christian Reformed Church.
Partner missionaries are missionaries who work with another mission agency, group or organization, but are supported by, and often use the resources of, CRWM.
The Vreekes have gone through orientation from CRWM twice before as they prepared to serve in Nigeria, and Abe used to direct the orientation for new CRWM missionaries. They have worked in a range of capacities in Nigeria over the years, taking time out for periods to live and work in the United States.
"This time we really knew what they were talking about and what we should expect when we get to Nigeria," says Abe Vreeke, who has worked for the last decade as principal of a school in Lafayette, Ind. "In some ways it has changed. It will not be the way we left it."
CRWM orientation involved sessions on the stages of cultural transition, building a dynamic team with prayer and financial supporters, practical help for written communication, DVD and PowerPoint presentations, witnessing from a Reformed perspective, personal security, as well as times for group prayer and reflection.
Many of the presentations that Abe and Carol Vreeke attended during orientation helped to assure them that their decision to return to Nigeria is right.
Abe will work as acting superintendent of Hillcrest School in Jos, Nigeria for the next year.
Carol Vreeke will help her husband in a variety of ways.
She has some apprehension about leaving her children and grandchildren for a time and also because of the occasional outbreaks of violence that have occurred in Jos over the last year or so.
Still, she is looking forward to returning to Jos, which is located on a temperate plateau in the middle of the country.
"Jos is also a center for mission organizations," says Carol Vreeke. "We know that the city has grown a great deal since we were there last. Technology has changed, too. Nearly everyone uses a cell phone (and other technologies) . . . And it is especially remarkable how the church has grown in Nigeria."
In the past, Abe Vreeke has worked as a teacher, school administrator, evangelist and field director for Nigeria. He had just retired after being a principal at the school in Indiana when the call came from Hillcrest School, asking if he would be interested in serving as acting superintendent.
Although he was looking forward to retirement, he and his wife discussed it, both aware of the special place Nigeria holds in their hearts. They decided to talk it over with their children, and their children told them they should go. "God wants them to do this," they said.
Hillcrest School is a K-12 institution that serves missionary children, other children whose parents are from foreign countries and Nigerians, many from the area near the school.
Jeanine De Jong, a recent Hope College graduate, is also going to Hillcrest School, where she will work as a guidance counselor and teach psychology.
Before the orientation, she had been frantically preparing for her assignment, but being so busy wore her down.
"The orientation allowed me to stop and reflect on what it will mean to be on the mission field," says De Jong. "I was able to sit and rest and glean knowledge of those who have done this before."
Since it will be her first, full-fledged missionary assignment, and it will be in Nigeria, she spent a good deal of time talking with and learning from the Vreekes.
"The Lord has drawn me to this. I’ve been preparing my heart to be a missionary since elementary school," says De Jong, who has gone on several, short-term mission assignments to other countries over the years.
"Being here this week has given me a place of preparation and to be molded. I’m feeling a sense of anticipation. This very clearly is the way of the Lord," says De Jong.