Aaron A. Janzen was a Mennonite Brethren pioneer missionary in Belgian Congo (Zaire). Born in Mountain Lake, Minnesota, into a Mennonite family that had recently emigrated from Russia, Janzen studied at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and the German Baptist Seminary in Rochester, New York. In 1911 he married Ernestina Strauss, who had studied nursing in preparation for a missionary career. Going to the Belgian Congo, between 1912 and 1919 the Janzens developed a Christian presence in the Kasai region under the auspices of the Congo Inland Mission. In 1922 they began an independent work (taken over by the Mennonite Brethren Board of Missions in 1948). Janzen traveled some 300 miles investigating possible locations before establishing this new work at Kikandji on the Kwilu River, not far from the commercial center of Kikwit. Two years later he shifted to Ka fumba, six miles away, and there on a 120-acre tract of land established the first center of what became the Mennonite Brethren Church of Zaire. He founded a training center, linked with many outlying village schools, which provided religious training as well as literacy development. By 1940, some 450 students were studying annually in the station school, and 1,500 in the village schools; the church he established numbered more than 1,600. Janzen’s contribution to the Congo was officially recognized by the Belgian colonial government in 1954 when he was knighted and received the honorary title “Chevalier of the Crown.” He left Africa in 1956 and retired to Mountain Lake, Minnesota. He died the next year in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Abraham E. Janzen, Pioneering for God in the Congo Jungle (1962); J. B. Toews, The Mennonite Brethren Church in Zaire (1978).
This article is reproduced, with permission, from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, copyright © 1998, by Gerald H. Anderson, W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.