Niels Høegh Brønnum was a Danish pioneer missionary in Nigeria. Brønnum was born in Nerholm. near Aalborg, Denmark. Drafted into military service in 1904, he became a medical orderly at the garrison hospital in Aalborg. There he felt the call to mission through the influence of Anton Pedersen, vicar of Vor Frelser Kirke (Our Saviour’s Church). While studying medicine at the University of Edinburgh, 1906-1911, in a meeting of the Edinburgh Medical Missionary Society, Brønnum heard H. K. W. Kumm speak about Sudan. Brønnum wanted to serve as a medical missionary in Sudan but none of the existing Danish missionary societies were willing to send him there, so a new society was established in cooperation with the Sudan United Mission (founded by Kumm in 1904). The Danish branch of the Sudan United Mission was established on November 22, 1911, with Anton Pedersen as chairman.
In 1913 Brønnum was sent to Nigeria, where the Danish society had been assigned the northeastern province of Yola as its field of activity. After visiting several English mission stations, Brønnum arrived at Numan in September 1913. There he studied the language and religion of the Bachama people, built a mission station, and translated the Gospel of Mark, which was published in 1915. Concurrently he worked as a doctor.
During a furlough in Denmark from 1915 to 1916, Brønnum was ordained. His first wife, Margaret Chapel (Young), died in Nigeria in 1913 following the birth of a son, and in 1916 Brønnum married Albertha Tholle. As a visible fruit of his missionary efforts, the first national believer was baptized in 1917, and in 1920 the first church in Numan was dedicated outside the mission station. In 1917 the Brønnums left Nigeria for England due to his wife’s health problems, and he was out of missionary service until he returned to Nigeria alone from 1919 to 1921. From then until 1953 he served as secretary of the Sudan United Mission. He visited Nigeria several more times, the last being in 1963, when the church celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of his arrival there. He died in Roskile, Denmark.
Brønnum was one of the most prominent missionaries of the Danish Lutheran Church, and certainly the person whose work yielded the most visible results. As an outcome of the missionary work which was done by him and his successors, an independent church was established - the Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria, which today counts several hundred thousand members.
Mogens Jensen, To maend og deres mission [Two men and their mission] (Th.D. diss., Univ. of Aarhus, 1992; includes English summary and extensive bibliography), Margaret Nissen, An African Church Is Born: The Story of the Adamawa and Central Sardauna Provinces in Nigeria (1968).
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.