Navigating Gender in the Chinese Mission Field, 1920-1949
Dr. Marc Baer
Immediately after Holland native Tena Holkeboer graduated from Hope College in 1920, she prepared to leave for her first term of service in the mission field at the Reformed Church of America’s [RCA] main mission station in Amoy (now known as Xiamen), China. She was eager to answer the call God had placed upon her heart by pursuing a career in direct evangelistic work, or relational ministry. However, when she arrived in China, her earnest desire to pursue a career in what she believed was her vocation caused her an immense amount of personal turmoil. The career opportunities available to missionaries were determined by their gender and marital status. Thus, while she was certain God was calling her to witness directly to the Chinese people, the RCA’s Mission Board unanimously agreed that as a single female she would best serve God and the people of Amoy as a teacher and a principal in the field of indirect evangelism. At first she struggled to fill these roles, but over her five terms of service in China she came to realize that God was calling her to have a far greater role in His kingdom than she had ever anticipated.
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