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Collection 84 [August 2, 2000]
Hillis, Vera Edna Thiessen; 1919-
There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.
Vera Edna Thiessen was born on December 15, 1919, to Rev. J.D. and Rhoda Amstutz Thiessen of Detroit, MI. In 1943 she received her R.N. degree from the Henry Ford Hospital School of Nursing and Hygiene. She moved to Wheaton, IL, and in 1946 she graduated with a B.A. degree from Wheaton College. While attending Wheaton College, Vera Thiessen worked as a nurse at a community hospital in Geneva, IL.
Thiessen served as a medical missionary in the Belgian Congo with the Africa Inland Mission (AIM) from 1946 to 1976. Many years were spent doing medical work with different tribes in the mission stations at Oicha and Rethi, Congo. In 1952, following her furlough in the United States, she took French lessons and completed a medical course in Belgium before returning to the Congo. For ten years (1966-1976), she served at the Nyankunde station.
After twenty years of service with the Alur and Lendu tribes of Rethi, the Babila and the
Wanande of Oicha, and the Wahema of Nyankunde, Congo, she returned to the United States in
1976. In the States, she worked with the Elmhurst Extended Care Center until her appointment
in July, 1978, as public health nurse for DuPage County, IL. In 1979, she moved with sister,
Lois, to Florida. In 1984, she married Donald Whitman Hillis, another retired missionary.
Scope and Content
This collection contains mainly personal correspondence written by Miss Thiessen from the Belgian Congo to her family, which included her parents, Rev. and Mrs. J. D. Thiessen, her sisters Carol and Lois, and her brother Jack. A few letters were written to friends as general prayer letters. The letters were written over a period of thirty years from 1946 to 1976.
The letters record Thiessen's departure from New York for the Congo in 1946, early adjustment experiences, language study, and the medical work she did in AIM mission stations in Oicha, Rethi, Blukwa, and Nyankunde. They also contain information on various mission boards besides the AIM, including Roman Catholics and Jehovah's Witnesses.
The letters also contain information related to political conditions in many parts of Africa and
specifically the conditions in the Congo before and after independence. They also include
information about the African Church in the Congo and some sketchy reports of the work done
by the AIM in Tanganyika Territory, Kenya Colony, Nairobi, Uganda Protectorate, the Sudan,
and French Equatorial Africa. Some of this information refers to anti-white feelings, persecution
of missionaries and native Christians such as the Mau-Mau threat of 1953 in Kenya. Also of
significance in this collection is the picture painted by Miss Thiessen of the nationals and their
various practices relating to marriage, burial, and other aspects of African life.
The material in this collection was given to the Center by Thiessen in June 1979.
July 13, 1979