When I was 9 or 10 years old I wrote a paragraph for a school assignment, in which I described what I thought my life would be like in 20 years. I wrote that I wanted to marry a missionary and have 3 or 4 children. Fast forward a few years, when I married my best friend, George Jensen. During our wedding ceremony this passage was read “…whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge…” (Ruth 1:16). I knew I would follow him, but where, I knew not. A few months later, George decided to attend the East Tennessee School of Preaching and Missions. While there, we were blessed to be influenced by several veteran missionaries. After graduation, we spent the next 19 years focusing on stateside mission efforts, including California and Iowa.
Our family has participated in various mission efforts over the years. As our children were growing up, George frequently brought one of them with him in order to give them exposure to mission work abroad. In 2005, we had the great privilege of traveling together as a family to India, where we worked for one month. We began contemplating the idea of doing foreign mission work full-time. In May of 2006, our whole family spent a month working in Malawi, Africa. After this trip and after much prayerful consideration, we made the commitment to move to Tanzania.
Our family arrived in Tanzania April 17, 2007. We lived in Moshi for two years and then in April 2009, we relocated to the Arusha area, where George served as Dean of Academics at the Andrew Connally School of Preaching. In January 2011 our family, along with Carey and Bonnie Samford and their children moved to Iringa, located in central Tanzania.
The work in Iringa has been very rewarding. We initially worked on becoming acquainted with the local Christians and encouraged them to invite their friends and neighbors to study the Bible. It has been exciting to watch the local Christians become more confident in telling others about Christ. It is safe to say that all of the members have a very rudimentary level of Bible knowledge. Several months ago George began a Bible drill time before our Sunday worship. It has been directed toward the children, but the whole congregation has been learning the books of the Bible and other basic Bible facts. Some of the adults have been just as eager as the children to recite what they have memorized so far!
Another effort in which we are involved is weekly Saturday Bible classes, held in two different locations. These serve a dual purpose: to offer an opportunity for church members to increase their Bible knowledge and also as a mode of evangelistic outreach. George teaches the morning class and Carey teaches the afternoon class. At the conclusion of each series, those who have had perfect attendance receive a free booklet, which contains all of the class notes in Swahili. They have taught Old Testament Survey, New Testament Survey, and are currently teaching God’s Plan for Mankind.
Before this most recent class began, an announcement was placed on the radio and many fliers were distributed. A man traveled from his village about 25 km away, with some degree of difficulty, to try and attend the afternoon c lass. A third class is now being taught in this man’s village by Carey each Monday. Consideration is being given to beginning a fourth class near Iringa’s town center, if a suitable location can be obtained.
Our family has begun to worship once a month with the small congregation in Ilula, which is an hour away. They also desire to have a weekly Bible class, such as we are doing here in Iringa. They are awaiting a decision by the local council for permission to use a public building as a meeting place. We expect to begin in the next few weeks.
Every Wednesday afternoon George and Carey teach a “2 Timothy 2:2” class, in which they teach and encourage Christian men to be more effective students in the Word and more effective leaders in the church.
When we moved to Tanzania, our children were ages 14, 16, 18 and 19. Most missionaries move back home when their children reach these ages! Concern was expressed for their future. What about their schooling? We already homeschooled our children, so that was a nonissue. Online college has also been a great blessing! How would they find a mate? We believed that God was more than capable to work that out. Our children are old enough to be involved in the work on an adult level, which has proven to be a great example to local Christians. Our children have had opportunities to grow in their own faith in a way that will impact them for the rest of their lives.
I’ve come a long way since I was 10. Here I sit in Iringa, Tanzania, East Africa, married to a man who has given his life to sharing the gospel, and blessed with four precious children who are really no longer children (make that five – I have a wonderful son-in-law as an added blessing). Sometimes I feel so inadequate for the role I play, but with God’s help, I do the best I can; after all, apparently He thought I was up to the task.
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It only costs $0.98 to send a letter all the way to Tanzania! Be sure to send Joy some encouraging mail!!!
P.O. Box 594