Posts in category Congregational Development

The Closing of a Chapter

So many books have been written about life in Africa.  Real life adventures of legendary figures like Fredrick Courtney Selous or the exploits of the great ivory hunters make for stimulating reading.  Such nostalgia from by-gone days seems almost fictional.

Remarkably, the wildness of Africa in many places remains untamed.  Areas remain where neither electricity nor piped water flow.  Oh sure, even the remote Masaai herdsman, in his half-wrapped shuka, can be seen talking on a cell phone.  But this is nearly the only thing that would set him apart from his great-grandfather.

Our personal journey as residents in this land of yesteryear is nearly to its end.  This chapter in our missionary journey is closing.  Tears are restrained with effort as I write this piece.  I have repeatedly said that no one can visit Africa and not be touched.  But words cannot convey how intensified the effects are from livingin Africa.  About six years ago, veteran missionary Ed Crookshank told me “Africa gets in your blood.” Well, medications have been able to rid my blood of malaria parasites, but Africa remains there.

To each supporting brother and sister and to each giving congregation we offer our sincerest thanks.  You have been faithfully holding up our hands as we have labored these past five years.  The final pages of this “chapter” have been a distinct blessing.  We have enjoyed the unique opportunity of living here in Iringa and working indigenously.  We have labored shoulder to shoulder with our brethren, striving to implement only what they can continue doing unaided by outsiders.

The dynamite is still in the Word of God (Romans 1:16).  It retains its force to cut the human heart (Acts 2:37; 7:54).  The sword of the Spirit is effective when wielded with patience.  We are humbled to have been the “earthen vessels” to carry this saving water of life to those athirst (2 Corinthians 4:7).  Paul rhetorically asked the question: “how shall they preach, except they be sent?” (Romans 10:15).  Thank you for allowing us to be the sent ones.

We are requesting that you continue your support through June if possible.  We are prayerful that this will be sufficient to allow us to relocate and become reestablished.  We presently have two congregations to investigate in person upon our return.  We are prayerful that one of these is the “door” God knows is best for us.

Even though we are planning on settling into a new work in America, I still wish to assist foreign works.  I already have a trip scheduled for New Zealand next year.  I would be interested in hearing from you if you are willing to be a supporter for short mission efforts in the future.

Please pray for our family as we begin a new chapter in our service to the Lord.

George

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The Great Commission’s Second Part

Our Lord gave us a monumental charge – to go into all the world with the saving gospel.  He died that men might live.  This commission in His own words reads: “Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit:” (Matthew 28:19).  The “second part” of this charge is: “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20).

Once a soul has been freed from the bondage of sin, continued teaching is vital to further strengthen this initial foundation of faith.  The attrition rate among new converts is often traceable to inadequate initial teaching and the lack of “counting the cost.”  But also, the lack of follow-up teaching plays a part.

We are blessed with a good group of new converts here in Iringa.  On the 7th of this month we hosted a Friday evening teaching and fellowship time.  We had a great turnout.  Joy had prepared a number of traditional African dishes and the Samfords also contributed more.  The included picture shows the wall ledge which served as a buffet “table.”

Following our nice meal we all gathered in our living room and I delivered a lesson – The Problem of Human Suffering.  It is amazing how far back in time misconceptions about this subject can be traced.  Even in the time of Job (Job was likely a Patriarch; Job might be the oldest Book in our Bibles) his “friends” made the assumption that since he was suffering he must have some personal sin.  Furthermore, they surmised that since he was suffering greatly, then his sin must be grievous.

Superstition, witch-doctors, and such like are still so deeply rooted in this culture.  It is so important that our new brothers and sisters be taught the truth regarding these issues.  I have been amazed at how many Christians here seem to still be in mental bondage to some of these deep seeded fears.  Many believe Jesus can save, but still are concerned that a witch-doctor might put a curse upon them.  Freedom from such fears is just one among many blessings that those in Christ should enjoy!

We keep on teaching.  Please keep on praying for us.
George Jensen 2011

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Our Sunday

Sunday we worshiped with the Monduli Juu congregation, which is located in..you guessed it…Monduli Juu.  We’ve worshiped with them once before, right before going on furlough, and have wanted to return.  The membership of the congregation is primarily Massai. They have grown in number since the last time we were there, thanks to the evangelistic efforts of various Christians.

George was asked to teach the Bible class and I was asked to teach the children’s Bible class, which we both did.  Every item of worship took a longer amount of time, because there were three languages used:  English, Swahili and Massai.  The congregation is very friendly and enthusiastic.  It’s a very unique experience, much different, even, than worshiping in only Swahili. They sang songs both in Massai and Swahili. Here is an audio clip of a Massai song.

1. Massai Singing     

Until next time!

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Seminar at Kisongo

The Kisongo congregation, close to ACSOP, hosted a two day seminar Saturday and Sunday, February 20 and 21. Jacob, Luke and Lindsey went Saturday morning, and George and I joined them after a Bible class with a recent convert. Sean Hochdorf taught the Sunday morning Bible class on the Home. There are many areas in which many Tanzanians need improvement, and certainly the dynamics of home life is no exception. It is very common for husbands to beat their wives, and so that is one topic that the missionaries must address over and over again.

George preached two lessons on Sunday. His assigned topics were “Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage”, as well as “Does the Bible Speak About Abortion?” He was also asked to address the idea about whether or not Christians can use abortion as a method for family planning. His lesson on abortion was right after lunch and the room was warm and stuffy, but no one fell asleep. Abortion is a huge problem here. It is against the law in Tanzania, except in such circumstances in which the mother’s life is in danger. However, there are many “butcher shops” and the law is pretty much ignored, by both government and civilians. Sadly, the blood from innocent babies is crying out from the ground in Tanzania, as in many other parts of the world.

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George and Jacob Left on a Jet Plane…I Headed to the Bush

The last couple of weeks have been particularly busy.  Earlier last week, George and Jacob came down with bad colds.  George was feeling very badly, with many symptoms of malaria, and I ended up driving him to the local hospital that night to be checked.  The test was negative, but the Dr. thought it would be better to give him the treatment just in case.  The guys still weren’t feeling too great, but they were able to leave early Friday morning on their scheduled flight to Malawi, where they will be spending the month of August helping Ed and Lina Crookshank in the work there.  Many of you may remember that our family spent a month there in 2006, helping with teaching in their Mobile Bible School program.  George and Jacob will be traveling to five different locations during the week, teaching the Major and Minor Prophets.  There will also be preaching appointments on Sundays, and Jacob will be teaching some classes for youth on a couple different Saturdays.  So, we covet your prayers for their safety and good health, and also for the rest of us who have remained here at home.

Yesterday, Aug. 1, I traveled with Cy and Stephanie Stafford, as well as Elly and Neema, Jane, Agnes, and Michael, out to Massai bush country.  It’s not a trip that women need to take alone, thus the male chaperones.  There is a newly established congregation in the Longido region which has been requesting a class for ladies.  Stephanie and I, along with Jane and Agnes, agreed to teach some lessons.  Another sister, Neema, came along to do much of the translating.

Our day was very interesting.  Stephanie, the first speaker, had been teaching for only a few minutes, when she spotted a rat running around.  She looked at me with eyes wide open and mouthed “It’s coming your way!”  That was not comforting.  I was able to get my feet off the ground and onto a wooden support under the desk, and looked down and there went the rat!  Let’s just say that I did not dare put my feet back down.  I was sitting near a wall, and the rat ran back and forth near the wall, by me.  He’d take a little trip to the middle of the room, and then come back.  Finally, he went to the other side of the room and climbed up to the window.  He played peek-a-boo for a while, popping his head up and down, in and out of the window, waving his little tail around to let me know he was still there, and then finally made his exit.  Whew!  Was I ever glad!

We taught four lessons, and provided lunch for them in between.  We did not want them to have the burden of feeding us, plus, we didn’t want them to be outside cooking when they could be in class, and so we brought lunch.  Even though you and I would think the food quite tasty – chicken sandwiches or chicken wraps, chips, bananas, and cookies, they really didn’t know what to think of it.  By the looks on their faces, they probably would have much preferred a plate of bland ugali.

The congregation has been in existence for less than two years.  The man who is working here is also a new Christian, doing the best he can in his limited way. Because the people are so void of biblical knowledge, one hardly knows where to begin.  Even though we asked, we really couldn’t determine who may actually be a Christian.  Stephanie, who taught a lesson on Eve, asked if anyone had heard of her, and one person had.  It is so unfortunate that many of their tribal customs and rituals are contrary to biblical teaching, not the least of which is polygamy.  As I was sitting there, I was wondering how many of these women, and even young girls, are wife number two, three, four, five, …ten?  Most of the young women have likely been through what no human being should endure, thanks to their tribal customs…  They need the gospel, which will both elevate their present life, and also give them hope for life eternal. Contrary to popular belief, our aim is not necessarily to change culture.  However, when culture and biblical truths collide, culture must give way to the Bible, and not the other way around.

This kind of situation makes teaching very difficult. For one thing, there is the obvious language barrier. We need both a Swahili translator, and then someone else who understands both Swahili and Massai.  We had to rely on a 10 year old girl to translate from Swahili into the Massai language for us.  In addition to the language barrier, many of them are illiterate.  When I asked how many owned a Bible, maybe three said yes.  Illiteracy greatly inhibits the teaching process.

So, we do what we can, and pray that God will open doors of opportunity, so that we can do more.  Thanks for reading.  Please continue to keep us in your prayers, as many of you so faithfully do.

In Christ,
Joy

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Sunday in Babati

This past Sunday, the 12th, our family traveled to Babati to visit and worship with the Lord’s people.  We were up at 4:30 a.m. and left our house at 6 a.m.  We picked up Ahimediwe, who came along to translate, and then we were on our way. Babati is 172 kilometers from Arusha (107 miles), and the trip took about three hours.

We got there at 9 a.m. and there was no one there yet.  Some of us needed to use the restroom, but there were no facilities where the church meets.  Ahimediwe found a neighbor who was willing to let us use theirs, for which we were thankful.  It was a typical African outhouse; a hole in the ground, but at least it was in a shack of its own, so privacy was greatly appreciated.  The neighbors seemed to find it quite interesting to see the three of us waiting in line!

The church in Babati has had many struggles.  Due to the ungodly behavior of a former member, many church members have fallen away.  However, there is a small group that is really trying to hang in there, and they were very grateful for us coming.  One of the graduates from ACSOP is working with congregation.  It’s wonderful to see former students and the various works in which they are involved.

George’s topic for Bible class was on Elijah, and his feelings of being alone.  George reminded them that though at times they may feel like they are alone, they are not, and that God knows and cares about each individual, including during their time of struggles.  George also preached during the worship hour.  The brethren were very happy to have us visit.  One of the first things that the preacher mentioned was their need for help in evangelism.

On this particular Sunday, there were only two women – an elderly woman, and another woman, who was there with her husband and children.  The younger woman asked us more than once if we could come live there, and when it was evident that we could not, she asked if we could come stay for two weeks and teach there.   She was very friendly, and was patient with my Swahili. [:)] Our plan is to make this one of the congregations that we visit monthly, and we hope to hold some special classes for them, to better equip their own members to share the gospel with others.

After worship, we said our goodbyes, and after getting down the road a little ways, we stopped for a few moments to have a bite of lunch that we brought with us.  We finally got home at 3:30, and after washing the road dust off, we got busy preparing for the other missionaries to come at 5:00 p.m. for our Sunday evening Bible class.  All of the missionary ladies pitch in so that we can share a light supper after our Bible study, and this time we had breakfast for supper.  My family is always happy to see biscuits and gravy!  Needless to say, we were all ready to hit the hay at the end of the day, but it was a day well spent.

Concerning other activities, Lindsey has started volunteer work at the medical clinic, which is operated by Dr. Smelser and his wife, Nancy, who are members of the church.  Depending on schedules, she will be able to go once or twice a week.  The clinic is about an hour’s drive from our house, and most of the time she will be able to catch a ride with Stephanie Stafford, who also volunteers her nursing skills. Julia also plans to help, as her schedule allows.

We hope you all have a wonderful week.  Let’s each one of us use our time in such a way that we bring honor to Christ.

In Him,
George and Joy

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Transition

The last month or so has been quite hectic for our family.  We realize that there haven’t been many blog posts lately.  We have been so busy just trying to keep our heads above water.   Most of the month of March George spent going back and forth to Arusha, in between all of his other work, trying to get the house we are renting livable.  Without actually living there, it was very difficult to do that, so we decided to go ahead and get moved.

March 29th was our last services with the brethren in Moshi.  There happened to be a potluck noon meal and singing planned for that day, which we enjoyed with our brothers and sisters.  We have come to love our brethren here very much, and will miss them.  I think that some of the children in Moshi will particularly miss Julia and Lindsey.  March 30 a truck was loaded with many of our household belongings.  This was the first spent the first night in our house.   The 31st some of the family went back to Moshi to get another load, while Lindsey and I stayed behind to work on unpacking.  We still have a few things left in Moshi that we need to get, but for the most part, we are moved in.  We’ve had a lot of plumbing/water issues that need to be resolved, but there is no place in Africa that doesn’t have one problem or another.  We’ve been relating to our ancestors, and have been heating water on the stove in order to get hot water.  In spite of a few inconveniences, we really like the house and location.

The mission team is beginning to put planning in high gear, in preparation for campaign time.  On April 9th I hosted a brunch for the other missionary wives, and then we had a planning meeting for various upcoming events.

April 11 a small group from Bear Valley arrived.  They will be here for two weeks, and have been doing a variety of things to help the work here – Mike Hite teaching a short course at the school, as well as other teaching and preaching.  Mike’s wife Lynn Hite, along with Kathy Pollard, have taught some classes for ladies.  The missionary families have taken turns feeding them supper, and we enjoyed having them in our home Friday.

Yesterday, the 18th, Stephanie Stafford hosted a luncheon for the Tanzanian preacher’s wives.  We had several lessons geared towards various issues commonly faced by preacher’s wives.  Lessons were given by Trina Gee, Anita Hochdorf, Kathy Pollard, and me.  Everyone seemed to enjoy the day very much.  Afterward, the missionary wives met to have another planning meeting for the Bible classes for children, which will be taught during campaign time.  It was a full day for all of us.

Today we worshiped with the Kisongo congregation.  Their building is located near the school of preaching.  Julia had to stay home today, due to being sick – likely tonsillitis.  George and Jacob have been sick, but are better now, and I guess it’s Julia’s turn.

Tomorrow, the 20th George and I are celebrating our 24th anniversary.  George surprised me with plans for a little get away for the two of us, which we both desperately need.

We are gearing up for several groups of visitors, who are coming to help with the work.  We look forward to seeing and working with various folks who will be coming our way – some who are already dear friends, and others who are friends we have not yet met.

May the Lord bless you as you work for Him.
Love, Joy


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Sharpening Our Focus

On the one hand, it hardly seems possible that we have been living in Tanzania for two years! On the other, Africa has truly become home to us, and we are accustomed to life as it is here. These two years have provided many opportunities for us to learn and serve. We have prayerfully and carefully tried to make honest assessment of our fruitfulness.

Training and equipping men to preach the gospel is the Evangelist’s “great commission.” The “things which thou has heard from me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). Two points deserve mention about training native men to preach. First, these men will be able to go forth and freely teach their fellows in their native tongue. They also are able to understand the cultural norms which we often have difficulty learning and understanding. Second, each group we train will have a multiplied potential to reach more than I could ever reach by myself alone. We must have wise long-term vision for the growth of the kingdom, and not be shortsighted.

Having lived in Moshi, the distance has restricted me from teaching fewer classes at the Andrew Connally School of Preaching. I have a passion for teaching, and am convinced, as stated above, of the great good that can be done with the School. Therefore, I want to sharpen my focus, and give more attention to teaching at the School. Therefore, we will be moving to the Arusha area. This move will eliminate the 90 kilometer commute one way, which I have had between Moshi and Kisongo. Our supporters are aware of the vehicle accident we had, and will therefore understand our desire to diminish the required driving where possible.

Another great need is in the area of literature. There is such a lack of printed materials in the Swahili language, which is written at the appropriate level and with the necessary content. This also requires a forward-looking vision of what can be accomplished. Small bush congregations are just thirsty for lessons which they can use to teach during Bible study sessions and lesson materials for sermons. Many of you are aware of the evangelism booklet we have produced which is a teaching tool for non-Christians. It has been well received by brethren here and back in the states. We would like to prepare a follow up booklet which can help babes in Christ grow toward maturity. Joy also has an interest in writing which will fill a need for Christian sisters. Ladies have proved to be zealous workers here in Tanzania, and equipping them with good material will just accelerate their fruitfulness. Therefore, we want to sharpen our focus in the area of writing and producing key teaching tools.

Our move to the Arusha area will bring us closer to ACSOP, it will bring us closer to more able translators, and it will bring us closer to some printing facilities. Please pray for the whole Jensen team as we transition to a new home. GJ


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