Joy Jensen on Serving the Lord with Your Husband {and Overseas}

Joy Jensen is a wonderful example of a preacher’s wife and just an all-round beautiful person. I spent time with Joy and her husband, George, when we were in the States in August and I was immediately impressed by what genuinely Christian people they were. The enriching and uplifting conversation was endless. Such people with such fervor and zeal are few and far between, and it did my soul good to be with them. I knew I had to get Joy to write for me – so I could pick her brain and so that others could benefit as well – which she graciously did, despite her very busy schedule!

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Joy Jensen on Working with Your Husband {and Overseas}

Chantelle: Tell me a bit about your background.

Joy: From my birth, the church was the center of my world. My father was, and still is, a preacher, teacher, and prolific writer. My mom, who has been a faithful helpmeet to my dad, is a Bible student and teacher. She loves to engage the minds of children, and has taught countless children’s Bible classes through the years. Both of my parents are avid readers, and they passed that love of books and learning to me.

I always supposed that I would marry a preacher. Being in preacher’s family was the only life I knew, and I liked it. When I was growing up, occasionally a missionary would visit our congregation and give a presentation about mission work in a foreign land. I tried to imagine what it would be like to live in those far away places! Little did I know that little Georgie, who lived about an hour away, was also being inspired by visiting missionaries and their stories about sharing the gospel in far away places!

When I met George, he had just begun working as an electrician. In addition to his employment, he was taken some night Bible classes offered at his congregation, for those interested in deeper Bible study. I knew he and his family were active Christians in their local congregation, he had a love for truth, and we hit it off right away.

During our wedding ceremony, I wanted this passage read “…whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge…” (Ruth 1:16). I was willing to follow him wherever he decided to go. In all of our pre-marriage discussions, I do not recall any specific discussion of his becoming a full-time minister or doing mission work. But the Lord had something in mind!

Several months after our wedding, George came to a point where he wanted to give himself more wholly to preaching, and decided to attend the East Tennessee School of Preaching and Missions. During those two years, we sat at the feet of seasoned missionaries such as Bill Nicks, Rod Rutherford, and Ed Jones. Their wives also taught classes for the student wives. Those seeds of mission work, planted early in our hearts and minds so many years ago, were being watered.

Chantelle: Tell me a bit about what you have done as a preacher and missionary family

Joy: Our work for the next 19 years revolved focused on domestic missions. After graduation, we moved to South San Francisco, and later to Pacifica, CA; a total of 13 years in the Bay Area. By this time we had four children. In 2001 we moved to Iowa, where we worked for six years. Through the years, thoughts of foreign mission work continued to interest us. Various opportunities arose for George to make short-term trips to foreign mission points. Desiring to broaden our children’s exposure to the church outside the U.S., he would take turns taking one of them with him.

In 2005, our family of six made a moth-long trip to India. George and I, along with our children, began having some discussions about “what if…”. In 2006, our family took a month-long trip to Malawi, where we worked with Ed and Lina Crookshank, an older missionary couple with years of experience in Zambia and Malawi. This was not a typical short-term mission campaign, but an opportunity to live and work with them for a month. This allowed us to have a more realistic view of what life would be like should we decide to live and work in Africa. That being said, being there a month still does not really allow one to see the whole picture – the day in, day out work that is required to live in a third-world environment.

After returning home from Malawi, we had numerous family discussions, and we made the decision to move to Africa. After more investigation, we chose to move to Tanzania, East Africa, where we worked from 2007 – 2012. We made the decision to return to the U.S. due to the ages and needs of our children. Although we had plenty of challenges along the way, we fell in love with Tanzania and its people, and part of our hearts is still there.

George currently preaches for the church in Hawesville, KY. The congregation is a relatively new work, having begun in the year 2000. It is the only congregation in the county. This has been a wonderful place to live and readjust to life in the U.S. We have had so many opportunities for evangelism and the church members have taken us in as family. We are richly blessed.

Chantelle: What are some challenges you face as a preacher’s/missionary’s wife?

Joy: One of the challenges I’ve had more recently is that of not being near any family. It wasn’t so bad when our four children were at home. Even when we were in Africa, there were definitely lonely times, but we had each other and were a houseful. However, since all of our kids have moved away, with the closest being 8 hours away, the “aloneness” has been quite an adjustment. Don’t misunderstand, George and I love each other deeply and we enjoy spending time together, but we both miss having other family to socialize with.

Another particular challenge for me as a preacher’s wife is when people treat my husband unkindly. No matter how kind or gentle one is, if the truth is taught, there will inevitably be someone, somewhere, who will not appreciate the message, and rather than seeing the need for change, the easiest course is to attack the messenger. This is most hurtful, not when done by the world, because we expect that, but when fellow Christians behave this way.

There are other challenges that are common to a preacher’s wife, and if you would like to read more, take a look at my blog http://journey-with-joy.com . I have a section there called “Friday’s Reflections for the Preacher’s Wife”. I have not written on my blog for quite some time, but the series is still there, for those who wish to read it.

Chantelle: What is the biggest blessing that has come from mission work?

Joy: I would have a very hard time narrowing that down to one! I think one of the biggest blessings reaped from our mission work is developing better appreciation for the universal nature of the church. We have dear friends all around the globe. We belong to a kingdom that not of this world, and we can be united because we are related through the blood of Christ.

Related to this, is the opportunity our family has had to experience different cultures; the one experienced most completely being the Tanzanian culture. Living in a third-world culture for five years has definitely impacted our family. We have come away from these experiences feeling enriched and changed, hopefully for the better.

Chantelle: What do you do to help yourself when facing discouragement? How do you stay positive?

I would not be truthful if I said I have not faced times of deep discouragement. Who hasn’t?
One thing that really helps me to shift my thoughts from “woe is me”, is to find a way to serve someone else. Whether it be cooking a meal, visiting someone in the hospital, sewing for someone else, taking a sister who needs encouragement out to lunch…just doing something for someone else helps me put things in perspective.

Additionally, to help me get through times of discouragement, I listen to Bible lessons online. The last couple of years, when a person attends Polishing the Pulpit, they receive a usb flashdrive at the end of the week, with all of the lessons included. This has been a great resource for me and there is always a lesson to choose from that will help lift my spirits. I also have a big file on my computer of spiritual songs, mostly downloaded from Kleinwood.com. Listening to lessons and spiritual songs throughout my day, while I’m going about my chores, helps me get through tough days.

Chantelle: What are three pieces of advice/encouragement that you would give to those who are thinking about becoming preacher/missionaries wives?

Joy:

  1. Some become preacher’s/missionary’s wives quite unexpectedly. It may have been the furthest thing from your mind when you got married! If such is the case, I think it is particularly important that you find an older, spiritually mature preacher’s/ missionary’s wife as your mentor. It is really hard to travel this road when there is no one in your life who understands just what you are going through.
  2. Be your husband’s Barnabas. He needs your encouragement, not discouragement. There are times when I get caught up in my own thoughts and projects that I forget to speak words of encouragement to my husband. Sometimes I fail to realize just how important it is for him to hear it from me. Don’t speak negatively about him to others, and don’t allow others to speak negatively about him to you.
  3. Do not put unfair expectations on your children, or on yourself, for that matter. The demands we place upon ourselves and upon our children should be born out of our love for God and a desire to please Him, not because of manmade expectations placed upon the preacher’s wife or “because you are a preacher’s kid.”

Chantelle: What is your favourite Scripture, and why?

Joy: I don’t think I can single out one particular verse as my favorite. However, here are two passages that are meaningful to me:

Isaiah 53 – a stirring description of what Christ endured, for me. More often than not, this is my “go to” passage to read during the Lord’s Supper.

Romans 8:31-39 – This passage states so many things – God has already given us the best He had to offer, so how can He not give us all things? No matter what we may endure in this life, there is no one or no thing that can separate us from the love of Christ, against our will.

Read more about of Joy’s wisdom and experiences @ http://journey-with-joy.com

Connect with me and keep up to date with my most recent recipes and ramblings.

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