Author Archives: Joshua Jensen

Short prayer update (Aug. 30)

A few prayer requests and praises:

Amy is thankful for a good tutor who comes to our home four days a week. Pray for Amy as she continues to learn the complicated alphabet and sound system of Khmer. (Amy told me yesterday after her lesson that she had noticed marked improvement in her reading over previous days. This was very encouraging.)

I am meeting with a couple tutors until the end of September, at which point I’ll be enrolling in a Khmer language school. Pray that I can make good use of my study time and be prepared for Level 3 classes when the school starts in a month. (A praise connected with this: I had three days lined up for tutors coming in, and this past Thursday, one of them told me he can also come on Friday, so I now have 4 days covered.)

Continue to pray that we can find ways to meet and interact with our Cambodian neighbors.

A discipleship opportunity with an English speaker has presented itself. Pray that I can help this friend learn the basics of the Faith and grow in his relationship with Jesus.

We praise God for providing a part-time helper who comes in the mornings to clean and prepare a meal. The kids call her “yayyi” (grandmother), and in addition to helping around the house, she’s providing additional language opportunities for everyone. [For you Khmer speakers, you transcribe that as yiey.]

beccaandyaay

Phnom Penh, Cambodia: Settling into our new home (August 2014)

[To view this update with complete with photos, follow this link.]

Just over a month ago, late in the evening on July 4, we arrived at the Phnom Penh airport and were greeted by our EMU colleagues, Matt and Becky Hancock and Jeremy Farmer. It took 2 taxis and half of Matt’s CR-V to get our luggage to the guesthouse, where we all fell sound asleep till the next morning. (We were exhausted enough that jetlag didn’t keep us up.)

For the next six days, Jeremy and Bonnie Ruth Farmer, 2-year veterans of Phnom Penh, made calls and shuttled us around town for a remarkably productive week. On Saturday, July 5, we bought SIM cards for our phones and we looked at three houses, quickly settling on the second, a more-than-adequate house in a small neighborhood on the northwest side of town. On Sunday I began looking for a car, filled out paperwork for our driver’s licenses, and visited a church. (The service was at 4 pm, and the kids had already given out for the day, so Amy stayed back at the guesthouse with them.) On subsequent days we went to two shops to order our furniture, we bought fans, we made copies of documents, we bought a rice cooker and a slow cooker and a coffee maker. And we kept looking for a car.

The last day before the Farmers left for home, we knew that buying a car was top priority. Jeremy and I prayed (again) for God’s leading, and we (again) began walking the streets near Freedom Park, where used car salesmen display their wares. Instead of leading us to the right car, God led a salesman to us, and he showed us a vehicle, a mid-90’s Toyota 4Runner, a model I’d assumed would cost too much. It turned out to be well within our price range, and it’s the same car two of our EMU colleagues have in the province: with 6 cylinders and 4-wheel drive, it’s great for the bad roads in rainy season. So I bought it.

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All during this time, the landlord was having work done on our home: cleaning, painting, fixing things. On July 16, our second Wednesday in the country—by this time the Farmers were back in Ratanakiri and our co-worker Brian Kane had come down to Phnom Penh to help us out—we began our own cleaning on the house, and the next day we moved in. For the last two and a half weeks we’ve unpacked boxes, done more cleaning, killed lots of ants and cockroaches, arranged furniture as it’s been delivered, and generally settled in. We’re still awaiting the master bed, though. When it arrives, it will be our third master bed (in succession, not simultaneously). The first was 15 cm too short for our 2 m mattress. Then the second, sent to replace the first, was 5 cm too short. So on Saturday we anticipate receiving the final version, a bed that’s 2 m long inside the frame and not just 2 m long on the outside.

We also look forward to getting drapes up: we have the fabric and are now waiting on the rods and brackets. Once those are up—which will involve drilling lots of holes in our concrete walls—we can have the drapes made and hung. (We’re thankful for a wonderful American family a few houses down from us who have helped us in many ways. The wife, Angie, took Amy to one of the markets to buy the fabric, and she directed me to the right stall in a different market where I could get the hardware.)

The same day we moved into our home, I bought a used Honda Dream motorcycle (125cc), one of the most popular motos in the country. Last week our 4Runner was with the mechanic, so I was quickly forced to learn how to ride a motorized bike in city traffic. The traffic is pretty wild, but it helps that most cars rarely get over 25 mph, and there are enough motos to provide a sort of buffer around me.

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I started language school last week, a trial class that meets 6 hours a week for a month. The class is being offered for free to ten participants, as it is part of the school’s teacher-training. This is a brand-new language school, perhaps the first in the country that implements a learner-centered approach, one that takes advantage of decades of research into effective language teaching. So far I’ve been very pleased, and I plan to enroll full-time once the school starts up at the end of September. I hope to hire a tutor for the month between the end of this class and the school’s startup. Because of childcare, Amy won’t be able to enroll at the school, but she begins working with a language tutor in our home this Thursday morning. Over the next couple weeks we’ll be working to figure out the best schedule for Amy’s study.

One thing that will help Amy’s schedule will be finding a part-time helper, someone who could fix one of our meals some days, help with market shopping, and keep the house swept (a daily job—in fact, our local market is called Dusty Market). Right now I’m going to the market every few days, but that can’t continue once I’m in school every day.

We’ve been thrilled by how well our kids have adjusted. Recently Becca was praying before a meal, and she thanked God “that we are in Cambodia, and that we like it.” The heat hasn’t been too bad these last few weeks, though Amy and I are more than glad to turn on the A/C in our room before bed, and a cold shower feels pretty nice. The kids sleep with fans on them, no A/C, but last week Becca complained that the fan was too cold pointed directly at her. So now her fan oscillates. Weird.

Because of Amy’s unflagging effort, our house has become a home very quickly. She’e the one who has organized, unpacked, and arranged our things, all the while tending to the rest of the family’s sanity. I can’t imagine doing any of this without her.

If you’re interested in seeing more photos, check out our blog, jensendimension.org, where Amy posts about our family life every Thursday. You can also see photos and short posts on Amy’s Facebook page (Amy Sutter Jensen); if you request to be Amy’s friend, be sure to include a note that you get our missionary updates.

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We have much to praise God for, and we invite you to join us. We arrived safely. We had all four EMU families helping us at various times during our first two weeks. We found a house and a car quickly and received most of our furniture within two weeks of moving in. None of us has experienced any significant sickness. We feel settled and content.

Please pray with us (1) that we could work out a good schedule for Amy’s tutoring and language study; (2) that I could find a tutor to work with me until late September; (3) that we would seize opportunities to practice and develop our language; (4) that we can begin developing good relationships with our Khmer neighbors; and (5) that we could find a good part-time helper to assist Amy.

May 2014: Preparing to go

In our last two updates, we had big news: in March we purchased our tickets for Cambodia, and in April we welcomed Anna Grace into our family. This update is a less flashy, still-trucking-along sort of letter. Here are a few highlights from the last two months.

After a missions conference in Colorado at the end of April, we drove home and enjoyed time with old and new friends in Kansas, Indiana, and Kentucky. The last three Sundays of March found us in North and South Carolina to present our ministry, then in York, Pennsylvania, for a mission festival at a supporting church.

We returned home about a week before Amy’s C-section was scheduled. The week of the C-section we finished packing boxes and tubs for a 20-foot container being shipped to Cambodia by our colleagues the Hancocks, which was loaded April 9. Then we got ready for the C-section.

We sent 57 boxes and tubs ahead of us to Cambodia! (Obviously one truck-load wasn't enough for everything.) Our EMU colleagues, Matt and Becky Hancock, left for Cambodia last month, and they sent ahead a 20-foot container with their belongings—and ours. The Hancocks' kindness was an immense help to us.

We sent 57 boxes and tubs ahead of us to Cambodia! (Obviously one truck-load wasn’t enough for everything.) Our EMU colleagues, Matt and Becky Hancock, left for Cambodia last month, and they sent ahead a 20-foot container with their belongings—and ours. The Hancocks’ kindness was an immense help to us.

But Amy didn’t have a C-section! In His gracious providence, God worked so that Amy could give birth through labor, even though she’s had two previous C-sections. Amy wrote about this on our family blog: “VBAC – An Unexpected Answer to a Prayer I Refused to Pray.”

In the last month: I prepared for my ordination exam, which I passed on May 1; we’ve revisited two of our church partners in South Carolina; we’ve had time to be at our home church, Hampton Park Baptist; and we’ve continued preparations for the big move.

Over the next two weeks, we’ll be traveling through North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey to reconnect with four more of our church partners, as well as spend time with Amy’s side of the family. Then we’ll be in the home stretch!

Anna Grace was born April 11, 2014, at 3:39 pm. She was 7 lb. 5 oz., and 21.25 in. long. We chose the name Anna for the prophetess in the Temple who faithfully worshiped God and joyfully blessed our Lord at His presentation. (The pronunciation is AH-nah.) Grace is also Becca's middle name, a reminder that each of our children is a gift from God for our good.

Anna Grace was born April 11, 2014, at 3:39 pm. She was 7 lb. 5 oz., and 21.25 in. long. We chose the name Anna for the prophetess in the Temple who faithfully worshiped God and joyfully blessed our Lord at His presentation. (The pronunciation is AH-nah.) Grace is also Becca’s middle name, a reminder that each of our children is a gift from God for our good.

As always, we thank you for your prayers for us and invite you to join us in praising the Lord for the safe birth of a healthy daughter, a successful ordination examination, and the completion of deputation. We have reached not only the minimum monthly support goal set by EMU, but also their slightly higher recommended amount.

Please pray that God would (1) continue preparing us for our transition to Cambodia; (2) give us safety over the next two weeks of travel; (3) help us to encourage our ministry partners as we visit them; and (4) help us to cast our anxieties on God as we contemplate the many changes and challenges awaiting us.

Easter meditation: Jesus’ justification and ours

Below is the manuscript of a meditation delivered at Cleveland Park Bible Church on Easter morning, 2014. I’ve lightly edited the text for easier reading.

How many of you celebrate Independence Day on August 25? Anyone? It’s an important historical event. On that day in 1825, Uruguay gained its independence from the Empire of Brazil. But we don’t celebrate August 25, because we aren’t Uruguayans. No one here gets much benefit from Uruguay’s independence. But I know for a fact that most of you celebrate July 4. Why? Because what the Second Continental Congress did in early July of 1776 has a direct impact on all of us: it gave us freedom – giving due credit, of course, to the Continental Army, the drafters of the constitution, and many, many others.

My point is that we don’t just celebrate July 4 because it’s an important day in history. We celebrate it because we have a stake in what happened that day.

That’s how it is for the Resurrection of Jesus. Of course, it’s a remarkable historical event. On Friday, a man dies a gruesome death. He’s buried in a tomb. He’s definitely dead. Then on Sunday morning, with no medical intervention, no help from anyone, he rises from the grave. And he never dies again, but instead, he ascends to heaven. That’s a great story, an astonishing event. But the reason we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus is not merely because it’s remarkable. It’s because we have a stake in it. What happened then still matters to us.

In the next few moments, we’ll reflect on two verses about the Resurrection: one of them is about what the Resurrection meant for Jesus, and one of them is about what the Resurrection means for us. And I’ll try to show you how those two things are related.

The first verse is :

Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness [what comes next is a short hymn]:
He was manifested in the flesh,
vindicated by the Spirit,
seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory.

The first line of the hymn talks about the incarnation of our Lord: he was manifested in the flesh. The eternal life and glory of the Trinity broke into human history. God the Son became a man, and he was manifested: his contemporaries saw him and heard him and touched him.

The second line says: He was vindicated by the Spirit. Some translations say in the Spirit. Either way, this is a pretty clear reference to the Resurrection. And here we learn one meaning of the Resurrection. Here we discover one reason the Resurrection is so important. In the Resurrection, Jesus was vindicated – it’s the same Greek word that’s usually translated justified – he was justified by the Spirit.

Why did Jesus need to be justified? We’re used to thinking about the kind of justification we get: we’re guilty, and God clears away our guilt and declares us righteous. We’ll come back to that. But in a normal court, that’s not what’s supposed to happen. In a court of law, someone is accused of a crime, and the judge looks at the evidence. If the evidence is against the accused, he condemns the accused, declares him guilty. But if the evidence is in favor of the accused, the judge vindicates the person, justifies him, declares him not guilty.

That’s what God did when he raised Jesus from the dead. During his life and ministry, Jesus said he was God’s Messiah and the Son of God. Jesus claimed — outrageously, many thought — claimed that he always did the Father’s will. And then Jesus was arrested by the police, tried by a religious court and tried before a secular court. And he was condemned. And they executed him. And then, three days later, God raised Him from the dead. God said, by raising Jesus from the dead, “I vindicate you. I accept your work. Your faithful obedience in life, I accept it. Your faithful obedience in death, as a sacrifice for sin, I accept it.”

So the Spirit of God vindicated, justified the Son in the Resurrection.

What does this mean for us? What it means, is that we can be vindicated, too. The other verse I want to look at is – we’ll read . Paul says that “[Faith] will be counted [as righteousness] to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” So here again we see a connection between the Resurrection and justification. But this time, it’s not the justification of Jesus, but instead our justification.

Now, it’s not the Resurrection alone that justifies us. says that we are justified by Christ’s blood – by his atoning, sacrificial death. So our justification, the verdict of righteousness God grants us, is grounded in both the death and the Resurrection of Jesus. But our focus this morning is on how the Resurrection plays a part in our justification.

The reason this works, I think – the reason that the Resurrection of Jesus justifies us – is that Jesus was raised for his own justification. Think back to . The sinless son of God, a sacrifice for sin, was raised from the dead, and in that Resurrection, God vindicated him, declared him righteous: righteous in life as a faithful Son, righteous in death as a perfect substitute – which he was. You and I, through faith, are united to Jesus in his death. And united to him, all our trespasses are punished in him. And united to him, we share in his Resurrection, which means we share in his vindication, his justification. When God affirms the righteousness of his son, we share in that affirmation – not because we have produced our own righteous works, but because united to Jesus through faith, we receive all of Christ, including his perfect righteousness. And united with Christ, we receive everything that he receives: death for sin, Resurrection for justification, and one day, unending life and glory.

And so we celebrate the Resurrection today not just because it’s a momentous event, like somebody else’s Independence Day. We celebrate because the Resurrection of Jesus is our Resurrection. Because in the Resurrection, the righteousness of Jesus becomes our righteousness. Because Christ’s new life of perfect fellowship with the Father is now our privilege, our new life.

16 Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:

He was manifested in the flesh,
vindicated by the Spirit,
seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory. (ESV)

25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. (ESV)

24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. (ESV)

Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. (ESV)

16 Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:

He was manifested in the flesh,
vindicated by the Spirit,
seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory. (ESV)

Anna’s name in Cambodia

A missionary friend in Cambodia writes to congratulate us, and adds:

P. S. You’ll be glad to know that “Anna” is Khmer. It means “which one?” I can see it now. It will be kind of like “who’s on first.”

So what is your daughter’s name?
Anna.
That one right there.
Anna.
I said that one right there!

Missionaries: painting pictures of God

Dournes comments on a potentially terrifying aspect of missionary work:

We do not fully realize the dreadfully heavy responsibility of the missionary who is the very first to come and give a picture of God to people who know nothing of him. The picture once painted, the paint is too bright and fresh for any correction to be made. If my behaviour gives the lie to it, or if a Christian passing through causes scandal, the work is totally ruined. This is probably the worst suffering a missionary can undergo.

Of course, this aspect of missionary work is an aspect of all intentional Gospel witness — not just in overseas missions, let alone (as Dournes here relates) in pioneer missions. Apart from grace, the task would be too heavy, the risks too great for fallen people like us. But God can and does revise the pictures we paint of him: it isn’t just us at work, but the Spirit.

New missionaries: savages among the civilized

Dournes describes his first day among the Jarai:

Though only for a night, a house was open to me. I climbed the steps; my luggage was brought in. And there I was like a savage among the civilized; I spoke not one word of the Jarai dialect, I knew no one, and no one spoke my language. (14)

Though I know a little (precious little) Khmer, and bit more Jarai, what Dournes describes will be our experience soon enough, first in Phnom Penh, then in Ratanakiri. To change the metaphor, we’ll be toddlers among grownups, pointing and mispronouncing our few words. But learning.

God Loves the Pagans

Last year I read God Loves the Pagans: A Christian Mission on the Plateaux of Vietnam, which recounts the first 5 or 6 years that Catholic missionary Jacques Dournes spent among the Jarai of Vietnam (among other tribes). As I have the chance I’ll be sharing bits of it here on the blog — primarily to aid my own reflection on the material. Right now I mean simply to introduce the book.

Dournes was first familiar to me through his anthropological and linguistic work on Jarai. His unpublished Jarai-French lexicon, full of notes and illustrations in his own hand, is an unparalleled resource on Jarai words. In the course of my dissertation research, I made use of both the lexicon and another book of his on Jarai speech and story-telling. I’d known that he was also a missionary, but it wasn’t until reading God Loves the Pagans that I learned anything about his primary purpose for being with the Jarai.

A word of caution before I proceed. I hardly need to mention that I’m not Roman Catholic, and I don’t mean this blog post (or any others) to endorse distinctively Roman Catholic teachings. Nevertheless, to the degree that Baptist and Catholic missionaries engage in similar tasks — learning a language, studying a culture, communicating the Gospel of salvation (granting that we understand both the Gospel and conversion very differently) — but to the degree that there are these similarities, Dournes has a lot to teach me.

What did I learn? I learned about particular Jarai words with definitions quite similar to corresponding Hebrew words. I learned about the ways in which Jarai culture and traditional animistic religion are interwoven. I learned about Dournes’ method of investigating traditional religion to find ways that God has been preparing the Jarai for the truth (like Paul in Athens).

So now to it.