When I look back over these last 6 years, and ask myself what have the Jenkins been doing? I see several themes. One big one is relearning and trying to find our groove back in our passport country. A lot has changed in the U.S during the two decades we were gone. Did we idealize America, when we served overseas and have returned a bit dissolution? We tried very hard when we first returned not to make too many harsh judgments but to try and look at America through the same missionary lends that we did other postings.
We thought we would return and fit back into middle-class living but unfortunately, we have had to learn how to live in poverty. The last 5 years we have teetered on the poverty line. I almost hesitate to write this as we have had so many given so sacrificially over the last 6 years of which we are so thankful. But we have also had several years where we could not keep up with our monthly bills, where I would hear a truck go by in the night and think it was the repo guy coming to take our van away. Thankfully today all our cars are paid off ( 2 of them were given to us). They are older vehicles so we occasionally have maintenance cost but we are thankful. Our kids have received free lunches or reduced lunches at school, we have stood in line for free food. We have continued to host people and serve meals to those that God brings our way. When you are at this level for an extended period of time, it can really wear on you. We are constantly in survival mode trying to figure out how to make everything work. There have been some helpful people that God has placed in our lives that have helped us to navigate the system to get some much-needed resources. It is hard, to be honest about this. We were on food stamps for a season and have had help with Health insurance. When we have sat in American churches we have felt marginalized at best. Judged at worst. Many times we feel like a project. One thing that I can share is that it has helped us empathize with others that walk this similar journey.
Another is trying to use our gifts, experiences, and relationships and answer God’s calling in our lives. We love our friends and family from East Africa. Many are in and around Chicagoland. We have been able to go to parties, and host parties and fellowships with those from East Africa. We have laughed together, prayed together, and cried together. We have had weddings, celebrate births, and mourn the loss and buried some. Over the last few years, we have tried to plant an international church. Challenging our East African friends to be missionaries here in America with the idea to reach other multinationals. As we have spent time and energy doing this, we have spent less time with the larger East African community pastoring them. Ironically, as we have done the day by day of trying to lay a foundation for our church plant and doing the weekly set up and service we actually feel we have discipled less. We know from past church plants that in the beginning you need to delay gratification and there is a lot of drudgery and grind. This phase has lasted longer this time around. We know we need more core people and resources to get to the next stage. Are we stretching our community too far? Are we asking too much from our partners? Is the American church not ready to receive missionaries?
We have tried many things in this season. Currently, we are doing 4 things. First, we are still trying to serve our East African community. This last month, we hosted a couple of concerts for a Ugandan Mother and Daughter Christian artists. Dave helped to raise money to send the body home of a Rwandan friend that died too young. Dave also spoke at several East African social and spiritual events.
Secondly, we are houseparents for a transitional home for single moms, this is a volunteer position that provides housing for us. We have enjoyed mentoring these young Mom’s and serving with a great team here at Jubilee Village but it does take time and emotional energy. Here is a story of one of the girls on our floor . https://www.outreachcommunityministries.org/jalenas-story/
Third, we are planting Nations Chapel. We have a great place to meet at Outreach Community Center in Carol Stream. We are so thankful for this location. We are meeting Sunday afternoons and usually share a meal together after worship. We are still just a small core that is consistent. Ignite’s monthly financial commitment was up in December 2017( they have been helping with $1000 per month) but they are still receiving funds for us from other individuals that support us as missionaries in America.
Finally, since January, Dave has been interim pastor at Lighthouse Fellowship Church in Huntley, IL. https://lfchuntley.org/ This is a congregation made up mostly of retired people. We have enjoyed getting to know them. They are a wise group of people. In addition to being with them on Sunday, we usually spend one day a week visiting the members and Dave attending the deacons meeting. We are finding ourselves falling in love with this community.
Dave has also been spending extra time with our son, Timothy in this season as he has had some health challenges with his Cerebral Palsy. In addition, I have had some health difficulties that started out with having melanoma skin cancer in my left arm and has sent me on several Doctor visits and many tests. Thankfully most things have come out fine but they did find a mass on my tailbone, at this point, it is benign but needs to be removed. I am having an MRI next week with a follow up with the surgeon on how to proceed. We would appreciate all of your prayers for this and also Timothy’s health.
As you can see it is a very busy season and we are struggling to do our best in all four of the ministries we are involved in plus family life. We would also like you to join us in prayer as we seek God to give us wisdom as to how to hone down some of what we are doing. We feel we need to focus on two instead of four things so that we can better serve. We are trying to hold things loosely and asking God to make clear what He wants us to do. Thanks again for your support and your prayers!
Jana and Dave
P.S. We are excited to announce that we are grandparents and we will meet our grandbaby face to face in July when he/she decides to make an appearance. We have enjoyed having Matt and Sophia here for Easter. It was a real blessing to have our whole family together.
( Ruth, Sophia, and our daughter-in-law Sarah)