Jan Sassmannshausen

(from Issue #544)

introducing our missionaries...

Jan Sassmannshausen serves with our Tribal Trails TV ministry in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. Here he tells a bit about himself and how the Lord led him into ministry with NCEM:

First, can you tell us a little about your growing up years?

I grew up in a small city in Germany. Ours wasn’t a Christian home, but my sister and I grew up with loving and caring parents. They taught us Christian values, and I’ll always appreciate that.

So when and how did you become a Christ follower?

Even as a child, I had always been interested in North America’s First Nations people. My dad told me stories and gave me books to read, so I had read the history of what happened to the Indigenous peoples in Canada and the USA during the 19th century. After high school I found myself feeling that there was no purpose or meaning in life, and I began studying the culture and religion of First Nations, wondering if I would find it there.

While serving my time in the German civil service, there was a coworker who became my friend. He told me that he had been a disillusioned anarchist “punk,” but had recently become a Christian. It struck me that his life had been so radically changed. He told me about the Bible, how Christ had saved him and given him purpose. He invited me to his baptism, and that’s where God clearly spoke to me, calling me to Himself.

What came next in your life?

I enrolled in nurses training, but partway through I switched to youth work. After graduating, I worked in a facility for troubled youth for a couple years, before deciding to attend Bible college.

Tell us about your first exposure to missions, and when you first heard about NCEM.

I never lost my interest in First Nations people during these years of training and employment. With my new faith in Christ, my interest now also included bringing the Gospel to them, but I had no idea how I could be part of that – I didn’t know of any German missions working among First Nations in North America.

One day a former student from my Bible college gave me a brochure printed by NCEM. She didn’t really know much about NCEM, but had received it from an elderly Canadian couple who had been coming to Germany each year for a month to teach at the college. Each time they came the wife, especially, would make sure she told the students about NCEM’s ministry in Canada.

So that one brochure was a big factor in you coming to Canada?

Yes, I’m still amazed that that one little flyer made such a difference in my life. I’ve had some NCEM literature translated into German. Now when I have occasion to visit Bible colleges in Germany, I make sure I leave some brochures behind, and pray that God will use it.

After my second year at Bible school I came to NCEM’s summer program (called “NMTC”) and spent a summer at Nahanni Butte, NWT.

Back in Germany, after completing Bible college, I started working in a ministry to men with addictions, thinking it might in some way help prepare me for future ministry in Canada. For various reasons my time there stretched out to almost 10 years. During those years I visited Canada just about every summer, sometimes working in Bible camps, or visiting the people I’d met previously. A couple times I brought a fellow along with me from the addictions ministry.

In 2008 I was assigned to work with Tribal Trails TV in Prince Albert. I think my counseling experience in Germany helped prepare me for my present role of coordinating follow-up for Tribal Trails TV viewers who write or call in.

How aware are Christians in Germany about First Nations missions in North America?

They have an interest in Aboriginal people, but most don’t know much about missions among them because there are no German based outreaches to North American First Nations. German evangelicals are serving around the world, of course, and interdenominational missions like OM and Ethnos (formerly New Tribes) are better known.

Do all of your financial supporters live in Germany?

About 90% of my personal financial support comes from Germany. An organization called VDM (Vereinigte Deutsche Missionshilfe), with over 300 German missionaries, channels my support, but has no foreign fields of their own.

Looks like there’s room on the page to hear a bit about your hobbies. What do you do to relax?

I like rock climbing, but there’s not much opportunity for that here in Saskatchewan. I enjoy hiking, reading books and, when I really need to give my brain a rest, there’s a German language TV crime show I like to watch online.

Your biggest challenge as a missionary?

Because I’m single, and because my parents are getting quite elderly, I’m finding it harder to be so far away from my family in Germany. I feel at home here in Canada, but each time I’m back in Germany for a visit, I find it a bit harder to leave.

… Oh, one more challenge. Here in Canada I can’t find any real German bread! There’s a special type of bread that my home area in Germany is known for, and nothing else here really comes close to it.

(from Issue #544)