Tony & Janet Ens

(from Issue #535)

introducing our missionaries...

If Tony and Janet Ens seem drawn to youth ministry, there could be a few good reasons for it. Perhaps one is that it was as a teenager that Tony experienced the life-changing power of Christ.

Tony & Janet EnsTony grew up going to church in southern Manitoba — walking there most Sundays, as his parents were often out of town for business on weekends.

But, as a teen, Tony recalls his desire to be accepted by his peers leading to activities “not consistent with my so-called faith.” Not long after an altercation with the law (and a stern lecture from his father), Tony attended a youth rally. The speaker gave a powerful message about the need to deal with the sin. “I responded to the message,” says Tony.

The summer after graduating from high school, Tony worked as a Bible camp counsellor in southern Manitoba. He met some Bible college students there who inspired his desire for Bible training. It was also at that camp that Tony met Janet Klassen.

Janet was raised near Morden (MB) on a family-operated strawberry/market garden farm. Hers was a Christian home but, despite biblical teaching, Janet began narrowly thinking of herself as a “good person.” At age 12, though, at an evangelistic meeting, she realized that she could never be “good enough” for heaven. Later that evening she asked for forgiveness for her sins.

Janet’s grandmother had a strong interest in world missions and a special love for Native people — often inviting those who were travelling through in for coffee or a meal. But it was at Nipawin Bible Institute that Janet was personally challenged to become a missionary.

Tony had chosen NBI as well and, during the summers between school years, both he and Janet were exposed to Native missions through camp work. In 1988, while engaged to be married, they attended the NMTC program — Tony assigned to Oxford House, Manitoba; Janet to Pelly Crossing, Yukon.

Both found their village experiences to be challenging and stretching. And even though she sensed God calling her to full-time Native ministry, Janet was not sure she could handle missionary life long-term. “The inner struggle that summer was intense,” recalls Janet. Finally she was able to say, “Yes, God, You have the best plan for my life … I am willing.” She recalls being flooded with peace.

After three years in Ontario, the Ens’ joined NCEM, moving to Pelly Crossing, and later to Whitehorse with their four children. Outreach to adults in Pelly had been disappointingly slow, but they made great inroads into the lives of children and teens. “Some of our best contacts and mentoring opportunities came through those who were youth in Pelly but were now young adults,” says Tony.

Getting to know Tony & Janet Ens better …

… a few questions & answers to help you get to know our missionaries better:

Please tell us about the most interesting job you’ve ever had.

Tony: I’m trying to think if I’ve ever had a job more interesting than what I’m doing right now. Among the other things I do, ministering at the Whitehorse Correction Centre and the part-time work I do for the Salvation Army is a rather unique combination that works really well together. It gives me a chance to meet people with the love, truth and hope of Jesus Christ when they are at particularly low times in their lives.

Your favorite sport/game to play?

Tony: Football and baseball would be neck and neck for my favorite … both games of short quick bursts of speed that involve throwing and catching. Baseball is the game I actually play in an organized fashion; football usually happens at camp.

Janet: My favorite game is Scrabble.

What’s your favorite way to relax?

Tony: Read up on vehicles and sports. Have coffee with someone.

Janet: Curl up with a fleece blanket, a cup of my chai tea hot chocolate mixture (with cream and cinnamon), and a biography/autobiography.

What is one of the best gifts you’ve received?

Tony: My Key Word Study Bible. It’s a Bible, concordance and Hebrew-Greek word study book all in one – a great Bible study and sermon preparation tool.

Janet: A painting a friend did specifically for us during a tough situation we were in the midst of.

One of the hardest things you’ve done?

Tony & Janet: Our last year at Key-Way-Tin Bible Institute was very good, but very hard. We started seeing some of the benefits of implementing our new Bible teaching program, using more of a Worldview approach. But due to staffing issues we, along with NCEM leadership, made the decision to close KBI. Telling the students, and then personally calling the local pastors, was very difficult. Janet and I came very close to burn out.

Also, seeing our son, Brett, go through so many health challenges over the past six years. One of the scariest was when he wasn’t able to breath, sometimes for up to 45 seconds. The ER doctor sent us home with no diagnosis. About four months later we decided to have Brett’s blood sent down to a US lab to be analyzed for Lyme disease. When it came back positive, our local doctor refused to believe the results. This was the third time the Canadian medical system refused to consider that Brett might have Lyme disease. Brett is now being treated for Lyme from a BC Naturopath Clinic, even though we knew it would be very expensive. But through family, friends and other sources, God has provided for the treatment.

Name one of your favorite books:

Tony: More recently, “Courage: Eight Portraits” by Gordon Brown – a look at the lives of Nelson Mandela, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, Cicely Saunders, Aung San Suu Kyi, Edith Cavell and Raoul Wallenberg.

Janet: “When God Doesn’t Fix It” by Laura Story. Laura opens the book by writing that we are all just one phone call away from hope being shattered. From the life experience of her husband’s brain tumor and the recovery not going as anticipated, she writes with conviction and compassion about lessons God desires to teach us in our broken dreams.

What does an “ideal day” in your present ministry look like?

Tony: Ideal days exist? … I’ll let you know once I experience one! However, I can say there are certain things that make my day, even when the day is far from ideal. Seeing inmates watch “The Hope” video and seeing the light go on – understanding the meaning of Christ’s death on the cross in a profound way – makes my day. Preaching a “risky” message and have it turn out better than expected with people really being impacted by hard truth for living, makes my day. Seeing a church take a big step of faith, like renting the biggest school gym in town for a living nativity, and seeing our community finally embrace the effort and the message, makes my day.

Janet: Some time spent reading in the area of Biblical counseling. Visits with women where there is opportunity to talk about the Lord and heart issues – the things that really matter. Spending a significant amount of time in prayer for people. I like to do this while walking. Exercise, fresh air, and prayer all at the same time! Seeing spiritual growth in someone, whether through their words, response to a situation, or choices they make. Getting an email, text or phone call that says, “Just wanted to let you know I prayed for you today.”

What are one or two of your biggest challenges as a missionary?

Tony: I can get so focused on what I need to do on a given day that I forget that relationships or giving people time is far more important than checking off my “to do” list.

Janet: Too often I lack boldness in sharing God’s truth.

What would you love to see accomplished through your life and ministry?

Tony: I would love to see: (1) Many people truly understand Christ and His Word in a better, life-changing way; (2) Many, starting with myself, healing from a hurtful past that is hindering growth and godly influence; (3) A local church (or churches) that is healthy and growing largely because of (1) and (2).

Janet: I would have to agree with Tony.

(from Issue #535) Note: some of the locations and involvements of our missionaries may have changed since the original publishing of this article.