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 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.