Last updated: October 25, 2023
11 Countries in 11 Months
“I can’t remember a time not knowing Jesus,” says Jenifer Jones, who grew up in a Christian home. When she was 10 years old, missionaries visited her church. “They said that the most important thing we could do was to tell God that our lives were completely His, and He could do whatever He wanted with them,” she recalls. Jenifer told God just that as she laid in bed that night.
When it was time for college, Jenifer knew one thing for sure. “I had always, always loved writing. So I decided to go to school for journalism.” A couple of years after graduation, she felt led to The World Race, a program for visiting 11 countries in 11 months. From country to country, she realized what she loved most was writing about her experiences. “I wonder if this is a job a person can do?” she asked herself.
Back home from The World Race, Jenifer’s new pastor was a graduate of Asbury Seminary, and his wife told Jenifer she’d love it there. Jenifer applied to Asbury Seminary and was accepted.
She later understood that God had led her to the Seminary for many reasons. “I cannot say enough good things about it,” says Jenifer. “I literally am friends with the best people in the world.” The community that surrounded her was not all she loved. “The more I learned academically about God, the Bible, church history, and all of these things, the more I was just in awe of God and amazed by God,” she says. Having had a life-long interest in other cultures and in cross-cultural ministry, Jenifer chose the Master of Arts in Intercultural Studies.
God would also use Asbury Seminary to fulfill Jenifer’s dream to wed cross-cultural work with writing.
Finding TMS Global
On a street that borders the Seminary is “The Yellow House,” a house owned by TMS Global where discussions about cross-cultural work are hosted. Living in The Yellow House was Jennie Wheaton, a mobilizer for TMS Global. Jennie and Jenifer became friends, and Jenifer chose in 2017 to go on a TMS Global “GreenLight” trip to South Asia.
Jenifer’s two weeks observing cross-cultural workers (CCWs) in South Asia made quite an impression. “They were just really cool people,” she says. “But also, I just appreciate how healthy they were and how ethical they were. I was like, ‘Man; if these people have chosen TMS Global, then this must be a pretty good organization.’”
Jenifer told Jennie that her dream was to write stories about what God is doing in the world through cross-cultural work. Jennie made a few calls to TMS Global. Then she called Jenifer back and said, “Yep, we can do that.”
Jenifer graduated from Asbury Seminary in 2020 and has now been working for TMS Global for over two years. “I really do feel like I’m living the dream,” she says. Jenifer interviews CCWs online and sometimes overseas in person. This past summer, Jenifer went to both Peru and Mexico to gather some stories. In addition to talking with the workers, “I got to talk to Peruvians and Mexicans themselves about how Jesus has transformed their lives and their families and their communities… I cannot believe that this is my job to sit here and listen to these people talk about how Jesus is transforming the world.”
“The Danger of a Single Story”
As Jenifer tells stories about CCWs and the locals they build relationships with, she keeps in mind a TED Talk called “The Danger of a Single Story” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. “When we only hear one thing about a people group, we assume that is all the people group is,” says Jenifer. “If we only tell stories that focus on poverty, then people are going to think, ‘That’s all these people are: poor, helpless people who have no gifts.’”
The challenge, according to Jenifer, is to tell stories about people in a way that invites help alleviating their needs while understanding that they are people with dignity and gifts and hope. Her favorite example resides with TMS Global workers in South Asia who began a business employing incredibly gifted artisans, mostly women. “They are meeting Jesus and, through having an income and access to healthcare and all these things, God is literally changing their lives.”
God is Already There
TMS Global’s Bible Study, “Who is my Neighbor,” helps people cross cultural barriers and build bridges for the gospel, so that all people can love their neighbor well. “Many of us in our own neighborhoods have the opportunity for cross-cultural relationships,” Jenifer says. “We all have relationships. So I believe we’re all called to do the work.”
TMS Global’s approach to cross-cultural work reflects what Jenifer learned over and over in her missions courses at Asbury Seminary. “Number one: you go as a learner. Don’t assume that you know what’s best or what the people need,” she says. “Second, you are not bringing God anywhere; God is already there. It’s your job to ask God to show you how He is working and how He wants you to join Him in that work.”
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