For Phil and Christine Jensen, coming to the United States from the United Kingdom to pursue graduate degrees at Biola’s Talbot School of Theology was a huge gamble. It meant relocating their family, including children Sam, 8, and Eve, 4, leaving a successful career at Proctor & Gamble and a “lovely Victorian house” in Newcastle, England, and hoping that three years of seminary education in Southern California would be worth it.
Now in their second year at Talbot, the Jensens have some uncertainty about the future, but they do know a couple things about the present: 1) they are passionate about fostering community in the body of Christ, and 2) their house has a big living room.
Though they were eager to put their spacious new living room to good use when they moved to La Mirada in 2007, the Jensens found that it was like pulling teeth to get Americans to come over for a meal.
“In England, if you invite a person for lunch, that’s it,” said Phil. “Barring a missing leg, you are going to turn up. Here, it seems like, ‘Well, if I have a better offer…’”
Last year, they invited all of Talbot’s first-year M.Div. students (around 110 people) to a lunch party, but only three showed up.
“But the three that turned up had a good time,” said Christine, “and I think that’s what we’ve learned: Just go with the goers, and if people have a need, then we can do something with that.”
It’s certainly been a cultural learning process, with a few missteps along the way, but things are looking up these days.
The Jensens currently serve as Biola campus coaches for the small groups ministry at Rock Harbor Church. They host students at their house once a week, putting their living room to good use.
“If you’re not known, and you don’t know people, then you aren’t really doing church,” said Christine.
For the Jensens, doing church — like moving across the Atlantic to attend seminary — requires risk. But risk, they say, is part of what it means to be a Christian.