by Jill Ragar Esfeld
OVERLAND PARK — “People always ask me what I’m doing,” said Chuck Jansen, a parishioner from Church of the Ascension here. “And I say, ‘Well, I’m in my fourth quarter.’”
The fourth quarter, according to Jansen, is the time in life when you give back. “And I’m just trying to give back,” he said. “I’m trying to be significant, trying to touch people’s lives.”
Inspired by men he encountered while leading a Christ Renews His Parish retreat, Jansen has decided to “give back” by producing a collection of faith stories on CDs and downloadable MP3s.
Though he currently is a real estate agent, Jansen has a background in theology and taught high school religion for 12 years.
“I’ve run a lot of retreats and done a lot of events in the church,” he said. “But that retreat (Christ Renews His Parish) kind of taught me to respect and love and count on the Holy Spirit.
“It was a life-changing event. The men shared very deeply and it was a moving experience.”
Christ in the car
After the retreat, Jansen couldn’t stop thinking about the faith stories he’d heard.
“And I just thought some of these ought to be recorded and distributed,” he said. “Then the Holy Spirit could use the stories and the lessons learned to speak to people.”
Jansen knew the traditional methods for learning about faith were faith groups, retreats and parish events.
But he also understood many people didn’t feel like they had time to participate in those activities.
“So I thought, ‘Why don’t we bring Christ to them in their car?’” he said. “So we came up with the term ‘windshield ministry.’”
The first person to share his story was Mike Fischbach, a retreat participant who had opened up about the very personal faith journey he began when his wife of 46 years was diagnosed with dementia.
“Chuck was touched by my story,” said Fischbach, “the struggles I was having with how to keep loving my wife while watching her fade and how to stay close to God.
“He asked me if I would consider making a CD that tells the story of my love for my wife and how that was sustained with some faith through this awful journey we had to go on.”
It took some convincing, but once Fischbach committed to the process, he found it was made easy by Jansen.
“He’s a very caring person,” he said. “He has sensitivity to others.
“He approached it like an interview process. He actually asked me for some leading questions that would help me open up.
“And he, of course, came up with some of his own questions to precipitate thoughts.”
Fischbach’s wife Ann has since passed away. But through the CD, the story of their journey together continues to live on and touch many lives.
“I had one lady,” said Jansen, “she was 76 years old. She called me at ten o’clock at night after listening to the CD and we talked for an hour and fifteen minutes.
“She had the desire to retell her story of taking care of her husband.”
The four CDs that have followed Fischbach’s are equally interesting and universal in their themes.
- Chris Ford, former Army captain, tells of how he relied on his faith when a suicide bomber attacked his compound in Baghdad.
- John O’Leary, an internationally acclaimed speaker, explains his journey from the day he was burned over 98 percent of his body and told he would die.
- Larry Kuehl talks about being diagnosed with multiple myeloma and enduring three full chemotherapy treatments and two bone marrow transplants while continuing to appreciate life and God’s blessings.
- Father Anthony Viviano tells the story of his journey to the priesthood, which didn’t start until he was 45.
Driven by the Spirit
Jansen takes no credit for choosing the people whose faith stories are related through this ministry — it’s all the work of God.
“The Holy Spirit brought them forth to me,” he said. “I learned about them through one avenue or another.
“Then I approached them and said ‘Would you pray on whether you would be willing to be recorded?’
“And they said yes, so we recorded them.”
Fellow Church of the Ascension parishioner James Moburg is an avid fan of the CD ministry.
“I think people who enjoy hearing faith stories can see themselves in somebody else,” he said. “You never know what’s going to strike you.
“I think the exposure helps either deepen our faith life or helps us counsel someone on their spiritual journey.
“I just enjoy the variety of the stories.”
Jansen has been both surprised and pleased at the success of the ministry.
The CDs are listened to by individuals driving to work, families on the way to school and people driving on vacations.
They’ve also become popular with faith groups — so much so that Jansen has created discussion questions for each CD, available to print from the website.
Many people give the CDs as gifts or use them as a tool for evangelization.
“We gave one to someone because we’d heard her husband had just gotten diagnosed with Alzheimer’s,” said Moburg.
“And I gave one to a guy,” he continued, and told him, “‘Feel free to listen to it — maybe some of the things this guy says will help you get in touch deeper with your faith.’
“To me, it was a small evangelization step.”
Distribution over profit
Jansen chose to market the CDs only through the website so he could keep the price low.
“As I prayed on this ministry,” he said, “I decided distribution is more important than profit.
“In other words, I’m not interested in making money on it — I just want to distribute it, make it affordable.”
Five CDs and MP3 downloads are available now; two more are coming soon.
“There’s an upcoming one in the works that I’m really excited about,” said Moburg. “We love our pastor Father Tom Tank and I know he just participated in this process.
“I can’t wait to have a CD of his wisdom.”
Jansen has no specific plans for the future; he’s leaving that up to the Holy Spirit.
“I’m kind of a one-man show right now,” he said. “As sales increase, I’d like to see it grow a little bit more.
“If and when there is a profit, all profits are going to go to charities.”
Jansen would be interested in hearing from anyone who has a suggestion for a faith journey recording.
He is especially hoping that someday soon he’ll be able to present an experience from a woman’s perspective.
As to the future of the ministry, he says it’s not in his hands.
“Won’t it be interesting,” he asked, “to see what the Holy Spirit brings about?”