Jesse, Tiffany, Joshua, and Owen Shanks

The Shanks Tribe

Jesse, Tiffany, Joshua, and Owen Shanks

Hi! We're the Shanks(tribe)

We're so glad that you stopped by to see what we're all about, so we'll get right to the point. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. (John 14:6) And what's more, he is our life, our Lord, and the satisfaction of our souls! In short, we are all about Jesus and his kingdom.

Jesus has led us to go and make disciples in the northern regions of a tiny sliver of land known as Togo in West Africa. We have been living in the city of Kara since early 2009, but in 2012 we began working primarily among the Lamba people group an hour north of Kara along with our friends and ministry partners, the Stoffs.
Andrew, Julia, Leila, and Eloise.
They are from Brisbane, Australia and have lived in Togo since 2010.

The Stoff Family

Andrew, Julia, Leila, and Eloise. They are from Brisbane, Australia and have lived in Togo since 2010.

Our Vision

Some of Jesus' last words on this earth were, "All authority has been given to me...go therefore and make disciples of all nations..." We take these words seriously. While there are many great and worthwhile things that missionaries can do, we see our primary job as making disciples of Jesus who will learn to "obey everything he has commanded" and make disciples as well. This is our vision, to see multiple generations of disciples who make disciples, leading to churches which multiply churches and leaders who train leaders.  We hold this vision loosely, knowing that God is fully capable of doing his work on his own; yet because he delights in using his people to accomplish his mission, we simply seek to be available and surrendered to him so that he can do his work through us when and how he wants. Our relationship with Jesus and his Word shapes and modifies the outworking of this vision, but there are certain principles that guide us in our work.


Our Principles

  • We believe that God's Word is sufficient to bring people to a knowledge of Jesus as their Lord and Master, to form them into faithful disciples who love God and others, and to equip them for a life of service to their King. Therefore, the primary tool we use in our ministry is the "Discovery Bible Study" method, which allows people to discover for themselves the the truths of Scripture and the story of redemption, to discuss it in groups, and to apply it within their own context and culture.

  • While Scripture is sufficient, we need the Holy Spirit to make sense of it and to open the hearts of people to receive it, believe it, and practice it. As Jesus said in John 14:26, "The Holy Spirit...will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you." We recognize in our lives and ministry that apart from the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit, we can do nothing of significance in God's kingdom. The greatest strategies, Bible studies, plans, and methods will be in vain if God's Spirit does not do the work that only he can do. Our prayer is that the Lord will make us desperate for the Holy Spirit to work!

  • We believe that God is sovereign over all and is working out his plan to redeem a people for himself from every nation, tribe, and tongue. We know that God has ordained that his work advances through the prayers of his people, and that when he moves his people to pray fervently for God's kingdom to come and for his will to be done on earth, it changes us and brings us in line with his will, his plan, and his work. Our desire is that every part of our work will be started by prayer, sustained by prayer, and finished through prayer.

  • We believe that God is already at work long before we ever show up somewhere, so we look for those he has been preparing to receive his word and share it with others, what Jesus refers to as a "son of peace." Depending on the situation, we will have this person gather either their family or their closest peers to begin Bible studies. This person ends up being the key to reaching their city or village and other becomes a leader in the church.

  • This might seem like splitting hairs, but we believe there is a big difference between making a convert and making a disciple. Converts make a one-time decision to believe upon Jesus as their Savior, but acknowledging him as Lord is optional. Converts have the option of later becoming a disciple, a follower of Jesus. We don't think this is what Jesus had in mind when he said, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." Our goal is to make committed, obedient disciples whose primary commitment is to Jesus himself instead of doctrinal distinctives, a denomination, etc. We do this by leading people through a chronological, 25-lesson series of Bible studies called "Discovering God," which serves to disciple people to faith in Jesus. At the end of this series, people acknowledge Jesus as their Lord and identify with him in baptism to begin a new life of following Jesus.

  • We believe there is a reason why Jesus did not said, "Go into all the world and make churches." It's because a church, as we often think of it anyway (building, program, event), does not necessarily produce strong disciples. However, committed and obedient disciples, when put together, make for a strong, multiplying, missional church. We desire to make disciples who will BE the church instead of just doing church.

  • Our focus is to work in places where there are either no churches or where the local churches are unable to reach their own people apart from outside help. Even within people groups that are technically considered "reached" by certain statistics, we have found large pockets of people with no access to hear the Jesus story or connect with other Jesus followers.

  • There are many great things we as missionaries could do with our money, talents, and resources, but we believe strongly in the principle of reproducibility. That is, to do everything in our ministry in a way that can be copied and easily passed on to others. We believe that the resources for the harvest (disciples, leaders, etc.) are to be found within the harvest itself. Therefore, we have a high commitment to training indigenous (local) leaders.

Get to know us!

35 random things about Jesse

  1. I love my life! Jesus is my everything. Knowing him and abiding in his love makes every other part of life what it should be: truly enjoyable and full of purpose.
  2. I love my family! I am blessed with a wonderful wife who is patient, forgiving, and full of joy (that’s her middle name, after all). My two boys are, well…all boy! They love dirt, sticks, throwing stuff, and making their mom disgusted by various bodily noises. They bring so much joy (and lots of laughs) into our lives.
  3. My personality type: INFJ – Introverted iNtuition Feeling Judging (very close to the line between F&T)
  4. I’m obsessed with trying to figure out other people’s personality types.
  5. I’m often mistaken for an extrovert. Nope. Give me a camera, a book, and a deserted wilderness and I can be happy for a month!
  6. I’m a recovering legalist (trying to earn favor with God by “being good”). I fail often, so it’s a good thing that my standing before the Father doesn’t depend on my performance!
  7. I love getting to know people, but too many people at once can really drain me.
  8. I am the least likely person to make it living in Africa without having a complete mental breakdown.
  9. I’ve never had said breakdown and have grown to love living in Africa. That’s God’s grace right there!
  10. I am curious by nature…very curious. Too bad I don’t have 9 lives.
  11. I’m a left-hander born on January 1st. Does that make me unique? Perhaps. Weird? More likely.
  12. I have too many hobbies and not enough time: photography, hiking/backpacking, reading, writing, nerdy tech stuff, chess, juggling, pot hole dodging. Actually, I have plenty of time for that last one.
  13. I’m told that I’m a really good listene–…huh, what’d you say?
  14. Therefore, I always get stuck talking to the weird people.
  15. I hate formalities. Let’s get to the point.
  16. I hate formal. Casual all the way, baby!
  17. I am the least sentimental person I know. Living in today and and for tomorrow takes too much brain power for it to be wasted on the past. Terrible, I know.
  18. I have a horrible memory. See above.
  19. What were we talking about?
  20. Oh yes, that’s right. Pointless info about me that nobody will read.
  21. I love learning. No such thing as too much information.
  22. I’m picky about movies. Either has to make me laugh or keep me guessing. (Christopher Nolan is the man!)
  23. I like to pretend that I’m creative.
  24. Had I been born in another era, it would’ve been the Lewis and Shanks Expedition. I’m an explorer by nature. Always have to see what’s over that next hill or around that next bend. Just. a. little. further!
  25. I’ve been compared to a gazelle when I hike. I must just hike with a lot of tortoises.
  26. COFFEE!!! I grew up in the Pacific Northwest. ‘Nuff said. Favorite: Stumptown
  27. Speaking of the Northwest, I’m pretty sure that’s what the new heaven & earth will look like.
  28. Go Blazers, Seahawks, and Mariners!
  29. American food is boring and full of sugar.
  30. The longer I live overseas, the less American I feel.
  31. I’ve been to 49 states in the U.S. Might be a while before I get #50. Any idea of why I would go to North Dakota? Didn’t think so.
  32. I’m addicted to traveling! Been to Canada, Mexico, U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Togo (duh!), Ghana, Benin, Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Seychelles. Next on my list: China, Venezuela, Spain, Greece, Norway (waterfalls!!)
  33. I’m obsessed with waterfalls.
  34. I am NOT a morning person. Let me shower, then we’ll talk.
  35. I’m tired of talking about myself now. So what about you? Get in touch with us so we can get to know you!

10 Random things about Owen

  1. I love playing with my big brother, I think he’s the best.
  2. I use the French words for candy (bon-bon) and water (l’eau).
  3. I’m shy, but I warm up to people if they’re not too pushy.
  4. I love animals, and watching movies about animals, and touching animals, and making animal noises.
  5. I make 522 indistinguishable sounds that no one but me can understand. I call it Owenese.
  6. I love snacking. I have never had a real meal in my life. I just graze.
  7. I am very independent. In fact, I am writing this on my own right now. fodsnkjdshfkjsdfhdsiufnjkerfnkjsdfhjfff.
  8. For an almost three year old, I have some sweet dance moves that would make even Napoleon Dynamite jealous.
  9. I love to make my family laugh. They keep saying, “He’s so funny!” so why stop?
  10. I can navigate an iPad better than my mom. 

35 Random things about Tiffany

  1. I love trying adventurous food, I think Thai is my favorite.
  2. I have to finish a book even if it's boring.
  3. I love popcorn.
  4. I enjoy decorating with natural things.
  5. I love the color orange.
  6. I love the idea of being organized, but I am not that great at it.
  7. I love making to do lists but, I always loose them, or I forget to look at them.
  8. I love being warm, just not hot. I HATE being cold.
  9. I am a morning person, and I love my quiet time with God and a cup of coffee, and Jesse right next to me doing the same.
  10. I wish I could sing and play the piano really well.
  11. Love to crazy dance with my boys and Jesse to loud crazy music.
  12. Love Christmas!
  13. My favorite flower is the sunflower, because it is a happy color. 
  14. I have discovered a new love for reading.
  15. I love learning and studying about my Lord.
  16. I enjoy learning about nutrition, and someday would love to go back to school to learn more about it.
  17. Cockroaches freak me out, especially if they are flying.
  18. I LOVE coffee but I like tea too.
  19. I enjoy meeting new people and getting to know them.
  20. Cooking is a hobby for me, and an addiction.
  21. I am an extravert but can also be introverted at times.
  22. My personality type is ESFP: Extroverted, Sensing, Feeling, Perceiving
  23. I love worshiping my Savior through song.
  24. I am a Jane Austin Fan, but not a fanatic (Jesse would say otherwise).
  25. I enjoy mysteries, my favorite being the old Sherlock Holmes stuff.
  26. I don’t wear bows or soft pink!
  27. I love nature, and enjoy sharing this love with Jesse.
  28. I enjoy gardening, especially flowers.
  29. Sitting with a friend at a coffee shop talking or studying together is a great time for me.
  30. Spending time with family is very important to me.
  31. I love homemade cookies!
  32. I enjoy sewing and drawing.
  33. I really enjoy playing volleyball.
  34. I love laughing and joking around.
  35. I love having two boys!

20 Random things about Joshua

  1. I love all different kinds of animals, especially insects.
  2. Really enjoy playing Minecraft.
  3. I like playing soccer with the neighborhood kids.
  4. I like catching lizards.
  5. I have had 6 pet chameleons. They all manage to disappear and escape.
  6. I love my little brother, even though he can get annoying.
  7. I have never met a stranger.
  8. I speak French and would like to learn Kabiyè, a local language in Togo.
  9. My parents have tried to make me not like sugar, but they have not succeeded.
  10. My favorite meal is Mom’s homemade tuna noodles.
  11. I love super-hero movies.
  12. I love wresting with my dad and little brother.
  13. I am very passionate about drawing and using my imagination to create creatures.
  14. I would run around everywhere with just a pair of shorts on and no shoes if my parents let me.
  15. I like playing board games with my parents on family night.
  16. I am a very passionate person who cares a lot about people. (Mom wrote this)
  17. I like to create things, building forts, traps, and weapons.
  18. I love living in Africa and eating African food.
  19. I play with Legos a lot and love to construct vehicles and buildings.
  20. My favorite subject in school is math...and history...and lunch break.