It was June 13, 1965. We were called Peninsula Baptist Church back then. There hadn’t been a senior pastor yet, only an interim pastor. The ink had hardly dried after the October signing of a founding declaration by 33 people, giving birth to Peninsula. The church was meeting at Margate School (now called PVIS). By the way, Margate has a much less institutional feel than PVIS. Right?

Anyway, eight months after the official launch of Peninsula, we sent out our first missionary. She would go to the Philippines and join the faculty of Faith Academy, where she would serve for well over 30 years. She had our support until she retired. Every month without fail.

This week is a bit nostalgic and sad for those who’ve been around awhile. That first sent missionary was Jan Lahman, and she passed away in Colorado this week. She suffered from dementia for many years and was under the care of a nursing home with a wonderful guardian to guide her through these last stages of life. It was a long slide home, but in my last contact with her guardian I learned she still loved to read her Bible every single day and was still smiling at the thought of Jesus. That was over a year ago.

Jan smiled a lot in life. A lot. Leaving the States in the mid-60s as a single woman could not have been easy. I must say a little bit bold. I got to know Jan in the 1990s when she’d come around while on furlough. Jan lit up a room. She loved Jesus and it was evident. There was a winsome spirit about her that was contagious. It was always great to have her around Peninsula for as long as we could get her.

Jan never married and her relatives were scattered across the country (at least from my recollection). When she retired, she went to work in the home office of the mission board that handled her support, Cadence. That office was too far from SoCal, so we didn’t get to see her much after that. Our loss. Her final lap was long and difficult. I have no doubt she made deep friendships in Colorado, but these last five years must have been difficult.

Just because you devote your life to serving Christ in a foreign culture, you don’t get a pass from the struggles of life. She faced with courage each phase of life, never losing the joy of walking with Jesus. She believed that the value of what waited for her in eternity far outweighed anything she gave up serving Jesus on earth. She never expected special treatment from God just because she left home to serve students in Manilla.

When I think of Jan I remember her laugh. I think of the pure joy that surrounded her wherever she went. And I am reminded of the price she paid to follow Jesus. May we all take a moment today to reflect on the grace of her life, whether we knew her or not. She was faithful to the end. Dependent on the Word. Full of joy and God’s grace. What more could we want?