janLast night I got a call from an old friend in Indiana letting me know that my friend Jan Whittenberg had passed away. When the phone rang at 11:00 last night, and the caller ID said Duane, I already knew what had happened. Jan’s health had greatly deteriorated last week as she’s been fighting cancer since early spring. My wife and I are saddened by our loss. Sara has had some wonderful phone conversations with her over the past few weeks and months and I’m so blessed that I was able to spend several hours with her back in July. We’re so grateful.

Jan is an amazing woman. Sara and I moved to southern Indiana back in 2000 where I got my first full time Children’s Ministry job at Graceland Baptist Church. I met Jan while interviewing for the job. She was beginning to volunteer for the Children’s Ministry, a grandmother raising her two grandsons. After moving to Indiana, she quickly became family to Sara and I. When we were sick, we’d call “Nene” and she’d bring us medicine, food or whatever else we needed. She’d take us to the airport, give us rides when the car broke down or have us over for dinner when we were missing our families.

Jan had the true gift of hospitality. Anytime there was a wedding or funeral, she would coordinate. The bigger the party the better it was for Jan to be involved. As a part of my leadership team, she completely oversaw our Halloween Family Fun Fest that continually brought in between 6,000 to 9,000 people. She would put together a team of 40-50 coordinators, plan this $60-80,000 event and raise most of the money herself to pay for it. She did all of this to be a blessing to her community. I’ve never met anyone who loved her community more than Jan Whittenberg. I’d often joke with her about bringing her to Texas to be a community outreach director at the churches I was at and she’d always reply that she just couldn’t leave southern Indiana. It was her home as well as her mission field.

What’s hardest about loosing Jan is that in her I just lost one of my biggest fans. She’s one of those people who loves you, believes in you and regularly lets you know it. I’m not one of those people who needs frequent pats on the back, but it’s always nice to know who your fans are. Other than my wife and my mom, Jan was my biggest fan. She always knew I wouldn’t be at Graceland forever. The day I visited her to tell her I’d taken a job in Texas, she knew it before I had the chance to tell her. She believed in me when I was struggling with myself and she was such an encourager when I was going through difficult situations.

Probably even more than Sara and I, Jan LOVED Titus. Although she only met him once, she’d constantly harass me about putting pictures and videos up on my blog or facebook account. She was so proud of us and loved us so much. It’s always sad losing someone you love, but even more sad when you lose someone that loves you so much.

Jan, we love you! We’re so glad you’re at rest with your savior, but we’re going to miss you terribly. As so few people do, you’ve made an impact on the lives of so many, especially me and my little family. Now get to work, I’m sure you have some parties and receptions to plan and carry out there in heaven! ūüôā