Grief is not something I have spent much of my young adult life thinking about. Although distant relatives have passed, I’ve only had one close friend leave this earth to meet Jesus. At least, until a couple of weeks ago, when another close family friend passed away suddenly. Once my shock subsided, the sting of her death really hit me; tears would come and go as I spoke with the family, and as little things would remind me of her. The more I have processed her death, the more I have been moved to action.
My kids made cards, cried, and asked a lot of questions. We brought flowers, gifts, and food to the family experiencing a deeper loss than I can imagine. We prayed, all the while seeking to be available and present—just as my sweet friend, Janni would have been.
If there’s one thing I learned from this woman before her death, it was to be present and available for the glory of God. She exemplified God in her stable and steady presence, and embodied Isaiah 26:4 as she trusted “in the Lord forever, for in God the Lord, we have an everlasting Rock.” She was a rock for so many as she trusted God to sustain her. She loved her family well, reached out to teen moms, opened her home to neighbors, and was always a safe place to come to.
Friend, I don’t know what people see in you or what gifts, talents, and abilities that God wants to use for His glory, but I do know that we are all capable of being present for the people around us. So often we busy ourselves with unnecessary house projects, work-related issues, and social media and entertainment. However, the more I read the Bible and learn from people like my friend Janni, the more I see that the mission of God is accomplished through simple people like you and me. People who seek to set aside their own preferences and comforts—who go out of their way to be present and share the hope they have in Christ.
Janni was no street or social media preacher. She didn’t create a small business to support orphans in Africa. She wasn’t the women’s ministry coordinator or leader of the worship team in a megachurch. Instead, she showed up at my house and took my kids when I experienced a brain injury a couple of years ago. She popped by with goodie bags and little notes of encouragement on all the small holidays. She opened her home every weekend for Fire Pit Friday, to feed her neighbors and hear their stories. She put her phone away as young moms gathered around her massive blow-up pool to let their littles play in a safe space. She listened well, prayed often, encouraged endlessly, and shared Christ freely no matter what life was throwing at you.
We serve a God that is ever faithful (1 Corinthians 1:9), who seeks after us (Luke 19:10), and lays down His own life for us (John 15:13). He empowers us to do the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:10-13)—to be faithful as He is faithful, to seek after those who are lost or hurting, and to lay down our lives for friends in order that they may know our great God. Janni demonstrated this better than anyone I have ever met. I pray her legacy would lead others to Christ and challenge us to be faithful, intentional, and bold as we look for ways to be present and share the great hope that the gospel provides.
Stephanie Englehart is a Seattle native, church planter’s wife, mama, and lover of all things coffee and the great outdoors. Stephanie is passionate about allowing God to use her honest thoughts and confessions to bring gospel application to life. You can read more of what she writes on the at stephaniemenglehart.com or follow her on Instagram: @stephaniemenglehart.
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