As I have been thinking about the different mentors in the faith that I have had, Jan's name kept coming back to me, and it is not because she was a teacher or pastor who influenced me, but rather she was a parishioner at my first congregation who was a mentor because of what happened to her and her family and the impact that it has had me ever since.
Savage is small little town (and the church is celebrating their 100th anniversary this year - congratulations!) in eastern Montana. It is part of a two point parish that I served 15 years ago. It was here that I got my feet wet as a pastor, I made a number of mistakes and they had the grace to forgive me and help me grow. And it is also where I learned a lot about the frailty of human life.
While I was there Jan and Rollie had a stillborn daughter. I was with them during this time and it was one of the most difficult things I have ever walked with a family through.
It was also the hardest funeral I have ever done. There are images from that service I will never forget.
And the reason I list Jan as a mentor is that she allowed me, and even welcomed me, into her time of grief and loss. She let me walk with her, be a comfort when I could, always hoping I was bringing a message of peace and hope to her. Because of the time I spent walking with her I grew as a pastor in ways that I never dreamed.
It was because of her willingness to be open and vulnerable with me then that I am now able to walk into difficult situations trusting that God will work through me to bring that word of peace and hope to others. She helped me to grow in "pastoral" side of being a pastor that I wasn't sure was even there before I met her.
So thank you, Jan, for your openness and grace to me, and may you continue to be showered with God's peace in your life.