A week ago, I got the news that a dear older sister in Christ had stepped into glory. Ever since, I’ve been reflecting on my friendship with Jean and all that she taught me during the 15 years I was blessed to know her.
When I first met Ms. Mitman, I was in elementary school and my family had just moved to a new town where my dad would pastor the church she was a part of. At that age I was pretty clueless about being friends with someone not my own age. Ms. Mitman’s 80-something year old frame was slight and stooped, but she was one of the faithful pillars. We saw her sitting in her pew every Sunday morning. And during evening prayer meetings, we always heard her soft but sure voice starting with, “Loving Father…”
Ms. Mitman never forgot a birthday, or any other occasion to send a card for that matter. She must have spent most of her time writing birthday greetings and encouraging notes, each sprinkled with Bible verses and prayers. She always signed her cards to me with, “Your older friend, Jean.” I don’t know how she kept track of and remembered everyone. When I moved away to college, I got one of her cards and finally had the idea to write back to Ms. Mitman. That started an ongoing correspondence that lasted up until last year, when her health prevented her from writing. She said she was praying for me, and I never doubted that. We exchanged letters and prayers through my college years, through my months in France, through my preparation for joining the missions agency.
Jean loved missions. She was always the one giving us prayer updates from the missionaries and urging us to pray for the spread of the gospel around the world. I don’t think she had any family; she had never married and probably didn’t have much to her name. When I joined Mission to the World and started the long road of support-raising, Jean told my parents how much she wished she could support me. I was floored and so humbled that she would want to contribute to my future missions work. Somehow, it felt to me like she was the veteran missionary commissioning the rookie.
When Jean wasn’t writing cards, she was waging battles on her knees. One time I called her and she answered with, “Oh Kyria, I was just praying for you.” I didn’t know what to do with the honor of having such a faithful prayer warrior remembering me. The last time I saw her was last spring; I visited her in the nursing home where she was living. I followed next to her walker as we went back to her room. I noticed my family’s picture on her dresser, along with many others. She went to her rocking chair in the corner and reached for a stack of missionary prayer letters and cards. The one I’d sent her was there too. We prayed together.
My dad got to see Jean a few days before she passed away; she still called him her pastor. In one of her lucid moments she told him, “We have to pray for Kyria.” As he put it to me later, heaven would soon be filled with people praying for me because Jean would be telling them to.
I know I’m only one of many whose faith was strengthened and whose prayer life was challenged by Jean’s example. I join many others in being grateful for having known her. Jean’s 98-year sojourn is over but in God’s grace, not without leaving a mark on countless lives. She’s now in the presence of the loving Father she served so faithfully.
Thank you Jean, and see you later. -Your younger friend, Kyria