Today in Trinidad, friends and family said their final earthly good-byes to Jan Harriott. This sweet Trinidadian Princess, at a very young 29, took her final breath on this earth May 25. When I heard the news that day, I remember the numb feeling I experienced and wanting to stay in denial that surely it wasn't true. I had just talked to her a week to the day prior and all was fine...I was even trying to coordinate a trip for her to come to Louisville one last time before she returned to Trinidad. But, alas, that never happened.
I met Jan around 10 years ago and I never knew the impact her friendship would have on my life and simply how much I would truly miss her. Even though miles separated us now, we were just as close. She was a heart friend...those friends that know you at your depths. Those friends who ask "What is God teaching you this week?"...or "How can I pray for you?" Jan was a partner in ministry with me. When she came here to attend Boyce College, she was a member of my church and served faithfully, primarily discipling teen girls and we both dreamed of writing literature together one day. I'd call her when I had ministry issues and needed her advice. And though she was much younger than me, so many times we lived out the verse "iron sharpens iron." I've ruminated over this blogpost since the day she passed. How can I sum up in one post all that Jan meant to me? At first, I was too bitter and angry that she was gone that I needed to confess to the Lord and work through that with Him before I could move forward. God is so patient with me, someone slow to learn and stubborn as can be. Now that I've had a few weeks to press forward, I felt like the best way to sum up the rich, but short life, of Heber-Jan Harriott, is to list the three things I think she'd charge me with if she could talk to me straight from the feet of Jesus.
1. Laugh a lot...and when you're done...laugh more - Jan had a laugh that was more than contagious. I so wish now I had it on recording somewhere because I'd replay it on days when I needed a good dose of the giggles. Her Trinidadian British accent made her proper diction eloquent, and then she'd say something hilarious, get tickled at herself and become a silly American like the rest of us. I'll remember all her fun sayings that would sweep the nation....when she'd hear a good sermon, or good teaching, she'd say "Everybody raise your right hand and say 'Who stole my Hummer?'"....she'd start a conversation, "Tell your friends and neighbors"...those voicemails I'd receive where she'd open with singing "Good Morning, Baltimore!" and provide a "Shimmy" at the end....we were "Diva Agents" and went on many a "mission" that we couldn't discuss. Jan would want me to laugh now...and even more because I'm sure she'd say "Diva, you aren't going to believe what is waiting for you!!"
2. Dream Big - If there was one thing Jan did, it was dream big. She was never satisfied with the status quo...she wanted more. She longed for the fairy tale herself, but even when she coordinated weddings for others, Jan realized she could do this and dreamed of having a Wedding Planner service named "When Dreams Come True." Jan loved discipling girls and she worked many a summer at Centrifuge Camps as a development director helping the leaders prepare sessions...Lifeway even used her curriculum one summer at a camp. When she took care of those leaders, she did it in a big way. Those leaders were loved and she made sure of that. And every girl that came through camp was loved even more. She'd call me during her breaks in those summers to share stories or seek counsel on how to deal with some of the toughest teen problems girls face. Her dream for discipling girls into godly women always grew bigger. One of those dreams came true when she developed and launched a "GIRL Talk" event at our church for the youth girls. Every aspect of it was her vision...or shall I say, God's vision through Jan. From the fashion show, to the panel of women, to the "pink" theme, to a single male sharing what a godly man looks for in a woman, to a fine dining experience learning proper etiquette, it was all part of her dream. She hosted one of those events at our church and truly wanted to see us take it on the road to other churches. Sadly, that never happened. Jan had a lot of dreams, many of which never were fulfilled...this side of Heaven. I rest in the fact that more than all her dreams could imagine have been fulfilled at the feet of Jesus.
3. In all things, give God glory - The one thing I'll always remember and be challenged by Jan's life is that no matter what, she always gave God all the glory. When I was dealing with the anger and bitterness of losing her way too soon in my limited perspective, I recounted all the things she didn't get to do that she longed to do. She loved to sing and was gifted with a beautiful voice....but never got to do it at the level she'd hoped. She longed to disciple girls 24/7....but that dream didn't happen. She loved the fairy tale and hoped one day to marry that man God had for her....that didn't happen. She was waiting for her green card at the time of her death...but it still hadn't cleared and she was going to have to head home to Trinidad on June 20. Even when immigration tried to send her home two years ago, then stopped the process, she decided to go back to school to become an EKG tech and use that training in medical missions one day. She had just finished her certification....and that never happened. Though Jan and I shared our hearts and we shed many tears and questioned "why?" on many occasions, we always closed our conversation one way. Jan would always give God glory. I can still hear her say "God is sovereign." That passionate commitment to the Lord will forever be Jan's way of keeping me accountable even though she's left this earth.
I have many notes, books and other cards that Jan gave me. I'm so thankful for those little touches of her in my life. Every note she would leave...every message inside a book....every card she'd send...ended the same way "Soli Deo Gloria" which means "to the Glory of God alone." If I had to sum up Jan Harriott's life in three words, it would be Soli Deo Gloria. Until that day when I see her again and she takes me on a tour of Heaven and to my mansion, which will be next door to hers as she always hoped, may I live giving all the glory to God and God alone.