Janeece England was in the fifth grade when she became a Christian and was given a dream. Eleven-year-old children seldom have a clear idea of what they want to do for the rest of their lives, but Janeece’s dream of one day becoming a missionary to Africa never faltered.
The first step was Bible college, where she met and married her husband, Steve England. Although they were actively involved in mission work throughout their 27-year ministry in the States, the dream of Africa remained unfulfilled. But it turns out God was using those 27 years to prepare them for that dream to become reality.
Their very first trip to Africa resulted in the creation of MRS — Missionary Relief Services. While finally realizing her dream, though, Janeece came face-to-face with one of the hardest experiences of her life.
Steve and Janeece enjoyed their last eight years together working as missionaries. But just six weeks before they were to leave for three back-to-back assignments, Janeece says Steve “…stepped into eternity within seconds.”
Fortunately for Janeece, they were in the States at the time of Steve’s heart attack.
Before Steve’s unexpected death they had planned to relieve Ken and Linda Smyth in Hong Kong, followed by assignments to India and South Africa. At Steve’s funeral — or celebration of life service — supporters asked Janeece about her plans for MRS without him.
“I don’t know,” Janeece answered. “But I know I won’t be going to Hong Kong.”
To her grieving mind, this was a perfectly reasonable answer. The Hong Kong assignment would need a preacher. But Steve was the preacher; a role Janeece believed she should not take over.
A Post-It Note From Heaven
A few weeks later, while attending the North American Christian Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio, Janeece met again with the Saltair church minister, who was not only a friend, but also the financial administrator for MRS. Janeece had already cashed in her tickets to Hong Kong, but she wasn’t completely closing the door on MRS. With her friend and supporter, she prayed that if God wanted her to continue, He would “have the missionaries contact me, knowing Steve won’t be there to preach or make calls. It’s just going to be me.”
When she checked her email that evening, she had a message from Ken Smyth, asking that she please come to Hong Kong anyway, if at all possible. That email had been sent hours before she had prayed for guidance. When she rebooked her flight to Hong Kong, it was a direct flight — and at a better price than before.
“It was at that point I knew the answer. It was as good as a post-it note from Heaven.”
New Hands to Hold
After working in Hong Kong as a new widow, Janeece went to India for another assignment with a group of people who had known her and Steve for several years. After a game of volleyball, some of the young men* from the hostel with which she was working escorted her back to the women’s hostel, where she was housed. A young man in his late twenties suddenly took her hand, and they walked.
“I felt a bit ill at ease,” Janeece remembered. “He spoke to me in Hindi, but I could not understand his language.”
One of the other boys translated.
“Uncle Steve always held your hand,” the boy said. “We don’t know why Uncle Steve held your hand, but now we will hold your hand.”
When Janeece buried her husband, she thought she had buried her joy and love with him.
“Little by little, God is giving that love back to me through the people to whom He is sending me,” Janeece said. “Bit by bit, the joy that death snatched from me is being restored by finding joy in serving the Lord. My life is just so fulfilled; there is nothing I lack.”
*The above photo is of the group of boys from the hostel.