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stories from our missional partners

k and j c.1986

By Jeanine Birdsall

“Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His faithful servants.”
— Psalm 116:15

“It’s hard to think of a world without Auntie Jan in it”. This was our daughter Stacia’s response to the news that her beloved Auntie Jan had passed into eternity. I agree.

Jan was one of the first people Doug and I met after we landed at Haneda Airport in January 1980. We stayed with the Wendlings' for the first three days of our new life in Japan. From our first meeting, Jan’s warmth and kindness wrapped us in loving welcome. Though everything outside their Higashi Kurume house was overwhelmingly foreign to us, inside, we felt at home.

Knowing Jan made all the difference in my own early adjustment to Japan. From her, I learned how to shop, how to interact with the neighbors, how to navigate the medical system, how to do daily life in Japan.

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Jan has also been my example in how to remain patient (well, somewhat patient) with an always-on-the-go husband, how to treasure your children yet stand your ground as “the parent”, how to make family worship fun (well, somewhat fun), how to love my family first.

birdsall handley wendl A2 50th day3 jj 39Doug and I shared with Ken and Jan that, second only to parents, they have had the greatest influence on our lives. We watched them enjoy the good blessings God has given them: their boys, their cabin at Takayama, their friendships, and in recent years, their daughters-in-law and beautiful grandchildren. We also learned from them how to pray with perseverance through the inevitable challenges of life and ministry.

This past spring, I spent a sunny, blue-sky afternoon with Jan, enjoying their back garden, her little King Charles spaniel at her side.  I could only marvel at the beauty of Jan’s countenance, even as she shared the pain and losses of battling cancer. Her love for others – she never failed to ask about the wellbeing of our children and grandchildren – and her love for Jesus never flagged.  “I’ve asked the Lord for five more years with Kenny, but I’ll accept whatever He has for us.”

“I’ve asked the Lord for five more years with Kenny, but I’ll accept whatever He has for us.”

Like Stacia, and like so many of you, I feel that a light has gone out of the world with Jan’s passing. My heart is broken for the loss this is for Ken and their family. Yet I can’t help but smile through tears when I remember that Jan has been made whole in the presence of the Lord Jesus, the Savior she loved and served so well.

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.”  John 11:25

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More Information

  • The family will hold a memorial service for Jan Wendling on Friday, November 18, 2022 (10:30AM PST) at Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena, California.
  • Jan Wendling's Caring Bridge page:
  • Photos:
    1. Cover photo, Jan and husband Ken in 1986.
    2. Founding family circa 1978.
    3. Inset: Doug & Jeanie Birdsall (left), Joe & Silk Handley (middle), along with the founding president Ken and Jan (right), taken at the 50th Anniversary Jubilee gathering in 2017.
    4. Jan & Ken, the founders, along with the first board of directors, circa 1967.


birdsall jeanie 2022bJeanie Birdsall first arrived in Japan with her husband Doug in 1980, serving there for 20 years, and they have remained as A2 missionaries for 42+ years. Throughout their years of service with Asian Access, Jeanie has been involved in many dimensions of ministry in Japan and in the States. She has enjoyed teaching the Bible and mentoring women in the communities where they have lived. During her years of raising a family and serving the mission, Jeanie has also earned graduate degrees at Fuller Theological Seminary and at Gordon-Conwell. The Birdsalls, who now live in Boston, have three adult children—Stacia, Judson, and Jessamin—and are greatly enjoying being grandparents.

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