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6/4/97 Despite death’s reminder, 23-year-old heads to Africa

EFFINGHAM, Ill. (BP)–Janee Angel is the second person from her church to be assigned to Africa as a two-year journeyman missionary. The first one didn’t come back.
Darla Lovell, serving as a journeyman in Uganda in 1991, died of natural causes at 23 years of age. The Lovell and Angel families are members of First Baptist Church, Effingham, Ill., and close friends, which makes Janee’s assignment to Zimbabwe, Africa, all the more emotional for those involved.
“I knew (Darla) well,” Janee, 23, recalled. “As long as I can remember our families have been close.”
Still, Janee wants people to know the two situations are different — she’s her own person, with her own calling from God.
“Nobody in this world could make me give up the comforts of the United States to go and live in the middle of a country I don’t know, with bugs and snakes and animals and foods that I don’t want to eat, because they’re just so special to me,” Janee said.
At a March conference at the Foreign Mission Board in Richmond, Va., “I went in and I did not want to go to Africa,” Janee recounted. “Part of it was because I thought of snakes and grass huts in the middle of nowhere, and I didn’t want that.
“But part of it was because of Darla — that I didn’t want to go to the same place she had gone to. There are enough comparisons, and I don’t like them. I didn’t want to cause pain on anybody else. I just wanted to be me and I wanted to have my own call from God.”
Janee listed her three choices — Japan, Hong Kong and Zimbabwe. “I knew that Zimbabwe was where I needed to put. I just didn’t want to go there,” she said.
She talked to Bonita Wilson, candidate consultant for the FMB and former Woman’s Missionary Union consultant in Illinois.
“At the time that we talked about it (Janee) was really struggling with the fact of going to Africa,” Wilson said. “Would that cause more concern for her family and her friends? Would they worry that the same thing would happen to her?
“I tried to remind her that people die all over the world, and going to Africa was not necessarily the cause. The safest place to be is in the will of God, whether that was Africa or China or wherever.”
That insight helped Janee. “I ended up putting Zimbabwe first,” she said.
While Janee knows her own motives, she also knows the whole situation is not easy for Wayne and Kay Lovell. “It’s hard for them to show support to me because it brings back so many memories,” Janee said.
The Lovells agreed. “I’m excited for Janee,” Kay said. “Personally, it’s difficult for me. But I’m really excited. There’s nobody I’d rather see go and nobody I think would be any more qualified and spiritually mature than Janee.”
Hearing of Janee’s appointment to Zimbabwe hurt, Wayne acknowledged. “I’m not going to say it didn’t. But yet, at the same time, I was glad,” he added.
One thing that helped the Lovells overcome their initial hesitation to accepting Janee’s decision was a letter Janee wrote to them after she returned from the conference where she finalized her decision.
“There were a lot of things that she wanted to say to us, there’s a lot of things we’d like to say to her, but emotions don’t allow it,” Kay said. “It was the sweetest letter.”
Janee and her parents visited the Lovells one evening to tell them the news of Janee’s assignment in person, and the families spent time looking at pictures of Darla, laughing and crying together.
“The hard part for me that night — the ironic part of it — was that weekend was just six years to the day that we lost Darla,” Kay said. “A lot of memories.”
Currently working as a grade-school music teacher in Bement, Ill., Janee began her journey to the mission field in college. She attended Centrifuge at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., where she served as a junior counselor for Effingham First Baptist’s youth group.
“I think it was the last night, or around there, at Centrifuge … I really felt a burden on my life to go to seminary,” Janee said.
As an instrumental music major at Eastern Illinois University, she wasn’t sure how she could be used in missions. After talking to Steve Stanford, then serving as her music minister in Effingham, Janee changed to a vocal music major.
At the prodding of her Baptist Student Union directors, Harold and Regina Birch, Janee spent her next summer as a summer missionary in Arizona. “I knew I could make more money doing something else, but I prayed about it and really felt like that’s what God wanted me to do,” she said. The summer after that was spent doing missions work at a camp in Georgia.
“I kind of felt like I should do missions for more than 10 weeks at a time,” Janee said.
She attended the Mission 95 conference in Louisville, Ky., in December 1994. “I went to look at the US-2 positions,” Janee said. “By the end of the week I felt like journeyman was what I needed to be doing. That was pretty much my decision.”
Her church’s reaction was a concern to Janee, but she’s been pleased with the support.
Pastor Roger Marshall said “folks are excited for Janee and are very prepared and ready and anxious.” At the same time, Marshall said, people who were church members at the time of Darla Lovell’s death are aware of the sensitivity of the situation.
“There’s probably been as many people praying for Kay and Wayne in this process, because they know it affects them in definite ways, as they’ve prayed for Janee and for Jim and Betty (Angel),” Marshall said.
The situation is also difficult for Jim and Betty Angel, Janee’s parents. Because of their relationship to the Lovells, they know all too well the risks involved with Janee’s position in Zimbabwe. But they also know Janee is following God’s call to go.
“My biggest problem is letting loose,” Jim said. “When the Lord calls a person, as a parent I realize I have no control.”
Betty Angel said she thinks Janee will have no problems fitting in in Zimbabwe. “I can see her falling in love with the people,” Betty said. “I think she adjusts fairly well to different cultures.”
Janee knows she’s doing the right thing. “If God calls you to do something, you need to do it,” she said. “He’s there already. I just know that he’s going to take care of me.
“I can trace his hand in so many things. I know this is his leading and his calling. Things don’t work out like this because of happenstance. They just have to be God. The safest place you can ever be is in God’s will. I need to be where he wants me to be.”
After an orientation period this summer, Janee will leave for Zimbabwe Aug. 4 for the two-year program, after which she plans to attend seminary and become a career missionary. She will be serving as assistant to the pastor in a church in Bulawayo and will lead the church’s music and youth programs.
“It’s a city of over half a million people, so I’m not going to be living in a grass hut,” she said.

    About the Author

  • Tim Ellsworth

    Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.

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