Jane White-Stevens, who grew up on the Mississippi River in Wisconsin, has always been a fan of helping people. After college, she taught high school science for a year in Wisconsin, then spent three and a half years teaching and working with youth as a missionary in Malaysia. Upon her return to the States, she attended seminary at Duke. Her original intent was to become a church community worker (which was kind of a social worker for churches), but the women’s movement grew during that time, and she decided to become a pastor instead. She graduated magna cum laude, married her husband, and began searching for her first position.
“Female pastors were extremely rare then,” she points out. “In fact, on my first interview, I was offered a position as a district secretary. But I knew I was meant to minister differently. I was the third female minister in Wisconsin and, when we moved to Indiana four years later, I was the first.”
During her career, Jane became one of the first few woman pastors elected to the United Methodist Church’s General Conference and worked on the team that helped elect the first female Bishop in 1980.
“I’ve always been passionate about helping women,” she explains, “so working to promote women in ministry made sense.”
So was the work she took up while on sabbatical in 2000: ministering in Romania for the fall semester, then following that trip with several annual five-to-six-week visits. Over the years, she ministered to domestic violence victims, conducted anger management classes for domestic abusers, worked with medical students volunteering in the country, conducted addiction workshops, and started two AL-Anon programs in Romania.
In 2006, she discovered an additional calling while eating lunch with an African bishop. She began working with two new ventures, a school in Nairobi and a mission program that’s visited Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania.
“There’s a tremendous amount of physical and sexual abuse in that area,” she explains, “and I’ve always had a heart for the hurting. We work with self-image, inner healing, and helping people know God better.”
She and her husband, a retired chemistry professor, have two children and three terrific grandkids. They began spending half-years in Georgia in 2009, and moved to Peachtree City full-time last year. Since then, Jane, now 75, has joined several prayer groups, teaches ESL classes, and spends time searching thrift stores for items for the school in Kenya.
“It’s so important that we seniors keep serving and stay involved,” she says. “I never plan to stop!”
Fun facts: Jane protested Viet Nam in 1968, snuck across the Berlin wall in college, and was invited to become a concubine of the Sultan of Pahang while in Malaysia.
Wise Words: Always seek out your assignment from God and get involved in your community.