This past week has been one of the most difficult weeks for me personally and in over thirty years of pastoral ministry. Jeremy Whitman, a dear friend and co-laborer for many years, has gone home to be with the Lord. His wife Alicia, and his children Derek, Paige, Reagan, Drew, and Gwynne, and his extended family need your prayers today.
Jeremy came to Lancaster Baptist Church in 1990, and he made assurance of his personal salvation in 1992. It was a joy to watch him grow as a Christian man, fall in love with Alicia, and begin serving the Lord. Yesterday, as I was reading many of the letters Jeremy wrote me over the years, I was reminded of his love for God, his family, my family, and our church family.
Over the years, Jeremy served in a variety of capacities here at Lancaster Baptist Church. He worked with our teens, helped our singles, and coordinated events. Most recently, he was a help to me as an assistant and member of my office team. In more ways than I can possibly count, he invested his life into my family and hundreds (perhaps thousands) of others. Losing him from our team several months ago, and now from our lives, has been unspeakably painful and devastating—for his family, for our family, and for all who called him a friend. In our office, no one worked more closely with Jeremy than my administrative assistant, Mrs. Bonnie Ferrso. I’d ask that you pray for her as she is grieving today also.
Most of us who knew Jeremy will remember years of fun and the service for the Lord we enjoyed with him. Jeremy was an immeasurable blessing to his family and his church family. Jeremy hosted many guests who visited our campus. Hundreds of friends from near and far have called or texted to offer prayers for his family. Thank you.
Last summer, we became aware that Jeremy was feeling ill and experiencing spiritual struggles. His family and church family, staff, and friends from across the country began to reach out to him. When he left our staff and followed other pursuits, we continued in many ways to support and reach out to him. We have loved Jeremy and wept and prayed for him throughout these past months. While I don’t understand all the details and the “whys,” I choose to believe that, at least in his mind, the man who carried out the acts of last Sunday evening was not the man our church family knew and loved nine months earlier and for the twenty-plus years preceding.
Because Jeremy had received Christ as his personal Saviour, I believe we will see Jeremy in Heaven. God promises that when we trust in Him for salvation, He saves us and keeps our salvation by His power.
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.—Romans 10:13
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.—1 Peter 1:3-5
We all grieve differently. This has been a shocking experience for everyone who knows Jeremy. Through this week, we have been remembering many of God’s promises of comfort. A few that have been particularly meaningful and sustaining have been these:
Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.—Hebrews 4:16
Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.—1 Peter 5:7
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.—2 Corinthians 12:9
Jeremy had a wonderful wife and five children, loving parents who are members of Lancaster Baptist Church, and two adult siblings who are faithfully serving the Lord with their spouses and children. I want his children to remember the awesome dad they had. They love their dad, mom, grandparents, and church family. They are old enough to hear us and read our discussions and remembrances. Because of that, I have tried to be mindful of the following Scriptures:
A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.—Proverbs 29:11
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.—Philippians 4:8
My focus this week has been on Jeremy’s family and their needs. The family has requested a private memorial service in the coming days, and in the future they have requested a public reception and memorial open for all to remember and rejoice in Jeremy’s life. Details are being formulated by the family. It is our desire and plan to honor their wishes.
Lancaster Baptist Church is providing for all funeral costs and needs, and we are establishing the Whitman Children Education Fund. This fund can be used at any educational institution at the discretion of Alicia Whitman. If you would like to contribute to the children, you may send a gift through our church office, and the family will be notified by our office.
As in all difficult situations, this dear family needs time, grace, and prayer. May we, as godly Christians, give these to them. May God grant us great grace in giving, love in sharing, and hope in comforting. Please continue to pray for Jeremy’s family as well as the Ungerman family in their time of loss. Thank you for your prayers.
Feel free to use the comments section below to share your memories of Jeremy and to let his family know how much you appreciated him:
[Posted with permission of the Whitman family.]
1/26/13 update: See An Update on the Homegoing of Jeremy Whitman for more details regarding his funeral service.