Jan Peterson: My Life as a Pastor’s Wife

When I was around 13 years old, I discovered the treasure of spiritual friendship through a woman named Gertrude Floyd. Gertrude and her husband were our back-door neighbors. I had recently been confirmed in the Presbyterian church and was involved in youth fellowship, where a lot of kind folks helped me center my life in the Lord. But a good deal of my spiritual growth came from just on the other side of our backyard fence. I often found myself walking through the back gate and knocking on Gertrude’s screen door, where I was always received with a warm welcome and a “Come in—I’ll get us some lemonade. You go on out to the porch.”

Those visits had a profound influence on my life. Even at 13, I was beginning to understand the kind of woman I wanted to be as I grew up: I wanted to be like Gertrude. Her loving friendship showed me how powerful it is to be readily available to others—to listen, to care for them, to engage with their lives.

These years later, I’m well aware that being a pastor’s wife brings with it a lot of demands and a lot of time spent serving others. But the amazing thing about service is that it rarely returns void, even if we don’t see the end results ourselves.

Eugene and I saw this happen in a beautiful way during one particular season of serving. Our friend David and his wife, Janet, were part of our church community. She was our organist. They had a blended marriage; each of them had three children. Tragically, Janet was diagnosed with cancer and passed away, leaving David with all those children to care for. He had a good job and was working in Baltimore, but before Janet died, the company moved to the West Coast. His hands were tied. He couldn’t move his dying wife and kids at that time, so he ended up getting a new job that financially didn’t allow him and the children to stay in their house.

At first, the grandmother took the kids up to Pennsylvania where she lived, but they were very unhappy there. They were used to living in their hometown, and they wanted to be with their father. So my dear, blessed husband said to David, “Well, we’ll take them in.” Two of the children had already left home, so we welcomed the younger four—three boys and one girl—into our home, in addition to our three children. Our daughter, Karen, was 10, and our boys were two and three years younger. It was a houseful. We only had three bedrooms. The whole basement of our house was empty except for Eugene’s workshop and study, so we put the boys down in the basement, and the girl shared a bedroom with Karen.

David’s children were with us for about three months. The septic tank overflowed once, so we carted the kids back and forth to the church to use the bathroom. And I had to fix seven school lunches when we really couldn’t afford to buy lunch for everybody. There I was every morning, preparing all these lunches and getting breakfast for the kids and sending them to the school bus—it was overwhelming. Eugene organized the kids so they helped with packing their lunches.

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Source: Christianity Today