Local Faith – Spotlight

Jan at work, Photo by Stephanie Fain.

God Doesn’t Call the Equipped, He Equips the Called – Jan Nowak

by Stephanie Fain

 As director of Redbud Area Ministries, AKA RAM Love, Jan Nowak’s job is to connect people in need with resources. RAM provides clothing, food, guidance, housewares, utility help and most importantly, prayer, laughter and hope. The small, sturdy brick building on Redbud houses a ministry set on God. No matter what you are called there for, Jan is eager and overjoyed to help! When asked what makes this place so efficiently in comparison to other non-profits, Jan made me look up 2 Timothy 4:3-5 “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.” Basically -She is putting God back in the forefront of social work, “social ministry,” baby!

Jan in her work space, Photo by Stephanie Fain.

While we witness the world lose focus of Jesus, we know we can find him among those bricks working with the volunteers no matter what the shift. Instead of focusing on the enemy Jan focuses her energy on God. Building broken down individuals up by minimizing damage done and simply letting us know in our most vulnerable state that Jesus loves us. Jan makes no decisions without including God. The “RAM FAM” enthusiastically starts every shift off with prayer. Get excited! Jan always is! Of my 36 years on earth, Jan is by far the loudest, most influential, contagious and rowdiest down-to-earth angel I have yet met! Clearly Jan doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty. (She gardens.. for fun!) “This is the way God intended for us to minister. It is not new- I am just doing what God told us to do, keep him first.” Said the fisher of men. My questions are ‘What makes a person like Jan?’ and ‘How can we make more?’ Well, let’s look at how she was made:

Jan’s Uncle Bud Evans, her Dad Sgt. Frank Nowak, her Uncle Bud BruinSlot, and her son National Guardsman Specialist Evan Nowak; Photos provided by Jan Nowak.

Not surprisingly, Jan Nowak came into this world with a bang! New Years Eve was the lucky day and she’s been having rowdy loud birthdays ever since. Thankfully she was surrounded by a strong line of God-fearing empaths to keep her in line. Growing up in Niles, her family is very close. With much gratitude, Jan described growing up much like The Walton’s and even being able to have her son reap the benefits of being around his grandparents daily. “I grew up in a loving home with my Mom, a registered nurse and my Dad, an elementary educator and principal. I have two older brothers who are 8 and 10 years ahead of me. We churched on Sundays, had family vacations every summer all over the country, went to Grandma’s house every Christmas.” Jan said. With her grandfather being a pastor and her grandmother, organist and leader of the church choir and woman’s group, it’s safe to assume much of that wildness got tamed. She stayed close to both parents until the Lord called them home, her father 11 years ago and her mother just 18 months ago after being cared for at home with Jan, right where she belonged.

Jan was a single mother up until a few years ago when she married her husband, a pastor! (Right!) Jan has 4 fur babies at home. She is most proud of her achievements as the mother of Evan Nowak, of the Army National Guard, a very like minded young man who has also enjoyed philanthropy from a young age. Having always been surrounded by warriors strong in prayer, seeds were planted that would soon bear roots and end up refreshing one of the most valuable resources this community has today for those in need. She describes going into the field for social work as being the only identifiable job in the workforce with her parallel goals of helping people. Spending 10 eventful years in Niles as a social worker for the Salvation Army, Jan was forged for her forever job at RAM. “A community is only as strong as its weakest citizen.” – Maya Angelou. If this is true, then Jan is on the frontlines welding the chains as the tensions rise and she has her Rambo face on. I bet the devil wets himself a little when she puts on her slippers in the morning. The only rest he gets is when Jan is singing and taking her garden strolls. This is her grounding.

Jan shows one of her most prized donations: one of many boxes donated in honor of Steve Quick, a devoted member of BCC and a long-time volunteer who passed of cancer last year. Photo by Stephanie Fain.

We are only 3 years in on witnessing Jan’s influence in her last job ever, and everyone can clearly see she’s rocking it. She looks like she might outlast the building, guys, and that building isn’t going anywhere! What does Jan teach me? Trust God. Molds are for machines. Depression can be rearranged. “I pressed on.” Here, Arrows meant to harm us can be redirected back at the enemy. With God, crumbling quicksand meant to bury us can be paved into scars that remind us of the day we found mercy, and the warmth thereby generated can then be shared as we help strengthen those around us. We can all be a strong link in the chain. Jan told me her favorite part of this ministry is witnessing patrons come back with their lights bright, walking strong, their cups running over, eager to learn more, fight back and join the front line. If you have the heart to fight for your neighbors, the rowdiest angel in town is now enlisting. With God on your side, who can defeat you? I cannot wait to see what’s next! Never stop growing, Buchanan!

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