She Will Be Missed

Posted on April 7, 2008

Last night one of the key leaders of Fellowship Church graduated from this life to the next. And she has gone home to be with the Lord.

Vanessa Whitwell was a dear friend and a phenomenally talented young woman. It’s staggering to think of all the lives she touched and influenced.

As I think about Vanessa’s life, she definitely had a larger than life personality. I think about John 10:10 where Jesus said, "I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly." Vanessa attacked life with a huge amount of offensive energy. Every moment was an adventure for her.

Over the last decade, she played a major role in the development of our worship, was an outstanding singer and actress and did so much with the children’s ministry and our women’s ministry at Fellowship. And on top of all that, she coordinated our conferences and so many leadership events for us.

Knowing Vanessa as well as I did, her heart for the hurting was definitely the thing that drove her. She truly felt a calling to be at Fellowship Church. She’s one of the few people that you come in contact with who actually lived their dream. She did what God called her to do; she lived the dream and loved every moment.

But Vanessa was more than a coworker in the ministry. Lisa and I have had the unique priviledge of having her and her husband as some of our closest friends. They have looked after our children. We’ve shared meals together. We have literally travelled the world with them. And over the years, they became like a part of our family.

It’s interesting in the ministry, because you don’t often realize how close you are to the people around you. We don’t realize how tightly connected we are until someone is gone.

These are definitely difficult days for us. But even more so, I pray for her husband, Andy, who is such a great guy and a wonderful person. These are dark days that he will have to negotiate. But we know that God will give him the strength to come through.

Vanessa will be greatly missed. One of our twin daughters said this weekend, "Dad, our church just seemed to be incomplete because Vanessa isn’t here." You know what? She’s not here anymore. But she is in heaven. She is truly living the dream of being home with Jesus.

36 Replies to "She Will Be Missed"

  • David Womack
    April 7, 2008 (2:50 pm)

    Having worked with Vanessa personally on several projects, I can say that her encouragement was so great that I was lead to tell everyone I came in contact with that day about how awesome she was. I’m thankful that I was able to tell her personally several times, and thankful that I had an opportunity to work with her so closely on the few projects I did.
    Melissa and I’s hearts go out to Andy and the family. Love -David and Melissa

  • Rob
    April 7, 2008 (2:51 pm)

    I am not one of many words, but my heart goes out to you and your family over the loss of one of your dear friends. I am also praying for Vanessa’s family and especially her husband. God is with them……..

  • LM
    April 7, 2008 (3:05 pm)

    My image of a Beauty Queen shall always remain to be Vannessa Whitwell. Her beauty shown so brightly to the world could not compare to the beauty and love of Jesus Christ she held in her soul and spirit. Thank you for touching our lives with such intimate love you showed for our Father Vanessa! You are Home! I imagine that your home shall be a beautiful ‘Pink Palace’ that we all shall see one day. For now, I say, “See you soon Vanessa! I love and admire you for eternity!” With tears of sorrow and joy ~ fellow Co-worker and sister in Christ. Amen

  • Andy
    April 7, 2008 (3:14 pm)

    One of the most difficult things for us to do is acknowledge the fragility of life. This week has again reminded me of that fragile balance. But I’ve also been reminded of the majesty and power of God and his ability to carry everyone through…and all the way home to him.

  • Sandra West
    April 7, 2008 (6:43 pm)

    Although I did not know Vanessa personally, I feel I have lost a good friend. I have been a member of Fellowship Grapevine for around four years and have had the privilege of seeing Vanessa on our worship team and at ladies events. She blessed my life with her songs, prayers and testimonies. It’s weird… because as members, we are able to see inside the lives of those who lead even though we do not know them one to one. I have laughed, cried, prayed and sang my heart out with her all the while in a room full of other people. She was beautiful inside and out…and she will be greatly missed by all of us whose life she touched. I will continue to pray for Andy and all of the Fellowship Church family.

  • creiser
    April 7, 2008 (8:00 pm)

    I have never been in as much awe as I was on Sunday when I heard the news of Vanessa. I only spoke to her a couple of times, just in passing. I always thought of her as such a strong woman…even stronger when she told of her hardships in life. She touched the lives of so many people…many that she did not even know personally. I have been a member of Fellowship Church for ten years. To hear Vanessa sing was like listening to an angel. I will never forget her performance of “It is Well With My Soul” during one of our countries hardest times ever. Hearing her sing that song gave peace to so many. I take comfort in knowing that God holds the master key to our lives and that everything happens for a reason.
    While Vanessa will be greatly missed, she served her purpose in life many times over. My prayers are with Andy, the family and the church tonight.
    “I can do all things in Christ who strenghtens me.” Philippians 4:13

  • Amy Waddell
    April 7, 2008 (8:39 pm)

    I have felt such conflicting emotions over the past day and a half…some of sorrow and pain and some of comfort and peace in knowing where our sweet Vanessa now resides. What an awesome testimony she left behind, and what a beautiful family remains to carry on her legacy. I have had the dear opportunity to get to know Vanessa’s father, Hugh, and what a wonderful example of a man in love with the Lord he is. He is a man after God’s own heart, and he loves his family with everything he has. Thank you, Hugh, for allowing me a window into such a beautiful world and for setting such a wonderful example to the rest of us in the church. Serving with you in the greeting ministry has been an honor…Cody and I will continue to pray for you and your family during this struggling time. We love you dearly.

  • Cate Crowley
    April 7, 2008 (9:24 pm)

    Got a call in Oregon tonight about Vanessa. I’m having a hard time wrapping my brain around this. I know how much she will be missed. Wonderful leader, wonderful voice, and a wonderful person.

  • Jackie Shepherd
    April 7, 2008 (9:58 pm)

    My thoughts and prayers go out to the Whitwell family and all of Fellowship Church. I had the pleasure of attending bible studies, singing in choir and participating in a few other events with Vanessa. She truly was one of the most precious gifts from God. Her voice was angelic and heart proved to be the same. May God be with us as we grieve, yet celebrate his holiness in one of his most precious children!
    Blessings, Jackie Shepherd

  • Matt
    April 8, 2008 (12:57 am)

    I never had the opportunity to meet Vanessa personally, however, I instantly recognized her talent and passion for life and everything she was involved with at Fellowship Church. It was plainly apparent that her passion for life was only exceeded by her love and passion for Jesus. I remember seeing her in panels that Lisa has done over the past couple years and I instantly recognized how God has blessed Fellowship Church through Vanessa’s life. I remember thinking that God was going to use her to do great things for the Kingdom of God. I worshipped our God with thousands of others with Vanessa leading and can only imagine how incredible it is that she’s worshipping our Lord in the presence of Angels. I appreciated her giftedness and God-given talent. Ed put it best when he said he was reminded of John 10:10, where Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly.” She lived life to the fullest. I am deeply saddened by Vanessa’s sudden passing and my deepest sympathies and condolences and prayers go out to Andy and Vanessa’s family and friends. Vanessa’s life transcended not knowing her personally; she impacted and touched many from afar. You didn’t have to know Vanessa to be impacted by her love for the church. She is with Jesus now and she will be missed dearly by the Fellowship Church family.

  • Abby
    April 8, 2008 (8:13 am)

    Oue prayers are with her family, you and the entire Fellowship family. It is always bittersweet when the Lord calls someone home so quickly. It’s a blessing to know she is singing still.

  • Angela
    April 8, 2008 (9:25 am)

    Vanessa was truly one of a kind. She had an undeniable physical beauty that was accentuated by Christ’s reflection in her countenance. She had the voice of an angel. One of my fondest memories was when she sang with the children at the Christmas service at America Airlines Center. Our daughter was only five years old at the time, but still remembers it vividly and remembers how sweet Vanessa was and how special she made each child feel during rehearsals. I take comfort in the verse that is posted on Fellowship’s website “precious in the sight of The Lord is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116:115). I know Vanessa has now heard Our Lord say “Well done, my good and faithful servant”.

    April 8, 2008 (12:26 pm)

    Last August, while visiting FC from Florida, I met Vanessa in your lobby. She made such an off-the-chart first impression to me. And she must have been so special because she also made a lasting impression on me. I never forget her amazing presence in your lobby. I’m so sorry for your loss and will be praying for you.

  • Jennifer Goff
    April 8, 2008 (1:43 pm)

    Tim and I were so saddended to hear of what Vanessa’s family and the FC family was going through last week and then of her passing. We are praying for you guys continually. I am thankful for the opportunity to have met her and to hear her beautiful voice so many times. Tim always spoke fondly of her and we both just can’t believe she is gone. She led such a full life and leaves a wonderful legacy behind. It feels too soon, but who are we to question God’s timing, right? We still feel apart of the Fellowship Family and are mourning with you guys. You are all in our prayers.
    Jennifer Goff

  • Lisa
    April 8, 2008 (3:31 pm)

    I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to know Vanessa through Fellowhip Church. I miss her and I wish I could hear her beautiful voice again.

  • Matthew McKendry
    April 8, 2008 (4:58 pm)

    Dear Ed,
    I wanted to send my condolences to you and Lisa and the entire Fellowship family. I am a huge fan of Fellowship Church and I don’t even live in Texas! Orange County California to be exact. Although I have never attended a service at Fellowship I believe people such as Vanessa have helped create one of the most prolific ministries needed in today’s world. I thank God daily for Fellowship and Ed Young Ministries. Your messages have helped to challenge and strengthen my walk. Your creative way of preaching has enabled me to be a better man and witness for Christ. I am so sorry for your loss and I will continue to pray for Vanessa’s husband and the entire Fellowship family. Thank you Ed for all you do.
    God Bless!
    Matthew McKendry

  • Craig Groeschel
    April 8, 2008 (7:22 pm)

    Amy and I are praying for you, Andy, and all of the Fellowship family.

  • Hillary Laird
    April 8, 2008 (7:28 pm)

    I only met Vanessa once, but feel like I have know her for years. After hearing her testimony at the woman’s retreat a few years ago I have felt connected to her. Her words and singing have blessed me so much. She was an AMAZING woman. God has already shown me through her death what it means to leave a legacy. Our daily woes don’t matter. It is those we affect through our love for Christ, that matter. I am contiually praying for Andy and her family.

  • Perry
    April 8, 2008 (7:48 pm)

    My heart fell out of my chest when I logged on to Fellowship Churches website and saw the news of Vanessa.
    She was an incredible leader and TOTALLY represented Jesus with passion and integrity. She will be missed!
    I am comforted that she is with Jesus…and that she is now singing with HIS worship team! One day we will join her at the feet of Jesus!!!
    You guys are in our prayers!

  • Mia Aguilar
    April 8, 2008 (10:11 pm)

    When my mom called and told me vanessa was sick and in the hospital my heart just droppped in my stomach. To me Vanessa was a strong leader, a talented singer and a beautiful role model! She always gave me the sweetest hugs and the best fashion tips you will ever get! Every time she sang on the stage I think I would get chills up and down my body. And of course she loved PINK! That definatly was her color! And I have my pink ring she gave me to remember her by! But my favorite saying is “We do not remember the days We remember the moments!” So I pray for her husdand, family, and friends. And I can’t wait for the day we all will meet with her again! I love you girl!
    <3 Mia

  • Amy Waddell
    April 9, 2008 (1:20 pm)

    I just want to say what an honor it is to have been a part of such a beautiful celebration of life. Vanessa’s service was a perfect tribute to her love for the Lord and her firey enthusiasm for life. She has left such a legacy! Let’s all take that perspective and realize that life is short…make it great! We’ll miss you Vanessa, but we’ll see you soon 🙂

  • Andrea
    April 9, 2008 (3:47 pm)

    My prayers are with Vanessa’s family members and with our Fellowship family. I know Pastor Ed that you are grief stricken as am I. My thoughts and prayers are all about celebrating Vanessa’s life and her legacy. God certainly did a great job in her creation and I know He is celebrating His precious servant now being with Him. The songs in Heaven are certainly sweeter now.

  • John Douthitt
    April 9, 2008 (4:23 pm)

    My family and I moved to Houston 3 years ago this week from the DFW area, which is home to me. The most difficult part of the move was leaving Fellowship Church, our hometeam, the ministries we served in and the friends that we had made. Finding a new church home was even more difficult because of the talented worship team that we left at Fellowship. They are such an amazing part of the service and Vanessa was as gifted as any when performing for our Lord.
    I never had the privilege of meeting Vanessa, but was blessed to hear her sing many times during the Saturday night services and am not surprised at the number of people she touched as evidence by the comments posted here.
    My prayers are with her husband, her family and Fellowship Church. We should all be comforted in knowing that she is now with our Lord.

  • Obed Martinez
    April 9, 2008 (5:46 pm)

    Ed, Our hearts and prayers go out to you, Andy, your staff, and the entire FC church family. Vanessa was an amazing women, dreamer, and Christ Follower that changed many lives including our’s here at Destiny Church. Heaven has gained one more jewel and earth has been left with one more mark of one of God’s great servants!

  • Lesa Lynch
    April 9, 2008 (8:20 pm)

    When you hear someone sing, you can tell if they are just saying the words or truly feeling the message. With Vanessa, she really was living the life she sang about. I’ll always remember her sitting on the stool and singing:
    “Give me one pure and holy passion
    Give me one magnificent obsession
    Give me one glorious ambition for my life
    To know and follow hard after You
    To know and follow hard after You
    To grow as Your disciple in the truth
    This world is empty, pale and poor
    Compared to knowing You, my Lord
    Lead me on and I will run after You
    Lead me on and I will run after You”
    And Vanessa did just that. We’ll sincerely miss her!
    -The Lynch Family

  • Brian Matusz
    April 9, 2008 (9:03 pm)

    My heart and prayers go out to families of Vanessa and Andy Whitwell. I will continue to pray for the Fellowship Church staff as I know you have lost a special part of your family as well. Thank you Ed and Lisa for being so genuine and loving to those around you. Your direction and leadership touch so many. And although she is no longer with us, the ripple effect of Vanessa’s love for the Lord will continue on!

  • Tara
    April 9, 2008 (9:14 pm)

    I am still shocked at what happened. I didn’t know Vanessa personally, but she made a huge impact on my life. I remember watching her sing at Fellowship for years and always admiring that something different she had…such joy. I always looked up to her and wanted to be like her. I attended the service today and it was such an honor to have been touched by Vanessa’s life.
    I am praying for her family now. She will be missed greatly. I will miss hearing her wonderful voice and passion for the Lord. I hope I can leave a legacy like her. She has truly changed my life.

  • Kristi Hinkle
    April 9, 2008 (9:27 pm)

    Being a member of Fellowship Church since the first days in 1992, I was so proud to be at the service this morning to see the love and support from our Fellowship family. With our church being a mega-church, or small town (often referred to), none of that mattered when it came to paying our honors to a church leader who touched people’s lives in so many different aspects. The service was so intimate and special, full of emotion, both sadness and celebration! Ed’s comment about “not saying goodbye but see you later” will stick in my mind forever. Seeing Rob Johnson back on stage, with Yancee, singing to the Lord in remembrance of their dear friend, Vanessa, was beyond words. What a blessing! Vanessa, you will definitely be missed but you will always be around the church, your fingerprints everywhere, your smile & beauty everywhere. I can only imagine what you are experiencing in the Lord’s presence right now…

  • Scott Wilson
    April 9, 2008 (10:22 pm)

    While it has been a while since we spoke it was a great conversation…catching up. I loved working with Vanessa and was appreciative of her creative side. She was a blast! And funny…! She brought out the creative in me by her sense of humor. Her visit to me while I was in the hospital lifted my spirits and again bringing her unique levity to my not so great situation. Only Vanessa could get away with that. Yah, she could sing, act and inspire. But my memories will be the way she could make me laugh. Miss ya girl!!
    Scott Wilson

  • Tim Chambers
    April 9, 2008 (10:31 pm)

    You haven’t left my mind all week. I thank God for you and your leadership to so many around the world. I know God will carry you in and help you as you lead Fellowship through this difficult time. So be strong, there are a lot of us that got your back in constant prayer.
    Tim Chambers

  • BC
    April 9, 2008 (10:45 pm)

    One of the most impactful songs (“Untitled Hymn”)I ever heard Vanessa sign had these profound words…
    When your life is over, kiss
    the world goodbye
    And go in peace and laugh on Glory’s side
    And fly to Jesus, fly to Jesus,
    fly to Jesus and live.
    It was a privilege and pleasure to share worship with her for so many years. How blessed is her family to have known and loved such an amazing child of God.

  • Victoria
    April 10, 2008 (8:59 pm)

    To Vanessa’s family, friends and church family: I am so sorry for your loss. You all paint such a beautiful picture of this amazing woman. I know the pain of losing someone so dear and I know the comfort our Father can bring. I pray that you all feel the Lord’s comforting arms holding you.

  • The Ybarra's-Fellowship Church
    April 12, 2008 (10:16 am)

    Dear Ed & Lisa, FC Staff, and FC Family, you remain a constant in our prayers during this tragic time of our beloved church. We are one body in Christ therefore we share in the suffering but we know that rejoicing comes in the knowledge that she is at home with our precious Jesus. We hold up Andy, the Whitwell and Hunt families to the throne in steadfast prayer. Vanessa was simply stunning….a sight to behold….she was so genuine, so real. I will always remember her testimony at Bloom and how the power of the Holy Spirit hovered amongst us as she poured her testimony, her life, her love into us that day….she genuinely loved us….it was so evident….yet she made sure that we understood that Jesus was the focus of her testimony and not herself….she was the real deal. I remember too how Andy was there to support her and to affirm her….another testimony in itself. Yes, she will be missed. “Look to the Lord and His strength, seek His face always.” 1 Chronicles 16:11.

  • Greg - The Bow-fisherman
    April 12, 2008 (1:52 pm)

    I’m still in shock but the reality that she is with our Lord Jesus Christ is finally beginning to sink in with my wife and I. We feel almost selfish that we hurt that she’s gone, when She’s in God’s arms right now looking down and pushing us all on. We’re ready to take the baton. We’re ready to push the church forward as Vanessa did. There will always be a void where she was – and is no longer, but I can honestly say – without any doubt in my mind, she has inspired many many people “to go big – or not go at all.” We miss you and love you Vanessa. We’re praying every day for you Andy. God will bring peace.

  • Jennifer Edwards
    April 17, 2008 (11:25 am)

    I’ve been attending FC for ten years now, and will never forget the first time I heard her angelic voice! I attended the funeral last week and it was so inspiring to hear the story Ed spoke of about Hawaii. Her life was truly an inpsiration to so many others that watched her from afar. I can only hope and dream that I can touch the amount of lives that Vanessa did! My prayers, and my thoughts will remain with her church family as well as Andy and many others that loved her so dearly.
    Jen Edwards

  • poetryman69
    May 7, 2008 (10:48 am)

    peace and blessings

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