Wave After Wave

Posted on April 15, 2008

Our leadership team is still recovering from the loss of Vanessa Whitwell, who served our staff for nearly a decade. Wherever you turn at Fellowship you see her thumbprint on something.

During her funeral last week I shared a story about a time her and her husband Andy travelled with Lisa and me to Hawaii. One afternoon we were swimming on this beach. And the waves crashing in were tsunami size. Only in Hawaii can you get waves the size that we saw. Most of us were standing about waist deep in the water. But all of a sudden, I looked out to my right and I saw Vanessa swimming out toward these giant waves. And to my amazement, she began to body surf on these towering, powerful, Hawaii 5-0 type waves.

In John 10:10 Jesus said, "I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly."

The word "abundantly" in the original language is a picture of waves crashing upon the seashore. That picture of Vanessa riding those waves is a microcosm of her life.

Amazingly, Buddy Cremeans, a dear friend of mine, called a few days ago and left a message and a prayer for Vanessa’s husband Andy and our staff. And during his prayer he said, "God, I pray that your waves of grace would surround all of the friends, family and staff who loved Vanessa dearly."

Just coincidence? I’m not buying that.

You know, when you ride the waves with people in ministry; when you’re being tossed around on the rough seas or even when it’s smooth sailing, you don’t realize how close you get to someone until their snatched from you.

This tragedy has brought our team closer. It’s made us realize the camaraderie and the loyalty and the love that we have for each other. I hear people talk about missing the camaraderie that they experienced with a certain battalion or in boot camp. And they talk about the closeness that they felt.

Well, as we are involved in this faith fight; as we’re involved in rowing this craft, this ship, to where God wants us to go, let’s take time to appreciate others, to love one another and to rise above our petty differences. Let’s look at the bigger picture. Because we’re a team. We’re a fellowship. We’re a bunch of men and women rowing a ship to take turf and to conquer new lands for the kingdom of God.

Vanessa, we’ll miss you. We thank you for the legacy that you left. And for the unbridled, offensive energy that you put into riding wave and wave for the kingdom of God. 

11 Replies to "Wave After Wave"

  • Brian
    April 15, 2008 (4:58 pm)

    Great reminder for the rest of us who have not had to deal with the stuff you guys are dealing with. It really is a great privilege to serve with others as a team making a church go. I know we all can learn to not take our leaders for granted. Thanks for sharing your heart.

  • Kristal Meacham
    April 15, 2008 (8:25 pm)

    Ed – I have always prayed for our church, but over the past several days I’ve found myself consumed with prayer and thoughts about you, Lisa and the other Fellowship staff memebers as well as the Whitwell/Hunt families … I’ve been worried about all of you and hope that you are gaining strength as the days go by. Thank you for “feeding” me and my family over the past several years. I appreciate you and your team of leaders – Im glad that you all have each other to lean on. Thanks again for all that you do for our church.

  • Terrell Somerville
    April 15, 2008 (8:38 pm)

    Ed, my wife, Shanda and I came to Fellowship last October for the total access weekend with you, Lisa and your staff. Vanessa made a major impact on our lives as she shuttled us to and from our hotel. If we needed anything, she was there. She was such a bright light that showered her love of Christ and love for us as if she had known us for a lifetime. We are so proud to say that God allowed us to spend a weekend with one of the most gifted Christ followers we have ever met. This premature trajedy has left us puzzled, but Shanda and I believe God has given her a wonderful place of loving those who enter Heaven as she loved us unconditionally that wonderful weekend last October. Our staff, Shanda and myself are keeping Andy & family, you & Lisa, and the staff & church family in prayer. We’re honored to have shared a time on earth with Vanessa and our loss we know is Heavens gain. Terrell Somerville, Freedom Church, Gallatin, TN

  • Jackie Shepherd
    April 15, 2008 (9:32 pm)

    Dear Ed-
    Simply a wonderful blog you wrote about Vanessa’s legacy and to treasure those we serve alongside! As a former member of the SWAT hometeam, when we were asked once about what we were most passionate about in life, my answer was Fellowship Church. Not only because it’s a unique place of worship, but more about the superior people who make up the body of the church.
    I pray that God continues to heal our broken hearts and to give us a strength to carry on with that unbridled energy that Vanessa brought to the church.
    God’s Blessings,
    Jackie Shepherd

  • Rob
    April 16, 2008 (9:28 am)

    Thank you for this Message Mr. Young.

  • Andrea
    April 16, 2008 (4:12 pm)

    As usual, you are SO right… one family, one church! I’m so proud and blessed to be a part of Fellowship Church. God Bless YOU!

  • ted
    April 16, 2008 (8:27 pm)

    an abundant life indeed.

  • Amy Waddell
    April 16, 2008 (10:02 pm)

    We’re truly blessed to be a part of a church that has such a “real” staff. I truly appreciate the sincerity that’s been shared, and the struggles with the grief of losing Vanessa. It has been such a life-altering couple of weeks, but I already see such an amazing work being completed by our gracious God. We continue to pray for you Ed & Lisa, Hunt & Whitwell families, and our wonderful staff. Thank you for sharing with us your deepest thoughts and hurts, uniting us even more as a Body of Christ. We will rise to the occasion and carry the torch that Vanessa has passed!

  • Kim
    April 17, 2008 (8:33 pm)

    I have needed to contact the children’s ministry regarding my daughter for some time now. When I was at Vanessa’s funeral service (so beautiful), a picture of her with kids moved me to finally make the call. I have done that and I am putting my faith where it belongs-in my church & God. Thank you Vanessa. And Ed, thank you for this blog. I’m so comfortable with this form of communication and I like coming here to connect with God in a way that feels completely natural to me.

  • Michael
    April 17, 2008 (11:10 pm)

    We are praying and thanks so much for being real..

  • Becky Johnson
    April 18, 2008 (8:57 am)

    Ed, I am a listener/reader from Denver, Colorado. Thank you for sharing your story with us! I am sorry for your loss and the loss within your church. Reading your most recent posts, it reminded me of a song, sung by a country band Diamond Rio. God only cries. I wanted to share it with you and anyone else who visits your blog.
    I pray that God’s grace and peace envelopes everyone who has been touched by Vanessa.
    God bless you!

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