To all of the colleagues who knew her, the news of Nella Uitvlugt’s sudden and unexpected home-going a week ago today was a shocking heartbreak. While we rejoice knowing that she is enjoying the glorious presence of the One she loves, we already miss her amazing presence in our disability ministry community. While I know others worked much more closely with Nella, I thought it an appropriate tribute to list just a few of the things that I had the privilege of watching her do well:
- Nella had a special gift of warmth and joy. With a smile that could light up an entire city, she instantly made you feel welcomed. Nella was gifted at loving people, no matter who they were. Is it any wonder she was loved by so many?
- Not only did she see the best in everyone, she had a gift for drawing it out of them. Nella wasn’t satisfied with merely including the disabled. She wanted full engagement for them, and had the ability to make it happen. Her smile made it look like this all came easily, but it was her tireless pursuit and devotion that transformed these goals into reality.
- When our organization started using the Friendship curriculum in our Special Needs Sunday School, it was Nella who followed up to make sure it was working for us and that there was no extra support needed in it’s use, not an underling. In other words, not only did she care about how the outcome of those using the Friendship Ministries tools, she had the heart of servant leader in assuring the effectiveness of what her organization had put forth.
- Expounding on the servant leadership, Nella was humble. Despite the size of her ministry, she never reach a point where she was above serving. Her humility was one of those unspoken qualities about her that made her a woman of such endearing character.
- Nella was a leader of leaders. How many people she poured into in a seemingly effortless way. At today’s leadership conferences, we are taught that it’s all about relationship. Nella was doing that long before the gurus of our time were ever proclaiming its value.
- She never stopped learning. Part of her humility was revealed in Nella’s never-ending willingness to discover more. She was extremely gifted at what she did. Yet, I was completely stunned when she came to me, wanting to know more about the parent mentoring that our organization had developed, and how it might bless the families she already served.
- Nella was a trailblazer. Without the precedent set by her, so many ministries just like ours would not exist. Nella was being inclusive before that word was even widely used in our community. Her desire for total involvement in worship by the disabled was revolutionary when it came on the scene. And for that we, her colleagues, owe her a huge debt of gratitude.
You can read more about our amazing friend on the page created in her memory at Friendship Ministries.