Skip to main content

Nella, the director of Friendship Ministries since 1996, passed away very suddenly this past Thursday. Nella touched many lives, as evidenced by the many tributes already written about her. When death comes so suddenly to a loved one, it feels as if they have been ripped from us, not taken. You don’t see it coming, and you can't believe it really happened.

Besides all the love and good food she showered on her immediate family and large extended family, Nella leaves behind an amazing legacy. The mission of Friendship Ministries is to share God’s love with people who have intellectual disabilities and to enable them to become an active part of God’s family. Friendship and its Spanish language sister, Amistad, have equipped churches from 75 denominations in 28 countries to minister with (not for) people.
I have been part on the board of a Friendship group for 16 years, and first met Nella when our group celebrated our 30th anniversary in 1998. (Our group, Special Education Ministry of Holland, was used as the model when Friendship Ministries started in 1983.) I’ve seen first hand the wonderful blessing of people with and without disabilities growing in faith through singing, learning, praying, taking about their faith, and having fun together week after week.
As Executive Director, and only full-time staff person, Nella was administrator, fund raiser, curriculum developer, public speaker, and consultant for the many Friendship groups that minister with some 19,000 people with intellectual disabilities and almost as many mentors. Not only that, Nella served as a tireless advocate for people with disabilities, and did that work with passion, love, and excellence.
She served as an advisor and friend to me in the work I do with Disability Concerns, and she told it like it is. Shortly after I started in July 2006 she initiated a meeting with me in which she told me who I needed to watch out for, who I could trust as a fellow advocate, and who and where I needed to “push.” I think that “push” was one of her favorite words. For me, pushing is going to be harder with Nella gone.
But she was a child of God who now knows the riches of unity with Christ Jesus her Lord. She fought the good fight. She finished the race. She kept the faith. Now she has received the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, awarded to her, and not only to her, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
I wonder how many people with intellectual disabilities came to know the Lord because Nella worked so hard to share God’s love with them through Friendship Ministries. She is celebrating in glory with some of them today.


Mark, thanks for sharing.  My prayers for you as you experience this immense loss in your life.

Diane Plug in Sarnia


Mark Stephenson on August 21, 2013

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Yes, I'm sure you do miss her, as do all of us who knew her well. It's been 5 months since her death, and I can still hardly believe that she won't pop in my office door some Monday morning, as she often did, to chat.

Let's Discuss

We love your comments! Thank you for helping us uphold the Community Guidelines to make this an encouraging and respectful community for everyone.

Login or Register to Comment

We want to hear from you.

Connect to The Network and add your own question, blog, resource, or job.

Add Your Post