NU head in Purple
Nella Uitvlugt
  • Date of passing: Mar 21, 2013
Let the memory of Nella be with us forever

This memorial website was created in the memory of our loved one, Nella Uitvlugt. We will remember her forever.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  --Romans 8:38-39

Memorial Tributes
This tribute was added by Bruce Buursma on 21st March 2017

"On this day four years following her passing into eternal life, I'm fondly recalling Nella's tenacious passion for her work and calling. It was an honor to serve alongside her as a board member for Friendship Ministries."

This tribute was added by Eric Uitvlugt on 21st March 2017

"After four years I am still amazed when others mention how Nella impacted them in God's name. Praise the Lord for the ways He used Nella to minister to many."

This tribute was added by Eric Uitvlugt on 21st March 2016

"Another year has passed since Nella was called to her eternal home.

I am thankful for the many ways she was blessed while here on earth."

This tribute was added by David Blain on 19th July 2015

"nella was excellent in her bringing me in and out of the Dark era of my life rip nella miss ya"

This tribute was added by Arlene Reith on 22nd March 2015

"Nella, you are sorely missed.. You are my hero, and your legacy will live on forever!"

This tribute was added by Eric Uitvlugt on 21st March 2015

"Two years ago today, Nella was called home.

It seems like yesterday and forever.

Her gift of helping people with disabilities teach us about faith, hope and love was a remarkable blessing."

This tribute was added by Joan Bacon on 27th June 2014

"Dear Eric and Family,
I can't think of a more appropriate tribute to Nella's life and work than the AAIDD's Henri Nouwen award.  Nella's commitment, joy, and talents in serving people with IDD through Friendship Ministries remain an inspiration to me and many others."

This tribute was added by Karen Layland on 27th June 2014

"What a joy to hear of the special award recognizing Nella's incredible work and passion.  We all rejoice with you in this acknowledgement of her legacy!  After working with her at Faith Alive and at Barnabas Foundation, I miss her contagious enthusiasm for this important kingdom work.  Special blessings, Karen"

This tribute was added by Eric Uitvlugt on 26th June 2014

"Today I, and my family, were honored to receive the Henri Nouwen Award, given to Nella, by the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD) Religion and Spirituality Division, at their conference in Orlando, Florida. I praise God for blessing Nella so richly through her role as executive director of Friendship Ministries."

This tribute was added by LaVonne Carlson on 22nd March 2014

"I can hardly believe it's been a whole year already. Friendship is trucking along, but it's not the same without you. The office plants are still alive, but they've been pretty wilted a few times. I think they miss you, too."

This tribute was added by Mona Bruinsma on 21st March 2014

"A whole year has passed already. Still there are times when I think that I need to ask Nella about this or tell her about something that has happened at a Friendship meeting. Just to spend some time laughing and sharing ideas together. You are missed, my friend, yet we rejoice that you have gone home. Eric, we keep you in our prayers. The door is always open if you should want to come for a visit. Sid & Mona"

This tribute was added by Carrie Ann Bark on 21st March 2014

"I love you Aunt Nella.  I can't believe it's been a year already.  I think about you nearly everyday.  The memory of your joy is impressed upon my heart and I find myself calling upon it often.  It amazes me how much I miss you."

This tribute was added by Eric Uitvlugt on 21st September 2013

"The Lord took Nella home six months ago today. I miss her by my side, but am thankful that God has his hand on me each day. I thank and praise God, for how he chose to use Nella, in such wonderful ways, through Friendship Ministries. May God continue to be glorified through all those involved with Friendship."

This tribute was added by Diana Englund on 25th April 2013

"I just learned of Nella's home-going last Monday evening and I still have some tears welling up for the whole of the Friendship Ministries family.    I first met Nella on the telephone when I started my Friendship Ministry 16 years ago.  She was uniquely gifted by God for this ministry, an intelligent Christian woman, and a great servant of God.  Looking forward to the FM reunion in heaven"

This tribute was added by Sharon Urbaniak on 24th April 2013

"Dearest family and firends of Nella,
My heart grieves with you as we miss Nella physical presence ,but her spirit and love lives on in all we do.  I have ministered in the Catholic Diocese of Bufalo to my sisters and brothers with disabilties for 13 years and met Nella at a conference in Boston. She was always there with wisdom, inspiration  and freindship.  God Bless."

This tribute was added by Stan-Lynda Higgins on 10th April 2013

"I had the privilege of knowing Nella through our mutual service on the Christian Council of Persons with Disabiliites board.  Nella was a passionate, knowledgeable and committed leader.  She will be greatly missed in the disability community.  My thoughts and prayers go out to her husband, family and all at Friendship Ministries."

This tribute was added by Gary Hanson on 9th April 2013

"I had the privilege of working with Nella for a year while I was a student at Western Seminary.  For me she embodied the type of passion and persistence needed to give voice to those that so often go unheard.  She had an amazing heart and will be deeply missed."

This tribute was added by Gabrielle Kowalski on 9th April 2013

"My tribute is a little late because I just learned of Nella's death. She was a wonderful, supportive friend and a professional colleague. I will always treasure our last telephone conversation.

Sr. Gabrielle Kowalski"

This tribute was added by Kris Dotinga on 3rd April 2013

"Nella will be missed in so many ways: a voice for those often excluded, a loving mother and wife, a mentor to many, and a friend to whomever she met. What God accomplished through her was amazing and she will be sorely missed. We can rest knowing that God ways are always right even though we might not comprehend them, Nella's legacy will continue, and she is no longer in pain."

This tribute was added by DAVID CLAURE on 31st March 2013

"Dear, Nella rest in peace. God bless you though left a great wound in my heart."

This tribute was added by Mona Bruinsma on 30th March 2013

"Eric, we were greatly shocked and saddened to hear of Nella's passing and have been keeping you and your family in our prayers. We rejoice with Nella knowing that she's now home with our Lord and Saviour but we'll miss her friendship, her humour and her wisdom. She was a very special lady and we're all better for having known her. Thank you for sharing her with us. Sid & Mona Bruinsma"

This tribute was added by Betty Brockelman on 30th March 2013

"Eric, thank you for sharing Nella with all of us, she will be missed. You know she is watching over all of her beautiful friends knowing that what she started will continue.  I feel so blessed that I was able to be part of her life from a distance as you gave me hope when I needed it so.  Her  work will continue and what a tribute that is.  May God be with you and your family. Betty"

This tribute was added by Carol Rienstra on 28th March 2013

"Not only did Nella welcome and show great interest in our grandson who enjoyed Friendship classes at Plymouth Heights for a couple years, but she could draw prayer requests from his indistinguishable speech that he totally agreed with: for his dad who is serving a life sentence in prison and whom Troy Jr. hasn't seen for more than 15 years.  Nella knew his heart and touched it."

This tribute was added by Jane Ward on 27th March 2013

"I had the privilege of working as an administrative assistant for Nella for a short time a number of years ago. I will always remember her smile and her gentle and loving nature. She touched so many people during her lifetime! What a blessing she was!"

This tribute was added by Sara Piersma on 26th March 2013

"I have known Nella for a long time I was apart of friendship class she was a great friend and also a teacher she was my Elemantry school teacher at Shawnee park Elm she was a great teacher and helped me out when I needed her My friend connie allen just told me monday night I will truely miss her smiling face and her love of god and a good advocate for people that have disablites"

This tribute was added by Nancy Ugbogu on 26th March 2013

"Dear Eric,
i was just browsing when i stopped to listen to Nella's voice concerning learning the WORD alongside people with disability. IT TOUCHED ME The next scroll down was a message in memory of Nella. Eric i am encouraging you in the LORD, know that her works will surely be rewarded. Nella vision ministered to me. GOD BLESS YOU."

This tribute was added by Susan Langeland on 26th March 2013

"Dear Uitvligt Family, May God comfort you and sustain you in each minute and hour. Nella was such a blessing to so many through the leadership, gifts, lessons and joy she gave the Church and all who became Friends through Friendship Ministries. Thank you for sharing her and supporting her in her calling. You, too, are part of the blessing of Friendship."

This tribute was added by Eric Uitvlugt on 26th March 2013

"I am touched by the kind words about my wonderful wife, and dearest friend, Nella. My prayers go out to LaVonne, Heather, Elizabeth, Gwen, the Friendship board, as well as all of you who minister, in God's name, to those with intellectual disabilities. May God be glorified as we serve Him. I am so thankful the Lord blessed me with nearly 40 years of Christ-filled marriage to Nella."

This tribute was added by Steve Casey on 25th March 2013

"Got the news about Nella today.  For the 20+ years I have known her, she has always been a solid voice for the developmentally disabled of the world,  Her life touched many thousands of others through her work with Friendship Ministries.  Heaven has received an angel who had her wings many years before entering the gates of Paradise.  We will all miss her."

This tribute was added by Bekki Landman on 25th March 2013

"I didn't know Nella well but from what I saw of her she was an amazing, Godly woman. She will be greatly missed. To echo another quote, "Our loss is definitely heaven's gain." We shouldn't be sad because Nella is having the best Easter of all. Her mission and passion will definitely carry on. To her family, Kevin, Andrea, and Trevor- hold your heads high because Nella was very proud of you"

This tribute was added by Irene VanderWeit on 25th March 2013

"Nella, you have won the race, you have recieved your crown!  Well done, you have been a good and faithful servant.  Now we who are left behind for awhile will continue the work that you so selflessly started. I only got to meet you once just a few months ago and will forever be grateful for your help in getting a Friendship group started in our church! Terra Ceia Christian Reformed Church"

This tribute was added by Kristin Mikulski on 25th March 2013

"Our sweet Nella is gone but not forgotten, you will be missed."

This tribute was added by dave tuit on 25th March 2013

"I had the please of serving with Nella on the Friendship Board. She was a true servant, using her significant talents to reach all those associated with FM from board member to "Friend", dream and inspire and lead FM administratively, and do so with a charming smile and disposition. She will be missed here on earth, but her smile now belongs to heaven."

This tribute was added by Molli Brunsting on 25th March 2013

"Many of our students at Grandville Area Friendship Ministry remember Nella with great fondness. You have been a blessing to so many with your love and compassion for others"

This tribute was added by Neil Cudney on 25th March 2013

"Christian Horizons was saddened to hear about Nella’s death. She was a great advocate to those we support. Many in Ontario had their lives enriched because of her tireless work.  Her focuses were clearly evident: her Lord, her family and her mission. Our prayers are with you all at this time.  Dr. Neil Cudney on behalf of Christian Horizons International"

This tribute was added by Mary Dudley on 25th March 2013

"My heart is saddened by the passing of Nella. She was truly a faithful believer in God. She and I have communicated for several years and she has led workshops at our OFWB Sunday School Institute and was well received by over 400 people. She will be missed! My love and best wishes for her family."

This tribute was added by Richard Beattie on 25th March 2013


Bon Voyage Nella! We love you and will miss you.

Friendship Fellowship in Denver and Colorado Springs"

This tribute was added by Grace Brouwer on 25th March 2013

"praying for those of us who are left behind while Nella is in GLORY!  Praise the Lord for Nella, and the work she so diligently loved to do. we miss her"

This tribute was added by Jill Jones on 25th March 2013

"Nella  simply was a  lovely lady. I liked her a  lot.
She was a  wonderful friend and advocate for the intellectually disabled, a true christian and she will be missed terribly."

This tribute was added by William Hyde on 25th March 2013

"Nella, we have connected with you, and have used Friendship Ministries and its materials many times in our over 30 years of ministry, i.e., Me & My Friends, here in Columbus, Ohio.  Thank you for your love and dedication in serving adults with special needs.  May the Lord continue to bless the work and enthusiasm you have generated and spread to so many others."

This tribute was added by DAVID CLAURE on 25th March 2013

"Thank Nella God knows your work you have done and will always reward you as you sleep. I Will miss you

This tribute was added by Ralph Bus on 25th March 2013

You will be fondly remembered when next I see your empty chair at a meeting of Disability Concerns.
You have left your footprints in the sand during your time - they speak of your love for your family, ministry, and for all of God's children!"

This tribute was added by Angela Roorda on 24th March 2013

"Rarely have I met such a passionate, compassionate, and tirelessly dedicated person.   Nella reached out so generously, and her reach extended to many.  What an amazing legacy she has left to her friends living with disability.  May we all learn from and live up to the shining example she has set."

This tribute was added by Bill Gaventa on 24th March 2013

"Fearless, faithful,funny, flexible, far-sighted, friendly, and in our circles, famous.  I can only imagine Nella now saying to a few people, "But I was not done yet!"  She led Friendship Ministries to be a bridge between many parts of the Christian tradition and on the cutting edge of inclusive ministries. Religious education usually precedes leadership. Through her, it became leadership."

This tribute was added by Gerry Longstreet on 24th March 2013

"Nella-  We only knew you from Friendship when we would come and participate with the special needs people.  My brother (George Waldron) was one of those people and he cared for you a great deal, as I am sure most of the people you showed so much love for. You will be greatly missed by so many.  Jack and Gerry Longstreet"

This tribute was added by michelle baas on 24th March 2013

"I had the honor of knowing Nella in many capacities, one of which was as her hair stylist and friend.  She would exuberantly come into the salon every four weeks with her usual passion for life and people, telling stories...  Nella, you showed me the real Jesus who loved people for what was inside of them.  You were a light in some of the dark places."

This tribute was added by Rosemary Graham on 24th March 2013

"To Eric, family and staff:
I am praying earnestly for you and the family in this terrible loss.  I first met Nella on the Disability Committee of the National Council of Churches.  Nella was my colleague, friend, and mentor in this ministry.  She leaves behind a great legacy of support, love, and compassion for the "lease of these".  May God be with you.  Rosie"

This tribute was added by Richard Beattie on 24th March 2013

"Jill and I were so blessed by Nella, who understood the need for special churches for people with special needs. I just spoke with her on Tuesday and I am glad that I did. She was so encouraging about the baptismal and communion service that we are doing in Colorado on Tuesday. We will make it a tribute to her life in ministry. Pastor Rich"

This tribute was added by Val McLeod on 23rd March 2013

"I knew Nella through Andrea and loved Nella from the moment I met her. Her infectious laugh was what I looked forward to the most whenever I visited her. She was a bright, vibrant, woman of God who was so full of life and you couldn't help but want to be just like her. She called me her "adopted daughter" and I will miss her greatly. Have fun in Heaven, Nella :)"

This tribute was added by Andrew and Kris Ryskamp on 23rd March 2013

"Eric and Family,
Our prayer is that the faith that motivated Nella, and the lives she touched, will sustain you as you mourn her death. Our family has also experienced the blessing of Friendship Ministries and we thank God for Nella's leadership."

This tribute was added by Judy Hand on 23rd March 2013

"Nella, to know you was to love you and Larry and I were blessed with knowing you and Eric as a young married couple and as we all became parents. You were always a ray of sunshine and a great inspiration to us. Our sympathy to Eric and Children. Judy and Larry"

This tribute was added by Reba Hamilton on 23rd March 2013

"I only knew Nella as Andrea's mom. In fact, I would call her Andrea's mom or Mrs. Uitvlugt because I could never remember her first name. In the almost 10 years I have been friends with Andrea, I have run into Nella many times and she was always so friendly. My greatest tribute to her is that she raised absolutely wonderful children who had nothing but praise for her. See you in Heaven."

This tribute was added by Amy Rapada on 23rd March 2013

"I was so fortunate to have known and worked with Nella in Disability Ministry.  She was a shining example of God's love and I will not forget her."

This tribute was added by Joan Bacon on 23rd March 2013

"Nella... "The place where God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world's great hunger meet." For you, that place was certainly FM. You lived your calling so well! Friendship Class in Sioux Falls, SD thanks you. Your gifts have blessed us. We will miss you."

This tribute was added by Marvin Miller on 23rd March 2013

"Nella, I will miss you.  Who else will walk to the National Cathedral in their sandals? or laugh about a SWAT team at an AAIDD conference hotel?  I've treasured the last few years I've gotten to work even more closely with you at Friendship.  Thanks for helping a young daddy figure out how life goes on after a Down Syndrome baby came along. We will never forget your gentle & loving spirit."

This tribute was added by Susan Hewer on 23rd March 2013

Scott and I were so grateful to be able to speak to you a few weeks ago ,thanks to modern technology, as you shared from Michigan at a conference in Southern California. Since we met you four years ago, you have graciously encouraged us and our Friendship group.. Friendship has so enhanced the life of our church. Thank you!"

This tribute was added by Joanna Pierson on 23rd March 2013

"Nella did so much on a national level for people with developmental disabilities.  Her passing is such a loss.

I am so sorry for her family."

This tribute was added by Sue Dykema on 23rd March 2013

"Nella was a wonderful wife, mother and leader. I babysat for Nella and Eric and later worked with Nella on the Spanish Friendship Ministry (Amistad) lessons. I pray for comfort for the family. I'm so thankful for the many lives she touched over the years."

This tribute was added by renee hamstra on 23rd March 2013

"I met Nella when we were both young Mommy's and we lived across the street from each other on Cadillac.  She was a dedicated Mom and wife and good friend to everyone in the neighborhood.  We all counted on her big smile and warmth and generous spirit.  I send my deepest sympathy to her children and husband and all of those she counted as friends, family and co-workers. She will be missed."

This tribute was added by Shelly Christensen on 23rd March 2013

"Nella was the go-to for all of us at the Religion and Spirituality Division of AAIDD, and she was the heart of the division. She was a woman of fierce conviction, a woman of valor (to borrow from my Jewish roots). Most of all, Nella's presence in so many lives was a blessing, and her spirit and her passion remain an enduring legacy. May her memory be for blessing. I will miss you Nella."

This tribute was added by Carrie Ann Bark on 23rd March 2013

"Aunt Nella,
You and Grandma were two of my favorite people. I can't wait to laugh hysterically with both of you again, together. Christmas will be so different without your jokes, warm welcome, and exotic dips.  I've never met another cook as good as you. I wish I could have seen you in action at Friendship. You inspire me. Miss you so much!"

This tribute was added by Arlene Reith on 23rd March 2013

"Dearest Nella..  Although it has been nearly 20 years since I began my first Friendship Ministry, it seems like yesterday when Cele appointed you as the new Director of FM!  You have been the "Heartbeat" of FM ever since!  You will be sorely missed by ALL of your "Friends", especially this one..  
Please give Gabriel XXXOOO from Mommy!"

This tribute was added by Richard Gerlach on 23rd March 2013

"My wife, Karen, and I had the priviledge of meeting Nella in person when we started our Friendship Ministry in 2004. It was at a meeting in British Columbia. We drove from Anacortes, Washington to learn about Friendship Ministry and started a class at Anacortes Christian Church.  It has been a real blessing for us and our church. We will miss her. God bless and comfort her family."

This tribute was added by Sue Pasveer on 22nd March 2013

"A w onderful caring person now rejoicing in heaven with many Friendship friends who have gone before!   We will miss you here below.  Sue and Cor"

This tribute was added by Thea Newhouse on 22nd March 2013

"Nella was always so friendly and caring. As the aunt of my best friend, I knew her only from a few social events, but she made a big impression on me as a very special person. She always made me feel like I was part of her family. I'm glad that I knew her."

This tribute was added by Arlene Reith on 22nd March 2013

"It was nearly 20 years ago when I began my first Friendship Ministry with Cele who passed the mantle to a young vibrant and talented woman named Nella Uitvlugt!  From that point on Nella became a pillar and a faithful friend in my life..  I travelled with her in the earlier years and visited Grand Rapids for FM meetings..  She was always there to guide me..  I will miss her terribly.."

This tribute was added by Walter Stewart on 22nd March 2013

"Thank you for sharing Nella's with us. I did not know her , but I can see from the kind thoughtful words from other's  that  she was a kind beautiful woman. Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal. Praying that we can continue her legacy and advocate for every person who have a disability.  Praying that each of their needs are still met through disability ministries. Caren n Walter S"

This tribute was added by Barbara Top on 22nd March 2013

"My sister, Karen, who passed away last Judly enjoyed so many years of attending Friendship classes in Luverne, MN.  This is a tremendous ministry and I thank you so much for the part you played in this great ministry."

This tribute was added by Laurie Rosenau on 22nd March 2013

"Thank you Nella, for being a lovely representative of Christ's love. Your   acceptance and encouragement of others,as well as your zest for life is an inspiration. Thank you for making the effort to come to Edmonton over the past two years. I did not have the privilege of calling you a personal friend, but I know I would have liked that very much."

This tribute was added by Jim Esmeier on 22nd March 2013

"Nella was a true leader who taught me to favor "participation" over "inclusion," when dealing with people with special needs. She will be greatly missed. May God bring comfort to her family even as she did for many others with her life's work."

This tribute was added by John Cook on 22nd March 2013

"The Celts describe "thin places" as times, events, sacraments, that provide a hint of who God is, and of his majesty. For me, Nella was such a place - and she would like the notion - for she showed the wonderful love of our Lord for all the people he made. We'll miss her."

This tribute was added by Virginia Primus on 22nd March 2013

"I wish to express my condolences to Kevin and his family in the sudden death of his mother.  Kevin has been attending our church, the DC CRC, and one of our members has been involved with the Friendship ministries for many decades.  The program is wonderful, and I am sorry for the loss for both the family and this program.  Ginger Primus"

This tribute was added by Judy VanderWilt on 22nd March 2013

"With gratitude for the amazing contribution Nella made as she shared God's love with and for all persons, I, along with thousands, grieve the loss of Nella's winsome gifts of ministry and leadership. May God's blessings be with her family and all those who continue the important work of Friendship Ministries."

This tribute was added by Geri Vooys on 22nd March 2013

"Nella was such a joy to work with and an inspired leader for those of us who work in Friendship Ministries. I will miss her friendship and pray that her friends and family will be comforted by God and his all-encompassing love."

This tribute was added by Dawn Clark on 22nd March 2013

"Nella was a wonderful woman of God.  She was so gracious and generous with me when I spent time at Friendship Ministries in the fall. My favorite quote:  "Worship is a conversation with God.  Therefore everyone needs to be included."    She always looked at every person as an image bearer of God and didn't look at their disability.  I will miss her greatly.  Praying for all of you."

This tribute was added by Terry DeYoung on 22nd March 2013

"You left us far too soon, Nella, but not before making a lasting contribution on the church's efforts to welcome, love, and include all. You showed us how to do that with affection, enthusiasm, vulnerability, insight, and humor. Thank you for your winsome and relentless advocacy. Beyond our joint work in Disability Concerns, I hope the CRC and RCA may again be one — as you longed for."

This tribute was added by Herb Goodhoofd on 22nd March 2013

"Dear Nella,
Our loss is heaven's gain!!!
Thank you for being such a good and faithful servant, touching the lives of countless individuals around the world. Our prayer is that the love of Jesus you taught our friends is the same love that now embraces you in glory.  We'll do our best to continue your good work..."

This tribute was added by Tracy Martin on 22nd March 2013

"Nella...what an inspiration for all that came in contact with you!  I truly thank God for you and Friendship Ministries.  Because without you and Friendship there would have been many that would not have known the Love of God.  May the grace of God rest upon your family members at this time."

This tribute was added by Rose Van Engen on 22nd March 2013

"Nella did so much for those of us involved in Friendship classes all over the world.  Her warm, friendly encouragement and leadership motivated us all to go beyond ourselves to do God's work in ways we never would have imagined.  What a gift from God she was!"

This tribute was added by Helene Dykstra on 22nd March 2013

"I talked to Nella a couple of weeks ago. Her encouragement and love for Friendship has impacted me so much. My prayers are with her family. She has big boots to fill. We will miss her."

This tribute was added by LaVonne Carlson on 22nd March 2013

"Nella, what will I do without you? Who will I turn to for new recipes or gardening advice? Who will remember to water the office plants? (I'm afraid the plants are doomed.) I will miss you more than I could possibly say."

This tribute was added by Elly VanAlten on 22nd March 2013

"Nella was an inspiration to me with her passion for persons with cognitive disabilities.  She knew what Jesus knew:  everyone belongs and everyone serves.  My thoughts and prayers are for her family and the whole Friendship organization."

This tribute was added by Debbie Lillo on 22nd March 2013

"Before most churches had any clue that families affected by disability were feeling isolated and unwelcome, Nella was paving the road and setting the example of acceptance and inclusion.  I have learned much from her work, and many, many people have been introduced to Jesus because of her faithfulness.  My prayers are with her family.  So thankful that she's in Heaven with so many Friends!"

This tribute was added by Carol Sailer on 22nd March 2013

"I praise GOD for such an inspirational sister in Christ of Nella and the Friendship ministry family. I share the same passion as the friendship ministry of being the vessel of the Holy Spirit to touch lives of friends and there families. May the torch of love and spiritual growth be forever more in memory of our passionate leader Nella. May God continue to bless the friendship ministry."

This tribute was added by Lynda Ogden on 22nd March 2013

"I never met a person who loved life and people as much as you.  What a joy you have been to be around.  Working with you on conferences and just having discussions with you were always enlightening and honest.  The world was made better because of you.  You will be missed.  I am glad I have been called your friend."

This tribute was added by Joan Cornelison on 22nd March 2013

"Nella, I will miss our monthly meetings at Thai Bistro, and the opportunity to laugh at life with you as we enjoyed our peanut curry and rice.  You were a wonderful friend and colleague; an unapologetic advocate for those with cognitive impairments and a true follower of Jesus Christ.  Rest in him. I am praying for your family and for Friendship Ministries."

This tribute was added by Janis Kelly on 22nd March 2013

I do not know you well,  but what I do know of you, and have heard of you, was that you were an amazing woman.  A woman of compassion and had a gift for serving those with disabilities. You have done so much for our friends and the ministry.  God Bless You and be with your family at this time.  -- Janis Kelly (Rock Valley, Iowa)"

This tribute was added by Ruth VanderHart on 22nd March 2013

"Nella was such a gift to the church--and to her friends at Faith Alive.  Her passion for people with disabilities was evident in all she did.  She worked tirelessly to challenge the church to become more inclusive.  She inspired everyone she met with her moving stories and her conviction.  We will miss her deeply."

This tribute was added by Betty Giebelhaus on 22nd March 2013

"So sorry to hear of Nella's passing.  I enjoyed her presentation at Breakforth Canada in Edmonton last month.  She had a huge heart for the disabled.  We have a multi handicapped adult son and it was wonderful to see how God used her ministry.  Prayers for the family and staff."

This tribute was added by Mary Eastman on 22nd March 2013

"Thank you Nella for your passion and love for the disabled community. You have inspired me many times to continue in this ministry by your wonderful example. Pryaing for your family and all your Friends that God's peace would be with them at this time."

This tribute was added by Anne Smith on 22nd March 2013

"Saddened to hear of the death of our dear Nella. "We sorrow not as those who have no hope ." I look forward to that grand reunion in heaven with Nella and all those whose lives she has touched .
Friendship circle coordinator ,
Grace community church, Dallas Pa"

This tribute was added by Karen Roberts on 22nd March 2013

"Thanking God for the joy of getting to meet Nella and learn from her passion and love for the Lord and for individuals and families affected by disabilities.  I especially loved talking with her about worship and being the body of Christ together.  I join so many others in praying for her family and for Friendship Ministries."

This tribute was added by Faith Community Friendship Club on 22nd March 2013

"In gratitude and with prayers...the Friendship Club at Faith Community CR Church, Beaver Dam WI"

This tribute was added by Melissa Neff on 22nd March 2013

"Although I did not know Nella personally, I was introduced to her via mail years ago when I was searching for answers and guidance regarding a girl with disabilities in my church.  She came to my assistance and ever since then I have followed her and Friendship Ministries trusting one day I could put to service all that I have learned from her ministry.  How saddened...praying for all."

This tribute was added by Don Boden on 22nd March 2013

"We will miss Nella as part of our community in ministry with our friends with intellectual disabilities.  Nella was always an encouragement, had fresh ideas and would take time to offer wisdom insight that advanced all of our ministries.  In a world with limited Bible study resources, Nella advance our ministries with materials that helped us share the Good News! Mostly, she was a friend!"

This tribute was added by Bill Truebenbach on 22nd March 2013

"I still have a Nella quote written down as a reminder of her passion to serve all of our friends with an IDD - "God has already included them - they need full participation." Thank you Nella for the love you have shown through the Lord to serve all. All of us were blessed to share this short journey with you and we look forward to seeing you once again."

This tribute was added by Karen Layland on 22nd March 2013

"Nella's pioneering spirit and willingness to learn and risk in an area of tremendous ministry need are attributes that challenge us all.  Her accomplishments and dedication make her one of the most powerful examples of the hands and feet of Jesus.  Nella, we will miss you very much!"

This tribute was added by Brenda Darke on 22nd March 2013

"I never met Nella personally but always hoped it might happen as she had the same passion as I have, to see people with disabilities fully welcomed into church and valued as people who could also participate using their gifts. She inspired and encouraged me in my work in Latin America as I teach  and raise awareness about this issue and I am grateful for all she did. Thankyou Nella."

This tribute was added by Mark Stephenson on 22nd March 2013

"What a terrible shock and loss for Eric, the rest of the family, and for the thousands of us who loved Nella. I appreciated her wisdom, chutzpah, advocacy, love for people, and passion for the church to be the welcoming community God intended it to be. She was a friend, confidante, and trustworthy advisor. I thank God for her life and work and the legacy she leaves."

This tribute was added by Dallas Frank on 22nd March 2013

"Nella will be dearly missed and we thank God for the legacy she leaves with us - her advocacy, resourcefulness and friendship. She raised the level of sensitivity and inclusion awareness in many local churches including our own at Centre Street Church, Calgary, Canada."

This tribute was added by Thomas Heuer on 22nd March 2013

"Nella's passion for reaching out with the Gospel of our Lord to those who have intellectual/developmental disabilities has reached many hundreds of mentors and friends, sparking a growth in this ministry that we would be hard-pressed to match. Thanks, Nella, for devoting such energy to this energy that will be sorely missed."

This tribute was added by Dan Vander Plaats on 22nd March 2013

"I first met Nella at a Disability Concerns meeting. I soon learned the following: She had strong opinions. She didn't mess around when it came to her friends who had disabilities. She had a huge network of fellow advocates who fought the fight right by her side. But I learned even more since then. She was a humble, devoted, and inspired follower of God, and I have learned from her example."

This tribute was added by Susan Suneson on 22nd March 2013

"So grateful for Nella's ministry.  Prayers for the Uitvlugt family.

This tribute was added by WillieMae Musgray on 22nd March 2013

"I didn't have the opportunity to know this wonderful woman of God, but I admire her for her work of bringing souls to Jesus and teaching us how to do the same.  May the love of Jesus cover and keep her family during this difficult time."

This tribute was added by Christine Guth on 22nd March 2013

"Nella was one of the first people in the disability ministry world beyond my own organization to encourage me as I began my work with Anabaptist Disabilities Network. She is someone  I have turned to repeatedly for resources, ideas, and encouragement. I will definitely miss her warmth, insight, and experience."

This tribute was added by Paul Leichty on 22nd March 2013

"I learned to know Nella through ecumenical disabilities advocacy connections, primarily through the NCC Committee on Disabilities.  What an inspiration she was to so many of us in the wider Christian community!  Her ability to network us with the right people and resources was amazing and will be sorely missed!"

This tribute was added by Sam Klaasen on 22nd March 2013

I don't know what to say. My heart is broken that you left us so soon. But what an impact you have left here, there is no doubt that you are with Jesus now.
Here is a link to a video I made of everyone singing happy birthday to Nella at friendship! ("

This tribute was added by Carolyn Wharton on 22nd March 2013

"Nella, i am so grateful for your ministry at Plymouth Heights and the wonderful inspiration you were to all of us.  You will be greatly missed but never forgotten!"

This tribute was added by Don Healy on 22nd March 2013

"On behalf of myself and all the members of the Religion and Spirituality Division of AAIDD, we wish to extend our sincere condolences to Nella's family and friends. Her efforts to assist our group were always of very high quality and marked by her humor and loving grace. She will be dearly missed as a colleague and very special friend."

This tribute was added by Josue Torres on 22nd March 2013

"I have been a designer for Friendship for years and had the incredible pleasure of working with her on many projects and she even visited my house about 2 years ago in Orlando and had the chance to meet the wonderful human being that she was, a real inspiration, a great heart. My prayers to the family and lets celebrate her life and legacy... we'll miss you."

This tribute was added by Peg Kolm on 22nd March 2013

"God rest your precious soul, Nella.  Thank you for leading us to the Father through the Son, for reminding us that all of us belong.
You were a strong and necessary voice in the wilderness..."

This tribute was added by Stephanie Sedore on 21st March 2013

"I was in 3 workshops of Nella's at Breakforth this January.  She presented so clearly and practically.  I truly was inspired by her to be a better teacher (learning more about special needs), a better church member (getting involved in our "Circle of Friends" at our church) and a better neighbor (to come alongside of our neighbors whose 3 year old son was just diagnosed with autism)."

This tribute was added by Barb Dittrich on 21st March 2013

"I had just let Nella know that Friendship Circle was featured in a blog post I wrote for World Down Syndrome Day. She not only led the way for people like me in disability ministry, but to those who used her tools, she was so personal & diligent in following up to make sure everything was working.  Surely there are many precious, diff-abled souls in heaven to thank her & welcome home!"

This tribute was added by Laurel Falvo on 21st March 2013

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to Nella's family, and her countless friends around the world. It was an honor to know her and learn from her. I'm praying that God will help each one of us carry on her legacy by equipping people to minister to, with, and be ministered to by people with disabilities!"

This tribute was added by Barbara Lampe on 21st March 2013

"Nella, your joyful presence will be missed by all who knew and loved you. Fortunately, you spread your joy to us and we shall keep it with us as long as we live. Pray for us."

This tribute was added by Connie Hutchinson on 21st March 2013

"One of the greatest blessings from being part of the disabilities ministry community was knowing Nella. Nella was a mentor and friend who taught me so much. I will miss our long distance phone calls and I treasure so many memories we had together.
I am so sad for the disability community and her family. For Nella's family I mourn your loss"

This tribute was added by Diane Dykgraaf on 21st March 2013

"Thanks, Nella, for praying with us on Monday mornings, for giving yourself to the Lord and extending his love and grace to everyone you met. We will miss you, but thank God for your life and witness."

This tribute was added by Stephanie Hubach on 21st March 2013

"While Nella is being mourned by so many of us today, there are literally thousands in Heaven who are gathering around her to say "Thank you for introducing me to Jesus!" How appropriate that today was World Down Syndrome day...and that it was also Nella's first full day "on the other side." What a pioneer and role model to us all. Praise God for the gift of Nella's life and ministry!"

This tribute was added by Anne Masters on 21st March 2013

"I am still in shock - I will miss you Nella!  You have been a friend and inspiration to me.  Using my Catholic language, which I know you will appreciate, to attempt to explain your impact, I feel it is accurate to say you are the Mother Theresa of ministry with persons with disabilities.  Simple actions and friendship means so much!"

This tribute was added by Alina Robinson on 21st March 2013

"My heart aches knowing that Nella is no longer here with us.  Yet I know she is in a much better place.  She always had a smile and encouraging words to share.  She had a vast wealth of knowledge and passion for special need’s ministry.  I sought her advice multiple times for my own family.  I will miss her greatly…  May God grant her family peace and strength during this difficult time."

This tribute was added by Barb Newman on 21st March 2013

"How I will miss you. Personally you encouraged me and gave valuable direction. I have learned so much from you. You honored me by saying we were "kindred spirits". Then I multiply what you did for me by the many, many lives you touched. Your fingerprint is not only on my life, but also on the lives of countless others."

This tribute was added by Bruce Buursma on 21st March 2013

"Nella's work and witness was embracing and passionate as she battled indifference and a history of insensitivity in the church toward those she called her "Friends."  She was tenacious and tireless in her efforts to ensure that the body of Christ was not missing any of its most remarkable and inspiring members. She made a powerful difference for so many people."

This tribute was added by karyn papadatos on 21st March 2013

"Nella has indeed made the world a better place. She leaves a vast legacy and I know there will be many, many precious souls in heaven because of her work and ministry. Our chats in Edmonton this past January meant a lot to me and her vision for my son is one of many sweet gifts she left behind. Prayers for her family's comfort."

This tribute was added by Steve Nyenhuis on 21st March 2013

"To Nella, with tears of joy for you as well as tears of sadness for those of us left behind. Thank you for being an example to us with your enthusiasm as you led the fight to encourage the church to be a community of inclusiveness for people with disabilities. You have fought the good fight. Now is your time to reap your reward in Heaven. May God bless your work here on Earth."

This tribute was added by Ron Mekkes on 21st March 2013

You will be missed. Your passion and love for not only Friendship Fellowship Ministries but all those around you was inspiration to me.  You will be forever in my heart.  

Ron and Walter dog"

This tribute was added by Alejandro Pimentel on 21st March 2013

"Nella, you've touched so many lives that very few of us can fathom. Just in South America alone, with the love of Jesus, the Amistad Program continues to touch the lives of so many people with special needs in many churches across all denominations. You've given us a precious legacy to follow."

This tribute was added by Harmony Hensley on 21st March 2013

"Oh how my heart just hurts for all of you.  Nella was so kind to me when I entered the Disability Ministry community.  Her life and legacy will certainly be remembered for her love for people with disabilities and the church.  I know that she is home with Jesus, but she will be deeply missed here.  My prayers are with all of you as you grieve.  Her legacy will continue!"

This tribute was added by Lynn Setsma on 21st March 2013

"Still in shock over this news. I have been moved by Nella's love for all her special friends. So many have been impacted by Nella in her work with Friendship as well as her church and beyond. My sympathy to all who grieve."

This tribute was added by Elliott Bark on 21st March 2013

"Thank you, Aunt Nella, for welcoming me to the family and being interested in knowing me when I first visited Grand Rapids. I'm so sad that we never had a chance to see each other in Los Angeles, but we will see each other in front of our Heavenly Father. Until then, I'll miss you so much."

This tribute was added by Gary Mulder on 21st March 2013

"Nella's passion and dedication to Friendship Ministries was an inspiration to all.  Her legacy will last a long, long time.  May God sustain her family during this difficult time."

This tribute was added by Heather DeBoer on 21st March 2013

"My friend, my mentor, my boss, story teller extraordinaire you will be missed!"

This tribute was added by Amy Fenton Lee on 21st March 2013

"Nella was a wonderful mentor and friend to me.  She was passionate about her mission and about helping people of all abilities know Jesus.  She was a wonderful example and leader for so many of us.  

I am so sad for her family.  Praying for Friendship Ministries and for the Uitvlugt family."

This tribute was added by Elizabeth Rodriguez on 21st March 2013

Thank you so much, you have left in me a great legacy. Loving people in need. God Bless You. I will miss you so bad.

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This memorial is administered by:

LaVonne Carlson


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