I first met Nella in an elevator at the Adams Mark Hotel in Indianapolis for a Disability Ministry Conference in April of 2004. Dedicated to serving people with disabilities, encouraging pastors to change their congregations, and bringing hope to the life's of parents, she was always smiling. As the Executive Director for Friendship Ministries, she was busy changing the world through mentoring and special needs curriculum in several languages and across multiple continents.
As I transitioned from being just a parent with a child with DS to someone actively involved in disability ministry, our paths crossed more often. We laughed often about the Washington DC conference in 2005 when her budget hotel complex had a SWAT team visit in the dead of night. She encouraged me to submit a presentation for the AAIDD Conference in Atlanta in 2007. Again in Washington DC in 2008, four of us - her in sandals -decided to walk from the convention hotel to the Washington National Cathedral via the National Zoo - not realizing the subway map wasn't to scale.
When Friendship Ministries asked me to join their board of directors, I did so in part because I wanted to share in her vision. I will miss that warm smile, the welcoming hug, and that hint of a Dutch Canadian accent. Over the years, she introduced me to the sculpture gardens, pointed out the changes to Calvin since when I attended in 1990, and gave a mini lecture on Gerald Ford. Our last phone conversation was about a month ago, when I was stranded in the Grand Rapids Airport due to snow. Until next time, she said, when it won't be snowing.
Until next time.