This is a long overdue eulogy of one of the most influential pastors in my life-Brother Vittitow. No. He's not dead. That is the problem with eulogies. We reserve them for funerals when the term has nothing to do with death. A eulogy is simply “kind words spoken over someone.” It's a shame that we often wait until someone is no longer with us to express our grateful thoughts regarding the person. Here are a few thoughts while Pastor is still with us.
In the denomination I was raised in, the preferred term of affection in the church is Brother and Sister.
Bro. Vittitow was my and Melanie’s pastor when we moved to Louisville Kentucky to attend Southern seminary. In my denomination there were two choices of where to attend church in Louisville and Calvary, where pastor Vittitow served, was an easy choice for us. The people were friendly and welcoming. Pastor’s son Kevin was one of the first people to greet us and made us feel like long lost friends. Those were good reasons to visit the church, but Pastor Vittitow was the reason we stayed.
He was very sensitive to the Holy Spirit and he led the congregation with that sensitivity. He was compassionate to those who were facing tough times. He had an aura about him. Although he was not highly educated, he was bold in his proclamation of the gospel. I’m reminded of what was said about Peter and John in the book of Acts… “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.(Acts 4:13) I always sensed that pastor was soaked in prayer. He began each year leading our church through a special time of fasting.
He broke the bank taking me and Melanie out to lunch almost every Sunday. He knew we were away from home at seminary and treated us like his kids. He generally ate at the greasiest spoon in Louisville-Sandy’s. He loved their fried chicken-keeping the stereotype alive that all preachers love fried chicken. It was a great honor when he asked me to be his Assistant Pastor. It gave me a front row seat into the life of a great pastor.
He became the District Superintendent of the Commonwealth of Kentucky while we were there. He was not a politician. He got the job because he outloved, outworked, outcared, and outgave everyone else in the District. He would use his construction skills to build things at the camp often working from early morning late night.
This year, his denomination nominated him as a “Hero of Faith”. It’s the Hall of Fame of those who have made a major impact. This September he will receive the award at the General Conference appropriately being held in Louisville, Kentucky.
The church life at Calvary made our seminary years very fulfilling. I used to tell people that I was a seminarian at the Baptist seminary by day and a Pentecostal preacher by night. Pastor Vittitow rounded out my education at seminary by showing me what a real pastor looks like.
Sister Vittitow was also like a mom away from home for us and their daughter and son Keri and Kevin became family to us. I recently received word that Brother Vittitow was in poor health. I have only seen him once in the 27 years since we left seminary. We have loosely stayed in touch through Facebook and occasionally correspondence, but we have not had occasion for personal visits.
Recently, his son Kevin, called to let me know he was in the hospital and in poor health. Melanie and I made plans and went to visit them in their home when he was released. It was like nothing had changed in all those years. The old conversations picked up where we left them almost three decades ago and we had a blessed reunion with the whole family.
Brother Vittitow is facing an uphill physical battle with Congestive Heart Failure and he is now on dialysis. I just wanted him to know that our lives will ever be touched by his faithful shepherding of us all those years ago. I told him that I owed him about $5,000.00 of lunches from Sandy’s.
Almost every week, Melanie and I buy somebody’s lunch. It’s a small token of paying forward the generosity that was bestowed on us by the Vittitows. Congratulations on being honored as a “Hero of Faith” Long before the award was bestowed, however, you were a hero to Melanie and me.
Phil Nordstrom Lead Pastor
Life Church Knoxville
We're an inter denominational church in Knoxville, Tennessee that believes that all people matter and should experience the love and power that comes along with a healthy relationship with Jesus Christ.