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Holly’s Blog

Doug Phillips of Vision Forum has written several articles about Shelby’s fight with the leiomyosarcoma cancer:

  • A Very Special Girl Who Needs Your Prayers (Oct 19, 2004)
  • Update on Shelby Kennedy (Apr 27, 2005)
  • Shelby Kennedy’s Homecoming (Jun 06, 2005)

A Very Special Girl Who Needs Your Prayers

Dear Loved Ones in Christ,

Every community has its bright shining star—-a special person who radiates joy and life and hope to everyone they meet. In our community that person is a twenty-two year old young lady named Shelby Kennedy. It was my pleasure to serve as one of her pastors for nearly five years before her family relocated membership in our sister church in Fredericksburg, Texas. I can report that I have rarely ever met a woman with as radiant a Christian testimony, who better honors her father and mother, or who better understands the meaning of Christian sacrifice. For most of her life Shelby has accompanied her father and mother to some of the roughest parts of Mexico, building homes for the indigent, helping local churches and teaching the Gospel to young girls, many of whom are already mothers in their early teens. Those who meet her never forget her.

Last week Shelby was diagnosed with a rare disease called leiomayosarcoma. She already has a tumor approaching the size of a volleyball. Through the tests so far it appears the sarcoma has spread to her right shoulder and a few other spots in her pelvic area. The sarcoma has already eaten away a good part of the bone in the pelvic area. Man’s statistical analysis tell us that only small percentage of people in her condition survive. But we know that we serve the God who defies statistics, who controls life and who loves those who faithfully serve Him.

Shelby knows this too. At every step of the way Shelby has rejoiced in the Lord. While those who love her weep in her presence (including yours truly), Shelby spends her time comforting them with words of hope from Holy Scripture. She speaks with joy of the hundreds of emails she has received and kept for her scrapbook. She constantly praises God for His grace and mercy. The other day Shelby wrote to some of us:

I don’t know how to explain the love I feel that has been showered on me constantly. I feel as if I am wrapped tightly in the Fathers loving, gentle arms, and He is carrying my weary body through this test in life.

Shelby is taking pain medication for the extreme pain, which means she is only able to be up and awake a few hours a day, but she spends all of that time rejoicing in Christ and feasting on His word. When she is awake she needs to use a wheel chair most of the time and has minimal energy, but what energy she has is focused on proclaiming Jesus Christ. Already her testimony of hope is sparking a spirit of revival in those around her as they see Gospel Christianity lived out in the midst of a fiery trial.

A few days ago Shelby (who has grown her hair long past her waist—-as have each of her sisters) had a hair-cutting party (in anticipation of the chemo and radiation therapy she will be receiving) during which she cut her lovely hair to preserve it, perhaps for a wig. Her sisters joined her in an act of solidarity by cutting their longer-than waist length hair as well, which they had grown over a lifetime.

At this point every day counts. The need for medical intervention is significant, but there are delays with the hospitals that mean that Shelby has to wait longer than we would like for treatment. In addition, the Kennedy family lacks the resources to cover their medical expenses and needs help. This is where you come in to play.

Imagine for just one moment that you were a father who was watching your bright shining star suffer under the pains of a crippling and potentially fatal disease. It is difficult for many of us to think in these terms, but we must. Perhaps tomorrow it will be us. Certainly we would want the body of Christ to rally to our side and stand with us in our hour of need.

All of this to ask you to consider two things: First, would you commit as a family to praying for Shelby. Here in San Antonio, she is known by thousands and loved by all. In Mexico, she is known by thousands and loved by all. There are many praying for her, but we know how the Lord loves to hear the prayers if his saints. We are asking for you to help us ask our Heavenly Father for mercy.

Second, would you consider donating to help the medical expenses of this family. The expenses are very high and their inability to cover these expenses has been a great challenge. My local church, the Boerne Christian Assembly, has agreed to help the family by getting checks through to them. You can either write a check directly to Ken Kennedy, or to the Boerne Christian Assembly, and we will see that Shelby gets the help directly. Send the checks to Vision Forum and we will pass them on. Please write on the envelope “For Shelby Kennedy.”

You can learn more about Shelby at:

Thank you for considering our beloved Shelby through your prayers and giving.

Doug Phillips


Update on Shelby Kennedy

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Many of you have faithfully prayed for this dear girl who, last October, was diagnosed with a rare form of sarcoma. Many of you have also generously given to help cover the growing number of medical bills. I know that both of these things have been a blessing to the Kennedy family, and that they are very grateful for your support. After six rounds of chemotherapy with no apparent benefit, Shelby decided to pursue alternate methods of treatment. For the last several weeks, Shelby has been in Tulsa, Oklahoma, undergoing some testing, as well as various nutrition-related treatments. While there have been some improvements, Shelby continues to experience constant pain and has very little energy.

Following is a recent update that we received from the Kennedys:

On Tuesday we had a cat-scan done and comparing it to her last cat-scan, her tumor has continued to grow. Because the tumors are still gaining ground, Dr. Robbins has recommended that she go home to San Antonio and begin radiation therapy, along with the supplements she is now taking. Hopefully the radiation will affect the cancer long and hard enough to give us more time working from the nutritional end.

Tomorrow we have some more appointments here at the clinic, till about noon, then we will start heading home.

Please pray for our trip home. Shelby is able to lay down in the car but can become very uncomfortable while traveling. Also pray that the radiation will affect the cancer and really knock it back. We will be meeting with a radiologist in San Antonio on Monday morning at 9:00. Thank you so much for continuing to pray for Shelby.

I urge you to uplift Shelby in your prayers, and to consider how you can help with the growing number of medical bills that continue to pile up for the Kennedy family.

For more information about Shelby Kennedy, and how you can pray for her, click here.

To donate to the Life and Liberty Fund, click here. One hundred percent of all donations go to help Shelby Kennedy and others like her.


Shelby Kennedy’s Homecoming
(November 6, 1981 – May 31, 2005)

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. (Psalms 116:15)

One of the blessings of the life of Christ is Christian community — that glorious network of friends and family in geographic and spiritual proximity whose relationship one with another is God’s appointed means for encouraging the saints, building covenant-keeping assemblies and households, and advancing the glorious mission of the Church. Within such communities, our merciful Lord sometimes raises up a few special individuals whose life of servanthood, principle, and love is of such a quality as to win them an unusual admiration and affection from the entire community.

In our portion of the San Antonio Christian community, that bright shining daughter of hope was Shelby Kennedy. Seventh of thirteen children to Ken and Deborah Kennedy, Shelby’s life was dedicated to her family’s missionary outreach called Only a Servant Ministries. Loved by thousands who knew her, Shelby will be remembered for her indefatigable optimism in the sovereignty of God, her radiant evangelistic spirit, her self-sacrificing servanthood, her effervescent spiritual joy, and her ferocious loyalty to her mother and father.

Shelby was transported into the bosom of her savior Jesus Christ on May 31, 2005, after a heart-wrenching, eight-month battle with a rare and unusually brutal from of cancer.

Shelby was known and loved by people in four nations. It was my great honor to serve as one of her church shepherds for a number of years, and to count her my friend. In the eight years that I have known Shelby, I never remember a time when she was not happy, radiant, grateful, and explicitly praising God. Many thousands of others would testify the same. This was a one-in-a-million Christian who had an unusual spiritual gift of faith.

She brought hope to thousands through her mission work with her family throughout the world in regions as diverse as Mexico and South Africa. But Shelby’s heart always pointed to Haiti where she worked alongside, and on behalf of, her mother and father by personally administering Christian schools, participating in discipleship evangelism, and managing significant food distribution efforts for the destitute and needy.

Shelby was a woman who passionately and desperately loved her two fathers. Her ferocious loyalty and honor to her earthly father was only exceeded by her absolute confidence, love, and devotion to her Heavenly Father. At a time when America’s Christian community is rife with self-serving sons, daughters, and men in the spirit of Adonijah, Shelby was known to all as an honoring daughter who modeled the Fifth Commandment. Her ferocious loyalty to her parents, to her convictions, and to her faith were among her defining character qualities. Shelby was one “daughter of Sarah” who would never exchange her rich spiritual inheritance for a mess of pottage. Because she honored her mother and father, because she remained loyal to her Heavenly Father — “it was well” with Shelby, even in the midst of great suffering.

Shelby’s one unfulfilled dream was to marry a godly man like her father. This was not God’s will for her. It was, however, God’s will to allow Shelby to accomplish more for the Kingdom of God in her twenty-three years than most men could hope to accomplish in two lifetimes. In fact, Shelby goes to be with the Lord with a unique testimony that is reserved for only the smallest handful of recorded Bible heroes and modern Christians — Shelby, a sinner saved by grace, lived a life without regret, and without known blemishes on her testimony. To put it another way, there are no “buts” after Shelby’s name. No one says, “Shelby was a Christian, but…”, or, “Shelby had a good witness, but…”, or, “It is just too bad that….:” Shelby Kennedy was the finest example of servanthood, faith, and devotion that most Christians will see in their lifetime.

Some might say: Phillips, this is just kind posthumous hyperbole. To that I respond: Speak to any in our community who knew this girl and discover that these sentiments are unanimously held by one and by all who knew her.

Shelby’s eight-month battle with cancer was unusually difficult. She was diagnosed with a very rare and unusual sarcoma about which little is known. Those around her described her suffering as simply excruciating. By the time of her death, much of her remaining 90 pounds was the weight of the tumors which relentlessly attacked her and had spread throughout her body. Despite this fact, Shelby remained hopeful, trusting in God and utterly without complaint until the moment of her homecoming to Glory.

Shelby’s passing into eternity will never be forgotten by those who stood beside her. During the final hour of her life, Shelby was at home surrounded by mother, father, brothers, and sisters. They sang hymns and praises, read Scriptures, and offered her words of comfort.

Her last spoken words were to her father: “I love you, Dad.”

Earlier this year, eighty-four-year-old Marine Silver Star Bob Boardman addressed a special memorial service at the Headwaters Ranch to the veterans of the Second World War. He made a stunning point, apropos for us to remember at the death of our sweet sister.

Boardman said this: “When it comes time for you to die, make sure all you have to do that day is to die.”

I will never forget May 31 as the day that Shelby was called to be with the Lord. I was celebrating my fortieth birthday with my family and friends in North Carolina when the news arrived. Though the Phillips family was separated from the Kennedys by more than a thousand miles, we were absolutely sure of one thing — Shelby Kennedy died with no loose ends, no regrets, no unfinished business, and no doubts. All she had to do on May 31, 2005 was to die.

We laid Shelby to rest on Saturday. Her spirit is now with the Lord, but her mortal body remains in Texas where it awaits the resurrection of the dead. During my comments at the memorial and gravesite, I shared the following Scriptures of comfort. They mean a great deal to me.

For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time [are] not worthy [to be compared] with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)

But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive [and] remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God and the dead in Christ shall rise first Then we which are alive [and] remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

Those who want to honor the legacy of this woman of God should consider sending a check to Only a Servant Ministries.

Doug Phillips on June 6, 2005