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Pastor Ed Young Shares a Shark Tale Full of Hope amid Grief

Maina Mwaura | CrosswalkHeadlines Contributor | Updated: Apr 11, 2024
Pastor Ed Young Shares a Shark Tale Full of Hope amid Grief

Pastor Ed Young Shares a Shark Tale Full of Hope amid Grief

Many know Ed Young as the prolific speaker and author and Pastor of Fellowship Church, located outside of the Dallas area in Grapevine, Texas. What many may not know is that Young loves to fish and even scout out for whales, so when the chance came for him in December of last year to have the chance to catch a great white shark he was ready to go. "I got the call one afternoon and I along with some of my family and friends were on the next Southwest flight to go looking. I can still remember my friend who scouts for whales saying 'Ed, they're here.'" That’s all Ed needed to hear. This time, however, his voyage was different, a meaningful way to honor his late daughter LeeBeth, who passed away suddenly due to substance abuse. According to Ed, “LeeBeth passionately loved to fish since she was young.” As Ed thinks deeply about LeeBeth in an exclusive interview with CrosswalkHeadlines, he reflects on the life of his daughter who was a staff member at the church, along with how they bonded while fishing together.

"A shark was the last fish she caught," Ed said. "I wanted to catch a Great White in honor of LeeBeth and share that experience with her."

Ed, with his wife Lisa, has written about their grief in their recently released book, A Path through Pain: How Faith Deepens and Joy Grows through What You Would Never Choose.

“Whenever you lose a child, you are going to walk with a limp the rest of your life. It's always going to be that wound, sensitive to touch. So, I would say that though we're doing well, it's still surreal. Yes. To even talk about it. I can't believe it even happened, but I would say that it has brought our family closer together. It's brought our church closer together. It's brought Lisa and I closer together." Which for Ed made the catch of the Great White even more meaningful to him, and may explain where his strength came from in the two hours spent trying to land the shark. "I thought I knew what big was," he said. The fish measured 14 feet and more than 2,800 pounds. However, for Young the real measure was the most meaningful time of his life spent honoring his daughter. Once Young and crew caught the Great White, they tagged it, released it and placed it back into the ocean.

Captain Chip Michalove led the expedition along with Scientist Megan Winton, who tagged the shark with satellite trackers and then released her. Ed and many others then began to follow LeeBeth's (the shark's new honorary name) movement online. On February 29, 2024, the Great White Shark Conservancy announced that LeeBeth had made history by traveling the furthest west a white shark has ever been tracked into the Gulf of Mexico… and no other has pinged as much.

According to Young, "Here's what's so crazy about it. It's like she swam in a weird way to where we were. For example, in Florida, and then we were in, obviously, Dallas. So, she swam around Florida, she swam to the Texas coast, like a hundred yards from the beach. Yeah. And then Lisa and I went on a little vacation to Mexico. So, she was even down in near there, but now she's turned around and come back.”

Young's faith has remained strong through his grief. But seeing LeeBeth's movements like this has refreshed him and served as a reminder that God is with him. "It's more than a remarkable feat of tracking a Great White shark; it's a testament to the transformative power of faith through any pain.”

Young makes it clear that the pain and grief he and others are going through in the loss of a loved one is real, but for Young, it’s his faith that has kept him strong and even has allowed himself and his church to grow in ways that may seem unimaginable during a time of sadness.

"Our church has just surrounded us with love and support and compassion. We have had a massive amount of growth due to this. People coming to our church just spilling their guts." As Young reflects on what God is doing, while also looking ahead at what keeps him in ministry, it seems to come down to one common theme: it’s about people.

"I always ask myself this question, 'Who are you reaching? Who are you reaching? Who are you reaching?' And I think about a table with some chairs. I think about that first chair, that person that does not know Christ, and that drives me. The second chair is that person who's a brand-new believer, and showing them what it means to walk in Christ, to be sanctified. And then the third chair will be the core of our church, those people that are full-court followers of Christ. So those chairs, I would say the first chair for me would be the chair - the thing that has kept me in the game is that person who does not know the Lord."

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Maina Mwaura headshotMAINA MWAURA is a freelance writer and journalist who has interviewed over 800 influential leaders, including two US Presidents, three Vice-Presidents, and a variety of others. Maina, is also the author of the Influential Mentor, How the life and legacy of Howard Hendricks Equipped and Inspired a Generation of Leaders. Maina and his family reside in the Kennesaw, Georgia area.

Pastor Ed Young Shares a Shark Tale Full of Hope amid Grief