Many signed a poster reading: “Congratulations, Wally! White’s Chapel is so happy for you. We love you very much!”
“It’s like a family member, and we’re just so proud of her,” said the Rev. John McKellar, co-pastor at White’s Chapel.
“It’s thrilling, you know — a lifelong dream. With all that she’s experienced and that she’s done and the spirit and attitude she’s had, what an inspiration she’s been to us all.”
McKellar said Funk has been a member at White’s Chapel for at least 10 years, attending whenever she isn’t sharing her story across the country and keeping him up to date on her travels. With no close relatives in the area, Funk considers the church her family, the pastor said, and she gets a lot of love from the congregation in return for the love she gives.
“The person that you see in the media is the real deal. She is the most positive, enthusiastic, upbeat person, and she just encourages everyone around her,” he said.
Funk was traveling the Sunday the church learned she would be going into space aboard the New Shepard, but members still gave her a standing ovation, according to McKellar. They gave her another when she returned the next week.
On Tuesday, members of all ages showed up early to watch her launch over coffee and refreshments — from little girls in astronaut costumes to a 71-year-old woman who told the pastor if Funk could go to space at age 82, she planned to go to law school. They cheered every time they heard her name on the livestream.
“This is just helping people dream about what’s possible,” he said.
Funk’s unflagging positivity and determination to make it to space are equally inspiring, according to the pastor.
“Nothing has ever gotten in my way,” Funk said in the video posted by Bezos.
“They said, ‘Wally, you’re a girl. You can’t do that.’ I said, ‘Guess what? It doesn’t matter what you are. You can still do it if you want to do it, and I like to do things that nobody has ever done.’”
This article originally appeared on ReligionNews.com.