Kim Burrell Shines Light on Whitney Houston's Faith

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HOUSTON -- Whitney Houston's death continues to make headlines yet the media often ignores one part of the iconic star's life -- her faith.

Houston grew up in the church and is the daughter of the legendary singer and choir director Cissy Houston. Cissy Houston returned to the recording studio after her daughter's death to put the finishing touches on "Walk on By Faith," her newly released gospel CD.

Whitney Houston's faith is the side of the star that gospel singer Kim Burrell knew best. The longtime friends bonded the moment they met outside Houston's childhood church in Newark, N.J. The Houston family had invited Burrell to sing at Whitney's father's funeral.

The two talked nearly every week after that first meeting. Their last phone conversation was just hours before Houston died at hotel in California. Burrell was preparing to fly to Los Angeles to attend a Grammy party with Whitney and her daughter, Bobbi Kristina.

Burrell recalled some of the details of that conversation in an interview with CBN News at her offices in Houston, Texas.

"Bobbi Kristina listens to me every day in her iPod and so Bobbi Kris was on the phone saying, 'Aunty Kim, mommy is just trying to be too hard on me right now,' and I say 'It is going to be okay,'" she said.

"But that was our last conversation one on one. But of course, her voice is on my phone that day," she said.

Power Struggle

"She lost to struggle," Burrell said, recalling the moment she learned her best friend died. "Some people live with them for a long, long time. And at times, I am just so glad that she is out of that. I miss her calling to get advice and pray for it."

Cocaine use was a contributing cause to Whitney Houston's accidental drowning. The coroner's report was possibly the last public display of her battle to beat drug addiction.

Burrell was by Whitney's side after some of those early struggles. She even moved in with Houston in Atlanta following a stay in a rehabilitation facility.

Kim Burrell talks more about living with Whitney following a stay in rehab and their emotional night out at the movies. Click play to watch.

Burrell recalled being overwhelmed just walking through the door. The home was filled with flowers, well wishes, and an uncomfortable spirit.

"People were sending her stuff and I remember … even Sharon Osbourne had even sent her this extremely expensive ring that she thought was a spiritual thing for her," Burrell recalled.

"These people were trying to do whatever they believed in, for the spirits to make them better, they were sending [these] to her. So a lot of that was in the room," she said. "And I didn't even know it at the time."

"When I walked in, I could feel it. I said, 'Whitney, we need to pray. If I am going to stay here, I have got to pray,'" Burrell recalled. "She said, 'Okay.' And we got down on our knees and the Holy Ghost came hit me and I started speaking in tongues, I was holding her hand, and I felt her take her hand out of my hand."

"When I turned her hand lose she said, 'Kim, I didn't mean any harm, but I jerked my hand out because I felt electricity,'" she explained. "And I said, 'It's the power of God.'"

Whitney's Call to Preach

Burrell believes that power is what drew Whitney to her. Burrell is the founder and pastor of Love & Liberty Fellowship Church in Houston. Whitney Houston was there for the entire first week of services.

"The look on her face when I was preaching, it blew me away because she was so fixed. Whitney wanted this," Burrell said. "She wanted it. You better hear me: Whitney wanted it. She wanted to preach."

Whitney Houston more than just wanted to preach. Rev. Al Jones, the pastor of Revelation International Ministries in Norfolk, Va., prophesied to Houston that preaching was her calling. Jones was one of the ministers visiting Burrell's church during the week Houston was there.

"That voice is no longer for the world," Jones told the singer during the service. "That voice if for the kingdom … God said her total voice is coming back to preach."

Jones recalled that prophesy.

He said, "I believe that she awakened to her purpose. I saw it, along with you, how the Spirit of the Lord took her over, how even the gift of tongues, the anointing of the Holy Spirit overwhelmed her," Jones said.

"But when she left the hotel, got on the plane, and went home to face her world's reality. What happened, I don't know. You don't know," he said.

Burrell's Ongoing War

Whitney's life has touched people around the world. Her bond with Burrell has also left a door open for the pastor and gospel singer to reach out to other celebrities.

"They need God in a way that they can let him slow-drip, like an IV to get in their vein and work out sin," Burrell said. "I will keep on fighting. It's the war I am in."

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Efrem Graham

Efrem Graham

News Anchor & Reporter

Efrem Graham is an award-winning journalist, who comes to CBN News from the ABC owned and operated station in Toledo, Ohio.  He received his master's degree from the Columbia University Journalism School. He also holds a bachelor's degree in English Literature from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.  Follow Efrem on Twitter @EfremGraham and "like" him at Facebook.com/EfremGrahamCBN.