Thursday, November 3, 2011

Today I Miss Sweet Hopkins

Today it's been three years since I lost my very good friend Sweet to cancer. Yes, her name was Sweet. That's the first question I always get when I mention her (which is often). I always answer by saying, "she was from Alabama", after which people always nod and seem to understand.
Sweet with her amazing daughters Ivy and Kendall
Sweet was the children's minister at the church where I grew up. She allowed me and Ben to be part of her ministry for many years. We are both utterly convinced that the only reason we know how to do half of what we're doing in Haiti is because of Sweet.

This is what I mean, specifically:

Sweet taught me how to share my faith with kids.
Sweet taught me it's important that kids have happy memories associated with learning about God. Not everything at church must be so somber; sometimes kids need to hula-hoop just because.
Sweet taught me how children are more important that the children's ministry program.
Sweet taught me how to be a teacher.
Sweet taught me how to answer kids' tough questions on the fly.
Sweet taught me how to leverage personality to teach.
Sweet reinforced my die-hard love of traditions.
Sweet taught me how to appreciate volunteers. 
Sweet taught me how to run efficient planning meetings.
Sweet taught me that efficient meetings always start best if a candy bowl is present.

Sweet was a master administrator.
She taught me how to organize events as if they were the invasion of Normandy. Interning for her was a flurry of color-coded white boards, to-do lists, 3-hole-punched handouts, reminder emails, and creating THE BINDER which was the nervous system of a large event, perfect organized to begin planning the same event next summer. She taught me how to mail merge, how to laminate, how to RIZZO, and how to walk into every vendor meeting carrying a clipboard.
(presence, all about presence).

Second reason I love Sweet Hopkins: she loved me, and trusted me, when I was just a wee one. She trusted 18-year-old Ben and loved him into being the man she knew he could be. She gave him responsible positions of leadership, taking two dozen little boys to camp for a week. He had the responsibility of caring for their behavior, safety, spiritual growth, and generally staying alive.

Don't think Sweet's trust in Teenage Ben was noteworthy? Consider Exhibit A:
Winne the Pooh/Teenage Ben
See? Watch him lead those tiny kids to Christ!!!!
Haha. But really, the experience was pivotal. He grew into so many characteristics because she believed in them. The boys pictured here are now seniors in high school. He's further discipled quite a few at youth retreats, camps, and VBS weeks. Sweet allowed us to get a taste for pouring out one's life for young people. It stuck.

And lest I get off scot-free in the old photo category, let's examine Exhibit C:
Leeeetle baby 18-year-old me.
This is our first summer at camp together after we had started dating.
Did I mention we fell in love working as counselors together in Sweet's ministry?
Thanks for that, too, Miss Sweet.

She was going to perform our wedding. We lost her three weeks before the big day. I really, really miss her, especially today.


PS Sweet's daughter, Kendall, wrote a tender post not too long ago: "Dear Mom Who Is Not Here".


  1. Sounds like a great woman of faith. Memory Eternal.

  2. Dearest wife, I agree with all of your thoughts about Sweet. However, did you have to use THOSE photos?

  3. Great post. There are many great leaders in today's world that are great because of her influence. What a blessing she was. Thank you for reminding us.

    My son was at that camp and Ben was his counselor.....thank you Ben for loving those boys.

    Thank you Katie and Ben for your work in Haiti! Sic 'Em Bears!

  4. What a lovely tribute to an amazing woman. The lessons you learned are worthy ones for all of us who share Jesus with children. Thank you for giving us this reminder today.

    May God continue to bless your work in Haiti. I think Sweet would be so very proud of you both!!

    (Oh, and,....Sic'em Bears!)

  5. That's a very nice post to your friend and mentor. I'm very sorry I never had the chance to meet her. Thanks for sharing the memories. Also, thanks for sharing the pics of ben! haha

  6. I know your mom misses Sweet a great deal. What a lovely post. Thanks for sharing the memories.

  7. This is amazing & such a Sweet legacy.... I'm sure you two are walking forward in faith & trust & complete fun and joy as she did! Her daughter Kendall loves well, as I'm reading her mom did.



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