Saturday, June 23, 2007

Grieving the Loss of Stephen Hampton

By now, sufficient time seems to have passed to share publicly about this week's loss of Stephen Hampton. At a too young age of about 21, and recently graduated from Wheaton College in Chicago, Illinois, Stephen was apparently struck and killed by a train on Sunday, June 17 in Germany. Click here to read Wheaton's public statement on Stephen's death. (UPDATE on Wed., June 27, 2007: For some reason, Wheaton seems to have completely removed the notice about Stephen's death from their website, so the link will get you nowhere. Sorry. I have had a number of people emailing me regarding information on Stephen's memorial. As soon as I know when and where it is, I will post it on the blog.)

Stephen was practically born and raised at NewHeart. The youngest of three brothers, his parents are strong and committed believers in Jesus. The Hampton family was a vital part of NewHeart for most of Stephen's life.

I will never forget Stephen's dry and quick wit. For such a young man, Stephen was a deep thinker, always questioning and searching God's Word for Who God really is and all He really stands for. Stephen always wanted to be sure that who he was lined up with who God wanted him to be.

Stephen always struck me as someone who not only said he was going to change his world (and he did say so often!), but would actually do it. Stephen was going places!

I never questioned whether or not one place Stephen would go would be heaven, but I never would have thought he would go this early (not that any of us think such about our youngest ones). My heart has been wrenched this week, so I cannot imagine the heartbreak and loss that his parents, family, and closer friends are feeling. My heart, thoughts and prayers go out to them as they deal with this senseless tragedy.

Anytime someone so young is snatched from our supposed grip in this life, we're left with the unanswerable questions. Why? Why now? Why so young? What purpose does this loss serve? I have no answers to the questions, only the questions along with those who ask them.

What I do know is that we stand on this side of eternity and God stands on the other. I believe things look completely different to Him than they do to us. His Word declares it so in Isaiah 55:8-9 ....

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,"
declares the LORD.

"As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts."

I don't and won't pretend to know the gravity of the loss those closer to Stephen than I am may feel or experience right now. All I CAN say is that God is with us through the darkest of days and the deepest of valleys. He stands not just upon the mountaintops waiting for us to arrive there, but walks with us through the raging rivers that threaten to steal our joy and cripple our faith.

Through the grief, I declare my stand with the Hampton's for strength, comfort, peace, grace, and courage.

19 comments:

Margaret Ney said...

Anyone who knew Stephen knew one thing. Stephen was very special. His mind brilliant,a fierce love for the Lord, he was so determined convicted to truth, so kind, so funny and so smart. I remember thinking to myself when he was very young, this boy is smarter than I am as an adult and it was the truth!

I remember laughing many a time with Stephen during his childhood years,loving his wit and kindness which was so apparent caring for our kids at Newheart even down to the nursery which he helped me with as a young boy himself.

Always willing to lend a hand was Stephen.

I cannot express the shock and sadness at the loss of a dear young man who touched the lives of so many, including my own.

He will remain in my heart forever for he was a bright light that never ceased to shine.

To the Hampton family if they may read this, please accept my deepest sympathy. Know how much we cared and loved your son and brother. Know that many hearts grieve alongside you.

Praying for you all,

Michael said...

I knew Stephen back when I was working under Martha Dale-Lesmes in 1999 in children's ministries at NewHeart Foursquare. When my sister called to tell me that my dad (Stan Taylor) had found out through my aunt who was told by Tina Breithaupt (I hope I spelled it right!!) about the tragic accident I was deeply grieved by it. Even when I knew him at around the age of 13, he had such an awesome heart to want to serve the Lord. He loved to help work with the kids. I remember thinking how mature he was for his age and what a servant's heart he had. He had such a fun loving personality. Though I haven't seen him since then, I know that he will be deeply missed by everyone that knew him!!!

I want to let the Hampton family know that I and my family are praying for you that the Lord would bring tremendous comfort and peace to you right now.

May the Lord's peace be with you,

Lisa (Taylor) Cranshaw

Lisa C. said...

I'm sorry. The last comment was posted under my husband's account, Michael. Oh well. I forgot to log on under my account. If the Hampton's get this, please let them know that the last comment was by me and not Michael.

Thanks,

Lisa (Taylor) Cranshaw

Leon Hampton said...

Thank you, Paul and Margaret, for your kind words regarding Stephen. He was an incredible guy. We loved him so much.

We were very excited about Stephen's adventure in Germany. He was studying German at the Goethe Institute in Göttingen, Germany (a 10-month effort). He died less than two weeks after starting.

After that 10-month study he planned to pursue a Ph.D. in Philosophy with the goal of becoming a philosophy professor. (I thought that was a worthy goal; someone has to be a philosophy professor.) His focus was on continental philosophy in which German philosophers were prominent (hence his interest in the German language).

All of Stephen's wonderful future has been cut short. Susan and I are grappling with this huge loss.

In 1 Thess. 4:13 we are encouraged [not] "to grieve like the rest of men who have no hope". We are struggling with how to do that—to grieve, yet with hope.

We are Believers. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. One of those who will "meet the Lord in air" will be Stephen. That hope comforts us.

Again, thank you for sharing those wonderful memories.

In His Grip,
Leon

Pastor Paul said...

Thanks for sharing your memories and hearts for the Hampton's Lisa!

Leon, Susan, Daniel, Tiffany, David, Kristen ... words cannot express the grief Colleen and I feel with you in your loss of Stephen. We have no idea what this must be like for you. So many are expressing their love for you all in this tragic time. May God's hand be proven strong in this time when you feel such loss!

Paul (& Colleen, Joshua & Jonathan)

Leon Hampton said...

Dear Paul,

The memorial for Stephen will be held at the following time:

Date: Saturday, July 14, 2007
Time: 2:00 pm
Place: Discovery Church
580 Easy St
Simi Valley, CA 93065
Office:
www.discoverychurch.com

All are welcome to attend. It will be a difficult time for our family, so please don't expect coherent conversation from us. Nevertheless, please come to celebrate the short but wonderful life Stephen had.

In His Grip,
Leon

Leon Hampton said...

One more item:

In lieu of flowers, we ask that folks donate to Convoy of Hope (www.convoyofhope.org).

Their international project directory, Mike Clark, was an immense help to us in Germany when we were there to collect Stephen's belongings. He went out-of-his-way to assist us and was like an angel to us.

Additionally, Convoy of Hope is a organization Stephen would have supported.

In His Grip,
Leon

sy said...

To Susan and Leon:

May God comfort you and your entire family in this hour of grief. With all of our love, from the Holy Land,

Sy & Lois Polsky

Julie Vasquez said...

I have known Stephen since he was 4 years old!! I remember his blond ringlets and his "high pitched voice" as a child. He was always such an inquisitive boy who had a great desire to learn about the Lord. When he would be in my Sunday school class, I swear he knew more about the lesson I was teaching than I did myself!! He was just a bright,loving young man who always went out of his way to help other out, his hugs were incredible, his passion for the Lord was so great you could just see him beaming with the Lord!!! To the whole Hampton family, please know my deepest condolences,prayer, and love go out to you all. It is my hope that people will always remember Stephen as a man who always put the Lord and his family first. With lots of Love, Julie Vasquez

kelly montgomery said...

dear leon, susan, daniel, tiffany, david and kristen,

we are so sorry that you must endure this most unbearable pain. no parent should ever have to walk, or crawl, through this journey. the world has experienced a great loss losing stephen so early, and we know no one's loss and grief is deeper than yours as a family. we know that no words can bring comfort or relief from this pain. we send our deepest love and compassion to your hurting hearts and souls. we pray that our Heavenly Father, who counts our tears, would wrap Himself around you.

we love you all,

rick, kelly, cole and tyson

Bert said...

Your loss has been felt here in New Hampshire, not having seen Stephen or the Hamptons for many years we still feel the bond that Christ has on our lives.
Our hope is that God has a special plan for the Hampton family and He will reveal it through His Holy Spirit.

Our love from accross time and miles,

Bert & peggy Kinsley and family.

Laura said...

Dearest Hampton Family,

All the love and Words shared are from us too. We are praying for you to come through this "In His (Loving) Grip" - Please just know HOW MUCH YOU ARE LOVED, and how much we all loved Steven. And remember HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE PRAYING for you

Judy Corbett said...

Dear Leon, Susan and Hampton family,

I met Stephen when he was about 7. Although I did not know him as well as many others, I do remember him always being so bright, so funny, and always with a great big smile.

I remember him in lots of skits at Newheart; again with that smile, always knowing his lines, always with his knowledge of the Bible and of course his obvious love for God.

God surely must being enjoying Stephen sitting near Him with his quick wit and loving heart.

There are no adequate words to express my deepest sorrow. My prayers and my love go out to all of you,

Judy

Jennifer Urie said...

To the Hampton family and Stephen's lovely friends, I give my most sincere sympathy. I have known Stephen well, as a teacher at Simi Valley High School and his Speech and Debate coach. I have never met someone like him before or since. You could definitely catch his heart from a mile away, because he was wearing it in the great, big smile of his! One of the things I will always remember is his pure heart and kind intentions. He was a good and decent young man, a rare jewel in the world.The students and coaches always debated dozens of topics. Those converations were immensly positive and left everyone feeling more knowledgable. He always listened to every single opinion, and even in those instances where his opinions differed from those stated, I never saw that difference turn into disrespect or intolerance. I will miss his great intellect, that superb smile, his incredible humor and his wonderful friendship. May Godd bless you all and carry you though this difficult time. I can see that the heavens are brighter with the glow of Stephen's beautiful smile! I will miss him greatly.

Gail said...

Dear Leon, Susan, Daniel, Tiffany, David and Kristen,

We are truly saddened by the loss of Stephen and wish to express our deepest sympathy. We are so sorry that you having to endure such pain and sorrow.

We will always remember Stephen as a bright, perceptive, warm, caring and funny guy with a passion for God and a thirst for knowledge.

I remember when Stephen was younger, the blond curly hair, big smile and the arms tht would wrap around you for the biggest hug.

Stephen will always have a special place in our heart.

You are in our thoughts and prayers.

With all our love,

Gail and Mike King

Natalie said...

I just wanted to say that Steven was a very special person who always had a very positive and fresh outlook to the world. He took the time to smile and to make others laugh, never too shy, he was built of a genuine good heart and strong moral character.

I could give a thousand grievances to your family and a thousand more would not express the deep sympathy I feel in my heart. I will always remember the good times that I spent Steven's life, his vitality, his courage, his enthusiastic musical endevours and most importantly the warmness to his heart.

My fondest times of Steven were when I had spent time over at your house in gracious company, eating dips and carrots in the sunshine, swing dancing and enjoying the moments of our youth.

Our times together never seem long enough. There will never be enough moments to tell someone how much you care about them. Everyday I wish to learn how to take less in my life forgranted.

I wish the best to your family in this time of sorrow. I hope Steven is always remembered in the brightest of ways as his natural inclinations toward kindness and love I will never forget.

My eternal condolences...

Natalie

Greg said...

Susan and Leon,
Our prayers are covering you and your family. May the peace of our Lord fill your hearts.
Stephen was truly the light of the world, salt of the earth, born from above, a brand new creation!!! He was living proof that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
Chelsea was so saddened with the news but it was the memories of Stephens’s life that changed tears to joy in this hard time. Chels shared all the memories of their time together in High School when Stephen (President of Christian Club) would call her early every morning to encourage her to meet at the school flagpole to pray. As a father, I am truly blessed that a young man like Stephen reached out to my daughter and so many others, who truly made a positive impact on peoples lives. Chelsea today is blossoming the seeds that Stephen sowed, leading youth groups, starting up collage Christian Clubs and spreading the love of Christ everywhere she goes.
I keep thinking of Eph:1, “God has blessed us with all Spiritual blessings in heavenly places.” I think of Stephen when I ponder that. Stephen was and still is a blessing in all our lives!!!
In all things He says give thanks, so I thank God for Stephen and for Leon and Susan for rising up such a might man of God!!!
Blessings,
The "Smith's"
Chelsea, Alex, Colleen and Greg

Jennifer said...

I knew Stephen through a mutual friend, Krysten Kruse. I did not get to see him often but I was so impressed with him in the times we did share. He was bright and kind and funny and caring. I can only imagine the grief of his family and friends at a promising life cut so short. My heart and prayers goes out to those this has hit the hardest. You do not grieve alone.

Jenny Brooks

mdlesmes said...

Even after several months, it's still hard to fathom that Stephen is gone. I've tried several times to post something and each time I stop because I don't know how to express what's in my heart. But here it goes one more time. I had the priviledge of knowing Stephen from birth. I watched him grow up as a friend of the family and then I got to work with him at church. It's true what everyone has said, Stephen was special. He had passion and a joy for life mixed with a sense of compassion for the world. I, thought at one time, that Stephen would end up working with kids because even as a child he was always helping the kids around him. When he got into Juinor High he started teaching Sunday School for me - not assisting a teacher, but teaching. He was great. Then he took an interest in the puppets so when no adult came forward to help lead the puppet team, Stephen helped me out. Sometimes I erred by forgetting he was just a kid and I'm afraid I put too much on his plate at times, but then his maturity again would come out. How many of us as adults toil under the strain of having too much on our plate and never saying anything? Stephen, on the other hand, would tell me when I had over done it. He was a kid you could learn from. He liked puppets so much that he had his parents buy one of the nice, big, ones so I gave him this one-man puppet theater we had around church. I'll never forget the sight of Stephen in his orange and blue striped tent walking around with his puppet, entertaining kids. The last time I spent time with Stephen, he was home for a break with some friends. I had dinner at the Hamptons and was pleased that in many ways Stephen was the same. He still was as friendly as ever, always giving me a big hug and I sat at the table laughing as he and his friends told story after story. His intellect was as sharp as ever as the table debated something or other. I watched and realized that the boy truly had grown up and he was at the beginning of a great adventure. Little did I realize then his adventure would take an unexpected turn. I've always liked what C.S. Lewis wrote in The Last Battle, "But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before".

Stephen's Cover and Title page was pretty incredible and touched many lives, for one so young - can you even begin to imagine what the inside of his story must be like.

I love you Susan, Leon, Daniel, Tiffany, David and Kristen and I continue to pray for you. MD