Ripple out – In memory of Jim Brinkerhoff

“What? He died? Are you sure?

Even though I didn’t know him well (although I feel like I did), I’m torn up. Because everything I did know about him was good.

And because everyone I know that knew him are better people because of it.


Jim Brinkerhoff would have denied he was anything special. But if you were ever around him at all, you’d have to disagree. He was special.

And he was real. After only a few times around him, I picked that up. I also discovered he liked order. He liked books. He liked people.

     And he loved Jesus.

When my husband Jeff went to Auburn University in 1984, Jim was the campus minister at the Auburn Christian Student Center through Auburn Church of Christ. Jim’s determination to be authentic, to live like Jesus, and to care about people grew Jeff’s own faith in deeper ways.

In ways that stuck. In ways that shaped Jeff into the fantastic husband, father, and man of God he is now.

     Thank you, Jim, for your influence on my husband. It ripples out to me.

When our daughter Morgan was seeking colleges, Auburn wasn’t her top choice. We insisted on just one visit before she ruled it out.

She was grumpy on the drive down. Walking around campus, talking with professors, and seeing the city of Auburn helped, but our final stop changed everything: she met Jim.

He didn’t try to sell her on Auburn. He was just himself—enthusiastic about the amazing things God was doing there. It was enough. Back in the car, Morgan was now happy and certain: this was where she belonged.

And being in Auburn changed her life. She made new friends, learned life lessons, and gave us a wonderful son-in-law.

     Thank you, Jim, for your influence on my first-born. It ripples out to me. 

Last year was Jenna’s turn to leave home. Knowing the stories of Jim, she began her freshman year hanging out at the Auburn Christian Student Center with Jim at the helm. Although she’s now involved with other ministries, she was blessed with initial friendships and the feeling of home from what Jim had started. And her faith is now more real than ever.

     Thank you, Jim, for your influence on my baby. It ripples out to me.

So even though I was never a student in Jim’s campus ministry, his influence reached me anyway. Because he touched my family, he touched me.

Did you know Jim?
If you know someone who knew Jim, you know him a little, too.

Because it’s not always who you know directly. Or how many people you know. It’s how you love those you do know.

And how that ripples out into the lives of those they know. Maybe some pebbles make a bigger splash when they’re thrown into the deep, but all of us make ripples.

Each person matters. Not only to those you know, but to those who know those you know.

Be love. Show grace. Live Jesus.
Jim did.
It will be his legacy.

     May his ripples live on and on and on . . .


* * *

Jim Brinkerhoff died unexpectedly Thursday, December 5, of a heart attack at the age of 56. He leaves behind his incredible wife Mary (who will meet you once, then forever remember your name!) and three beautiful children.

And he also leaves a legacy of thousands of lives changed by Jesus because of his own connection with Jesus and his more than 30 years devoted to students and families in Auburn, Alabama, and beyond.

Jim’s favorite verse:

We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.
Acts 4:20

38 thoughts on “Ripple out – In memory of Jim Brinkerhoff

  1. Mari-Anna Stålnacke @flowingfaith

    “everyone I know that knew him are better people because of it.” I pray I could be molded into such a person. “Be love. Show grace. Love Jesus”…that’s the way to live. May God enable all of us to do just that. Quite a tribute & a wonderful post, Lisa. Thank you. Blessings to all of you!

    1. Lisa notes...

      I see that you already are such a person, Mari-Anna. Even though I don’t know you in the flesh, I see your spirit each week through your words, and your faith does flow through you. You are a blessing to many.

  2. floyd

    I’m sorry for the loss of a great family friend and friend of our Father. Wonderful tribute. And God will continue to use the acts of one man in this world by His sovereign hand.

    1. Lisa notes...

      Thanks, Floyd. Yes, I trust that God will continue to let Jim’s life shine for His glory. It’s thrilling to see that even though death continues to bring pain, it really has been defeated for those placing their trust in Jesus.

  3. Lynn Severance

    And now, many of us know Jim because of your beautiful tribute.
    My heart goes out to all who truly knew him by years of association and reception of his care, for surely a sudden Homegoing is a shock and deeply felt.
    Thank you for sharing with us, Lisa – praying for you and your family who were so deeply cared for my Jim and changed forever because of it.

    (( Hugs )) Lynn

    1. Lisa notes...

      Thank you for your prayers, Lynn. Jeff was blessed to ride to Auburn yesterday to attend the funeral with one of his long-time college friends. They were able to reminisce together in the long car ride there and back, and saw many old friends from their college days while they were in Auburn for the day. I wanted to go myself but felt it was better this time to let them have those special moments to talk and catch up between themselves.

      Continuing to pray for David and for him to indeed be able to not need dialysis. What a wonderful Christmas gift that would be for you all! So many miracles already.

  4. Beth

    What a powerful legacy he left in the spiritual encouragement and formation of your family, Lisa. And to be taken so young! What a tragedy! I hope that Auburn finds another godly man like him to continue this Christ-honoring and faith-focused ministry that Jim clearly championed. I’ll be praying for his family as well at such a vulnerable time of year.

    1. Lisa notes...

      Yes, it is indeed a tragedy, Beth. I remember praying years ago that he would still be at Auburn when my girls were college-age. And thankfully he was. I know his family will appreciate your prayers. I’m also praying for the current students there who will miss him so much in their everyday lives. He was a friend to all.

  5. Mia

    Dear Lisa
    Both you and my country have lost two great men who have gone to be with their Lord. I am so thankful for Nelson Mandela helped shape our rainbow nation with the power of forgiveness and love. It would have been a privilege for me to have known your Jim. Mourning with you, dear friend!
    Blessings XX

    1. Lisa notes...

      Exactly, Mia. I found it particularly sad to lose two great men on the same day. I loved reading your tribute to Nelson Mandela this morning. It means even more knowing that you live there and really know from which you speak. You got to experience first-hand the beautiful effects he had on your nation and all the ripples they created.

  6. Sheila at Longings End

    And because of your words here, Lisa, Jim has rippled out to me. Thank you for sharing about this humble and amazing Jesus man. What a glorious example for all of us to emulate. My heart and prayers go out to his wife and children. I have a friend who lost her 64 year old very godly and very good husband the same unexpected way in September. VERY painful…

    1. Lisa notes...

      Thanks, Sheila; it makes me happy to contribute to the continuance of Jim’s life rippling out to others. More proof that life goes on after death, yes? Satan can’t touch that.

      So sorry for your friend’s loss. May the Lord bless you as you walk with her.

    1. Lisa notes...

      Thanks for praying, Lyli. Those words: “Well done, good and faithful servant” have been spoken about Jim several times the last few days, and more importantly, I know he’s hearing them in heaven. What a prize!

    1. Lisa notes...

      Words are still so inadequate. Jeff told me about the outpouring of people there yesterday. I’m glad you were able to make the trip too. I know you had meaningful years with Jim and the ACSC and that he was very special to you.

  7. Jerralea

    I didn’t know Jim Brinkerhoff – but I wish I would have! Your tribute to him was awesome.

    I’m struck by your idea that all of us leave ripples that touch others. A person might not touch me personally, but by making an impact on a loved one, I can be touched as well. That is a powerful thought!

    God bless you and may your family find comfort in your memories of such a friend.

    1. Lisa notes...

      Yes, I love how relationships work that way. When someone rubs off on us, they’re also rubbing off on those we know. That makes it all the more important that we live a life of love so we influence others for Jesus instead of against. Thank you for your compassion, Jerralea. Stay warm inside your home!

  8. Ashley Davis

    Jim married one of our shepherds and his wife many years ago, and there are other people at our church here in Mobile that knew him. He left a great legacy.

  9. G

    I wish I could say something profound, but there’s not much that can be said beyond what his life itself said and keeps on saying. I wonder how many of the students within his range of influence got to know him well. I was only around him a few times, back when I was an undergrad I got to attend the UA-AU joint retreat at Mount Cheahah when they opened up a limited number of spots to other campus ministries in the state. Then as an adult volunteer in campus ministry I was around him some more. He was quite passionate in his outreach to students, but I never recall his passion bleeding over into argumentativeness as it does for so many (i.e., me). He was a stalwart for ministry to students, a bulwark of the Christian faith.

  10. Caroline

    I’m so sorry to hear about your loss, but it sounds like he lived life to the fullest and it’s so encouraging to hear that!! Praying peace over you and his family during this hard time.

  11. bluecottonmemory

    It is blessing – when those we love have someone in their lives like that – yes – a ripple effect – perfectly said. So sorry for the loss in your community – what an inheritance he gave yours to pass on!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      “. . . the loss in your community” – that’s an apt way to put it; thank you for that. It’s not just individual losses (although it is that), but it’s also a community loss, just as his life was a community gain.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      And I wonder if even in the next life we’ll fully understand how much those ripples mean. There’s no way for us to measure the ripples ourselves, but just to know that they’re valuable is important.

  12. Jen Ferguson

    What a tribute to an amazing man, Lisa. Just reading it made me want to know him. This post also makes me think of people who have created a ripple effect in my life. Much to give thanks for…

    And my heart is with you in your grief…

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      He was an amazing man, Jen. I know everyone is amazing in their own ways, but it’s easier to recognize it in some people, especially when they seem so “ordinary” from the outside and aren’t striving to be known. Jim was such a man. To God be the glory.

    1. Lisa notes...

      Thanks for your prayers, Dolly. They’ll reach out to many who loved Jim. This morning I listened to his funeral that was posted online and it was amazing to hear the stories of how authentic Jim was, and how he was such a follower of Jesus.

  13. Laura Caldwell

    Thank you, Lisa, for this beautiful post about a wonderful man. I, too, attended AU in 1984, graduating in 1985, and visited Auburn Church of Christ and the Student Center on a number of occasions with a good friend at the time, Beth Spangler. I wonder if your Jeff remembers her? Jim certainly has made a huge impact to more than one generation!

    1. Lisa notes...

      I appreciate you leaving your comment, Laura. It’s amazing how many remember Jim from even way back. I’ll ask Jeff if he remembers Beth. Two of my best girlfriends graduated from Auburn around that time so they probably know her too.

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