Sara Ann Hobbs was a force of nature with a heart for others. When she died August 28 in Silver City, New Mexico, in the home she shared with long-time friend Nancy Curtis, Hobbs reached the end of a long and pioneering journey.
The journey began in Anniston, AL, in 1929, when she was born to Ada and J.B. Hobbs just as the Great Depression was getting underway. The family moved to a cotton farm in Cochran, GA, where Sara Ann grew up chopping cotton and feeling “a holy unrest,” according to Curtis, that God had somewhere else for her to go other than “up and down cotton field rows.”
Hobbs’ journey took her to Judson College in Marion, AL, and on to Southern Baptist Seminary, where she graduated from what was then called the Carver School of Missions and Social Work. She served in Christian ministry positions in Arkansas and Kentucky before moving to North Carolina in 1958. There Hobbs joined the staff of the Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) associated with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC). She served as Young Women’s Director and Girl’s Auxiliary Director before becoming Executive Director of WMU-NC from 1968 to 1977.
As Executive Director, Hobbs led WMU-NC through a reorganization and the construction of Camp Mundo Vista, near Asheboro, where thousands of girls and women have benefitted from and continue to enjoy summer camps and meaningful retreats. For many, those experiences sparked their own call to mission and ministry. During her time as WMU Executive Director, Hobbs also worked to achieve equal pay for men and women in equivalent jobs within the BSCNC organization.
In 1977 Hobbs moved to the North Carolina Baptist Foundation as Director of Estate Planning with the goal of showing women how they could continue to support mission work even after death. Hobbs successfully encouraged the national WMU organization to set up its own foundation for the same purpose.
Two years later, Hobbs was tapped to become Director of Missions for the BSCNC, the only woman to hold that significant position in Southern Baptist life. Hobbs served faithfully in the role for more than 20 years (1979-91), leading an effective ministry with far-reaching effects while managing up to 30 employees and supervising a budget of more than $2 million per year.
Hobbs was an advocate for women in ministry, and used her considerable speaking skills toward that end on numerous occasions. She was the first woman to be ordained as a deacon at Woodhaven Baptist Church and consistently encouraged women to follow wherever they felt God leading them.
Hobbs’ journey met a significant stumbling block in 1989 when she suffered a cerebral hemorrhage that led to a lengthy hospitalization and a hard road to recover as much function as possible. Through valiant efforts, Hobbs returned to work, but ultimately retired in 1991.
In 1993, Hobbs and Curtis moved to Silver City, NM, joining First Baptist Church and continuing to serve through volunteerism. Hobbs logged more than 2500 hours of volunteer work through the Hospital Auxiliary, often speaking to and encouraging stroke patients and senior adults. She wrote a short book about her experience, called Journey to Recovery.
Hobbs received many honors for her years of service, including alumni awards from Southern Seminary (1980) and Judson College (2005), as well as honorary doctorates from Judson College in 1984 and Gardner-Webb College in 1985. In 1994, Baptist Women in Ministry recognized her with the Anne Thomas Neal Award.
Positions and awards say something about a person, but not all. Sara Ann Hobbs was devoted not only to God, but to her many friends and to people in need wherever they were. I was privileged to serve as Sara Ann’s pastor at Woodhaven Baptist for five years. Even through the dark time of struggling to recover from her brain injury, I felt that she was ministering to me. The world is a better place because of Sara Ann Hobbs, and I am just one of many who are grateful.
(Compiled from personal knowledge as well as obituaries written by Nancy Curtis and Kay Bissette.)