By Marilyn Tinnin
Michael Wayne Sweet
Director of Ministries at Gateway Rescue Mission
Mississippians—especially Ole Miss fans—remember Michael Sweet as one of the finest and fastest running backs ever to play for the Rebels. A shattering knee injury in 1976, his senior year, dashed his dreams of an NFL career.
In retrospect, Michael sees that life-altering event as one of God’s loving interventions that may have saved his life.
“I’d been raised to go to church. I’d always known God was there for me. All through college, I knew I was supposed to be living right, but I didn’t do it. I got involved in drugs—marijuana, cocaine.”
Had he signed the big money contract and continued down the path of poor decisions and risky behavior, he does not know where he would be today. But he knows for sure he would not have the joy, the peace, or the purpose that defines him.
Known by everyone these days as Pastor Sweet, he is also the father of three grown sons of whom he is extremely proud. But most of his parenting duties today involve being a kind of surrogate father to “my guys,” the assortment of addicts, out-of-work, homeless, and down and out clients who are served by the programs at Gateway.
He teaches and preaches and loves big on the men who show up at the mission looking for a way out of their pain. Michael is one whose counsel is so effective because he once looked for meaning in those same empty places.
“I wake up every morning and say thank you, Lord. I look forward to coming here because I tried everything else. My peace, my joy, the happiness that comes with Christ—there is nothing like it.”
And what’s the best thing about working at Gateway? “I like being in the trenches, one on one with the people. Nobody’s playing church here. It’s the real deal.”