Bethany and I, in partnership with Friends of Bethany, Wonderfully Made and Maranatha chapel, recently held a one day girls conference in San Diego, CA. We were joined with close to 3000 girls at this amazing event! Our goal was to remind young girls of their value and worth. My schedule has been so crazy, I have not had a lot of writing time! I thought you all might enjoy seeing what we have been up to and watching this incredible event first hand. Know you are loved and so precious to our Lord!! Click here to see the event: <a href=”http://player.piksel.com/player.php?p=gbg16w71&wmode=transparent&wmode=transparent” target=”_blank”>
The waves were huge and the storm rough. My arms were so tired from paddling; they felt as weak as noodles. Getting past one large wave; another one was on the horizon. I paddled as hard as I could, trying not be overtaken by the huge surf. There was wave after wave; I didn’t think I was going to make it. As I gasped for air, I found myself gripping the board ever so tightly. I was paddling circles in the midst of the stormy sea. I couldn’t help but wonder why I paddled out; why did I want to conquer the big waves? When I finally got back to the shore, I had no strength left in my bones. I lay there in the sand shocked and frozen, gripped by the fear of what I had just been through. Often we feel this way in life…overtaken by something or someone in such a way that we cannot see beyond it. The mind so full of emotions that you just feel like you can’t escape them. You’re not alone; you are in the boat that is tossed to and fro by the waves of life and need the storm to be calmed.
The tragic loss of a very close friend during the holidays was very difficult. For me, this started a season of storms that gripped me so tightly. I found my mind consumed by my circumstances. I couldn’t wait to get home to my family during the holidays, hoping for that moment to be still. Often it seems when I have expectations of peace and rest, God has other plans though. The day I landed in California I got news that my friend’s husband had committed suicide. My heart became even heavier. I found myself on a trail of unexpected ministry needs and opportunities with friends and family. This isn’t a bad thing, but when you’re feeling weighed down, it can be hard.
I’m the kind of person that loves to help people, especially when there is a need or someone in trouble or hungry. I can’t help but be emotionally moved by the things I see around me! If it’s in my capability and power, I will do something about it. So I often find myself carrying the weight of the world and forgetting to give it to the Lord. I was emotionally broken by all I had seen and endured. I had forgotten one key component; we are never called to carry the heavy yoke, but to find strength through Him. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” Phil.4:13.
In any kind of water training, you are taught when saving a drowning victim to put a flotation device between you and the person you are trying to save so they do not pull you under causing you to drown with them. I wasn’t making sure Christ (my flotation device) was between me and those I was ministering to. This can be true in so many different aspects of our lives! Our human nature tends to cling to the idea that we, in some way, can fix things, circumstances, people, or ourselves. God then becomes secondary or obsolete all together.
That is exactly where the enemy wants us to be. At a place where we become so overwhelmed by the situation at hand, we grow weary and faint. In weariness, we are discouraged and often find ourselves in a very dark place, looking to grab anything that comes into reach to satisfy or numb what we are going through. Before we know it, we find ourselves being pulled under because we didn’t make Christ our anchor. Hebrews 6:19 says, “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast.” You and I don’t need an anchor for calm seas. The rougher the weather, the more important your anchor! The rougher the circumstances we face, the nearer we need to draw to Christ.
God began showing me that if He wasn’t the source of my strength, then I labored in vain (Ps. 127:1). It is so important to put God first in all you are facing and going through. He has never brought a storm so great that it ceased from ending. There is always another sun shining again. When He is who we turn to, we find ourselves not needing to be overwhelmed. Sometimes He is waiting for us to surrender all to Him. To literally let go of whatever it is you are gripping so tightly and to just let Him.
Maybe you are trying so hard to find the perfect man…let go, seek Him first, and trust He knows what He is doing. Maybe you are saddened by the loss of a loved one and you cannot move past the pain, lay the tears at the feet of Jesus and let Him carry you through it. Maybe financially you have no clue how you are going to make it. Go outside and look how He provides for the birds of the air; will He not much more take care of you? Maybe you feel alone and forgotten. Do you know He can’t get you off His mind
(Ps.139:17-18)? Your life serves a purpose; look to Him to know what that is. Maybe you are fighting a cancer and you don’t know what the outcome will be. He does and His strength is made perfect in your weakness. Trust Him. No matter what you are going through today, remember that our God holds the span of the universe in His hands. We are so small and our problems hold no merit in comparison to His ability. Let go, casting all your cares on him and know how very much He cares for you. He’s got you, He loves you and He will never leave you!!
Is He your anchor today? Is He your flotation device keeping you above water between you and your situation? If not, I encourage you to say this prayer with me:
Lord, forgive me for not making You the core for my strength. Help me to trust_______________ to You. May You help me to keep my eyes on You and to remember when fear seeps in, that You are greater. Help me to see things from a godly perspective. May my circumstances never be bigger than You. Thank You Lord, for being my shield today against the storm. Amen
I encourage you to go watch the sunset or sunrise today. Go get away from everything and take a moment to be still before Him. It is in that stillness you will hear Him the most! Aloha.
Waking up, there was a thickness that could not be escaped. Moment by moment, each breath was so painful. Full of confusion, despair and disappointment, each second seemed inescapable and hard. Drifting deep into the sheets, there didn’t seem to be an end in sight. The heaviness consumed the day and brought tears streaming down her face.
Why me, she thought…why do I have to live this life full of trial and pain? The very thing that brought identity, acceptance and purpose now drifts far away like the seas tide, taking with it her hope. In the dark hours, she contemplated the very life she was living. Feeling so lost in the emotions of it, she could see no end to the pain ahead. If this was the best life had, she no longer wanted to live it.
So often in the hardships we face, we too can find ourselves in this place. The dark abyss that often brings little hope. Those times where every breath we breathe hurts and we find little strength to keep going. It could be in a moment of awful news, loss of a loved one, the pain of divorce or a break up. It could be in the moment of confusion or loneliness. When that financial crisis comes at the worst time. It might be in the shape of a backstabbing word that cuts the soul. No matter what your moment was, we can all agree that this life can be extremely difficult. So what do we do in the dark hour? How do we find light in the dark tunnel and the strength to move forward?
As I met with a close friend the other day, she shared with me the darkness she had been facing. She told me she didn’t want to live any longer. She shared that this life had become too painful, and she could no longer take it. While she shared with me, it brought me back to a painful time in my own life. A time where I really didn’t feel there was a hope to keep living! A time where I felt as she did, that life handed me a bad hand and I felt like there was no point in living any longer. While she wept bitterly in my arms, I felt the Lord place it on my heart to share about the day I escaped my own suicide.
Right out of high school, I had what I thought would be my future all mapped out. I was to play water polo in college, study sports medicine and, like anyone, start living my life. Two weeks before I was to start college, I went to a beach house with some close friends for one last hurrah that summer. As I was walking down to the water to surf, I felt care free, not a worry in the world. The waves were good, the sun was shining it was truly a beautiful day!
As I went to duck dive under a wave, I was tossed backwards and landed on the back of my head on the bottom of the ocean. Immediately my face went numb and I thought I had broken my jaw. As I made my way back to the house in the hot sand, I had to keep putting my board down and stand on it for a few seconds to relieve my feet from the heat, then pick up the board and continue walking. I am not sure what happened by the time I got to the house, but the next thing I remember is being in the ambulance, headed to the hospital.
When I arrived, I remember being in a panic, not over any injury I might have incurred but over the fact that I did not want them to cut off my new rash guard (I was successful at saving it). I was taken into the x-ray room and waited for the doctors. The diagnosis at that time was that I had a sprained neck and was told I needed to take it easy. My neck felt really bad; kind of like a bobble head. That night I sat up all night in a chair, with the worst pain I had ever known. The next morning I was in a daze. My friends took me home, where I sat stiff at the end of my bed, waiting for my mom to come home from work.
The moment she walked in, our eyes locked and like any mom, she saw something was very wrong. She rushed me to another hospital, where I was called a miracle and told that I had a broken neck and back. It was so bad, they had no clue as to how I walked in there and told my mom that going that long with my neck broken the way I was, I should have been paralyzed. All I can remember in that moment was crying. Crying for so many reasons, but mostly because I knew this meant I would not be playing water polo.
The first few weeks seemed okay. I had everyone I knew coming to see me. That soon changed, as all my friends went off to school. One of the hardest moments was when my new water polo coach called me to go over the upcoming schedule and I had to tell her I would no longer be on the team due my accident. After that call, I was so sad. The days grew longer and when you are down and out, I believe you start to feel even more sorry for yourself. My life had never been easy; through the years I had to over come numerous obstacles life handed me. Abuse from my father, the pain of a broken home, and numerous surgeries from numerous illnesses I faced. As I replayed all these memories in my heard, I grew into a deep depression.
I remember one day telling the Lord, “If this is the best you have for me and my life, I am over living it.” I was at a place where I just saw no end in sight. I really was ready to just give up! I remember seeing a Bible on the nightstand next to me (by no mistake from my praying Mom, who I am sure, left it there). I grabbed it almost in one last attempt to hear something. I said, “God, if you are real and are here, I need you to speak to me, if not, I’m done.” I opened the Bible up, I had no clue to where. I just opened it and saw one verse in red writing. It seemed almost to jump out at me. It was 2 Cor.12:9, And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
That verse definitely spoke to me. As I read on, I found myself captivated by the next words. Paul went on to talk about that because God’s great grace was so sufficient, he would boast in all the trials of life, knowing that in his weakness, God was working in him strength. I felt like the Lord allowed me to come to this place of brokenness so I, like Paul, would see that God was with me always. I felt like the Lord said, “Sarah, if you give Me your life, I will bring purpose to all your pain. I will use it to bless others and to show Myself faithful to you. That day was a life changing day for me. It was in those words of comfort, I found a reason to live. I really believe I was forever different after that moment. I no longer lived in light of the trials, hardships and pain but in light of the cross.
Suicide is a very heavy topic and I deal with it all the time in the ministry I have. You see, if we are only looking at the dark hours we are in, there can be little hope ahead. It is the lie of Satan himself that says you are not loved or important. The lie that says you are all alone or your life was a mistake. He desires nothing more than to leave us in our depravity, without hope. Suicide is such a horrible thing that leaves the world robbed of all you have to offer it.
Your life is so important and has so much purpose. God has placed you here to do something amazing and great for Him. I think of Jeremiah 1: 5 where God told Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” You see God is telling Jeremiah that before he was even born, He knew him. Before Jeremiah lived one day on this earth God had a plan for him. There was a purpose for Jeremiah’s life, just as there is a purpose for your life. “I know, I know,” the inner voice is saying, “but this is to Jeremiah, not to me; God had a plan for Jeremiah’s life, but not mine.” LIES!!!!! You are here for a specific purpose… what that is, I am not sure, but guess what, God does! This verse is not just for Jeremiah but for you and me today!
Ephesians 2:10 say’s, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Workmanship is translated “masterpiece.” You are God’s masterpiece, His best creation. God thought through to make you as this masterpiece because there are things He wants you to do. He created you to do something amazing, that no one else can do. You were made specifically with a purpose in mind. YOU ARE NOT A MISTAKE!!
So with that, what do we do? We trust God. We get in the Bible to fight off the lies with the truth. We grab ahold of God’s promises and walk in them. I would have missed out on the blessing of God using me to lead others to Christ. The people God has allowed me to impact for His kingdom has blown me away. I would not have realized His purpose for my life, if I had selfishly taken the “easy” way out. Today, I would not change any part of my life. Seeing all that the Lord had in store has brought complete peace to all the storms I faced and continue to face. God has given me so many opportunities and has faithfully brought purpose through the pain. If you are in a dark place and need help, know there is help! Any of the following organizations are available to you to offer you help and an ear to listen. You are loved by me and more importantly, you are loved by God! Only He can turn our ashes to beauty.
Isaiah 61:3 “To give them beauty for ashes,The oil of joy for mourning,The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;That they may be called trees of righteousness,The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”
I recently found myself doing, as so many in the world do, accusing God of the injustices this world has. Being one who normally goes to bat for Christ, I now sat on the side of the age old question…”If God is a God of love, why does He allow….?” I’ve heard this question far too often and have attempted to, on many occasions, answer it with some sort of theological answer. I was so bothered by what I saw this summer, I too accused Christ of injustice.
I took a small group of kids on a missions trip to Mexico in July. This was not a new thing, as I have led such trips yearly, and most recently in October of 2012. Some of my kids were so moved while on that trip, that they wanted to go back this summer. It was their passionate, steadfast desire that led us to move forward with the July trip. There were moments we thought about cancelling the trip, like when we saw the price of airline tickets to fly from Hawaii to the mainland and we questioned our ability to raise the money. But the kids persisted, feeling more assured each day that we were to go. It is a great thing to see the faith of the youth, who are not worried, nor question God’s ability to provide. And provide He did!
As Americans, anytime we go into Mexico, we are broken by the poverty that lies beyond the fence dividing the two countries. It is a great thing for young people to see just how good they have it living in the U.S. We were eager to see how God would use us on this trip. Within a day it was clear it would be a powerful trip! We went to visit an orphanage that we have been helping over the past few years. They were not expecting us; therefore we were able to see the needs they had in the rawest form. So often, as Americans, we come to meet the needs of others in the most gluttonous ways. What I mean by that is, we bring toys, clothes and candy with excited smiles to bless the little ones. That’s good to want to bless those in need, except when you see that the young ones most basic needs aren’t even being met. It changes your perspective!
We hurried out of our vans. I was holding a large box of granola bars that I couldn’t wait to give to the little kids. They all ran at me as if they had not eaten in days. Two and three year olds were begging me for food. I could not pass them out quick enough. As I looked down at these little beaming eyes, I couldn’t help but notice the filth they were covered in. Dripping noses and raw sores on the faces, diapers that had not been change for days and clothes that reeked of human waist. Little ones pulling on every side of me begging me for more. Many were extremely sick and clung to members of our team. We couldn’t carry enough of them! Within minutes they would fall asleep in our arms; maybe the only place they felt safe. The older kids were sneaking bars in their pockets, trying ever so hard to steal a bag of bars to go hide for later…truly so heartbreaking.
After leaving that day I was so sad, broken and disappointed. No young child should ever be faced to live in those conditions. We went and bought a ton of diapers and food to bring back with us. When we revisited the orphanage, the kids were so grateful to see us and once again they clung to us. When given an opportunity to love these little ones, you forget about any stench that accompanies them. You embrace them and flood their little faces with kisses. I held a very sick little boy (maybe a year and a half old) in my arms. Covered in dirt and so sad. I took baby wipe after baby wipe to clean his little face and hands. I then got a cup of water to try and hydrate him. The moments following still make me weep like a baby. Within seconds I was surrounded by toddlers begging me for “aqua” (water). They would take the cup of water and gulp it down as if it was the only drink they had in days. They were fighting each other for sips, I couldn’t keep the cup full. I also couldn’t hold back the tears that quickly turned into anger.
How can a God of love allow this to happen? How can these little kids be left to live like this? This is unjust and wrong! There are so many injustices in the world, so many heartbreaking sights and so much pain. If God is all loving, why does he allow this to be the case?
A week later I was visiting my uncle who in the past year was diagnosed with cancer. He is a man of faith, but I wouldn’t say that he passionately pursued the cross. A while back my aunt and I were talking on the phone and she shared how there was a bit of a somber feel in the house. “Unk” was feeling down and she asked me to pray for him. I encouraged her to play worship music in the house. I began praying for God to bring him a unexplainable peace in this time.
When I saw my uncle, I was blown away by his new found passion and love for God. He was on fire. I could see a difference in him. He was sharing a story with me about sharing his faith with a random guy in Nordstrom. One day after one of his treatments, my aunt needed to grab a couple things. My uncle went along and sat on a sofa in the store while my aunt did her shopping. There was a man a bit older than him, sitting in a chair next to him. As they began to talk, my uncle brought up Christ. This old man said, “I use to have faith and believe in God, but not anymore.” My uncle asked, “why not?” The man said, “Well, because I don’t see how a God of love could allow innocent people in Africa to die!” My uncle went on to say, “Sir, I don’t understand why bad things happen; however, I know God is faithful and loving and his heart breaks for the evil in the world too.” My uncle then said, “Sarah, what would you have said?”
That question was still being a very raw topic in my heart, I looked at my uncle and said “you responded perfectly.” I began to share with him about accusing God for all the evil I was seeing in Mexico, as these children begged me for basic needs. You see the hurts of this world should anger us enough to do something about it. I must say though, that as I questioned God that day, I felt Him speak very loudly to me. “Sarah, I have you here to quench their thirst, so give them water until they thirst no more. Instead of seeing the injustice, see My heart and be My hands and feet to them today.”
As believers, we are to be the shadow of Christ. We are to be a reflection of Him to the world around us. The most unfortunate thing is much of the church is not being obedient to respond to the calling of those in need. We sit ever so comfortably seeing the needs and hurting people, but often don’t do anything about it. A Christian is supposed to be Christ like. He met the needs of those while He walked this earth and left us with the Great Commission.
To go a step further, believers and unbelievers alike sit on our high thrones blurting out accusations about God when we ourselves do nothing about the world’s situation. We act as if we have a better way or act so high and mighty that we say it’s God’s fault. It is not Gods fault, we are not all-knowing and all-seeing. We have no clue how many people God sends out to meet the needs of others. We can not see how many (like we almost did), that sense the call but don’t go. Instead of responding to the tug on our hearts to go, we have a list of oppositions or requirements vs responding to the needs of others. This summer, had we, as leaders, not heard the call placed on our high schools students hearts, or had we not believed, with their faith, that God would make a way; had we not lived as sacrificially as they did, to give of our summer, we would have missed the opportunity to quench the thirst of nearly 100 kids that day.
Had my uncle not ever faced cancer, he might not have ever known the joy of passionately pursuing the cross. Without that passion he might not have been in Nordstrom that day, nor had the ability to restore the faith of one who once believed. God knows what He is doing. Don’t think for one second that His heart does not break for those who have need, and even more so for all those who have been called in some way, shape or form, but never go. It is not an issue of God failing, but us failing to follow the call.
I have recently been so burdened to share this huge lesson that I have learned from this experience. My encouragement to you, dear reader, is to go out and make a difference today in one life. It doesn’t take big bucks, big faith or a big name. It takes a willingness of one to quench the thirst of those put daily in our paths.
The everlasting God, the Lord, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary. HIS UNDERSTANDING IS UNSEARCHABLE . He gives POWER to the WEAK, And to those who have no might He increases strength.
And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
Often there are roller coaster moments for anyone who has made the commitment to serve the Lord with their life. There are times of great fruit, seeing God do amazing things in the lives of those you minister to daily. People can tend to have a false perspective that you are always good, almost forgetting that you too are dealing with life’s issues as well! There are seasons that seem dry, almost as if you are in the desert. Those seasons are difficult for any of us! You find yourself taking each step with eyes focused on the horizon, just waiting for the cooling rain to come and refresh you again.
Coming to Kauai was a huge step of faith in my walk with the Lord. I knew that God had put Kauai on my heart and had confirmed it in several ways. It is important to have assurance of the calling God places on your life. With assurance you will walk even when it is difficult (being a girl in ministry can be difficult, couple that with telling people God was calling me to Hawaii was definitely a major difficulty). One of the largest confirmations was when I found out how great the need was on the North Shore. There were a ton of kids yet no youth groups.
Upon arriving to Kauai I knew I was to reach out to the youth but I really didn’t know what that would look like. When my car came in on the barge, I picked it up and was like, “Ok Lord, what shall I do?” On my way home that day, I saw four kids hitchhiking on the side of the road with their boogie boards. Clearly, they needed a ride to the beach! I felt the Lord prompt my heart to pick them up, so I pulled over and they all got in. I took them to the beach and felt like I was to stay until they were finished and then take them home. It was a bit awkward for me; I was hoping I wasn’t scaring any of them (I really was hoping they didn’t think I was a weirdo)! When they were done I offered them a ride home, they were so stoked!
After dropping them off, I gave them my number and shared that I was there to hang out with youth and that if they needed anything, to just call and I would be available for them. The next morning, these smart boys called me again for another ride to the beach. The phone calls turned into a daily thing and we quickly became friends. They were trekking me all over the Island, showing me all the best spots. Within two weeks of meeting them, God opened the door for me to share Christ with them. They would ask me a hundred questions about the Bible and the Lord. These boys all within a month came to know the Lord and started inviting their friends to hang out. By the end of that summer I was squeezing 13 kids into my little Hyundai hatchback (Hawaii is much more lenient on those issues than the mainland). This birthed the start of the youth group.
Within a couple month of being on Kauai, I started working along side a church who had recently hired a new youth pastor. We were a great team for the Lord and saw God do amazing things. There were some issues that came up about me being a girl leading youth. I really didn’t give them much thought. For me, it was all about being obedient to the calling the Lord had placed on my life. People will always talk and or have their opinions. The only thing that matters is being obedience to the call placed on your life.
Is there a problem with a girl leaders? I won’t say that I too didn’t question it. There was only an issue for me when people tried to put a “title” attached to my name. In my eye, yes I was a girl, just being obedient!There was a need, God saw it and put me there to do something about it. I knew I was exactly where God wanted me! Girls, God can and will use you! It is unfortunate how few guys there are stepping up to the plate to serve. I’m not saying there are not guys,not that God only uses girls when there are no guys…that is not true!! I’m just saying there seems to be less and less guys willing to step up. Why is that?
I really didn’t know what a heated topic this was until we were filming Soul Surfer. Every media interview I did seemed to want to place a title to my name; they wanted to know what I called myself… Really title? I am a servant, I am a Jesus loving, youth leading, Bible teaching, praying without ceasing, seed planter, who is a girl. Yes, I have had churches and people debate weather or not I as a girl should be leading youth. God called me so the issue needs to be taken to Him.
There have definitely been times that this topic has taken a toll on me. There have been times that I have been out right disrespected as a girl. I have been talked down too, ignored, looked at funny, left out and even talked about. I have been weary, discouraged, I have cried tears privately with the Lord. I have questioned giving up and walking away. The one thing that I could not escape from was knowing the calling God placed on my heart. 1 Peter 2:10 say’s, “Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble.”
I knew the Lord would fight the battle for me. That might sound easier said than it was living it out. The road was difficult at times and still is. There will always be people and their bias of weather a girl could/should be leading such a ministry. God calls us to go into the harvest…He will use the ones who are willing to go. Everyone else who wants to sit and debate that issue is only wasting precious time!!
The Bible says we are to walk by faith, even when the storm is at hand and the end is afar off. If we say we believe in God, then we must trust Him even when people question us or our ability. We are to trust and walk even when we feel forgotten or even worse, rejected! You see God is not good and faithful only in the smooth seasons. He is faithful all the time.
I have had to trust that the Lord was training up something even in all the talk about me being a girl. I have had to learn to trust the calling the Lord put in my heart years ago, to step out in obedience and serve the youth of Kauai. I had to shut off the lies from the enemy and the world that told me how worthless or a failure. I had to daily look to Christ in order to gain strength to serve Him FAITHFULLY!!!
I have recently been asked more and more about being a girl in ministry. I have felt the Lord challenge me to be a voice on the topic. Not to set clear lines of what girls can or can’t do but to encourage young girls to be obedient when they feel called. Be obedient to the call. Consider the many female leaders in the scripture starting with Miriam (Micah 6:4)—she led during the time of Moses. In the New Testament we find Anna (Luke 2:36) and Philip’s daughters (Acts 21:9) the young prophetesses on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:17) and all the women who prayed and prophesied in Corinth (see 1 Corinthians 11). This is far from being an exhaustive list. God used them because they were willing and obedient.
God is who places the call on our lives. Men and women alike make the choice to respond to that call. We need to make our prayer that God would remove the obstacles in our lives that keep us from absolute obedience to Him. I am a girl, I love Jesus and I love that He chooses to use me to be His hands and feet in this world. If you never step out of the boat, you will never walk on water!
1 Cor. 15:58
And now abide faith, hope, love, these three, but the greatest of these is love.
Love, such a powerful word, action and desire. It alone can transcend all wrongs this world could ever know. Universally we all long for love, every human who has breath, needs love to survive. If you have ever traveled to a third world country and spent time in orphanages, you would see the prevalent need children have for love. Since they lack so much of it, they can’t be hugged or held enough!Love,in and of itself, can change even the bleakest of hours. Mentioned three hundred and ten times in the Bible, it is the most powerful message Christ not only displayed at the cross, but commanded us to imitate when He called us to follow Him.
Never did Christ force Himself upon us. Instead, He patiently stands at the door of our hearts knocking, waiting, yearning for us to respond. To allow Him to come in and transform our once hopeless, empty hearts and lives. Hopeless because of a world shattered by sin, hate and hurt. A world deceived by the deceiver himself, stripped of peace and purity. Hundreds of years ago voices rang in unison saying, “We don’t need a Savior, we don’t need Him, we don’t want Him, we make our own choices, we have a better way.” Even today, we mimic those same voices, desiring to silence the voice of Christ. The result is a world gripped with hopelessness.
As believers, we hold fast to the faith of our Lord Jesus. We should see in the midst of hurt and pain that we are never without hope. We can stand firm on the truths of Christ and when given an opportunity to display Him to the world, we should do so. No greater joy or purpose have I found in my own life then when traveling and sharing the hope I have within with others. In doing that, I find the greatest fire, purpose and joy. When sharing tears with the hurting and reminding them their life is not a mistake; and in the midst of a trying time their life is not over.
A couple of weeks ago the US came to the gripping reality that we are not immune to terrorist attacks on our homeland. I watched in horror the tragic events at the Boston Marathon unfolding on my television. My heart immediately broke for the victims and their families. As a believer, all I could think is we have to do something. We have to reach out somehow. I’m on the Board of Friends of Bethany, a non-profit foundation founded by Bethany Hamilton, to reach out to victims of shark attacks, as well as other traumatic amputees. As we became increasingly aware of how many victims lost limbs, we knew we needed to offer Hope in some way. As I shared in my last blog, God made us very aware we were to go there.
As our team, which included Tom Hamilton, Bethany’s dad, Mike Coots, another board member who lost a leg in shark attack, and me, headed to Boston, it was a step of faith for us to go. Since security was very high, no one was being granted access to the victims. We weren’t sure how the doors would open, but we knew we needed to walk forward in complete faith and trust that God would open them.
Upon arrival, we went to every hospital where victims were. We talked to the liaisons of the hospitals sharing about who we were and why we were there. We walked away from those meetings pretty discouraged. Everyone we met at the hospitals were very kind, but they weren’t allowing anyone in; we grew weary, second guessing if we would get in to see anyone. The voices of defeat were on the forefront of our hearts, trying to evoke fear and discouragement. Our hotel faced the same street, on which the bombs exploded, literally steps away for the actual sight. There was such a somber feel all around the area. That coupled with all the media, there was no way to escape the constant reminders of what had happened days earlier. People lacked hope and now, we as believers who came to offer hope, were forgetting to hold fast to that hope. You see we were forgetting that God is the one who opens doors. He is faithful at all times, even in a world who wants to silence Him.
That evening at the hotel I sat in my room praying for the victims and their families. I was praying for God to continue to lead our footsteps as He had lead us all the way to Boston. Then the most amazing thing happened. At 9pm my phone began ringing with calls from doctors and hospital administrators sharing how they were excited we were there and were working on getting us in to see the victims. Then I had family members of victims calling, inviting us to come visit their family members who had lost limbs in the bombing. I was on the phone until midnight with people, yes midnight! God, in those hours put together a schedule to go in and bring His hope to these families. I couldn’t sleep all night. I was blown away yet again by His faithfulness.
The next morning, we found ourselves getting through security and in the ICU waiting room, waiting to see a mother and daughter who were sharing a room together. Both were majorly effected by the bombs. As they were finishing their therapy, the trauma team came in to talk to us. When they heard about who we were and why we came, I saw God begin to use us to minister to the medical team as well. I guess we forget about the heaviness they too are facing seeing all of these people who had lost so much. We were able to give them t-shirts and Soul Surfer DVD’s. They were so full of joy and excitement. They began saying, “Oh you have to see this person, and you have to meet that person.” They started going to other family members on that floor telling them about us. It was unbelievable! People began coming in to see us and talking with us and we were able to give them gifts and Aloha (love) from Hawaii. After hearing our story, they began to realize there is Hope and that they will get through this.
There was a dad who came into the ICU unit and he looked so broken. His daughter had lost her leg and they were fighting to save her other leg. His son-in-law had lost his leg too. In the craziness that transpired after the bombing, they were sent to separate hospitals and hadn’t been together since. As he shared his heart, he began asking us questions and you could see his spirit being renewed. He got silent for a moment and then looked to Tom, his eyes filled with tears and he said, “You know exactly how I am feeling right now.” Tom’s eyes filled with tears as well and he said, “Yes, I do.” At that moment I could remember all the pain I saw in Tom’s eyes while Bethany laid in the hospital. Now God was bring purpose through that pain he had felt years ago. After all he had faced, God had painstakingly prepared him for this very moment. Tom was able to offer the hope he had in Christ to this hurting father. Father to father, tear to tear.
When we entered the room of the mother and daughter, we couldn’t help but hurt for them. The mother had lost both legs in the bombing and the daughter had almost bled to death after shrapnel came close to severing her main artery. The doctors were fighting to save her leg as well. They were familiar with Bethany’s movie and the daughter had really looked up to Bethany’s story. Mike, having lost a limb himself, was able to encourage the mother and shared with her how she can live a full life. This would not keep her down. The mother saw some shell bracelets I was wearing and she lit up. She said, “That’s something I can do. I love shells and have collected them for years. I could make jewelry out of them.” It reminded me of when Bethany had lost her arm and she was wondering what she would do with her life. I remember her telling me one morning in the hospital, “Sarah, maybe I’ll be a pro soccer player, or photographer.” “Maybe,” I replied, “but Bethany, God gave you a gift in your surfing, and just because you lost your arm, doesn’t mean He took that gift away.” You see in the greatest moments of despair, we are never without hope. I took those bracelets off my hand and gave one to that mother and daughter. I told the mother after she makes some of her own jewelry, she could send me something. I wanted her to remember that there was something she could and would do in her future.
We saw that in every footstep we took while in Boston that they were directed by the Lord. The next day, Tom flew home. Mike and I had one more day and we were sure God would open more doors. The night before, I received an email from a young girl who had seen the movie and recognized me. She found my email address and wrote me. She was born without a hand and had looked up to Bethany and me. She asked if there was any way we could meet up. We made plans to meet that next day. Her mom and her met me at Starbucks, and she was so sweet. She had been dealing with a bad infection and the doctors weren’t sure what it was (that’s why she was at the hospital). Her mom shared how she had been very down and discouraged by it. Her mom began crying and said, “I felt like her meeting you was a sign from God that she needed encouragement.” We shared for an hour and I walked away feeling like I was the encouraged one. I thought, “God, if this was what You had for me today, I’m so blessed, but if You have more, please lead us to what You have.
I then received a call from a girl whose sister lost her leg. The sister was extremely depressed and refused to see anyone. Finally she encouraged her to allow us to come to see her. We took a taxi to go see her. Once we cleared security, the guy who was representing the young lady stopped us and said, “No photos,” which we totally understood. We didn’t want to commercialize what they had gone through. When we went in, this sweet lady looked like the weight of the world was on her shoulders. We began sharing with her and after a few moments she saw Mike’s prosthetic and invited us to sit. She began asking him all kinds of questions. You see Mike had lost the same leg in the same place as she had. It was so amazing to see how she opened up. We were able to talk to her for an hour. By the end of the conversation, she was saying she wanted to run the marathon next year. She went from not knowing if she would or could do anything, to seeing and dreaming big. I told her if she runs it, I would run it with her. We invited her to come to Kauai and spend time there to heal. She told us we didn’t have to invite her twice and she would come. As we walked away from that room Mike said, “Sarah, can I hug you.” As we hugged, he said, “I will never be the same, I am forever changed.” Mike was experiencing the hope and purpose he had in being able to share with others through what he had faced.
The great question seems to be, if there is a God then why… ? I don’t have the answer to all the whys! I’ve never had all the why’s answered in my own life. The truth is, when we come through tragedy, heartache and pain, we forever see things differently. For me, I choose to live with a Hope and a purpose. To surrender all to Jesus and see Him use my story as His story to the World. I am humbled and blessed to do so! I have never walked away from the opportunities He has given me, radically changed. He is faithful and sovereign. Just because there is bad in the world, doesn’t mean He is an unloving God. No, quite the opposite. He loves us so much, that he is always available to you and I. There is no certain way to have access to Him, except through Jesus Christ. The beauty of God is, we come to Him just as we are and He is there! His arms are open wide to you and me. I love that!! Just as I am, flaws and all. He makes all things beautiful.
I want to close with this last story. We had shirts made and after going around and passing them out, we had a few left over. On our last day there, they had opened up the street where the bombs had gone off to the public. Mike asked if we should go give the shirts to the police and first responders on the streets. I thought is was a great idea, so we walked down the street giving out shirts and talking with police officers, firemen and swat team members. They were so blessed and honored that we would give them shirts. It was an exchange of thank you’s back and forth. Us thanking them for all they had done and them thanking us for coming to Boston. It was amazing to see so much love and it made me realize this is what the church should be doing. Going out, sharing the love of Christ. Making His voice shout loudly to the World that He is there, He is not dead. He is alive and wants to make us alive in Him.
We had a girl come up to Mike crying, and said, “You’re walking already!” We smiled and had to gently let her down, sharing that Mike did not lose his leg in the bombing. As she learned why we were there, she cried all the more. You see the world can’t grasp that God is so loving and He would prompt the hearts of a few to go the distance and be His hands and feet on the ground. May we all be willing to be out there, and in doing so, we will experience life in its fullness. Thank you to all who prayed and supported us. You made this trip possible. We can’t all go, but we can all have a part. No one part is of more value than the other. Every part is so important to make it all work out.
I was recently speaking at a conference in Chicago to young girls who had faced some sort of trauma or hardship. No greater joy for me, then to go and encourage young people with the truth of the gospel and the comfort of Christ’s hope. It is a reminder that there is always purpose in pain. A reassuring truth that God uses all things (the good and the bad) for His good and purpose, when we are willing to yield those things to Him.
After sharing with the girls I gave an invitation for anyone who wanted to receive Christ. It was a very emotional moment in the event and I could see that many girls were touched by the days events. As I asked the girls to close there eyes and told them if anyone wanted to receive Christ to raise their hand, a few hands went up. Typically, I would stop it there and lead them in a prayer but I felt strongly that there was a battle going on and that God wasn’t finished moving. I closed my eyes and just started sharing from my heart and told the girls that if they wanted to come forward I would lead them in a prayer.
It is a powerful statement one can physically make to get out of your seat and come publicly to received Christ. Far too often, fear can cripples our feet and we choose to sit comfortably in our chairs. God hears your prayers wherever you call to Him, but if you want to have an effect as a Christian, we must learn to love and live without reservations in our relationship with Him. That starts with a willingness to stand before the world of unknowns and say out loud, I am not ashamed, I am willing to vocally vow to live a changed life in Christ.
As I continued to pray for these girls to come forward, I wasn’t thinking about numbers or the pride one might struggle with, thinking it was by any merit of their own one would respond to the call. Instead, I was pleading before the Lord for victory in their life; I wanted so desperately for them to see that because of Jesus’ miracle that was wrapped in a tragedy, He made a way for them. These girls would no longer need be robbed of the lie that their life didn’t matter. They could be set free by the freeing savior.
When my eyes opened I could no longer speak words, tears streamed my face; I was a witness of the power God has to save. The front of the stage and aisles were crowded with young girls, ready to yield their lives to Christ. Their faces wet with tears that spoke of hurt and pain. Hope had set them free that day, eternal hope, it wiped their tears and reminded them they were bought with a price. Only one could pay the dowry, Jesus!
You would think after an experience like this, I would be smiling for weeks. It wasn’t the case though, I had such a heavy heart and felt weighed down. There wasn’t a specific reason why I felt this way. Life had been pretty normal. A few bumps on the horizon, but nothing major, so why this feeling? I found a scripture that seemed to speak to right where I was at.
“Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me?” Ps.42:5
All I could do is ask myself, why? I was sharing with my friend about how I was feeling (a good thing to do). I said, “I always feel this way right after God does something huge or right before.” I thought because of the amazing things that took place in Chicago, maybe this was just what came with it. I was determined not to let this heaviness get at me. The second part of that scripture says, “Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.”
I began to sense God telling me to hope in Him, keep my eyes on Him, be steadfast in Him, look to Him. Psalm 121:1, “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from The Lord, who made heaven and earth.” In looking at the cross, it can make light the things of this earth. I clung to His word and just did my best to not focus on the emotions. I began to think that God was preparing me for something, what that was I wasn’t sure.
The Bible says, Col4:2-4 “Devote yourself to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.” I began doing this very thing, praying that if God was preparing a door, that he would prepare my heart as well. It is always worth it if God is in it. In the next week, I was about to be, yet again, blown away by the Lord.
We all know about the heart wrenching events that took place this week at the Boston Marathon. I work with a non profit called Friends of Bethany, created to reach victims of traumatic amputees. We have been praying for door to get scholarships to amputees. On the news I heard that there were ten (possibly more now), who had lost limbs due to the events that transpired. I put out a text to the board and said we had to do something. Never In a million years did any of us expect to see what God must have known all along.
In a matter of a day and a half we went from wanting to do something to clearly seeing God open the doors to bring a team to Boston. We sent out a email to Kauai companies to see if anyone could donate items to bring as gifts. Three suitcases and a large box later, we are still being given an abundance of items to take with us and bless those effected by the bombing. We are in the process of trying to raise $20000 to give to the amputee victims. In a day and a half, we are halfway there. We have had several families who have had a relative effected contact our organization. God has literally gone before us paving the way.
So now we respond, we take the steps of faith needed to go and love like Jesus loved. Be Christ to the hurting and broken world we are living in. I ask you to please cover us in prayer. Mike Coots, who lost his leg to a shark attack, Tom Hamilton, Bethany’s father and myself, will all be heading there this weekend. We ask that you pray God leads us to the people who need it and that we find favor wherever we go. We ask that those hurting can be touched and encouraged. If you would like to donate, you can do so at friendsofbethany.com. All donations will go directly to the victims.
Lastly, I want to encourage you, if you are feeling weighed down, weather you know why or not, look up. God has the ability to help us weather any storm. He is always your strength. Maybe, he is prepping you to be used in a powerful way. I will keep you all posted on what God does while in Boston.
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from The Lord, who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper; The Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil; The Lord will your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.