Sara is on a faith walk. She remembers her excitement when, as soon registration opened for the new school year, she filled out and delivered her application for the fall semester at Middle East University (MEU) as a freshman theology major. It was a dream come true.
However, two weeks into the new school year the stark reality surfaced. The university’s new tuition rates had been restructured to meet the unprecedented economic situation in Lebanon. In spite of a 50% scholarship awarded her by the university, her family–a single mom on a limited income and a brother with special health needs–would not be able to meet even a fraction of their part. Her mother felt the only honorable thing to do was for Sara to withdraw from school. The thought was more than she could process.
Growing up Armenian in Lebanon, she had faithfully attended Sunday School. It was her favorite time of the week. One Sunday after church she exclaimed to her family, “I can’t wait to be old enough to be the teacher!” It was an early expression of her sense of calling.
During those years, she attended the Bouchrieh Adventist Secondary School (BASS) where a Bible class was offered. She always signed up. Year after year the teachers who came to lead the class inspired her, challenged her. She had always been intrigued by the Bible, but she began realizing it was her only place of safety, the place where she felt God’s love.
She was in 8th grade when Angy, an Adventist Volunteer Service (AVS) worker from Peru who was teaching the class, noticed her interest and asked if she wanted personal Bible studies. They used the It Is Written Bible study series. Her mother was reticent for Sara to accept Angy’s invitation to attend the local Adventist Church, but then she finally not only consented but decided to join Sara. Her family began growing with her.
That all ended, though, when more family disruption required her to transfer to a school across town and out of reach of what she’d enjoyed so much. She longed to be studying the Bible, to be at church, but it seemed her opportunity was over.
It was over a year later before God’s direct intervention caught Sara’s attention. She noticed a billboard right next to her grandma’s house. “Stop the car,” she exclaimed to her mom. “That’s Pastor Bradshaw!’ The billboard with his picture was announcing he would be teaching the same studies at the same school where she had learned so much about the Bible.
She and her family attended every night of the It Is Written 2019 evangelistic series in Beirut. Even at 16 she grasped the biblical messages and, along with her mother and brother, was baptized into the Adventist Church. It was a decision that reached beyond her own experience, though. Everyone close to her realized her baptism was part of a journey to understand the Bible deeply so she could share it with others.
In the difficult years after her baptism, her commitment was severely tested. More family disruption and financial losses shook their household. A long and complicated bout with covid her senior year in high school left her struggling with memory and comprehension. Everyone advised her to give up her plan to attend university. But she pled with God, “I surrender my wounds, my struggles, my pain, my memory, my life, my everything to You.” Two weeks before college entrance exams, her mind began clearing. She passed with distinction. It was the open door she needed to begin her theology training.
But now, the impossible tuition payment threatened everything. She knew dropping out of MEU would end every prospect; nothing gave promise of ever getting better financially. To make the decision more difficult, a public university near her home offered her a full scholarship. Confused, she sought out a friend who knew her journey.
Was God still calling her? Should she give up her dream? Did He intend to use her other ways? Those were questions with no clear answers, but the two of them agreed to pray that her mother would have the faith to pay the small amount available, that Sara would have the health and focus to study hard, and that together her family would trust God to provide. When it came time for Sara to pray, though, she added her greater burden. “God. You Yourself told us to pray for more workers for Your field, didn’t You?” Then she stopped, tears catching her words. “Please! Please God! I WANT to be one of those workers.”
How does God answer such a prayer?
Sara knows how vast and ripe the field is; she grew up in it always listening, asking, and wanting to know more. She knows the difference one worker can make; she will be forever grateful for those who answered God’s call to work in her field.
She has faith He is answering. “I am clear in my mind that He is the one who has put the burden in my heart to prepare for ministry. He is the one, too, who will make it possible.”
For now, Sara is determined to do her part. “Day after day I am continually falling in love with the Bible. Each class touches me in a certain way.” As she takes advantage of campus spiritual activities, she is beginning already beginning her ministry. “I have a lot to learn, but one thing that I’m seeing is that I am already doing God’s work here, right now.” As to the finances? Some help has come from unexpected supporters; she has seen enough to trust that God will continue to provide what she can’t make happen on her own. “My part is to lean on God as God prepares me for what He wants me to do.”