A theology major in Lebanon shares her journey as she dreams of serving God better.
Published on: 04-08-2023
Sara is on a faith walk. She remembers her excitement when, as soon as registration at Middle East University (MEU) opened for the new school year, she filled out and delivered her application for the fall semester as a freshman theology major. It was a dream come true.
Two weeks into the new school year, a stark reality surfaced. The university’s tuition rates had been restructured to meet the unprecedented economic situation in Lebanon. Despite a scholarship she’d received, her mother felt the only honorable thing to do was for Sara to withdraw from school. The prospect of ending her dream and returning to her family — a single mother on a limited income and a brother with special health needs — was more than Sara could process.
Growing up Armenian in Lebanon, Sara had gone faithfully to Sunday school with her grandfather. During school years, she attended the Bouchrieh Adventist Secondary School because it was near her home. The Bible class was her favorite, and she felt safe and comforted by what she had learned.
In her eighth grade year, Angy, an Adventist Volunteer Service (AVS) worker, noticed Sara’s interest and began studying the It Is Written Bible study series with her. She also invited her to the local Adventist church. Sara’s mother didn’t want her to attend alone, so she finally agreed to accompany her to the church.
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. “It seemed my opportunity to study the Bible and go to church was over,” Sarah remembers.
More than a year later she noticed a billboard that went up near her grandma’s house. “Stop the car,” she told her mom. “That’s the man on my Bible lessons with Angy!” The billboard, featuring John Bradshaw of It Is Written, announced that he would be teaching in the auditorium of the school where she had learned so much about the Bible.
Sara and her family attended every night of Bradshaw’s 2019 It Is Written evangelistic series in Beirut. Even at 16, she grasped the biblical messages, and she and her mother and brother were baptized at the end of the meetings into the Adventist Church.
In some difficult years after her baptism, Sara’s commitment was severely tested. More family disruption and financial losses shook their household. A long and complicated bout with COVID-19 in 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 pleaded with God, “I surrender my wounds, my struggles, my memory, my life to You,” she told Him. 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 seemingly impossible tuition payment threatened everything. She knew dropping out of MEU would end every prospect; nothing gave promise of her situation 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, she included 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!”
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 her prayer. “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 realizes her ministry is already beginning. “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 for her finances? Some help has come from unexpected supporters; the rest is a faith walk. 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.”