Father's death deepens TruthQuester's faith
JENESS PARK, Calif. (BP)--When Sarah Brown was 8 years old, she gave her life to Christ. When she was 13, she started living for Christ. But it wouldn't be until she was 16 that she would learn the true meaning of trusting in God.
"When I was 8, my church had a revival, and I decided to give my life to Christ. Basically I had fire insurance, and that was about it," said Brown, of Rising Star Baptist Church in Youngstown, Ohio. "Then when I was 13, our church youth group went to a youth retreat. The whole retreat was organized by youth. The praise team really impacted me. They are my age and they are all living for Christ. So that's when I started to live for Christ."
Brown is one of 12 TruthQuest teenagers traveling in California in a chartered bus July 11-23 participating in various ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention for a 13-episode series to be aired on FamilyNet Television in October.
During an interview on the TruthQuest bus, Brown used the illustration of a whale to describe her spiritual journey.
"I am like a whale -- you know how they can breathe under water. I need to learn how to breathe," she explained, noting that the key element in learning how to "breathe under the water" is trust.
"If you are breathing under water, you need to be fully submerged. You are completely learning spiritually -- that means complete trust in the Lord," Brown said. "Trust is one of my biggest problems. I have a hard time letting down my defenses, and that's kind of a handicap when you are a Christian."
On Oct. 30, 2001, God gave Sarah a lesson in trust that she would never forget. Her father, an associate minister at their home church, died of cancer.
Sarah and her brothers were taken out of school to sit by his bedside. They circled his bed, holding hands with extending family members, singing hymns and spiritual songs. "He basically went to sleep."
"It's made me bring my head out of the water," Brown said, when asked how her father's death has impacted her walk with God. "It's made me question God. But he has plans for me. He has a purpose in my life. Everything that I experience prepares me for something later.
"I am still sorting things out, but it has made me a little more sensitive to people. When I have an attitude, I'll argue that they have a bad attitude. Now I look for the underlying cause. You never know what is going on in someone's life."
Brown said as her father's illness progressed his love for the Lord became more transparent.
"My dad was so devoted to Christ. I began to see that when he got sicker. He began to depend on Christ more," she said. "No matter what you are going through, your praise to God should be the same. When he was ill, it was awesome to see him praise God. The illness drew him to God."
Brown said her father's death resulted in a renewed strength in her spiritual walk.
"Regardless of the friends you surround yourself with, there are times when they can't comfort you. So you need to turn to God. I don't know how to vocalize my feelings. I've had to say, 'OK, God -- help. Give me some peace.' And he does."
Brown said she hopes to learn more about God's character from her time spent on the TruthQuest adventure.
"There is so much more I want to know about him -- and on a much deeper level. I want a better understanding of ministry. Church ministry is all I know. One of the reasons why I was so excited about this trip was to learn about creative ministries," Brown said, citing the surfing and rock-climbing outreach efforts the students participated in during the first part of their TruthQuest trip.
Learning more about ministry opportunities, she said, will help her with other goals in her Christian walk later in life.
"I also want to know who I am in Christ, because I know God called me to missions," Brown said, explaining that God confirmed the call in her heart two weeks earlier. "I kept wondering why I have this passion for people. I still want to know why God chose me. Why not be a teacher or a mommy?"
Upon returning from TruthQuest: California on July 24, Brown will leave a week later for a mission trip to Uganda. This will be the second year Brown has participated with her church's outreach effort to Africa.
"I have a strong desire to end up in Uganda," Brown said. "Which probably means I'll end up in China, because you know God, as soon as you get comfortable, he says, 'It's time to go!'"
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: GATHERING HER THOUGHTS, IN THE BALANCE, GEARING UP and SARAH BROWN.