It was a cold dark October night in 1993, and we were invited to a Harvest Festival in a small musty village hall down a deserted lane in Cwmdu, West Wales. The room was packed, but my husband Moray and I managed to find two seats together……I needed to sit as I was five months pregnant.
The evening started with a choir singing, which was OK, not really my cup of tea, then a woman who introduced herself as Sarah, played the piano and started to tell us all how great her God was.
As I looked around the room most people seemed happy to hear her story but the more she kept telling us, how ‘her God was so amazing’, the more it enraged me. This ‘Sarah’ woman was making me feel so mad. I wanted to punch her!!
‘Who does she think she is telling me how good her God is when I’m pregnant with no money, potentially no home, no baby stuff!! I was so cross. How dare she!!
Maybe a year a so later I saw Sarah again, this time she wasn’t singing, she was hosting an event in Swansea; we weren’t introduced, but once seen never forgotten. She didn’t make me angry, in fact she made me laugh, but since our last encounter, I had met her God, the God she was talking about that cold dark autumn evening, was now my God too. This time I did notice there was something different about her, but the obvious missing arm was not so obvious.
We bumped into each from time to time, but in 2000 our lives collided when Sarah and her husband moved to Ystradgynlais, in the Swansea Valley to Pastor a Church. We often met when our Churches came together for Women’s meetings and celebrations.
This collision led to the start of a great friendship in February 2001, when I sought some advice on how to deal with an unexpected pregnancy. We met for coffee and cake: I loved the cake but hated the coffee.
Over the last 19 years, we’ve gone through many ups and downs together as friends and families. I have had the best vantage point to observe and be a part of Sarah’s life. There have been many occasions where I’ve been amazed and some situations that have saddened me. When I see Sarah, I see a generous loving heart, I see an achiever and an overcomer, I see sensitive and I see able.
But it’s been my experience over the years, that others don’t see what I see. On one occasion we were out with our youngest 4 children. They were playing in a park and a young girl started to hover around us, circling us, noticeably so, she was standing in front of Sarah, staring. I even thought ‘what is she looking at?’ Of course it was Sarah’s arm, but it’s something I don’t see as missing.
This girl was becoming braver, she came closer, and she started asking ‘What happened to your arm?’ really rudely and loud. Sarah replied politely explaining she was born this way, but the young girl continued to point and show her disgust, asking louder and louder. When Sarah told her, it had been bitten off by a shark, she seemed to accept it and stopped pointing and asking questions and ran away.
That was really my first experience of someone’s reaction to obviously seeing the obvious. How rude, how hurtful, how singled out she was.
Another occasion, Sarah and I plucked up enough courage to get our gorgeous post baby bodies to Weight Watchers, as we wanted to support each to get back our bikini bodies. We nervously queued up with a bunch of lovely ladies, filled out the paperwork and got to the scales, where I discovered and the whole class for that matter, that Sarah was at an advantage. The Weight Watcher leader asked if she was ‘thalidomide’* and then announced at the scales because Sarah had half an arm, she had less weight to lose. She went on to say, it simply wasn’t fair for us ‘two armed’ ladies. Well, this time Sarah had to restrain me from putting her in her place. Again, someone was reacting ignorantly to the obvious.
I have seen many people see the obvious but as I mentioned when I first saw Sarah, I did notice there was something different about her, but the obvious was not obvious.
I noticed she looked different, there was a glow, a joy, a peace that can only come from having a relationship with Jesus.
As I started doing life with Sarah, I saw a wife, a mother, a friend: this girl can do anything, well mostly everything, who needs to put on a clasped necklace anyway?
Over the years just as our relationship has grown, we have grown as individuals. I have the privilege to encourage, support and champion Sarah in her journey and ministry. She has a huge heart for Jesus, a huge heart for people and a passion to make a difference in the lives of everyone she meets and connects with.
Sarah truly is an inspiration, through the confidence she finds in knowing who she is in Christ, she overcomes challenges and brings out the best in others, including me. Sarah is hardworking, ambitious, has great passion, faith and enthusiasm. I believe Sarah is an amazing example of when you embrace life with all it throws at you, put God in the centre, all things are possible.
Sarah’s life is shaped and moulded by her faith, through the practical application of God’s word, Christian values and teachings, as she continues to do so, she will help inspire others to live a better life, to feel loved, valued and to be all they are called to be.
I don’t see anything other than Sarah, my fabulous friend.
*Thalidomide was a morning sickness drug used in the late50’s, early 1960’s which caused limb deformities in some cases. This was not the case for Sarah.