Growing up, Sarah Armstrong had almost everything going against her.
She lived in a broken home—her parents divorced in the 1970s—and poverty was often a fact of life. That brokenness sparked frequent moves. Sarah attended nine schools in 13 years, in two provinces. Making friends and getting a consistent education was nearly impossible.
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“I grew up thinking I wasn’t loved and I wasn’t important to anyone,” recalls Sarah, now 50 and the children’s ministry director at Emmanuel Baptist Church near Picton, Ontario. “I had nothing to anchor me.”
This led to her getting involved with what she calls the “wrong crowd” and behaving in ways that she now regrets.
“I was constantly pursued by men and never had the strength or conviction to stay away from those bad situations,” she says. “My loneliness and longing to belong led me into drunkenness, one-night stands, and an abusive relationship.”
“I knew I was a sinner and needed to be forgiven” – Sarah
After she floundered in several attempts to get a university education, she learned from a colleague at her restaurant job that Air Transat was hiring flight attendants. The colleague had experience in that field and helped her through the job interview process.
She was hired, and it was the first big success of her life, as she was eventually promoted to a supervisory position. Unfortunately, her career success did nothing to fix her emotional problems.
“By the time I was in my early 20s, I was very, very alone,” she says. “I once got on a flight and realized, ‘There is nobody that I know on this earth who knows where I am.’”
Thankfully, Sarah’s grandmother, Jane, was a devout follower of Jesus Christ and, until her death in 1980, took Sarah to church whenever the two were together.
“The way my grandmother lived her life was a beautiful example to me,” Sarah says. “She was the only person I ever remember being entirely comfortable with—the one person who made me feel special.”
It turned out this tenuous link to Christianity was all that God needed to transform Sarah’s life. At age 21, after a difficult Toronto-to-Frankfurt flight,
she fell on the floor of her German hotel room and cried out for help.
“I knew I was a sinner and needed to be forgiven,” Sarah remembers. “I said, ‘Please God, forgive me. I want to live Your way.’”
Sarah went to bed that night and had the most profound, deep sleep. “I woke up with a new sense of peace, that my life was no longer out of control,” she says.
Encouraged by the life-changing sense of being forgiven, but not yet understanding the fullness of Christ’s sacrifice, Sarah started attending churches in some of the cities where her job took her, and having spiritual conversations with passengers.
Eventually, at age 34, God led her to attend an Alpha course in Ontario’s Quinte region east of Toronto. “It was there, in the back of an old Anglican church hall, that I came to know who I was. I felt like the Holy Spirit had been working on me for a long time, but the course clarified who Jesus is and what He had done for me.”
It sealed her decision to live for Christ and filled her with peace.
“I remember the joy I felt riding my bicycle home in the dark after that prayer,” she says. “It was absolutely wonderful.”
As the Lord continued to put the pieces of Sarah’s life together, He used the same person who helped her become a flight attendant to introduce her to Mark, the man she would marry in 1996. Sarah continued in her airline career until after their second daughter was born in 1999. They now have three daughters, and all are following Christ.
It was their daughters’ participation in Sunday school that caused Sarah to volunteer in children’s ministry and, eventually, become a part-time children’s ministry worker.
And as a resident of the Quinte region, she knew about the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) of Canada’s Quinte
Celebration of Hope with Will Graham this fall and volunteered to lead a committee helping to organize KidzFest.
KidzFest is the first night of the Celebration’s three nights of outreach Oct. 4-6 in Belleville. It features children’s activities and music, plus a special Gospel presentation by Will.
“Anything to do with kids is what God’s gifted me to do,” Sarah says. “KidzFest is going to need a lot of volunteers, so much of the Celebration will be about bringing churches together [to help organize all the outreach activities].”
Sarah has firsthand experience in seeing God work through a BGEA of Canada event. She was in St. John’s, Newfoundland, last year for the Avalon Celebration of Hope outreach weekend, which attracted almost 6,500 people over three nights. Of those, 540 responded to Will’s invitation to give their lives to Him “who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6:33). Another 21,500 watched the Celebration online.
“I was so impressed with the excellence of the Avalon Celebration—the sound equipment, promotion, and literature were top-notch—and all the Billy Graham staff members I met were so passionate about the Gospel.”
The Quinte region needs the hope offered by the Celebration, Sarah says, noting the area has many working poor people and a significant problem with sex trafficking.
“If you look at the surface, it looks like no one here’s interested in God. But if you look deeper, people want to know Him—they just don’t know how. So if they come to the Celebration’s outreach weekend, they’ll not only see something good for kids, but something great for them because the Gospel is so clearly and simply presented.”
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