Relationships can be complicated and messy – especially with teens. But connecting with young people and helping them to know God is what makes Sarah Lowe tick.
The Briercrest biblical studies graduate, who works for Young Life in Uxbridge, Ont., beams when she talks about her life’s work.
“It’s all about Jesus, right?” she said. “You have to know that when you’re sitting across from kids who say, ‘Sarah, I’m cutting,’ or ‘I’m suicidal,’ or ‘my parents are splitting up,’ or ‘my boyfriend hates me.’ Whatever is going on in their lives, you know that Jesus can make a difference. Then to watch Him make a difference – there aren’t even words to describe what it feels like and what it’s like to watch Jesus go into the world of a kid and completely change it. Kids who didn’t have hope have hope now.”
Lowe didn’t always want to work for Young Life – so much so that she protested when she was asked to accompany a youth group to Rock Ridge Canyon, Young Life’s camp in British Columbia.
“I’m like, ‘I’ve been saying no to Young Life for five years,’” she explained. “’Don’t expect me to come on staff because I want to be a youth pastor.’”
Lowe’s experience at that summer camp changed the direction of her career.
“I got out to Rock Ridge and absolutely fell in love with it,” she exclaimed. “I came home and a bunch of our non-Christian friends asked us ‘Can we have a Young Life in our town?’ When you have non-Christian friends asking to hear about Jesus, you’re just like ‘All right. I guess we’re doing this!’ So I found a part-time job that would let me do Young Life while we were fundraising and trying to figure out all the staffing.”
Lowe began working full-time for Young Life in June of 2010. She has also done volunteer work at a local youth centre where she has opportunities to connect with kids who are often considered high-risk. Lowe remembers one particularly surprising case when a young man from the youth centre came to her Young Life club meeting.
“Not many high school kids intimidate me,” she said. “But he intimidated me. He was a big guy with a deep voice. He walked down the stairs and I was like, ‘What are you doing here?’ I was doing my club talk and he shouted back to me, ‘Are you for real? This God guy cares?’ He had a tough exterior, but just kept coming.”
Finally one night, the young man lingered after a club meeting until Lowe and another male leader could talk to him.
“He told us this story of being in a gang and living with his parents and six brothers in a two-bedroom condo,” she recalled. “This kid hurt. He sat and talked to us for about an hour and a half in this basement and just told his story and cried. From that point on he really started opening up to our leaders. We got to take him to camp last year and he gave his life to Christ.”
One of the workers at the youth centre recognized the changes in this young man.
“He said, ‘Sarah, he’s a different kid since he got involved with you guys. He’s polite and he doesn’t yell at us anymore. It’s like he has hope or something.’”
Lowe smiles when she thinks about the conversation.
“The cool thing is you see Jesus change lives in kids you desperately love,” she said. “It’s a privilege.”
Caleb Evans, also a Briercrest alumnus, is a Young Life regional director. He is grateful for Lowe’s leadership in his region.
“Working with Sarah has been a great experience,” he said. “She's a warm, giving, compassionate young woman who has a deep love for God and people. Her time at Briercrest was obviously shaping and has equipped her to run a great ministry. It has instilled in her a love of Scripture, a love for learning and has refined the gifts she clearly has.”
Lowe quotes a Bible verse from 1 Thessalonians that sums up her attitude toward ministry.
“So we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.”
This emphasis on learning about God within a caring environment is what Lowe says she treasures about her Briercrest education.
“One thing I loved about Briercrest – I loved the time of the formation of my faith,” she explained. “That I got to study the Bible and understand it. But the staff here cares. You have people that invest in you, see the potential in you and are willing to call that out.”
Lowe says that the relationship she has with certain professors continues to be important to her today.
“Ken Guenter is on my (newsletter) email list,” she explained. “Every time he emails me back and says ‘I’m praying for you’ – and I’ve been gone for four years!”
The biblical studies graduate is grateful for Briercrest’s supportive environment.
“I’ve been through some pretty tough stuff over the last few years of my ministry,” she said. “We had a lot of deaths and suicides and stuff in my school that I’ve been working in. When I drove on campus last Wednesday I felt like I was coming home. This is a place where I’m not expected to be ‘on.’ I can walk into people’s offices and say, ‘I’m not okay and I need somebody that’s willing to cry with me and somebody that’s willing to pray for me.’ You’re never just a face here. Professors care.”