The first thing we had was an appetizer in the form of a song called "I Will Obey", a song composed by a Filipino pastor in California which is going to be included in Sarah's next album. It's a beautiful song which moved many in attendance. Then, the entree came when Sarah shared her life story which was both heartbreaking and encouraging. She recounted her harrowing experience in the Middle East, from the time she was recruited as a domestic helper when she was just 14 to the sexual abuse she suffered under the hands of her 60-year old employer, to her stabbing him with a knife in self-defense when he tried to rape her, to her being sentenced to die by firing squad and to the commutation of her sentence to 100 lashes on her back and to her eventual release from prison through the intervention of the Philippine government. She became famous in the Philippines because of what she went through. Her life was then turned into a movie called simply "The Sarah Balabagan Story" which starred Vina Morales. Eventually, she became a singer and her dream of providing for her poor and hapless family in Mindanao became reality. Yet, the best thing that ever happened to her was when she came to know Jesus and became his disciple. Sarah is a former Muslim who became a Christian through Dulce Amor, who was her mentor in singing. Dulce introduced her to her pastor, who in turn led Sarah to the Lord. Since then, Sarah has remained with the church and serves in ministry. And the beautiful part is that Sarah learned to forgive and forget. The pain she suffered has been replaced by the love of Jesus.
After the spiritually satisfying story that Sarah shared with us, she belted out another song called "My Life is in Your Hands", a song popularized by Kathy Troccoli. It was like a delicious dessert, a sweet reminder that despite the hardships of life and our fear of the future, we can take comfort in the fact that Jesus takes care of us.
After this spiritual feast of sorts, while everyone was busy taking pictures with Sarah and asking for her autograph on her CD's, God surprised me with one more treat, a "fortune cookie", so to speak. A lady came to me and said excitedly, "Pastor, I thank you, I thank you so much."
"Why?", I asked. "Because you invited Sarah and I'm blessed."
Then, she continued, "You know, just this morning, before going to work, I was just praying and asking God to give me all the resources I need to become spiritually strong. You see, I work with this big company and I just can't find fulfillment. I want to my life to make a difference. I feel I need a change. But what and how? So, I said, 'God, please give me the resources I need and I will obey you. And then, I came to this meeting tonight and heard Sarah sing "I Will Obey" and just like that, I cried. I knew that was God speaking to me. And I knew that is the resource I need. I shared this with Sarah and she gave me a CD of the song. You'll see me more often in church now."
I was stupefied, to say the least. Speechless. And when I recovered, I realized that last night was worth it all. Even just for that one soul, all the effort we spent in preparation was certainly worth it. You just don't know when the Lord will show up and surprise you. That was my good fortune last night.