ATHENS — Ask Sarah Farley where she hails from and she pauses for a minute.
She was born in Shreveport, LA but was raised in the Philippines and Southeast Asia. That goes with the territory of being a missionary kid.
Then she attended Shiloh High School in Gwinnett County as part of her Georgia sojourn. When her parents served in North Dakota through the North American Mission Board she put down roots … sorta … in Dahlonega while a student at the University of North Georgia.
Then there are those handful of years in Atlanta where she worked at the Georgia Baptist Mission Board in a volunteer and later a staff position, and then on staff at the University of Georgia BCM in Athens. And don’t forget those six years in Baton Rouge where she served as campus minister with Louisiana State University Baptist Collegiate Ministry.
You could say she was a citizen of the world at a very young age. But of all those places she feels she is back home again in Athens.
On August 15 she rejoined the BCM staff in Athens at the nation’s historic first public university, working with her same supervisor but equipped with far greater skills as one of two campus ministers. She returns just in time to spend the final semester with her former mentor, Senior Campus Ministry Franklin Scott, before his retirement on Dec. 31.
Farley has enjoyed a life of being exposed to missions and has experienced It in so many different forms she calls herself a child of the Cooperative Program. Her life spans the Southern Baptist spectrum, from growing up in GAs, to living in foreign and domestic missions settings, to volunteering in the Georgia Baptist WMU office and serving with two Baptist Campus Ministry groups to working in the state mission board’s Collegiate Ministries office.
But perhaps her favorite setting is where she finds herself today, walking among and ministering with tomorrow’s leaders on a college campus.
“So many people in Georgia Baptist life have poured themselves into me through the years,” she relates. “I am so grateful to be working among many of them again.”
The names are too many to be inclusive but a few include Beth Ann Williams and Barbara Curnutt, Ken and Janet Jones, Janet Speer, Ron Little, Joe Graham, Danny Waters, J. Robert White, Clarissa Morrison, Warren Skinner, Ruth Smith, Judy and Dennis Rogers, Teresa Royal, Franklin Scott …
The list could go on but she makes her point in the breadth and depth of mentoring she has received which prepared her for a lifestyle of service and ministry. Part of that encouragement was for her to pursue her Master of Divinity degree through the New Orleans Extension Center in Atlanta while working in Collegiate Ministries … an stressful ordeal which she jokingly says she stretched into 5 years.
That is what launched her internship at the UGA BCM and which provided the launch pad to accept an associate campus minister position at Louisiana State University. That placed her squarely in a secular educational environment and solidified her calling to campus ministry.
“Baton Rouge taught me so much about ministry. It is largely Catholic and far removed from the Bible Belt. I was challenged in ways to interact with students who had no church background and share my faith in a variety of settings.
“Those 6 years provided the perspective I needed when I was given the opportunity to return to UGA. I saw the world in a totally different perspective of lostness and I didn’t take as much for granted that the students would know who Christ is,” she adds.
“Students everywhere today are highly motivated and are the future world shapers. Those who know the gospel are open to discipleship and those who have no experience with Christ are open to discussion. It is a great mission field to be serving on.”
UGA is no exception to the lostness among the student body and in fact, Seattle is more reached with the gospel than Athens. That’s the word from Sarepta Director of Missions/Associational Strategist Lex Bowen who recently made the statement in a chapel service.
“We are very intentional about sitting down with and befriending students who are eating lunch by themselves and seem to be lonely, or international students who are far from family and have a few problems adjusting to America. We want to meet needs for Christ wherever He gives us opportunities,” she explains.
Farley and her team of student volunteers see that reality every day in the dining hall, classrooms, and social events. Recently only 3 students out of 20 whom she talked to had any knowledge of who Christ is. One student from Smyrna in metropolitan Atlanta did not know how to respond when asked what would happen to him when he died.
“I guess I would just return to dirt,” he answered.
And that is why she is investing her life in campus ministry. It was a divine appointment to tell her story and be the face and hands of Christ in the life of a stranger who might begin that slow walk to becoming a believer.