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Sarah Burton leaves Iowa’s farm country to serve suburban youth.
BEGIN . BELONG . BECOME
Sarah Burton grew up on an Iowa farm, but soon found a desire to leave the familiar countryside to serve her neighbors, especially youth, in more unfamiliar places.
It was her dad who gave Sarah a love of other cultures. Even when she was younger, he took her along on a mission trip to the Chile, where she played with local children while he worked on building projects. In college, Sarah took her own service trips to Mexico and Biloxi, Mississippi.
"I was fortunate to have parents who supported choices my sister and I made," she says. "My mom was quick to tell me that whatever dream I had for life I could do."
It was a trip to the Middle East that fueled Sarah's interest in theology and confirmed her call to ministry. She's now at Bethel Seminary, earning a degree in Global and Contextual Studies through the Master of Divinity program—odd preparation, some may think, for a career in youth ministry.
"My ultimate dream is for people to go outside the church and reach their neighborhoods—to be the church even when they’re not at church. Many times that means relating with other cultures." Sarah explains. "Youth have their own culture and it's always changing."
Sarah already practices what she preaches. As associate youth director for a group of 70 suburban high schoolers at Calvary Lutheran Church in Golden Valley, Minnesota, she builds relationships by showing up at their athletic events and concerts. Energy comes from her passion for marathon running, and from her support group of 17 other Kern Scholars—an especially promising group of seminarians at Bethel.
"I've actually found it super helpful being in ministry while studying. It helps me apply things right away, before I forget,” says Sarah of her busy life. "Bethel has been affirming of my call—to help young people have cross-cultural experiences and tell others about Jesus."