"He took me down this long road (in Uganda) to a school for orphans that was supported by widows," she recalled of her trip last May.
And now the determined Byron Center native - age 35 and a widow herself – has launched Project 616: an effort to help connect with and support the rural African school with nearly 200 needy, orphaned students.
Part of that campaign is a Sept. 19 concert/benefit auction titled "WHOA! – Widows Helping Orphans in Africa" featuring several area Christian music artists (see details below).
Sarah plans a return trip to Africa in the fall. It's the latest step in the continuing saga of her radically changed life since her husband's death in Dec. 2013.
Sarah Spach grew up in the area and is a Byron Center H.S. graduate. She recalls believing in God as a child but drifted away even after she was married at age 20.
But when her husband's cancer diagnosis hit like a truck in 2012 things eventually started to change. "A lot of things went wrong toward the end," she admitted. "But I really didn't believe in much before all of that happened."
That included a re-birth of faith.
"When Andrew died I felt God was calling me to do something," Sarah said. "I may have gone a little crazy, but I sold everything – house and cars – and donated a lot of stuff to Goodwill." She moved to St. Croix in the Virgin Islands, where she spent roughly a year volunteering in tutoring programs.
"I visited for a couple of weeks and fell in love with one girl who was stubborn like me, and then a month later went back," she said.
Sarah's employer had allowed her to work remotely part-time until she "figured things out." But she was convinced that she was called to leave the job and volunteer full time as an after school tutor and assistant as well as at a boys and girls club.
To help support her cause, she began the non-profit organization Healing Eyes.
"When we are in great pain it's hard to see past it," she said. "But once we let go of the pain we can finally see and begin to heal. Hence the name healing eyes."
NEXT STOP: AFRICA
Last May Sarah went to Kenya, Africa, once again to tutor students, following a three-week exploratory trip in January. During her six week springtime stay, she ventured across the border to Uganda. She visited a young girl name Billah whom she had befriended earlier.
But on a unpredictable journey over a long dirt road, Sarah came to the school in the remote Ugandan bush she just knew God had wanted to show her.
"It was a mud building with three little rooms and some straw – a tree is one of the classrooms," she noted. "The school had 185 orphans from HIV and some had disabilities."
Sarah was the first white person some of them had ever seen.
"It was supported by local widows. And with me being a widow myself...this was the reason I was here."
"I didn't know that when I went to Africa I would come here (to the school). But I was led to it."
SPREADING THE NEWS
Sarah has been making connections back in West Michigan and telling others about the focus of her efforts as she raises funds for the cause. Sarah has worshiped at Gaines Church in the Caledonia area, but has shared about the ministry in front of several other groups. She has targeted help for the school with Project 616. But she's intentionally taking things slowly.
"Some missions have gone places and immediately done buildings or things in our American way of thinking and they become reliant and always are asking," Sarah said. "But it's more about building long term relationships with people who are suffering and in need of compassion."
Sarah discovered another 616 connection: Ephesians 6:16, part of the "armor of God" passage.
"When I went to Kenya I experienced an area of land that was demon possessed and had been under the control of a witch doctor for a while. I came back with a different appreciation for that Scripture."
The purpose-driven woman plans a fall trip to Kenya/Uganda, and another next spring, depending on what lodging she can arrange. A priority will be spending time building relationships.
"I've seen things I just can't turn away from – my heart has been touched," Sarah said.
"What we are called to do is add 'flavor' to the world we live in, salt of the earth. We all have a gift to share and mine is sharing pain, empathy, and compassion. If children grow up without knowing another human being cares and that compassion does exist, then the flavor of life will die. Being a Christian is more than believing, it is following and dying daily for others to know God's love through our lives."
WHOA! Widows Helping Orphans in Africa: Benefit concert and silent auction
6 p.m. Sat. Sept. 19 at Family of Christ Church, 1100 Heinze Rd. Comstock Park (near Walmart west of Alpine.
Music from Carpenter's Cross and Bruce Matthews, plus silent auction items.
More info and tickets: $8 in advance on line at www.healingeyes.org/Whoa; donations $10 at the door ($25 family)
All donations are tax deductible.