Sarah Burns Answers a Call to Ministry in the U.S. Marine Corps
November 11, 2021
On August 25 of 2018, Sarah Burns left home with a sparkle in her eye and adventure on her mind. As is tradition at Lenawee Christian School, the start of high school begins with a day of creating connections with her classmates, teachers, and other high school students at Camp Michindoh. She would spend the morning studying God’s Word, worshiping the Lord with the entire high school, preparing for the work God was about to do in the school that year. After lunch, she was excited to try out the massive water slide, a favorite activity at the nearby camp. She also had other goals on her mind. She wasn’t sure exactly how she would make her way there, but she had her sights on graduating from LCS and heading off to college. Sure, she had four years of high school adventures to look forward to, but being fiercely competitive, she intended to make the best of her high school years and pave the way for an exciting college opportunity. As is often the case when we think we are in control, God has other plans.
In the spring of her freshman year, a local pastor came to speak to the high school students, as he often did. A 1995 alumnus, Pastor CJ Clymer sat through hundreds of chapel services and knew the importance of worshiping together as a student body. Even with his experience, he could have never predicted what happened that day. He called the students to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in their lives, and students came forward to confess sin in front of their peers. Some even knew they would face consequences for publicly sharing their sin, but wanted peace in their hearts. The whole student body came together in the front and cried out to God, confessing sin, seeking forgiveness, and accepting His grace and love. It was an incredibly moving and powerful moment!
That service made an impact on Sarah’s life, too. When she looks back on her time at LCS, it is her favorite school memory. “I realized then that it is OK to be open about my faith, especially when you’re facing challenges,” Sarah said. “When that happens, you can heal, you can grow, and you can connect with others.”
That day, a seed was planted in Sarah’s heart that would take root and change the course of her life. “I grew up in a Christian home and I just went with the flow. I went to church, but I didn’t really know how to make my faith grow. Going to LCS really helped me learn how to get out of the motions and be intentional about my spiritual growth,” Sarah shared, but it wasn’t until a few months later, at another church camp, when God would give her a vision of what He was preparing for her future.
Sarah was invited to go with some friends to Camp Faholo in Grass Lake, Michigan. During the camp, she sensed she would be serving in the military after high school. She also sensed that she wasn’t feeling well, and called her dad to bring her some medication to help her feel better. Her father, Geremy, drove to the camp and dropped off her medication. He said, “As I was leaving Camp Faholo, I just had this peace/feeling that she’d be in the military. [I’m] not really sure why, just that would be her mission field…. When we later picked her up, she said that during one of the worship times, she heard God’s calling that the military would be her mission field, that she is to be Jesus’ witness to them.” Sarah felt that God was confirming her call through her dad and began to pray for direction as to where she would serve.
It wasn’t long before she realized that the U.S. Marine Corps was the best fit for her. She loved that it was a smaller group… a brotherhood, of sorts, that would present her with the best opportunity to make the biggest impact. “I like to ‘go big or go home,’ and the Marines felt like the biggest challenge,” she shared. “I felt that was where I could make the biggest impact for Christ.”
From that moment on, she began to prepare herself mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally for her service as a Marine. Anyone who saw her on the soccer or powder puff football teams can attest to her grit and physicality on the field of play. “Yeah, I got a few [penalties for being rough].” As she looks back, she also sees how her experiences in school helped prepare her for the mental challenges of the Marines. “[Boot camp] is a huge mental game,” she said. “You have to push yourself very hard… further than you ever have before. Your body follows suit. At LCS, I learned how to keep my focus on God and not on the hard things in life. I felt prepared for the challenges I faced and how to handle them well.”
Sarah recently graduated from her boot camp training, less than six months after graduating from LCS. She was granted a short leave, and came back to visit the school where she spent the majority of her formative years. She wore one of her Marine uniforms, complete with ribbons and badges earned during her initial training. She was accompanied by Sergeant Anthony Morgan, a local recruiter for the marines. He explained the significance of Sarah’s achievements in boot camp. He said her rank of Private First Class (E-2) is one of two ranks she could have achieved during her training. The other, Private (E-1), being a lower rank. The rigor of her academics at LCS paved the way for her higher rank, specifically her dual enrollment classes. He also explained that her “Rifle Expert” is the highest level marksmanship award a recruit can earn during boot camp. Few achieve that award.
As Sarah reflected on her time in boot camp, she shared that recruits are put through a series of challenges designed to test their resolve. Marines must be able to perform well under extreme pressure, so the program is designed to separate those who can and cannot continue. She said that being a chaplain at LCS and the rigor of her studies are what prepared her best for a Marine career. “I knew how to balance studying in the midst of stress because I was involved with sports, music, theater, on top of my classes and [supporting other students as] a chaplain.” Her grace under pressure allowed her to shine, as Sarah was selected as the example recruit, called a Guide, for her Series, which encompasses several platoons of recruits. She said the chief drill instructor selected her because of how she prepared herself and because he felt she represented the type of behavior and resolve they want in their recruits. What an honor!
Sarah’s visit was short, but she was able to spend a few sweet moments with former classmates, teammates, teachers, and administrators. She will soon head to Camp Geiger in North Carolina for her combat and infantry training. Her goal is to become a Military Police Officer and later attend college. Her current plan after the Marines is to become an FBI agent.
While in boot camp, Sarah saw many opportunities to share Christ with others. Others saw her not only as a leader, but as a spiritual guide, as she was often asked to pray for her platoon before they began difficult challenges. As is often the case when we make plans, God has plans uniquely designed for our gifts and talents, and it’s clear Sarah is serving in a mission field designed specifically for her.
The rallying cry of the U.S. Marine Corps is Semper fidelis, or simply, “semper fi,” which means, “always faithful.” Thank you, Sarah, for being faithful to the call God placed on your life. We’re excited to see what God has in store for your future!