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Sarah Hill Soul Surfer

The Advocate

Sarah Hill Soul Surfer Interview

by C.J. Darlington

"Whether you're at work or at a football game, there are so many opportunities we have to be that light to people and to seize the moments to be a picture of Christ to people. The Lord wants to use us all." --Sarah Hill

After graduating high school, a tragic surfing accident changed Sarah Hill's life. Suffering a broken neck and back, Sarah clung to Christ and through this painful journey, God's plan and purpose for her life started to become clear.

After recovering from her accident, Sarah completed her Associate's Degree in theology from Calvary Chapel Bible College (CCBC). Trusting God, Sarah returned to surfing and became a missionary to the island of Kauai in June 2001. There, Sarah founded Kauai Child, a ministry geared toward the island's kids. Soon after arriving in Kauai, she began spending more of her time in ministry to junior and senior high students.

Sarah has helped create youth groups on the North Shore of Kauai and ministers to more than 150 kids a week. Because of her fun and loving approach to youth, she has one of the largest youth groups on Kauai. Sarah takes the time to truly listen and understand the full scope of each student's needs. Her ministry also includes helping establish Christian clubs in public schools, discipling kids, counseling students and their families, and of course, her ministry to kids on the water while surfing!

Grounded in her devotion and love for Christ for more than 17 years and in ministry for 12 years, Sarah's training allows her to recognize those in need and gives her the ability to reach out to them. After growing up in a tough and abusive home, through God's grace, she continues impacting lives for God's kingdom on Kauai ... and beyond.

In SOUL SURFER, Sarah is portrayed by Carrie Underwood.

Soul Surfer Movie PosterThe movie Soul Surfer is Bethany Hamilton's true story of triumphing over tragedy, but you yourself have faced some touch experiences, too. Can you share with us about your own surfing accident, and how God brought you out of that?

Right out of high school I had taken a summer vacation in Oceanside, California with some friends. We were staying at a beach house, and a close family, sort of like my second family, was there with me. I had gone out surfing, and there was a big swell. I went to duck dive under a wave, and I actually got tossed backwards and landed on the back of my head on the bottom of the ocean. The impact was as if I was hitting cement. I broke my neck and my back. I was actually rushed to a hospital in Oceanside where they told me I probably had a sprained neck and sent me home. I sat in a chair all night, because it felt like my neck was going to snap. The next morning I was taken to Children's Hospital in San Diego, just because I had a concussion and I still felt like my neck was about to snap in two. There I was diagnosed with a broken neck and back, and they told me I was 1/16 of an inch from being paralyzed. That's why my neck felt the way it did. It transformed my life.

I had plans to go to college and play water polo, and everything I had planned came to an end. I kind of fell into a depression as my friends went off to college. I felt like if God loved me, why would He allow this to happen? I remember one day just saying, “Lord, I need to hear You speak to me.” I had never really experienced the Lord speaking to me in my life. I did the church thing with my family, but it was never a personal relationship with the Lord.

I love how the Lord works in my life; He has to make things very clear to me. I opened up to 2 Corinthians, Chapter 12. There was one verse in red, and that was verse 9 of chapter 12, “My grace is sufficient for you; for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” I went on to read verse 10, and it says “Therefore most gladly I'd rather boast in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” The Lord began to show me that even though I had a tough life, I came from an abusive home, the Lord never allowed anything to overcome me and take me out. I recommitted my life to the Lord that day, and I've walked with Him ever since.

Hamilton Family as portrayed in Soul SurferI bet that really helped you minister to the Hamilton family as well.

It was good to just be there and remind them that God still has a plan, even when tragedy strikes. As I was on my way to the hospital the day Bethany was attacked by a shark, I had picked up her brother, Noah, and we were heading there. He was panicking in my car, his head's out the window, he thinks he's going to get sick, and I'm just praying, “Lord, how do I minister to this family? What do I say to them?” That still small voice popped the verse into my head that's used in the movie, from Jeremiah, “For I know the plans I have for Bethany, plans of good and not of evil, to give her a future and a hope.” It brought back to my memory that He had always used Bethany as a light in a dark industry, and now He was going to use her as a voice. I didn't know what that meant, to what capacity that would come true, but the Lord definitely showed me that He had a plan in it. I shared that with Cheri at the hospital right when I got there, and Cheri clung to that. That was her promise from the Lord, that He was going to use this for good and not for evil. When Bethany came out of surgery, she shared that with Bethany right away. Bethany clung to that, too.

How did you first meet the family?

I was in Bible college at Calvary Chapel Bible College, and I felt that the Lord was calling me to come to Kauai to do ministry. I'd never been here; I was born and raised in San Diego. I came out for a summer, and decided to do youth camp. I brought a team with me, and that's how I met Bethany. She came to the benefit we did on the North Shore. When I moved back a year and a half later, Bethany jumped right back into the youth stuff I had going on, the Bible studies and discipling her. Through being a youth leader to her, God really allowed us to develop a really close friendship, almost like a sistership.

Sarah Hill Carrie UnderwoodWhat was it like to see yourself portrayed in a movie, by Carrie Underwood no less?

It was pretty amazing! It's humbling, and it's cool and exciting. I don't think a whole lot about the fact that she's playing me. But it's pretty exciting. I really pray the Lord uses this movie to reach a lot of people. I was allowed to be on set and help with the scripts a little bit for her scenes playing me. I was able to be there and share with her “This is what my thinking would be in this situation. This is what I would've said.” It's funny, 'cause a few of my friends have seen some of the trailers, and seeing some of her lines they said, “That sounds so much like you! That sounds like something you would say!”

During all those cool moments on set and off, is there something that sticks out to you as a most memorable moment?

Probably feeling victorious in the Lord by keeping Jeremiah 29:11 in the movie. There was a lot of talk about whether it should be in there or not, and the family was very adamant about making sure God got the credit in the film. I walked away with the fact that we are victorious in Christ, and He kept His word in the film. He won the battles that were there. We lose a lot of battles in society today as believers, so it was neat to walk away feeling like we stood our ground and were bold, and the Lord conquered.

Bethany Hamilton Surfing

I read today how they tried to take the words “Holy Bible” off the Bible in the film!

I know that our battles are not against flesh and blood, and just knowing God has the power to keep His name present, whether it be in the public schools or the film industry, wherever, He has the power. We just have to take those stands as Christians when we can and be really firm on them.

Were there any silly things that happened on the set?

There was a spot in the film where Noah, his wife Becky, myself, and a good friend of ours, Mike, who lost his leg from a shark attack all got to have a cameo together. We had such a great time joking around and hanging out as we shot that photo shoot scene. It was fun to do it together, because we're all really close. There wasn't a dull moment on the set. Everyone had a really good time. Between shoots we'd have the ukulele out, and we had Shawn McNamara the producer playing and singing. It was a really healthy and vibrant atmosphere. When the workday was over, we'd grab our boards and paddle out and have a good surf fest together. Can't complain!

As a youth leader, do you have any advice for those who want to make an impact for Christ in their lives, their workplace, or school, without coming across as preachy?

The number one thing is to make your calling and election sure. Know what God's called you to do. When I moved to Kauai it was almost like a third world country, the culture's so different here. I know when I first moved here I wondered, “How do I fit in here, Lord? How do I communicate?" The Lord reminded me to let my light so shine before men. It's about building relationships with people. You look at Jesus, and He built lasting relationships with people. That's going to have the greatest impact of all. Whether you're at work or at a football game, there are so many opportunities we have to be that light to people and to seize the moments to be a picture of Christ to people. The Lord wants to use us all.

What do you hope people come away with when they watch this movie?

I hope people are encouraged that God has a plan for every single one of our lives. Even when we don't understand circumstances and the situation might be bleak at the moment. I love in Psalms it says that God is faithful to meet us. That's so true. I hope people see that and that they'll be encouraged to look to God in their situation, in the economical time we're in. They can look up and see that God is their refuge. That's my prayer. And I'd love to see people come to know the Lord through this film, too.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Read our review of Soul Surfer here.

Watch the Trailer:

C.J. DarlingtonC.J. Darlington is the award-winning authof of Thicker than Blood, Bound by Guilt, and Ties that Bind. She is a regular contributor to Family Fiction Digital Magazine and NovelCrossing.com. A homeschool graduate, she makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs, a cat, and a paint horse named Sky. Visit her online at her author website. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.