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George Gasperson

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Remembering My Friend Sahara

It was the last day of my medical career.  I was leaving to become a full time pastor.  A couple of years earlier, I became the founding pastor of a church, and working at an urgent care clinic supplemented my pastoral income.  It was late in the day when I walked into the exam room to see my last patient.  It was Sahara.

She wasn’t feeling very well, and as we talked I somehow told her about the changes happening in my life.  When she realized that I was a pastor, our conversation changed.  Without prompting, she began telling me about the train wreck that was her life, and how she was ready for a change… any change.  Long story short, she left the clinic with more than a prescription for her illness.  She left with a new relationship with Christ.  That was the day our friendship began.

Sahara holds the title of being the most unique human being I’ve ever known.  You didn’t meet Sahara… you experienced her.  She was absolutely full of life.  Her personality was infectious, and because of her newfound faith, the trajectory of her life immediately changed.  When we met, she was a music student at the School of the Arts.  She played the trombone.  When it came time for her senior recital, we went to hear her play.  She walked onstage for her solo wearing a full bodied chicken outfit.  It was yellow with a hood, and she stuck the mouthpiece of her trombone inside the beak to play.  It was surreal- the rest of the musicians were wearing tuxedos.  That was Sahara.

Once Sahara found her faith, she immediately set out to inform the world, and her mission in life became telling her story to anyone that would listen (and anyone who didn’t care to listen, too).  If you had a conversation with her, faith would come up.  It became who she was.  That was Sahara.

Like me, Sahara’s faith required her to pursue a new direction in life- ministry.  She attended seminary, and that started a lifelong pursuit of ministry in whatever form and circumstance that opened up to her.  I was proud and honored to be her pastor, and I often said that if I had 10 Saharas, I could change the world.

Life has put geographical distance between us recently, and social media has been our means of communication for the last few years.  But I’ve watched her life from a distance, and there’s been no sign of slowing down.  She has plowed ahead, changing anyone and everyone who was privileged to encounter her.

I learned this afternoon of her passing.  I know no details except that she died in a car accident.  It was a blow to my stomach and my heart when I read the news report.  Thirty six years old is too soon to die.  She was just getting warmed up in her ministry and in her life.

Yet I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who would be more at home in heaven.  Her relationship with God (she habitually called him “Daddy”) was so intimate that I imagine she stepped into eternity without so much as a blink.

Her death leaves me with emotions that are at war with each other.  I am numb with grief and sadness that she’s gone, yet there is peace that comes from knowing that this world never really was her home.  Her passing seems almost natural, as if she is now where she has been created to be all along.

I hope God prepared everybody in heaven for her entrance, because the life of the party just arrived.  So long for now, my sweet friend.  I’m proud of the woman you were.  You raised the bar for the rest of us.

15 comments on “

  1. Erin Bailey says:

    What an honor it must have been to lead Sahara to Christ. I was blessed to know her and call her my friend. She was radical and on fire for God. She will be missed!

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  2. Karen Yeattes says:

    Wonderful tribute to Sahara, George! Thank you. ❤️

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  3. Donna Pheneger says:

    I’m so sorry to hear of the passing of such a sweet friend. I imagine when you two get together in Heaven, you’ll have quite a few stories to share plus you’ll be able to meet all the people she helped bring home and their stories as well. Prayers for you and her family.

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  4. Shelly Marshall says:

    I met Sahara when she was in Seminary and going to our church in Lexington. She drove a motercycle with a Barbie doll bungeed to the lisense plate. 😂 She was refreshingly unique and full of life! Oddly enough tho, while her life reflected Jesus she seemed at odds with the world as tho she didn’t quite belong here. She was not a perfect fit for this worlds norms. Thats what made her so refreshing. She was comfortable in her own skin and able to reach any and all people for Christ with her humor, acceptance and huge Love tank. She will be missed but you are correct, Heaven is her real home.

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  5. Paul G. says:

    Hey George…..Thanks for wanting to share this wonderful spiritual relationship with Sahara. Your desire to share with us what she really meant to you, and her willingness to sharing what God (Father) meant to her is really special. We should all follow in her footsteps and never miss an opportunity to share the love that our Father has for us.

    George, thanks for sharing. Prayers are with you for the hurt you must be feeling.

    Love you my Brother.

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    1. Thanks, Paul. And thanks for reading.

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  6. Shirley Davis says:

    Thank you so much for sharing such deep grief. Such personal grief. I would have loved to have met Sahara. Her soul sounds beautiful. You have been given a gift in life that’s so precious. I am so sorry for your loss. You are in my prayers. I pray for Sahara’s family that they know the Deep life and love of her daddy her father.

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  7. George, thank you so much for sharing these wonderful memories of Sahara. She and I served together on our church’s prayer team in Lexington. Like you, I felt a crushing blow when I learned of her passing, and even though I celebrate that she’s now with her Daddy, I will miss her terribly here. Blessings to you in these painful days.

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    1. Thank you, and blessings to you, too.

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  8. Kristin says:

    This made me smile so much. I knew Saharah — who didn’t — but she was my sister’s best friend. Reading this, it just meant so much. I know comfort is a long way off for those who loved her and knew her best. But your story gave me a kind of hope and peace. Thank you for that.

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    1. Thank you, Kristin. Your kind words mean so much to me. She was a beautiful person.

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  9. Linda beale says:

    She sounds like a wonderful person. I did not know Saharan but it is so good to have people like her walk through our lives. People we never forget.

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    1. Exactly right, Linda. Thanks for reading.

      Like

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