Teen’s Christian witness reverberates through generous gift

The Christian witness that Sarah Harmening shared in her short 17 years of life on this earth will continue to reverberate for eternity because of a generous memorial gift presented by her family to the IMB.

Sarah Harmening had a passion for sharing the gospel with those who had never heard it.

The Alabama teen’s parents, Karen and Scott Harmening — along with their three other daughters, Katelyn, Kristen and Sophie — presented a check for $91,120 to the IMB on Oct. 25.

“This is what was donated and raised in honor of Sarah, her life and legacy. So we’re excited to bring the check for $91,120, all for Lottie Moon,” Scott said as he presented the check to David Platt, IMB president.

Sarah died in a bus accident this past June as she traveled as part of an International World Changers team from her home church, Mount Zion Baptist Church, Huntsville, on her way to her first international missions trip to Botswana.

In Sarah’s final journal entry, which was written on the bus, she wrote about reading 1 Peter 5 and 2 Peter 1, reflecting, “So mostly I was just reminded of why I’m here and that God has called me here and has done so for a reason. So I know He’s going to do incredible things.”

Those “incredible things” are already becoming reality.

“Sarah’s greatest passion in life was her relationship with Jesus Christ and making Him known,” said her mother Karen. “There was a fire in her bones for the spreading of the gospel.”

“This (the monetary gift to IMB) has been the perfect way to honor Sarah’s legacy because it is continuing her mission — and ours — lifting high the name of Jesus Christ and making Him known in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth,” she said

Sarah’s passion inspired the hashtag #servelikesarah and theme Live Redeemed for her family’s gift-giving efforts.

David Platt, IMB president, prays with the Harmening family, including (second from left) Scott, Karen, Sophie, Kristen and Katelyn, during a chapel service Oct. 25. “We praise God that even now Sarah’s life resounds for His glory,” Platt said. IMB Photo by Chris Carter

The family chose to make the financial gift to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (LMCO) for International Missions, Karen said, because of the offering’s focus on international missions and because “every penny” of the offering is earmarked for direct missionary support rather than administrative expenses.

Kevin Moore, pastor of Mount Zion Baptist, accompanied the family to IMB’s headquarters in Richmond, Va. He echoed the family’s sentiments, saying, “Sarah Harmening wanted more than anything to tell people about Jesus. She lived as a faithful citizen of heaven. She was sure of what she hoped for and certain of what she could not see.

“I pray that her life and example will inspire countless others to live their one life for Jesus Christ,” he said. “This donation to the Lottie Moon offering is a memorial to her beautiful example.”

‘We are like a wisp’

Accepting the memorial gift, Platt reflected on Sarah’s final text message to some of her friends, “We are like a wisp of smoke. We are only here for a moment. And this is not about us. Life is not about us. It’s about God who is eternal. So I want to dedicate the one moment I’m here completely and entirely to him.”

Platt said that Sarah “lived for what lasts forever. The fruit of that, in this gift to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, is going far beyond what anyone could have asked or imagined.

“We praise God that even now her life resounds for His glory so that others may hear the gospel in Botswana and beyond. We pray that this gift will be multiplied in souls saved and churches multiplied, and more people being where Sarah is right now — with God for eternity.”

David Platt, president of the IMB, preaches on Psalm 90 during a chapel service Oct. 25. During the service, he referred to a text by teenager Sarah Harmening that relates to the Scripture. Sarah’s family presented a gift of $91,120 to the IMB in her memory during the chapel service. IMB Photo by Chris Carter

The financial gift to IMB came through generous donors from the family’s church and community in Alabama as well as many donors from across the nation. Also, the sale of T-shirts with the “Live Redeemed” theme and “#servelikesarah” hashtag imprinted on the front contributed to the family’s gift to LMCO.

Funds surpassed the Harmening’s initial goal and the family remained prayerful. “We have been consistently praying over this monetary gift — that God will providentially guide its distribution, that it will be effectively used for life-changing ministry,” Karen Harmening said.

Almost $30,000 of the funds given will be designated to three Lottie Moon projects in Botswana. The family is committed to “partner with those ministries in prayer” and possibly do “hands-on ministry with them,” she said.

Karen Harmening snaps a photograph of her daughters Sophie, Kristen and Katelyn alongside a life-sized replica of Lottie Moon during the family’s visit to the IMB Oct. 25. Karen said her daughter Sarah spoke warmly of the famous missionary’s small stature. The family presented a gift of $91,120 to the offering named in honor of Lottie Moon, a historic missionary to China, which supports Southern Baptist missionary work worldwide. IMB Photo by Chris Carter

The remaining funds, as well as any subsequent gifts, will go to the general LMCO fund for missionary support.

In Richmond, the Harmening family met with senior global leadership staff about missionaries and missions work in Botswana, which included a Skype call with a missionary serving in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Those interested in giving to the LMCO to support missionaries in memory of Sarah may give at imb.org/servelikesarah.


Margaret Colson is a correspondent for The Alabama Baptist, which first published this story. The story also appeared on Baptist Press.

Watch a related news story by WHNT-Huntsville.

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