At twenty-seven, Sarah Thebarge was diagnosed with breast cancer.

She went through multiple surgeries, painful treatments, and long hospital stays. An important relationship ended, her church family bailed, a friend died of cancer, and her world fell apart. Desperate, Sarah sold her furniture, packed one suitcase of clothing, and flew to Portland, Oregon.

Life had left her bald and bruised.

It was during this time, Sarah met a Somalian mother and her five daughters on a train, and Sarah started showing up in the lives of this family of six.

Showing up turned into a friendship, which turned into changed lives, which turned into a book, which is turning into college funds for the five daughters (you read that right, all proceeds from Sarah’s book, The Invisible Girls is going to fund college for five Somali girls).

Recently, I caught up with Sarah for a short interview (full interview will be shared later at my place), but here is one of my favorite questions.

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Amy: One of the most powerful points in the book is when you meet the Somali family on the train and you decide to act. So many of us let moments like this pass because we don’t want the person to feel weird. Is it weird to ask for a stranger’s phone number? Is it weird to show up at a stranger’s house? But you did show up and followed through. You acted.

Sarah: I think it helps if you have had that experience yourself. When I meet the Somali woman, she barely speaks English. She can’t communicate a lot of her story, and she can’t communicate any emotions behind her story, but I could recognize the look in her eyes because that’s exactly how I looked when I got to Portland. I felt lost and overwhelmed and tired and sad and lonely just all of the emotions I could read them in their faces.

I identified with her, and I was really empathetic.

And also, I had an experience when I first came out to Portland, the worst version of myself, feeling like God was so far away, and God had all about forgotten me. All of a sudden, I realized He’d had chased me across the county and encounters me here and wraps me up in love and mercy.

So, my instinct almost becomes a reflex. When once you have experienced someone do for you, you can’t help but do it. When you see someone in the same situation, you think this is what you do. This is what God did for me. I saw the Somali woman, and I thought this is it. I’m going to go after her.

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What truth.

If you want to hear more about The Invisible Girls and Sarah (including a fun story about the fifty cent giant, white collared dress she bought for college and why she enjoys books that are like potato chips), stay tuned.

the invisible girls by sarah thebarge: you will eat it up, promise

by Amy L. Sullivan time to read: 2 min