“I Want Them to See Jesus” An interview with trailblazer, Madleine Sara
By Mercy Aiken
I hope Madleine Sara won’t mind if I refer to her as a spiritual dynamo. After arriving at BBC, it only took a short time for me to see what a unique person she is: a woman serving side by side in ministry with her husband is rare anywhere, and all the more unusual in a strong patriarchial society. Madleine is all too aware of this. Her vision is to see a generation of spiritually-empowered Palestinian women serving in leadership in their local churches and communities. She is the founder and leader of a local woman’s ministry, “A Pot in His Hands,” as well as a Christian counselor, co-producer and host of several television broadcasts, teacher at BBC and a mother of three children. As the wife of Dr. Jack Sara, president of BBC, she is also the midst of obtaining her Doctor of Ministry via distance education with George Fox University.
Mercy Aiken: Madleine, please tell us a little bit about your spiritual life. When did you commit your life to Christ?
Madleine: I grew up in a secular Catholic family in Jerusalem. We only went to church for special holidays. When I was 12, I visited a Baptist summer camp and received Christ as my Savior. I started memorizing Bible verses, but I did not know Him yet as my Lord. As a teenager, I followed my own ways, but I always knew Jesus was with me.
You had dreams about God as a child. Can you share more?
I started receiving dreams from God as a young child, but I did not understand them until I was older. In every dream God spoke to me from a cloud. When I was 13, I had a dream in which I saw a cloud in the sky. A Voice came from the cloud and said“You will go everywhere telling people about Me.” I didn’t know what that meant. I thought I would become a nun.
When I was 17, I had another powerful dream. It is still as real to me as if it were yesterday. In this dream, I was a young child, very poor. I lived in a tiny room with parents who were very old. I said, “Mom I need a new pair of shoes.” My parents replied that they were too poor to give me new shoes. In my dream, I thought to myself, “If I ask anything in the name of Jesus, it will be given to me!” As soon as I said this out loud in the dream, there was a knock on the door. When I opened it, I saw a new pair of shoes sitting there. I ran to my parents and said, “See, I asked and Jesus gave them to me!” As soon as I finished saying this, the wall of the house opened wide and I saw a valley of harvest; a golden harvest, and all the wheat was taller than me. There was a breeze blowing over the field and I began walking out into it. There were clouds that came all the way down and touched the wheat; they were resting on top of it. And then I heard a Voice from out of the cloud: “The harvest is white but the workers are few. You will be one of my workers in the harvest.” I continued to walk through the field until I faced a door. I heard knocking, so I opened it and three people were standing there. At the time, I didn’t understand anything about the dream. After I committed my life to Jesus, everything made sense.
When did you know God was calling you to go into ministry?
In my teen years, I was not committed to the Lord. But the Holy Spirit was working in my life. One day when I was in college, I was on my way to a party. I heard a voice within me say, “You need to look for a church in the Old City.” I remembered visiting a church there when I was a child. It was called the Alliance Church and some people thought that it was a cult because it was evangelical. I decided to look for that church instead of going to the party. Initially, I got lost in the Old City looking for it–but that church is where I met Jack Sara! At that time, he was the worship leader and a part of the pastoral committee.
I started attending the ladies meeting. The leader told me that she saw the Lord in me and asked me to lead the next women’s meeting. Everything happened very fast from that point. Within in 6 months I was the pastor’s wife! I was only 19 years old.
Like being thrown into the deep end of the swimming pool!
When I started at Alliance Church that is exactly what it felt like. That is how I was literally taught to swim, and the same was true spiritually. From the beginning, I was thrust into leadership. Our women’s meeting became one of the most successful meetings in the church.
It was not easy in those years. We were the same age as the people we were pastoring! Our congregation was mostly young families. But I was hearing His voice so clearly and the Lord was putting a larger vision in my heart. One verse He gave me was from Isaiah 42. “You will see your sons and daughters and say, ‘Where did all these children come from’?” Another was Isaiah 48:20: “The children born during your bereavement will yet say in your hearing, ‘This place is too small for us, give us more space to live in.’” I knew that He was calling me to eventually step outside the walls of the church.
How did you end up at Bethlehem Bible College?
After 15 years of serving as the pastors at Alliance Church, we were guided to leave. In fact, we both received the same scripture around that time. We knew that that the Lord was asking us to leave everything behind, like Abraham. And like Abraham, we did not know where we would be going next. The Lord simply said, “You take a step of faith and I will be faithful to show you the next step.” While we were waiting on Him, we had lots of ministry offers. One of them was BBC. But we didn’t have a clear peace about which direction to go until two weeks after we announced our decision to leave. Then, the Lord confirmed that BBC is where He wanted us to be.
What were some of the confirmations that He was leading you to BBC?
Well, Dr. Bishara told Jack that they would be completing the process of handing over the leadership very quickly. That was a sign to us, because it was one of the things we had asked the Lord for: a quick transition.
At the same time, an Arab Christian called on the phone and gave us a very prophetic word. She knew nothing about what we were going through, but she said, “You are in a place of transition, and you are hesitating. One of the doors that is open to you is a large platform. The Lord is saying that this is the one.”
Did you come here knowing that you would be leading another woman’s ministry?
Not at the beginning. On a personal level, I was confused about what I was to do. Jack had his role at BBC—but what does a wife of a president do? Yes, I am a teacher, but this was not my whole vision. My primary passion is towards women and changing society. I was trying to find where I should invest my gifting and vision. It was during this time that the dream burst forth. I decided to start a new women’s ministry called “I am a Pot in His Hand”, a name given to me by the Lord.
This name reminds us that God is the One who shapes us into what He wants us to be. When we left the church, the gift I received from a group of women was a pot. They didn’t know about my verse and my vision. This was such a precious confirmation from God that I was on the right path. One thing led to another and soon I was writing and hosting several television programs through our media center and ministering on the radio.
I love the name of your new television program for women; “Altogether Lovely.”
I wanted the women to know the affirmation of God. In the Song of songs it says, “there is no shame in you.” Some of these women have no one affirming them. I am blessed because Jack and I have a special relationship as a married couple. Even when I was the one who did wrong, he would always continue to love me. He would say, “Where did I do wrong here?” His love changed me. I was so young and immature when we got married, but Jack embraced me like Jesus. I never sensed from him at any time that he was playing games or being manipulative. Jack is the first person that demonstrated Christ to me. He knew everything about me and loved me unconditionally. He shows so much sacrificial love as a father and husband. He is just obedient. In regards to ministry, he encouraged me and told me that God wants me to minister. So many women do not have an affirming male voice. That is why in our quarterly newsletter, we always include an encouraging word from a man. They need to be affirmed from all sides.
Tell me a little more about your vision for Arab women.
I want to see women being taken from low places with limited dreams. I want to see them transformed by God from the inside out. My heart is to see them taught by the Holy Spirit and not basing their confidence on diplomas and certificates. I desire them to become agents for change in society, whether in their homes or in the government of a nation! I want the women to know that the real key for success as a Christian is to give everything to God. We need to give Him the space to manifest Himself in every context of life. Ministry is not a project. It is a lifestyle of knowing him.
My greatest goal is to see people transformed into the image of Christ. It is all about Him.When I look at my background, I didn’t have any indication that I would be doing the things that I am doing now. Even giving lectures at the College. People say “When I see you I am filled with hope,” but it is only because of God!
Tell me about your vision for BBC.
I remember in those first days walking around the campus and praying that the Lord would bring revival; that He would pour fresh oil on the faculty, staff and students. Sometimes it feels like we are hitting a wall, but I believe He will bring something really fresh here. It is not easy to serve the Lord in this place. There is a spiritual intensity here. This is where Jesus lived. The blood of the prophets is in this place.
I want my life to be a demonstration that there is something more. I want our presence to bring HIS presence wherever we are. My prayer is that we will live the truth—not just fill the students with good information. I want to see the fire of God on this campus. My fear is that our Christian life would become something routine and dry. Yes we know him and we are confident that we have entered the kingdom by grace. But grace is notso that we don’t have to take Him seriously. Grace is so we can give Him everything!
I hope that all who read this will be stirred to surrender more to the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. I don’t want anyone to look and me and think, “Oh, she is a wonderful person!” but rather, “How can I learn from how she is surrendered to the Lord?” I feel uncomfortable when people praise me. I want people to see Jesus.