Spotlight: Sarah’s Story Of Redemption On Being Pregnant At 18

Looking at Sarah today, you would not guess that her story had a less than ideal beginning. She is an accomplished singer, a mother to her daughter, Ines, and son, Leon, and a wife to her loving husband Mark. Yet when she was 18, her life plans had been completely overturned when she found out she was pregnant — she even had to take her ‘A’ level exams while three months pregnant!

Our time with Sarah made one thing clear: God can take our brokenness and turn it into something beautiful. How did God redeem this story of brokenness and sin? Read on to find out!

Walk us through your thoughts when you first found out that you were pregnant.
I was with a friend and wasn’t sure what to think, but the first thing she said was, “Of course you have to keep the baby. I know you will be a great mum.” There was a lot of fear and a lot of anxiety, but it made a difference that the first person who spoke to me wasn’t someone who judged or condemned me, but one who spoke words of life over me.

How did people react to your news?
When I broke the news to my then-boyfriend and now-husband, Mark, he asked, “Are we getting an abortion or what?” It is normal to have this reaction when you are young because it feels like that is the only option. But I said, “No, we won’t get an abortion.” He replied, “OK, if that’s what you want to do, then I will support you.”

But there were a lot of consequences after that. I wrote a letter to my parents and faxed it over to their hotel (they were overseas then). They took an early flight back home and asked me, “When did this happen?” They were shocked, angry, and upset. They scolded me, called Mark, and scolded him. After quite a few meetings with our parents, we decided that the best thing to do was to get married and have the baby.

How did Ines get her name?
Mark felt that he wanted our daughter to be named Ines, which is the Spanish version of the English name Agnes. Agnes comes from the Latin word “agnus,” which means lamb, and the connotation of lamb is purity. Mark felt that that should be her nature, and despite all the circumstances leading up to her birth, she will be pure — and I think that’s who she is at the heart of it.

Why do you think you chose to be sexually intimate with your boyfriend?
I don’t think, having a Christian background, it was a conscious decision. Rather, it was a rebellious spirit that led to a series of wrong decisions at the time.

While my parents had said, “You’re not allowed to have a boyfriend,” my prideful self thought that I could handle it on my own in secret until I was “old enough” in the eyes of my parents. So our relationship had no accountability.

Often, Christian parents assume that just because you are brought up in church, you should know right from wrong and keep to the straight and narrow. But what’s really needed is open conversation and understanding from both sides. At the time, I would have loved to have guidance from my parents, but it seemed like I wasn’t even allowed to have that conversation, so the relationship stayed in the dark.

WE TRIED MANY TIMES TO BREAK UP AND REPENT IN ORDER TO DO THE RIGHT THING. BUT THE PROBLEM WAS [A LACK OF] ACCOUNTABILITY.

What would you say to those who are struggling with repentance over a particular area of their lives in which they have fallen?
We tried many times to break up and repent in order to do the right thing. But the problem was [a lack of] accountability. If you don’t want to be in this lifestyle anymore, you must tell someone you trust. When you are on your own, it will look like a lone sheep running away with a lion after it. You are away from the herd and no one can protect you — of course, the devil is going to go after you!

A common struggle is the inability to forgive ourselves. The devil wants us to live in our past with guilt, anxiety, and shame. But we know that God doesn’t come to condemn! He came to fulfil his Law and to give perfect love. Whatever it is, the healing process has to be walked through with someone.

What advice would you give to teen girls who are in a sexual relationship and want to end it?
I was one of those girls. The most difficult thing was that nobody knew about my relationship then and it was so easy to fall back into the same pattern of behaviour with my boyfriend. There is no hard and fast rule to do this, but if you are really convicted about wanting to end the relationship, you probably have to avoid seeing this guy for a long time. Not being physically around him is the most practical way! Use that time, however long it may be, to immerse yourself in the Word of God, serve Him, serve others — do other things! Build your identity, and build yourself up in the Lord.

It looks like everything worked out for you! You and Mark are still happily married and have a family together, and you know that God has forgiven you and redeemed your story. Does this mean that we can do whatever we want because God will eventually work things out?
Firstly, the Bible is quite clear that it was for freedom that Christ set us free — not the freedom to sin, but to do what is right. Secondly, sin always has its consequences, even if you repent and God has forgiven you. In junior college, my dream was to study overseas. I had an initial application to Oxford and a couple of universities in the States. However, the decision to keep the baby meant that I couldn’t go overseas. For Mark and me, the consequence of having a sexual relationship outside of marriage was that we became parents much earlier than we expected, which isn’t something to take lightly. Abortion wasn’t an option for us, but even if it had been, that would also have been an issue to deal with. It’s easy to say, “I could use a condom,” so pregnancy wouldn’t be a problem, but you know what? Sin will catch up with you in one way or another (Rom 1:18–32).

Thirdly, Mark and I have seen grace and redemption in our lives. The Bible is full of that kind of redemption; that as long as we decide to turn back to God, even messy things can still have a beautiful ending. Our parents came together, communicated, and supported us through the decision to keep the child and get married. But not everyone has this privilege. We know of two other couples who got married around the same time as us due to pregnancy as well, and now both sets of couples are divorced. We are not any better than them, but we have to recognise that it is really the grace of God that has allowed us to stay married these last 14 years.

So, don’t look at our story and go, “Oh, it turned out rosy, you married him anyway!” We don’t want you to misunderstand and think that you can get away with doing things that are outside of what the Bible says that marriage and sex should be for!

DON'T LOOK AT OUR STORY AND GO, "OH, IT TURNED OUT ROSY, YOU MARRIED HIM ANYWAY! "

Sarah and her daughter, Ines

Ines, how do you feel knowing that your parents did not consider abortion despite the difficulties they could face?
Ines: Happy. If they considered abortion, I wouldn’t be alive right now. I wouldn’t be able to know my friends and family, and know the joy of living!

What dating advice does your mum give you?
Ines: She gave me like 20 criteria of what I need to look for in a guy! He must pay for my dinner, he must go to church, he must be a connect group leader…

Sarah: [laughs] Did I say he must be a connect leader? I can’t remember.

I want her to know that friendship and fellowship comes before a relationship. You may be friends, but are you actually aligned in the Spirit? It’s easy to look at common interests, how well you get along, and other things on the friendship level, and that seems to be enough reason to get into a relationship. But in a long term relationship, you need to have fellowship, which is being brother and sister in Christ first, and knowing that in the Spirit you are actually aligned!

In late November, Sarah delivered her third child, Nadia Joy De Winne, at 27 weeks + 4 days, who went to be with Jesus while still in the womb. She and Mark continue to journey on with their children Ines and Leon as they trust God’s plans for their family.

Dorothea Wong
Dorothea has been challenging herself to connect less with her phone and more with the people around her. She's enjoyed the deeper conversations she's had as a result!