A Great Capacity to Love
In third grade she wanted to be an astrophysicist. Later she rose through the ranks of Starbucks, chasing the American corporate dream. Then she switched gears entirely and helped start a missions organization from square one in Nepal—a venture as challenging but rewarding as hiking the Himalayas themselves.
Now, Sarah Snodgrass serves on Gordon’s Chapel Office staff as the new director of local and global missions. Interestingly, she says she “was not interested at all in ministry when I was in high school or college, so I don’t have a long history. I thought missionaries were weird single ladies. I had a stereotypical, immature view of it.”
Snodgrass grew up in Portland, Oregon—and remains a self-declared “west-coaster at heart.” Her parents were adventurous and globally minded, which Snodgrass says explains some of her drive as a missions director. “I was always feeling loved really well and that has given me a great capacity to love,” she says. “I feel a responsibility because I was a kid who had a very emotionally stable background.”
During college, Snodgrass aimed to move up the corporate ladder at Starbucks while studying business communications and marketing at Azusa Pacific. But a challenging season changed her perspective and sparked a new passion for missions. Soon after, she began working for Tiny Hands International because she had a passion to work hands-on with people.
In 2012, Snodgrass became the first Tiny Hands International worker to move overseas, as she began laying the foundation for international ministry in Nepal.
“I got to Nepal and I knew not a soul,” she says. There was no infrastructure, and Sarah began the hard work of building a new program from the ground up. That summer, one of her first teams came to Nepal. Those nine students, she says, “were one of my favorite teams ever. They were amazing. They just got together, and the Lord’s graciousness knew I needed a group of students who were patient and kind. It made me think, I can do this.” And thus began another period of vocation-shaping.
“Until my time in Nepal,” Snodgrass says, “I had no idea how much I loved college students, and I got to see them passionate. I was directionless until that point.”
Snodgrass’s stint in Nepal was filled with extreme highs and extreme lows, “like the Himalayas,” she describes. Sometimes the teams didn’t get along as well. “Nepal is far. I was spat on by someone. It was a very emotionally challenging place to be.” Despite the hard times, Snodgrass began to realize and lean into her love for college students.
As a next step, “it made sense to work at a college,” says Snodgrass, who completed her master’s thesis on missions in the college context. Snodgrass loves being part of the Chapel team with Chaplain Tom Haugen, Director of Discipleship Lauren Becker, and Director of Christian Life and Worship Bil Mooney-McCoy. She says, “Tom, Lauren and Bill, we view ourselves as in ministry roles, pastors to some extent. We look at it that the title ‘director of missions’ is secondary. We’re here to be shepherds of students.”
Indeed, half of Snodgrass’s job involves one-on-one interaction with students. Her advice to them: “Who you become in college can determine the majority of the trajectory of your life. Any change after is usually out of some kind of brokenness. Now is a really defining time of faith. Deciding what you want to do with your career, family—these decisions happen now. A greater global understanding is important to know when you make those decisions.”
She continues, “Life is super short and we are given a limited amount of time to be good stewards of what were given. God just wants to be with us, he doesn’t want all the things we can do. But we do have an obligation to use what we have been given well and wisely.”
Image: Sarah (front right, carrying Sierra) leading a Gordon missions trip to Haiti in January