Sarah Elliott will tell you she has every reason to remain in bed. 

Even counselors have asked Elliott, a single mom with two sons, “How are you still sitting here?”

“I tell my kids all the time, ‘Do not let your current circumstance define what God can do through your obedience,’” said Elliott, 36. “I always tell them that because yes, I’m a single mom. Yes, we don’t have extra money. We live in an apartment. We’re at times—you could probably consider us—poverty-stricken, but God is so good. He uses us in ways that we don’t even understand. I’m always trying to find ways to let them serve because I feel like when we don’t focus on our suffering, but serving others, it gives us a perspective of joy instead of sorrow.”

A Southeast Christian Church member, Elliott takes her boys with her as she delivers groceries and finds other ways to serve the community.

“Somebody who has really blown me away is Sarah Elliott,” said Community Pastor Cambron Rich. “She’s a single mom with her birth child and adopted child, and they live in an apartment complex in Crescent Hill. Anything she’s been asked to do, she has gone over and above and done it really well. It’s been encouraging to see her take her boys along with her to serve and love her community well like Jesus.”

Longtime friend Jessica Miles, who met Elliott at a Southeast Women’s Ministry Bible study, would add the word endurance to Elliott’s story.

“If I had to describe her journey, it would start with perseverance because she has had a lot come her way, and every time she is always looking to God,” said Miles, a single mom with two kids. “She comes out with such a positive outlook and attitude, a smile and something to share with somebody. I love her heart to serve. She shows her boys that it is important, and they do a lot of volunteering together.”

Father figure

Elliott grew up in Oldham County with a dad who was an abusive alcoholic.

“That really had a negative impact on how I looked at the Lord because I saw a man shaking hands with the pastor who had just beat up my mom the night before,” Elliott said.

“I looked at the Lord as this big, mean man in the sky who was going to strike me every time I made a mistake because that’s how I was raised.”

Elliott’s mom worked two jobs to make ends meet, and she was in church every time the doors were open.

“I was baptized as a kid … but I heard a lot of hell, fire and brimstone, and that didn’t help my understanding of God,” she said.

She said her dad’s love always “came with a hook.”

“He would love me if I did well in sports,” she said. “I was a tomboy, and I found my identity in sports because that got my daddy’s attention. Growing up I went from identity in sports, food and then a man.”

Elliott’s parents have since divorced.

“I’m thankful that all these years later the Lord has given me a new heart to see and love my dad and that by God’s grace the chains of generational sin are being broken and the trajectory of my and my boys’ story will forever be different because of our Heavenly Father,” Elliott said.

Motherhood miracles

At 20, Elliott thought she found love.

“I never got true love,” Elliott said. “I met a man who I thought was it—as much as you can think when you’re 20 years old and you think you know everything.”

She got pregnant, and the relationship ended shortly after that.

“I was actually told as a teenager that I could not have kids,” Elliott added. “Noah is my miracle child. We both almost died at birth. He was diagnosed with a hole in his heart, a brain bleed and cerebral palsy. He is now a picture of health.”

Elliott put herself through nursing school while working two jobs. In 2010, Noah, who was 5 at the time, asked his mom for a baby brother.

“I said, ‘Well, we’re going to have to pray because mommy needs a husband,’” she said. “Noah prayed every night for a little brother, and 18 months later I brought my younger son, Isaiah, home from Ethiopia. He was 10 months old. The Lord’s hand is all over Isaiah’s story.”

This move caused quite a stir.

“I had people tell me I was crazy and that I was wrong to adopt a child when I wasn’t married,” Elliott said. “Someone told me I already had one child without a dad. It was hard. I know I was doing what the Lord had called me to do.”

Because Elliott was told she wouldn’t be able to have kids, she had always planned to adopt a child.

“It cost $30,000 to adopt Isaiah internationally, and I didn’t pay a penny out of pocket,” Elliott added. “The Lord provided every penny of it through friends, family and strangers. We’d be standing in the grocery line, and I’d be talking to my mom about the adoption process and someone would walk up and hand me a $100 bill or a wad of $20s and say, ‘We don’t know you, but we support what you’re doing.’”

Hiding at Southeast

Elliott tried to fly under the radar when she began attending Southeast in 2012.

“I did not want to be known,” Elliott said. “It was so big I thought I could come to church and nobody would know me, but when you have kids, they want to get involved. I was really broken when I came to Southeast, and I started getting connected and meeting people. Now, my goodness, my kids and I feel like we lived there before this stuff (COVID-19) all happened.”

Elliott was rebaptized in Haiti during a Southeast medical missions trip in 2013.

“Since coming home, I feel like I have had one hard season, trial and traumatic event after another,” Elliott added. “I would not have believed all the pain I’ve gone through the last seven years since I rededicated my life to Christ.”

She and her sons ended up living in a friend’s basement for a time.

As her life was falling apart, she met and married a man a lot like her dad. The marriage ended in divorce two years later.

Elliott also has had two surgeries to repair nerve damage in her arm and shoulder and has been receiving disability benefits since March 2019.

Serving at Southeast

All this suffering has not stopped Elliott from serving—not to mention a car accident six months ago.

“Our vehicle was totaled,” Elliott said. “The Lord provided a van. When the coronavirus happened, I knew I did not have the financial means to do anything. I told my kids that we can take food and coffee to people. It doesn’t take money, except gas. That’s how I got connected to Cambron Rich. I texted him and said, ‘Hey, I have boys who can lift and I have a van. What can we do?’”

Elliott also attends Southeast’s Single Mom’s Support Group, is a high school group leader in the NextGen Ministry and is a helper with KidWay.

“As a single mom, people will tell me all the time, ‘I don’t know how you do it,’” Elliott added. “I don’t mean to sound rude when I say, ‘What choice do I have?’ People don’t realize as a single mom we don’t ask for this. It’s very hard, especially raising boys. I’m raising someone’s future husband and father and that is something that never leaves my mind or my heart. It comes through my parenting.”