By: Dezaray Barr
Sarah Gurley attended Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) from the fall of 2003 to the spring of 2007, when she graduated with a major in Christian Worship and a minor in Communication (speech and theatre, at the time).
“I picked IWU because it was the only school that said I could double-major in Communication and Music (which I didn’t end up doing),” Gurley said. “My admissions counselor also told me straight up that IWU may not be for me, but that he will be praying that the Lord leads me to the right place. It was the only place that didn’t seem like it was trying to sell me a used car. I felt like they genuinely cared about what the Lord wanted for me. So I was sold… I grew leaps and bounds at IWU. My leadership skills were fine-tuned through my heavy involvement in residence life (RA for two years and ARD for one). My worship-leading ability was cultivated and encouraged as I had never felt before. I found life-long friends who encourage me spiritually and emotionally. My professors were and continue to impact my life. I am constantly bragging about the professors I had in the religion department and how much Biblical wisdom I gleaned from them. I know that not everyone has a great college experience, but my IWU experience was fantastic. From the time I stepped foot on the campus until I left, I grew as a person and as a follower of Jesus. I learned academically and felt prepared to face the world.”
Gurley grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin. She now lives in Houghton, New York but is moving to Indianapolis with her husband as he has recently recieved a job teaching at Kingsway Christian School.
Just two months after graduating, Gurley boarded a plane and moved to South Korea for two years. “I loved my experience in res life at IWU so much that I decided to make a career out of it,” she explained. “I moved to South Korea to work in the boarding program of a Christian international school. There, I met my husband. He was a teacher at the school, and we bonded over our shared Wesleyan college background (he is a graduate of Houghton College). Soon, we began dating, became engaged and were married in 2010.”
While in South Korea, Gurley worked in residence life and then moved to Minnesota where she served as a Resident Director and Director of Leadership Development at Crown College for four years. After having her second child, her husband accepted a position in Arizona. She explained, “We were only there for a year before my husband accepted a job at his alma mater, Houghton Academy. After moving, I accepted a job there as bible teacher and soon took on other classes, such as theater and journalism. I eventually became the Discipleship Coordinator at Houghton Academy.”
Now, the Gurley’s have three children and one on the way. Emeline is six, Analeigh is almost five, Oleisia is two and baby #4 will be here in early January. Gurley shared, “As a family full of girls, we have lots of dance parties (Dan is usually the DJ) and family movie nights. We love to go on walks and play outside as much as possible.”
A few months ago, Dan started getting headaches, seeing spots and having some sensitivity in his ear. Dan and Sarah were visiting some friends in Indianapolis and one of them, an IWU graduate who is now a nurse practitioner, told Dan to get it checked out. She said she couldn’t rule out a tumor. This advice proved to be extremely helpful. Dan started going down the list of specialists to see and none had an answer, until he went to an ophthalmologist. The doctor spotted the tumor in his eye and sent him to a specialist up in Rochester, NY for further study. After several tests, the doctor confirmed that it was a cancerous tumor on the back of his eye – a choroidal malignant melanoma. A very rare cancer that affects only six in one million people. Dan was sent to the Cleveland Clinic to see an oncology ophthalmologist. He will undergo a special radiation treatment where they insert a radioactive plate onto his eye that transmits radioactive seeds into the cancer while it is in place. He will spend three days in the hospital while the plate is on. Once the plate is removed, he will have to go back for several follow-up appointments and scans to make sure the cancer has been killed and that the cancer has not spread to other areas of his body. He will be a cancer patient for the foreseeable future and there will always be the risk that it will show up again in his lungs or liver.
Gurley said, “Our greatest need from the IWU community is prayer. The Lord is Jehovah Rapha- our healer. We fully believe that the Lord is not done writing Dan’s story yet. He has impacted the lives of so many people, I have to believe that the Lord is simply using this for a season to impact even more people. So we need prayer that the cancer is killed once and for all. We need prayer for me while I cope with intense morning sickness (I suffer from hyperemesis gravidarum during the entire duration of my pregnancies). My pregnancies make it difficult for me to function, let alone care for three kids and a husband while packing up an entire house for our move to Indiana. We also need prayer for the Lord to provide financially for us during this time. We are facing a large amount of medical bills, and because Dan is changing jobs, his deductible will go back down to zero right in the middle of his treatment, leaving us with potentially two out-of-pocket-maximum bills in one year. A Christian school teacher’s salary isn’t anything to write home about, but he has felt called to minister to kids in that setting. I don’t have a job in Indiana as of yet and my sickness prevents me from really having one until after the birth of our child. So financially, we will be facing a mountain but nothing that the Lord didn’t see coming!”
This is not the first hardship the Gurley family has faced. Dan had an emergency appendectomy the morning of their wedding. His incision site became infected on their honeymoon, and he was rushed back into surgery upon their return only to spend the first month of marriage immobile and bed-ridden. “But through it all, we have only grown closer together in our marriage and in our faith,” Gurley said. “I saw the hand of the Lord early in our marriage, so I started blogging about it. I keep a record of all the amazing things the Lord is teaching us at www.growingupgurley.com.”
For those of you not following on the IWU 30 Days of Prayer via social media, we recently prayed for alumni. Jessica Voss (an incoming freshman this fall at IWU) reached out to us over Instagram saying, “Hello! My name is Jessica, I’m actually an incoming freshman this fall. I’ve been following the days of prayer and noticed that today is alumni. One of my favorite teachers is an alumni from IWU and needs a lot of prayer right now. Her name is Sarah Gurley. Her husband was recently diagnosed with cancer, and at the same time she is pregnant and moving her family from Houghton, NY to the Indianapolis area… She is a dearly loved friend of mine and a former teacher. Her husband was also my teacher.” Obviously the Gurley’s have affected many students nad people, and like Sarah said, their story is not over yet.
To help the Gurley’s beat cancer, visit https://www.gofundme.com/ee6xq-help-the-gurleys-beat-cancer.
Written by Dezaray Barr, PR Specialist for the Alumni Office. Dezaray is a senior Strategic Communication, Journalism and Honors Humanities triple major at Indiana Wesleyan University in the John Wesley Honors College. Visit Dez’s website at www.dezaraybarr.weebly.com.