Sara Bannister (Johnson)
I grew up in Colorado just outside Denver and was raised in a small house-church of homeschooling families. I cannot remember a time in my life when I didn’t truly understand and believe the Gospel. Church, Bible studies, and Scripture memory were a huge part of my childhood. During my early teen years, I went through a very dark season, but the Lord slowly but faithfully began speaking truth, forgiveness, and hope, and purpose into my darkness. This was the point when I chose to surrender to God and truly give my life to him.
Music has also always been important to me. The community I grew up in was full of excellent musicians so lessons, recitals, and competitions in classical piano and violin quickly became our priority outside of schoolwork. While piano and violin were my primary instruments, my passion was always singing. I love the way lyrics can speak life into us in ways that words or instruments alone often cannot.
Ever since I was little, I’ve known that I wanted to be a musician and missionary. As a teenager, I had the opportunity to spend about 4 months in Guatemala over two summers, and I completely fell in love. Both of these trips were life-changing for me. They were a time of discovery, growth, and a crazy amount of spiritual refining. Guatemala was also a place of a lot of firsts for me, which just made it that much more special. Despite how different everything was from the familiarity of the US, from the first day I set foot in Guatemala, it felt like home. I left Guatemala in August of 2018 fully intending to return that January for a year and then move there permanently. However, to my complete dismay, shortly after I got home, I felt the Lord so clearly telling me to stay. “For now, stay in Colorado.” It made no sense, and I was devastated. For the first time in my life, I was angry at God. I felt like he had poured out my whole heart and then he told me to walk away. I had no desire to stay in the US, but I obeyed…and I could not have dreamed of what God had in store 4 years later. In the meantime, I waited on him for healing, went back to college to finish my bachelor’s degree, got more involved in serving at my local church (different from the home church), and stayed busy working.
Fast forward to 2021 when I spent the summer in Morocco on a language and culture internship. I still didn’t have peace about returning to Guatemala, but I was as confident as ever about doing long-term ministry overseas. So, I started pursuing options in other countries, looking especially for places I could use music. In Morocco, I was on a small team, and we all grew very close over the course of the summer. At one point, I was sharing how I’ve always known I wanted to do music and missions, but I couldn’t see how those two things could go together. It always seemed like I needed to choose between the two. Still somehow, I had such confidence that these two loves of mine were from the Lord and that he would make a way for my life to involve both.
As it turns out, one of my teammates in Morocco went to college with Adam. As he heard about my love for Guatemala and my desire to do music and ministry, he naturally thought of Adam. Colson very casually mentioned, “Oh I know a guy who’s doing that! And he lives in Guatemala. You should contact him to get some info about what he’s doing.” Colson gave me Adam’s email, and I thought nothing of it besides being a possible source of ideas for how to use music as ministry overseas. (Colson assures us he didn’t have anything else in mind either haha.) A few days after getting back to the US, I emailed Adam. He responded, and we set up a Zoom meeting. To make a long story very short…Adam is now my husband!! I could write a billion words about our love story, but for now I’ll stick to how this relates to Songs for Revival.
The very first time I spoke with Adam on Zoom, he told me all about how Songs for Revival had come into being. I was stunned and impressed by Katie and Mollie’s testimonies and how God had orchestrated the music, the people, the places, and the timing to bring healing and community into all these stories. Adam mentioned that he was working on a Hallelujah chorus that incorporated 5 languages. Multi-lingual, Gospel-centered music is something that excites me so much, and I was delighted to meet someone else who had the same passion. As I got to know Adam, I began listening to his songs and was constantly encouraged by how they are so Scripture-filled while also being so relatable and honest. I was baffled by how quickly he could write a good song and was always excited to listen to the new songs he’d send. Early on, Adam invited me to sing on some of his music. I was honored but didn’t necessarily think anything would come of it.
In October, Adam wrote a song called “It Won’t Be Long Now” and sent it to me. The song is written with sort of a double meaning—as a love song and a worship song. We were dating long distance and were so eager to meet in person. The song speaks to this longing as well as to the desire to be with the Father in perfect fellowship in heaven. He wrote the song as a duet, so I just recorded my part on my phone and sent it to him to put together. In November, I had the pleasure of meeting Brooke, Mollie, Giovanna, and Matt and seeing the group worship together at the 24-hour worship event at Grove City College. I loved how they sang with such freedom and spontaneity, allowing the Holy Spirit to lead. I think it was around this time that Adam asked the SFR group about me joining them in some music and also in a trip to Guatemala in January, to which they all agreed. I am so blessed by the way everyone has welcomed me into the group, not just as a singer but as a friend.
On September 4th, 2018, I told the missionaries in Guatemala through tears that I was not coming back. On September 4th, 2021, Adam asked me if I’d like to call, signifying our first date. In January of 2022, I went back to Guatemala for the first time in almost 4 years. I got to spend wonderful time with Adam, Brooke, Mollie, and Matt, and I finally got to meet Katie Ficker as well. During this trip, we recorded the album Transition, which includes the song “It Won’t Be Long Now”. We also sang through the entire “It Is Finished Album” in the prayer and worship room in Guatemala. It was such a joy to experience that first album in the place where all this started.
My whole heart beats for worship, music, and ministry, and I feel beyond blessed that God has brought me into this incredible group of people who share the same passion. I can’t wait to continue worshiping and watching God stir hearts in powerful ways through song.