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'Jesus Calling' author Sarah Young dies at 77

by Ros Mayfield
Sarah Young - Banner image
Harper Collins

Sarah Young, the author of the much-loved devotional series ‘Jesus Calling’, has died.  Christian Publishing group, Harper Collins, announced her death late on Friday.

“It has been a joy and an honor to have Sarah Young as part of our publishing family,” said President and CEO, Mark Schoenwald. “Sarah was a remarkable woman who deeply loved God. Her words have resonated with people from all walks of life, and the global impact of her work is unparalleled.”

The Jesus Calling brand has sold more than 45 million copies in 35 languages, and is one of the most widely read devotionals of all time. Originally published in October 2004, Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence is a 365-day devotional featuring Scripture and personal reflections from Sarah, written in the first person, as if spoken by Jesus to the reader.  Inspired by her personal prayer journals, Sarah wrote Jesus Calling to help people connect with Jesus and with the Bible.

The brand expanded over the years to include children’s devotionals, Bible storybooks, as well as broadcast versions including a Jesus Calling podcast and an app. “Sarah was a dear friend who will be deeply missed,” said Laura Minchew, Senior Vice President and Group Publisher of the Children’s and Gift Book Group at HarperCollins Christian Publishing. “Through nearly 20 years of publishing with Sarah, I had a firsthand seat at seeing millions of lives changed through the Jesus Calling books. Her books have met people in their darkest hours, taught children about Jesus, and changed lives for eternity. Knowing Sarah professionally and personally has been the privilege of a lifetime.”

Originally from Nashville, Tennessee, Sarah earned her undergraduate degree in philosophy. She credited her background in philosophy and Francis Schaeffer’s Escape from Reason as her motivation for studying with L’Abri Fellowship, a Christian community in a tiny Alpine village in France, where she became a Christian. Sarah earned a master’s degree in Biblical Studies and Counselling, from Covenant Theological Seminary. There she met her future husband, Stephen Young. In 1977, Sarah and Stephen married and went to serve as missionaries in the Presbyterian Church in America, spending eight and a half years planting churches and ministering in Japan.

In 1991, the couple moved to Melbourne, Australia, and began a Japanese language church in cooperation with the Presbyterian Church of Victoria. Ten years later Sarah began contemplating and eventually revising her personal devotional journals.  Her writings, which eventually became Jesus Calling were an unexpected success, topping numerous bestseller lists.  The format was criticised by some, who believed it was misleading for Sarah to write her own reflections in the ‘voice’ of Jesus rather than quoting Scripture directly.

Sarah believed that praying daily for the readers of Jesus Calling was an amazing privilege and a God-given responsibility. She committed time every morning to these prayers, often in the sunroom of her Tennessee home. She stayed out of the limelight, and rarely gave interviews.  She continued the ministry of daily prayers through struggles with her own physical health, including Lyme disease and a battle with cancer, which sometimes left her confined to her room for up to 20 hours a day.    

“Despite the tremendous success of her booksit was never about sales for Sarah,” said Michael Aulisio, Vice President and Publisher of the Jesus Calling brand at Thomas Nelson. “Sarah cared solely about leading the reader into deeper, richer relationships with God. It is impossible to measure the effect her words have had.”

Sarah is survived by her husband, two children, and six grandchildren.

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