By Sandy Jones
“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” — Ephesians 2:10 NLT
Longtime area residents know her as news anchor Dee Sarton, who for 40 years gave us the good, the bad and the ugly news on Channel 7 KTVB. Her steadfast presence itself was reassurance that even in the worst of times, everything was going to be all right.
Last April we were all surprised by the announcement of her upcoming retirement. Personally, my heart sank — the 4 o’clock news would never be the same!
I’ve been fortunate; my path and Dee’s have crossed a few times since then, and like everyone else, I’ve asked: “Now what?”
Late in November I was blessed to sit down with Dee as she shared about her next chapter.
“It goes back to kindergarten,” Dee started. Her father was a high school teacher in Silverton, Colorado at the time, and Dee vividly remembers going to church on Christmas Eve in a snow-framed, little white chapel. Cold outside. Warm inside. Sitting between her parents as they watched third graders in bathrobes playing out the Christmas scenes just like in churches around the world every Christmas.
“I remember sitting there, and I have no words to describe it, but I believed it, and I knew that I believed it, and I was so happy to believe it!” Dee still has the angel Christmas ornament her kindergarten Sunday School teacher gave her that year.
Raised in a Christian home, Dee always wanted to go to church, and was greatly involved.
Once in college though, Dee took Philosophy 101, where she heard about different viewpoints. One day the assignment was to write a paper either to prove, or disprove, the existence of God.
With her love of learning Dee was a good student, and coupled with her love of the Lord, she quickly chose to prove the existence of God. She worked diligently on this paper and proudly turned it in, only to have it returned to her days later with a failing grade. Devastated, Dee challenged her professor, asking ‘why?’.
The professor was quick to point out that while the paper was well written, it was full of feelings, not facts. No supportive evidence to back up Dee’s claims.
This hit Dee hard. The professor was right, and Dee began to question if she had believed merely because her parents believed, or if it was all based on feelings?
Doubt began to creep in, a little at first, then more and more; next Dee stopped going to church altogether.
It was early in her career. Dee was busy, and enjoying her work in broadcasting. Like so many others she says, “I went through that period of doubting, drifting and leaving, and really became Dee without the Lord in my life. I’m not proud of that time, and I’m grateful that God brought people into my life to remind me that He hadn’t let go of me and was still there if I would call out to Him.”
One of these people was a lady Dee took aerobics classes with. Something came up after class one day about God; when Dee’s response was about church, the woman’s reply was, “I would have never guessed you’re a Christian.”
Dee said that hit her like a 2×4! She hadn’t drifted so far that she’d stopped seeing herself as a Christian, and that phrase stuck in her mind. “I would have never guessed you’re a Christian.” This was an early step to God drawing Dee back.
The most important influence was the wife of a co-worker, a friend named Linda Murphy, who started inviting Dee to church. Being the nice person she is, Dee would tell her, “Oh sure Linda, yeah I’ll come.”
After putting it off as long as she could, Dee felt that she finally had to go. Arriving late, she slid in next to Linda as the old hymns, so familiar from her childhood, played. It was beautiful, and the words — truths buried in her heart years before — started running through her mind.
The pastor, David Roper, was a teacher like none Dee had ever heard. By Dee’s account, she was captivated by this “deep thinker” who “had so many insights into the original language of the Scripture and the history surrounding the story.”
That first sermon was on how God will equip you for serving Him. Pastor Roper explained that you don’t have to be a super Christian; God has prepared works for you and it’s His grace that allows us to be a part of it. In other words, it’s not about you but about God, and when you trust Him, life can be a grand adventure. At the end of the service Pastor Roper invited everyone to say a simple prayer that God would use them that week.
Dee says, “I remember wanting to know that kind of relationship with God. I bowed my head and just said, ‘Oh Lord forgive me. I am a crummy Christian.’ Ending with, ‘I’m so sorry for turning my back on this gift of faith that You’d given me years ago. I want to come back, and if You would use me, please do. I don’t blame You if You don’t, but please do.’”
The next week found Dee speaking at what was then Northwest Nazarene College, to a class of students not much younger than herself. During the Q&A, a young woman asked what it was like to be a Christian in journalism.
Dee found herself explaining how easy it was to get caught up in what can become a very self-centered industry, and how hard it was to fight against that. She went on to explain that she had wandered from her own faith and was just coming back. As she left the class, Dee asked herself why she’d shared so much private information with this group of virtual strangers. As she got into her car berating herself, she suddenly realized that God had answered her prayer — He had used her!
This gave her great hope and confirmed that you don’t have to be perfect for God to use you. Dee’s quick to point out that she also knew she had to repent for the things she’d done and acknowledge that she’d gone her own way and not His.
She returned to church the following Sunday, and Pastor Roper finished his sermon with an opportunity for members of the congregation to share their stories about how God had used them during the week.
Many wonderful stories were told that morning. All the while Dee kept telling God she wasn’t ready to share just yet. As time went by and Pastor Roper was beginning his final prayer, Dee said her own safe prayer: “Lord, I know you wanted me to share, and I just can’t, I just don’t see how I can, but have him ask for just one more and I will.”
As Pastor Roper closed, he asked for one more story, and Dee knew it was hers. She recalls, “From that moment on I realized that God does indeed have a grand adventure for us, and all we have to do is step into it. We don’t have to be good enough. We don’t have to be perfect. We don’t have to earn His love, but when you start to experience Him in your life that way…the awakening that is taking place creates a hunger in you to know more.”
What may have started as an emotion sparked Dee’s desire to learn, and to grow in apologetics. She gives people like David Roper, C.S. Lewis and, later, Ravi Zacharias and Del Tackett credit for being a big part of that journey.
Truthfully, being a Christian doesn’t guarantee an easy life, and Dee’s no different than any other Christian. In the years since fully embracing her faith, she and her family have dealt with difficult and trying situations like everyone else, but she says, “In every instance God has proven Himself worthy of my highest praise. He is everything to me. He is as Psalm 46:1 says ‘our refuge and strength, an ever present help in times of trouble.’”
During her last broadcast in June of 2019, Dee shared on air that her retirement was going to be about faith, family and friends.
Faith because that’s the most important thing overall. Family because, now retired, she can better prioritize family time and what she sees as a calling for this season of life — grandmotherhood. Friends because Dee confesses that friendship is something she has to work at, unlike others to whom it appears to come naturally. Dee confides, “I really want to learn to be a good friend.”
Returning to the topic of faith, Dee wasn’t sure how that would play out in retirement when she first said it; she just knew she was willing and knows God loves to hear, “I’m available.”
It wasn’t long before her friend Pastor Clint Henry called, asking if she’d be interested in being involved with the Greg Laurie Boise Harvest Crusade coming in May. Dee follows Greg Laurie on YouTube and social media but had not yet heard about the Crusade. She says the more she learned, the more excited she got, and now believes that God is in this event and He’s on the move here in the Treasure Valley.
“It kind of goes back to my own faith journey. What brought me back to church,” Dee said, explaining her friend, Linda, “was very persistent, to the point of being kind of obnoxious.” Dee goes on, “But she didn’t give up on me; she knew I needed Jesus. She could see that, and I thank God for her and her persistence.
“Now we have the opportunity as people who know God’s goodness, know His grace…and have a story to tell… It’s our chance to be a ‘Linda’ in someone else’s life by inviting them to the Boise Harvest Crusade. I think we need to be praying for those we will invite right now and be ready for what God is going to do.”
As our time together came to a close, Dee shared a poem from David Roper’s book, “Strength of a Man,” that has long inspired her:
Father, where shall I work today,
And my love flowed warm and free.
Then He pointed me out a tiny spot,
And said, “Tend that place for me.”
I answered quickly, “Oh, no, not that.
Why, no one would ever see,
No matter how well my work was done.
Not that little place for me!”
The word He spoke, wasn’t stern,
He answered me tenderly,
“Nazareth was a little place,
And so was Galilee.”
Dee explained, “For most of us the greatest things we will ever do will be simply sharing with a friend or a family member or neighbor. It isn’t very glamorous, but it’s a Nazareth or Galilee, and that’s where we really get to see God working through us for His glory. Remember, ‘we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.’” (Ephesians 2:10 NLT)