'Walking On' in a Journey of Faith, Loss, and Calling
Scott & Andrea Sward
For ten years, Scott (MAT '06) and Andrea Sward (MSMFT '04) had dreams of
one day ministering in Cambodia, and while they were students at Fuller, they
lived, worked, and ministered among Cambodian immigrants in Long Beach,
California. Shortly after completing their degrees the couple participated in a
five-week program in Colorado, receiving training to be career missionaries in
Cambodia and thus finally pursue their long-awaited call.
Just nine days before they were to leave the country, however, tragedy struck. As
they were driving to church, another driver lost consciousness and hit the rear
of the Swards' rental van—killing their 18-month old son, Isaac, as well as two
of their friends, and leaving Andrea in critical condition with a traumatic brain
injury. "An ordinary Sunday morning turned into an unthinkable nightmare,"
recalls Scott. "The horror and grief were more than I could bear." Mourning the
loss of their son and unsure of the extent to which Andrea might recover, the
Swards were left reeling in crushed dreams and overwhelming grief.
In March 2011, three years after the horrific accident, Scott emailed President
Richard J. Mouw, thanking him and the Fuller community for "the tremendous
outpouring of love and support" they received in the days following the accident.
Now, looking back on their experience, both Andrea and Scott see how Fuller
contributed to their foundation of faith so they could absorb the impact of this
"Our time at Fuller provided us with an understanding of God, the Cross,
prayer and redemption," Scott explains, "that was large and durable enough to
withstand even this severe battering to our lives and to our faith." Andrea agrees,
remembering the way that she and Scott clung to readings that Old Testament
professor John Goldingay had assigned for class, as well as his own writings,
on the role of lament in a Christian's life—a topic previously unfamiliar to the
couple. "In the aftermath," says Andrea, "we both found much comfort in being
reassured that our grief, and even our anger, was not beyond the scope of God."
"I will be forever grateful to Dr. Goldingay for introducing me to the Psalms of
Lament," adds Scott, "and for teaching and modeling how to 'walk
on' in the face of loss and ambiguity."
And the Swards did walk on—a year and a half after their accident, Andrea
had recovered to an extent doctors had previously considered impossible, and
the couple moved to Cambodia in September 2009. Now, Andrea is using her
counseling skills to provide therapeutic services to children who are victims of
trauma, and Scott is teaching at a ministry training center designed to equip
young leaders from the poorer, more remote parts of Cambodia for Christian
leadership. Although they cannot revive the dreams they had for their precious
son, Isaac, they are seeing new life breathed into their dream of ministering in
Cambodia. Andrea sees this season as a new chapter in their lives, where they are
experiencing new friendships, ministry opportunities, and a new step forward
together as husband and wife. "We are witnessing God's redemptive work in the
mess our lives were left in," she says.
"Moving to Cambodia meant saying 'yes' to Jesus once more, afresh, anew,"
Scott shares, admitting that he and Andrea did not know what to expect—and
still don't—but do know they are called to follow. "So we can't stand still," he
says, "and as we follow, each step brings with it a new beginning."