Sarah Hill, who was played by Carrie Underwood in Soul Surfer, talks about the spiritual growth — and the hope — she sees in Bethany Hamilton…
1. What kind of change — if any — did you see in Bethany spiritually? Was she always close to God or did the accident draw her closer?
Bethany had a love for God at a very young age. She was one of those kids you could count on to make good choices. Two days before she was attacked by the shark, Bethany had asked her mom to pray with her because she wanted a greater opportunity and platform to share her faith with others.
She definitely clung to Christ more after the attack. She needed to draw her strength from the Lord to get through all the new changes and to have the strength to share her faith with the world.
2. In the movie you are seen as an encourager. What kinds of things did you say to support Bethany as she recovered? Obviously Bethany had gone through something that you couldn’t personally relate to, and she was scared and frustrated. What kinds of things did you do to help her through?
Although I never had my arm taken by a shark, I had experienced some similar and hard life changes. Right out of high school I broke my neck and back in a surfing accident. Due to the extremity of the accident I lost my dream and the scholarship I had to play college water polo.
It was a dark and lonely time in my life, a time of questioning God’s love and plan for me. When I was at my lowest I asked God if he was real, to speak to me. I felt if he didn’t I was going to give up on him. I opened my Bible right to 2 Corinthians, chapter12. There was one verse in red writing so I went there. Verses 9 and 10 were the verses I believe God gave me for comfort.
You see I had grown up in a very abusive home. I had seen a lot of heart ache and tragedy and felt as if my life had no purpose…I was ready to give up. God reminded me that day that my life wasn’t meaningless and he had me here for a purpose.
As I sat with Bethany each day in the hospital I would share with her God’s truths. I would pray with her, read the Bible to her, chat with her and just be there. I never tried to have the right words or answers for Bethany, I would simply ask God every time to guide me and be with me. He is the only source of strength I have to comfort anyone who is hurting.
3. When did you know Bethany was going to be OK emotionally and spiritually? When did you know she had made up her mind to thrive?
Each day Bethany’s strength would grow. I remember in the hospital the second day after the attack she told me that she was going to be a pro soccer player or photographer. Everyday she dreamed of new things and possibilities. There was nothing that was going to stop her.
I think the real confirmation for me was Thanksgiving morning. It was three weeks after the attack and her second day back to surfing. We went out surfing with a bunch of friends. It was a perfect day. The sky was clear, water glassy and the waves perfect. We paddled out and I with about 20 others watched her catch her first wave. I couldn’t help but cry. I don’t think there was a dry eye out there. I knew at that moment that not only had she pulled through but was going to forever change the world.
4. What have you learned from Bethany?
Bethany has taught me to not be a complainer and treasure the life you have. Be comfortable on your own skin and don’t take things too seriously. She helped push me to get back in the water and to not let fear keep me from living. She has taught me so much and continues to teach me. I love her.
5. What do you think Bethany’s legacy will be?
Wow, I think, “What won’t her legacy be?” She leaves people speechless and blown away.
I think she would want her legacy to be known as a girl who was committed to follow God. A girl who took the platform God gave her, the “race” so to speak, and finished strong. She wouldn’t let opposition get in the way. She surfed with passion and devotion. She always seized the opportunity to help others and point them to Christ. She was a true inspirer.
6. What’s your wish for the people who come to see the movie? What’s the one thought you want them to leave the theater with?
My prayer for the movie is that God uses it beyond any expectation I have. I pray it brings people hope and inspires them to keep going. There is a lot of hopelessness and uncertainty in the world today. So many people are paralyzed by their circumstances and feel like there is nowhere to turn or no point in living. I think it would be impossible for people to see this film and have it not change their perspective. I hope it gets more people talking to Christ and looking to Him for answers. I want them to leave the movie knowing that no matter what they are going through, God’s promise is that he has a plan of good and not of evil for them, to give them a future and a hope.