Harter finds inspiration through religion

February 11, 2009 — by Uttara Sivaram

You may be someone who goes to church every Sunday morning, stays there for a little while and perhaps sings along with everyone else in your pew. You’ll listen to the pastor speak about what the Bible says and, more importantly, what it means. You’ll watch the choir sing praises in a familiar tune. And you just might bump into a girl sitting next to you who seems deeply involved in what the pastor is saying. She is smiling and seems at utter peace with the world. You wonder, who is this girl? It may very well be Hannah Harter, the girl who will be right there with you at church, through rain or shine, every Sunday morning.

Harter, a sophomore, enjoys the beauty of life through love for her religion.
“I love my Church,” she said with emphasis. “I go there every Sunday. It’s just so nice to be around people who share your faith and take pleasure in discussing it.” She attends the Saratoga Federated Church, a fairly large church with multiple service times. Sometimes, the church holds special events targeting kids and teenagers.

“Recently, we had this event where there were stations to pray at,” Harter said. “One was for the world, another for friends and family, for the church, education and change.”

Each station had a prayer card with a different saying to be read and pondered. Some of the cards dealt with peer pressure and other contemporary issues. Others dealt with more traditional and basic values.

“It was awesome,” Harter said. “It’s great how sometimes things are switched around and we go about doing things differently.”
On regular Sundays, however, Harter still enjoys the service and the opportunity to talk with her friends.

“We talk to each other most of the time,” Harter said. “Sometimes we ask each other trivia questions. They can be absolutely ridiculous—my youth pastor has a great sense of humor.”

Harter’s commitment could explained by the fact that she has been Christian for as long as she can remember and religiously involved ever since she was 6. “I remember accepting Jesus into my life as my mom was driving,” she said with a laugh. Expecting a young child to accept such concepts as “God” and “devotion” is, at best, unusual. But Harter’s faith had strong beginnings, and it continued to be nurtured as she grew up.
“I was re-dedicated at a camp called Hume Lake when I was in middle school,” said Harter. Hume Lake is a Cavalry Church camp for students from 6th to 8th grade to learn about Jesus. “It’s one of the greatest camps I’ve ever gone to.”

Clearly, her piety has not been diminished from her elementary school years. Over the summer, Harter switches her church activity into overdrive, participating in fundraising and countless other events. Last spring break, she went to Mexico for the first time to help build houses there.

“It was life changing,” she said. “I felt God everywhere I went—in the markets, in the schools, in the slums, everywhere.”
Harter and a team of 8-12 other members of her church built a house in four days flat. The hours were hard and the work was grueling at times, but for Harter, it was more than worth it.

“Seeing the look on the family’s face was amazing,” said Harter. “That’s when I really felt it. Felt that I had accomplished something.”
Building a house in four days is by no means a small achievement, but Harter felt the enormity of what she had done only after seeing the joy on the faces of the people she had helped. Her selflessness and willingness to drop everything to help others is another facet of the powerful influence her religion evokes inside of her.

With her demanding schedule, it is hard to be active every day of the week. However, Harter accomplishes it in her own, unique fashion.
“I do pray every day,” said Harter. “I like to get back into the groove, like ‘OK, God, I want to show you who I am today.’ Staying in touch with Him can be hard sometimes. But it’s important to me.”

Harter’s devotion to staying true to her beliefs propels her through the school year. Occasionally, she has faced peers who do not understand her belief, her love for something so seemingly ungratifying.
“I’m not judgmental,” she said. “But I love God, and I know He’s there. I found Him in hard times and in good times. It’s a good test for me, to see if others can change my views. But they can’t.”

With the news more and more frequently on everyone’s TV screens and home pages, it is easy to lose faith in the purity of religion. But the joy that can be seen on the faces of individuals like Harter is a reminder that there still exist those who continue to unconditionally hope and endure for their beliefs.

So Harter will continue to be good and steadfast in her faith. She only asks for one thing in return. “I want to be able to say, ‘Hi, God. It’s a beautiful day outside and I’m glad to be with you.’”

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