I connected with Sunday Burquest in a Facebook group and was immediately fascinated by her story. She’s a wife and mother to four kids, a Bible College graduate, former youth and young adult pastor, a breast cancer survivor, a cast member from Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X, and now a motivational speaker. She’s got a lot to share and I’m excited to share her amazing story.
How did you go from being a youth pastor and breast cancer survivor to a castaway on a reality show?
Good question!! I was diagnosed in April of 2012. After multiple surgeries, eight rounds of chemo and twenty-eight days of radiation, a year later, I was told I was cancer free. This was great; however, I was dealing with after effects of cancer including some anxiety and depression. This lasted almost two years until my oldest son, Carter, suggested we send in an audition tape together for Survivor Blood vs Water. As huge fans of the show since the first season this was something we’d joked about over the years. Carter pointed out that if I could survive breast cancer, I could survive Survivor. I received a phone call back from that audition, but nothing panned out. I applied again the next fall and the rest is history I guess.
How did your family react when they found out you’d been cast on Survivor?
Cater was really upset with me, because he wanted to be on the show so badly as well. My husband and other kids were so excited for me as was my mom and sister, my brothers thought I was a little nuts.
What was the greatest challenge as a contestant?
For me it was the emotional and mental toll the game took on me. Never ever having the ability to mentally check out and constantly having to second guess yourself, and everyone else, was exhausting. It was way harder than the living aspect of the game, which is no joke. Also, at the time I played the game I was still a young adult pastor, so I was very aware of the example I was setting by how I acted and what I said – I was worried about it all the time. I was also constantly trying my best to represent Christ in a loving and non-judgmental way while still remaining true to the core of who I was. In general, I was emotionally, mentally and spiritually exhausted.
Did you have opportunity to minister to any of the other contestants?
My definition of “minister” could be different from some, but yes, I believe I did. I had multiple players tell me how much they respected me for not judging them. I’ve had players whose lives I’ve been able to speak directly into and others I have a really good relationships with that are still watching.
What has life been like after the show?
To be honest, sometimes it’s difficult. I can see why some have issues after going through this type of experience. While I consider myself extremely blessed to be given the opportunity, it’s not without its drawbacks. I’ve had to readjust after reaching such a lofty goal, yet on the other hand God has opened doors for me that wouldn’t have been possible without the show.
Tell us about your speaking ministry.
Although I’ve been preaching and teaching in the church for years, my speaking career / ministry is still in it’s early stages. I’ve been able to speak to really large groups and many small, in public schools to large women’s events, and each has its own flavor. In the public arena I offer an inspiring message of becoming “Survivor Strong” as well as how to tap into the “Power to Survive”. However, my true heart is to reach women, especially younger women, with an empowering message on what it looks like to be a strong woman and Christian at the same time. My goal is to help women see they are strong, not due to their own ability, but rather because of Christ IN them, and secondly that their God-given strength is there to serve, not to be served. I have a book coming out in April and plan to host my own events for women, along with mini books and eventually a 6-week packaged Bible study, my new branding will reflect this specific direction the Lord has given me, its call Grit Girl.
What are your goals for the future?
I would like to write at least two more books, take Grit Girl Events to other cities and churches and develop a video series to answer godly advice. I’d also like to see my husband and I work together helping families put godly principles into action in their homes, similar to being a family coaching team.
What advice would you offer someone wanting to be in a reality show?
First, I would ask yourself to count the cost. How long will you be away from your family (I had zero contact for seven weeks other than winning the family visit reward).
Second, don’t go on a reality TV show to become famous. In most cases, you’ll get some notoriety for a short period of time, but it’s not going to drastically change your life.
Last, be authentic to who you are. If you change who you are to get on a TV show, people will see right through it. Always be true to who you are. You won’t be happy with yourself as a phony, and nobody else will be either.
In my casting interview with Jeff Probst I said to him, “Jeff, the Christians you have on this show are weird.” He answered, “Yes they are, why are they weird?” I told him I didn’t know but that I was not going to be a weird Christian and furthermore I said, “I won’t even have to tell anyone I’m a Christian. I guarantee they will know.” Honestly one of my main objectives in going on the show, besides the $1 million prize, was to demonstrate that Christians aren’t all weird and to simply be an example of God’s love.
I am confident that what the enemy meant for evil in my life (breast cancer), God has turned around for good. I believe that is one reason the door to Survivor was opened for me. While we were actually playing the game in Fiji we competed in an immunity challenge on the same day I had been diagnosed just four years early – and we won! God’s timing is amazing in that I was able to not only prove to myself how big God was, I was showing others that because of Him, I found myself competing on Survivor and winning a challenge on the very day I had been diagnosed. Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up!