Transformation: Helping others in the community and beyond
Join host Cathy Herholdt and Karess Linzer as they share an incredible story of transformation in two people’s lives in South Sudan and how their transformation became the catalyst of change in their entire community.
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Join host Cathy Herholdt and Karess Linzer as they share a story of the transforming power of the Gospel that changed two people from the inside out. Hear how they both began to live lives that were in direct opposition of what they’d ever seen before and how they began helping others by sharing the Gospel and hope with them in their own community and beyond.
Transformation: Helping others in the community and beyond
Cathy Herholdt: We're doing something a little different on the podcast. We're in the middle of a short series of conversations on topics that align with our mission to share what God is doing at the end of the road. And we're calling this series Beyond the End of the Road, because we're taking you a little deeper into these stories. For the next couple of episodes, we're focusing on transformation and we're excited to jump into this with you. And as always, we're so glad you're along for the ride.
Once again, I'm excited to welcome back to the podcast, the Robin to my Batman, Karess Linzer. Thanks for joining me again, Karess.
Karess Linzer: Thank you, Cathy. I can get used to the Robin to Batman thing. I really like that one. I'm excited to be on the podcast, as usual. It's been a while since I've done this, but I'm super excited about it. My hope for this series of stories through these conversations is that we can really shed light on empowering transformation that's happening in so many lives in the areas that we serve.
Today's story is actually about two people, a man named James who's an evangelist in South Sudan, who led a woman named Mary to Christ. Now, although James is a follower of Christ and an evangelist now, he was once someone who abused alcohol and had plans to become a witch doctor just like his dad. But when he met someone from World Concern and they told him about Jesus, his entire life changed and he began to share hope and the gospel of Christ with those his community.
And I mean, I can only imagine the bravery and the courage that you must have in order to go against the very thing your family has ever done and has planned for you to do. I mean, that had to be so hard. Just stepping out to do something that you've never done before, never seen before, that's already hard. But doing it when it's the complete opposite of what your family has ever done, that has to be even harder.
Cathy Herholdt: Definitely. I think about how deeply ingrained some of these cultural traditions and practices are in the culture in South Sudan. These traditional practices, like attempting to heal sickness with spells and potions, these things have been going on for generations. I remember hearing once the story of a child who was sick with malaria, which is very common in South Sudan. The mom did what she only ever knew to do, which was take her son to one of these traditional healers like James' father. And he gave her a mixture of tree bark and water and told her to have her son drink it. So of course, it didn't work. And the boy nearly died from malaria, but had it not been for the quick intervention of World Concern's staff who drove him to a medical clinic in the nearest town.
So for James, as you alluded to, breaking this expectation of his father, his family, his community, to follow this God that no one had ever heard of, this Jesus, would be really, really hard. I didn't grow up in a Christian family, and it was hard enough for me to explain to my family what had changed me so dramatically. But this would've been even more difficult for James.
Karess Linzer: Yes. I mean, that's so true. And with James, I just love that when he learned about Jesus, he began sharing the gospel with others. I mean, he was trained as an evangelist, and he went beyond his village where roads don't even exist on his bicycle to share the gospel. It was something he knew he couldn't keep to himself, and he knew that his community really needed it.
And so he ended up leading Mary to Christ. And Mary's a mother of seven who also abused alcohol at a time in her life when she was in a community that didn't really value or respect women. And once she accepted Christ into her heart, the entire trajectory of her future and the future of her family were transformed.
Cathy Herholdt: Amazing. Here's a woman, a young mom who really had no say in her life. No power, no ability to choose her path in life. She was very poor, and like many facing insurmountable challenges in life, she turned to alcohol to numb the pain. And I think most of us can probably relate to turning to things other than God to try to make ourselves feel better. TV shows. For me, dark chocolate, comfort food. But maybe even a substance, like Mary. I think she was probably pretty hopeless before James showed up in her very remote village with some very good news.
Karess Linzer: Yes. I mean, I can only imagine how alone Mary must have felt before things really changed in her life, and how much uncertainty she must have had to face. I mean, I can think of seasons in my life when I would wonder when things would change or when healing would come or just waiting on an answer from God. And then when things did shift, how so many other things began to shift as well. What about you?
Cathy Herholdt: Definitely, I think it's so easy to feel stuck, to feel hopeless, even begin to lose faith that things will ever change. But you're right, once the Lord comes into the picture and we surrender our lives, our specific situations, even our hopes and dreams to him, our struggles, everything begins to change. For Mary, it started with that simple willingness to pray.
Karess Linzer: Yes. Being open and being willing to pray, absolutely. And I think that's why I really appreciate the full transformation in this story so much. Because the transformation didn't stop with the lives of James and Mary, but their families were transformed and so were their communities. I mean, Mary went from being in a community that didn't respect her, and they saw her as someone who was less than, and then she was a leader.
So I would've questioned my role and my capabilities as a leader after facing so much hardship beforehand. But both James and Mary were willing to be open to the gospel of Christ and being transformed from the inside out. That continues to shape their communities to this day.
Cathy Herholdt: Exactly. I was thinking when we were talking about that moment that Mary started to pray, and that was the moment that everything changed for her. That willingness to just humble herself and surrender. And we have a photo of James and Mary actually praying together. And so I'd love to share that on our Instagram page so people can actually see, first of all, what James and Mary look like. But see that moment that she was praying with James, and just as it ... that photo symbolizes that moment of transformation.
And from that time on, Mary started to feel confident about who she is in Christ, a beloved worthy daughter of the king. She began to notice that others started to respect her and treat her differently, including her husband.
Karess Linzer: What a powerful transformation. What I am taking away from this story is that sometimes our own transformation is much bigger than us. I mean, I don't know about you, but I can think of a few areas of growth that I have right now. I mean, none of us are perfect, so it could be that our areas of growth are the very areas that God may use to impact the lives of those around us from friends, family, and communities that we're in. It definitely makes me view things on a larger scale and from a different perspective.
Cathy Herholdt: So what is one of those areas of growth for you? How does Mary's story, her willingness, she and James, their willingness that they showed to share with others, how does that challenge you personally?
Karess Linzer: Personally, an area of growth for me is definitely getting out of my own way sometimes. And to really lean into what God is calling me to do. I find that I can champion what others are doing or how God is moving in someone else's life, and I can speak into the ways that they can lean into that. But when it's me, I immediately just start overthinking and over complicate that for myself.
So just taking a look at how Mary must have felt so alone and maybe even unqualified, and considering her circumstances, but she still chose to rise to the occasion as a leader in her community. And that speaks volumes to me.
Cathy Herholdt: Yeah. It makes me think of that verse in the Bible that says that God will use the humble things of the world to shame the wise. And how Mary was in such a humble place in her life where she had no power, she had no respect. And I love when we look at her story, she actually even shares that she has power now. She has the ability to make decisions, and her family, her husband, respect those decisions because they see the change in her. The change that God has brought about in her life. So it's really amazing.
For me, I think the takeaway is recognizing my own fear sometimes to stand against the culture, or even to share what God has done in my life personally. I'm happy to share the stories from World Concern about how God has changed lives and is working at the end of the road and beyond, but sharing my personal testimony is harder for me. So I'm going to think more about James and his willingness to do really hard things, going against his culture, going to the hard places that were out of his comfort zone to share his testimony. And Mary, same thing. A brave woman for sure. I want to be more like James and Mary.
Okay. Well, wow. Good stuff again today. Thank you, Karess, for sharing a bit of your heart with us today, your thoughts on transformation. This is really great. I love having a partner in this. And we hope you've enjoyed this as much as we have and that you've got some takeaways from this conversation for yourself to apply to your own life. And if you do, we'd love to hear those. Please feel free to share them with us. You can message us on Instagram at The End of the Road Podcast, or you can email us at [email protected] We'll put that contact information in the show notes, and we would love to hear from you. Thanks again for listening today.
I want to thank our listeners for joining us today. I hope your mind has been expanded and your heart has been touched by what God is doing around the world. If you like what you're hearing on The End of the Road, please give us a five star rating and review us on Apple Podcasts, or hit the bell symbol on Spotify to be notified when there's a new episode released. Stay in the know and never miss an episode by texting the word podcast to 34444.
I want to thank CRISTA Ministries, World Concern's parent organization for making this podcast possible. And I also want to thank Casey Helmick and the whole team at Terra Firma for their production and editing and consulting expertise for helping us bring these stories to life and bring them to you. Thanks again for joining us today. We look forward to more stories at The end of the road next time.