Uncommon Ministry: Redefining Our Traditional Approach to Missions
Seattle area pastor, Steve Brooks, discovered ministry looks very different in remote parts of the world. Hear how his approach to missions changed in the wilderness of South Sudan.
Check out photos, videos, and behind-the-scenes stories from our guests on the podcast. You won’t want to miss these exclusive extras!
Alderwood Community Church Executive Pastor of Care, Steve Brooks, has traveled extensively and been in ministry for many years, but his perception of “missions” changed dramatically when he found himself in the wilderness of South Sudan. Hear his extraordinary experience of preaching in a village where traditional healers chanted outside the local church in an attempt to deter him. Through this and other interactions with people in South Sudan, Steve’s realization that we’re all connected as brothers and sisters changed his ministry.
Uncommon Ministry: Redefining Our Traditional Approach to Missions
Cathy Herholdt: Welcome to The End of the Road podcast. My name is Cathy and I'm your host and tour guide as we journey together to some of the most remote, challenging places on the planet. I'm so excited to have you along for the ride. Buckle up, we're going to The End of the Road.
Cathy Herholdt: Our guest today is Steve Brooks. Steve is the Executive Pastor of Care at Alderwood Community Church in Lynnwood, Washington. Steve has some incredible experiences that he's going to share with us today. Steve, welcome. Thank you so much for joining us on the podcast.
Steve Brooks: Cathy, I am delighted to be here with you. Really excited to talk about my passion for World Concern and what you guys are doing in the world. It's pretty amazing.
Cathy Herholdt: Awesome. I'm excited to hear from you, because although your title doesn't necessarily reflect it, you are a mission's pastor. You have a really unique perspective on cultures around the world. I'm bringing the Gospel to hard to reach places. We talk a lot on this podcast about allowing our listeners to experience virtually something that's quite different from a typical mission trip.
Cathy Herholdt: We're going to come back to that topic a little bit later in the conversation. But I always like to start with the same question for each of our guests on the podcast. That question is when you were young, when you were a little boy, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Steve Brooks: When I was young, my parents remind me of this, and they make fun of me for it. Apparently, when I was about three years old, I had my little King James Bible that I had gotten at Sunday school. I would line up my stuffed animals. I would preach to them because apparently they were the only ones that would listen to me. I had a captive audience.
Steve Brooks: Apparently, I wanted to be a preacher and a pastor at an early age. But if you'd asked me that when I was 20, I don't think that's what I would have said. God has an interesting way of getting us to where he gets us. I do love what I get to do.
Cathy Herholdt: That's awesome. That's awesome. How did you get into this line of work? You said when you were 20, you might not have said that. But obviously eventually you did land in full-time ministry and being a pastor. Was it a calling for you, as some would say? Or how did you land here?
Steve Brooks: I think probably the most significant piece of that is when I was 13 years old, we moved to Taiwan. My parents became missionaries. Worked at a school for missionary kids, Morrison Academy in Taichung, Taiwan. I mean, it was this huge change in my life, because that just had never been on the radar for us. My parents got the opportunity, the invitation halfway through my seventh grade year.
Steve Brooks: My first response to my parents was do you hate me that much that you would take me away from my friends and everything I love? But five very meaningful formative years I spent in Taiwan's, 8th grade through 12th grade and that created in me a passion for cross-cultural ministry for other languages, cultures, people, groups, and it was a long road.
Steve Brooks: Still, I resisted the Lord. It was tough through my 20s, especially early 20s. But God brought me to a place where I am in full-time ministry and I love ... I'm amazed, honestly, that I get the privilege of working cross-culturally because it's just unbelievable what God's doing in the world.
Cathy Herholdt: Wow. That's incredible. It's really interesting to hear. I will say most of the guests on the podcast, when they were kids, they had something completely different that they wanted to do. It is interesting that occasionally you hear somebody that their childhood dream of what they wanted to do when they grew up actually became what they do.
Steve Brooks: Yeah. Yeah. It is.
Cathy Herholdt: Pretty cool. Let's jump right into to some of your experiences around the world as a pastor with a heart for missions and cultures and bringing the Gospel. You've had the opportunity to travel to some pretty interesting, pretty remote, pretty challenging places. What would you say just in terms of your own personal physical comfort level, even challenges? What would you say is the hardest place you've ever been to?
Steve Brooks: It's pretty easy, actually. I blame World Concern. It's your fault.
Cathy Herholdt: We'll take it.
Steve Brooks: I went to South Sudan in 2018. We had been a part of your One Village Transformed partnership. We loved it. Saw some amazing things over several years. I wanted to actually get to South Sudan and visit the work there. The first time I was supposed to go, I think, it was 2017. I forget who your security director is at World Concern. He said, "You're not allowed to go." I protested. I'm like, "I'm seasoned missionary and missionary kid. I've traveled all over the world."
Steve Brooks: He said, "Have you ever been shot at?" I said "No." I wasn't aware that was a qualification for getting to go to a certain mission field. But that was apparently. That year, they did not let me go. But in 2018, I got to go with World Concern to South Sudan. Honestly, most incredible trip of my life, hardest trip of my life.
Cathy Herholdt: Okay. Describe South Sudan. First of all, how does one get from Lynnwood, Washington to the bush of South Sudan? Then take us on a little bit of a virtual journey there the sights, the sounds, the smells, what you ... you step off that that plane onto the dirt and what's that like there?
Steve Brooks: Yeah. Just a little quick background, which our listeners may or may not know that South Sudan is the youngest country in the world, 2009. From about 2011 to 2017, full-blown civil war, ethnic atrocities beyond belief. That's why it was so dicey for us to get over there. I went over to visit and work with some of our missionaries in Uganda. It was actually provisional, even while I was there. It was you may go, you may not go.
Steve Brooks: I have to tell this part of the story because I was literally laying in my bed one night in Uganda, I was still ... the jetlag thing. It's 100 degrees at 2:00 in the morning, I can't sleep. I'm just scrolling through news articles on my phone. I had internet at the hotel. I see on my phone that there is a reported threat of a coup in Wau, South Sudan, which is where I'm supposed to land in two days.
Steve Brooks: I mean, that's ... I'm leaving aside all the practical stuff, but that was the tension between me and my wife and me and World Concern. Is this a good idea for me to even go?
Cathy Herholdt: Yeah. Yeah. Wow.
Steve Brooks: Thankfully, long story short, Cathy, I was able to get in. But yeah, I took a commercial flight from Nairobi. I had to go back to Nairobi, then into Juba, the capital of South Sudan. I just read an article before that in CNN that Juba was the worst rated international airport in the world.
Cathy Herholdt: I've heard that.
Steve Brooks: It lived up to its billing completely. It did not disappoint. The thing that greets you as you land on the runway is 20 wrecked planes on the side of the runway. That's very encouraging. You may survive this landing, or you may not. Yeah.
Cathy Herholdt: There's the evidence of those that do not.
Steve Brooks: Exactly. That's how I got there. That's how I got to Juba.
Cathy Herholdt: Wow. Wow. Okay. Then Juba to Wau, what's that like?
Steve Brooks: Well, if I could, again, and I hope I'm not being the quintessential mission's pastor, you're so kind because you're giving me the opportunity to tell the stories. I usually recoil from the missions people that have to tell you every great story they have.
Cathy Herholdt: Well, let's hear it.
Steve Brooks: I can't resist these, too. I have to tell you this, too, because I did one overnight in Juba. I'm actually in a decent place to stay, at least we had coffee. That's really my test for what matters in life. We had hot water, but the hot water in a lot of these third world countries comes out of a little electrical appliance on the end of the shower head.
Steve Brooks: It's scary to look at something that's going to convey water to you and it's going through 220 volt wires. It started arcing and sparking as I was preparing to step into it. I decided to forego the shower. The best part of the story, Cathy, is I'm like, "Okay. I'm going to do laundry. I'm going to do ... I'll just use the sink." I turn on the spigot in the sink in my hotel room. It splutters. The water hardly comes out. Suddenly, a frog pops out of the spigot into the sea where I'm trying to wash my clothes.
Cathy Herholdt: Wow.
Steve Brooks: I have to tell that story every chance I get because it really happened.
Cathy Herholdt: That's awesome. That is awesome. Oh, my goodness. Thank goodness it was laundry and not brushing your teeth or having a drink of water.
Steve Brooks: Exactly right. Me and the frog got my clothes laundered. The next day I flew out on ... I was supposed to take a UN flight to Wau, South Sudan. But unfortunately that didn't work out. They got me into another commercial flight. But they were only able to get me on the flight. The rest of the World Concern crew had to stay behind at Juba. That was a little dicey and scary.
Steve Brooks: I showed up in Wau. I was met by the World Concern team there and they were amazing, incredible people. Andreas greeted me at the airport. He's as about a 6'8" Dinka man, the most gentle, kind, godly man you'll ever meet. They welcomed me and put me up for a few nights in Wau while I waited for the rest of the team.
Cathy Herholdt: Wow. That's so good to hear, first of all. But yeah, landing in a place like that so remote and not knowing who's going to be there or meet you on the other end. But one of the things I've experienced in here time and time again, it's just how the World Concern staff is there. We're always telling people just when you get off the plane, just look for that World Concern shirt, that logo. That they're going to be looking for you.
Cathy Herholdt: They will be there. They will meet you, and it's always worked out.
Steve Brooks: Thank God.
Cathy Herholdt: Thank you for that. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That's great. Okay. Now Wau is not the end of the road. Then you've got to get from the town of Wau, which for our listeners is not W-O-W, but W-A-U. Yeah. That town has experienced some clashes and a conflict in recent years even. But that's where that regional World Concern office is, and then working out in some of the more remote villages. Then, take us on a little journey out to the villages.
Steve Brooks: Yeah. They finally ... Once the rest of the team arrived, we made our way out in Land Cruisers to Mayen Village, which is about an hour, hour and a half outside of the city of Wau. Yeah. Man, I get a little choked up just thinking about it. That was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. We had partnered with World Concern, of course, to do what you guys do so well, which is served those at the end of the road, both with amazing development, partnership.
Steve Brooks: We had requested something as a church, Alderwood did, which was new to you guys, which was, could we help maybe pay the extra costs that it would entail to get a pastor to be part of your team. Pastor Acol, which is the best name I think I've ever heard in my life, started ministering there.
Cathy Herholdt: Pretty cool. Pretty cool.
Steve Brooks: If I was still going to have a son someday, I might name him Acol. This gracious Dinka man ministered to these folks. God just poured out His Spirit in an incredible way. Even while World Concern was not only doing the things you always do, teaching people to grow sustainable crops and save their food in ways that'll take them through the dry seasons and hygiene and latrines and all of that.
Steve Brooks: This man sharing the gospel and a story you guys have told quite a lot is the story of Peter Deng, who was the local witch doctor. Peter, through an incredible story, you guys have a great video that recounts his story. I was just watching it recently. It's on your website. He had come to Christ.
Cathy Herholdt: We'll share that video, by the way, on the podcast landing page. For the listeners, you're going to want to get a glimpse of the amazing Peter Deng and hear his story. But carry on, Steve, I want to hear your initial impressions of Peter Deng and then the relationship that you had with him, your experience there. Go ahead.
Steve Brooks: Yeah. Thanks. I got to meet Peter early on. The vision that captivates me as a mission's pastor is Revelation seven that one day, we'll all every tribe, tongue and nation stand at the feet of Christ and sing praise to Him. I'll be next to Peter Deng. That's something I look forward to. But I got to meet this guy. When he came to Christ, the whole village responded. Not everybody, of course, accepted Christ.
Steve Brooks: But so many people did because they said if this guy who is our spiritual director, the one we listened to has decided to come to Christ, this must mean something. We're greeted there by the church that was phase two of their church the ones we worship with the first day, which was just a big thatched roof, open air covering. They were in the process of building a brick church which praise Glory to God, they accomplished through their own means, by the way.
Steve Brooks: They raised the money to build that church themselves, which is an incredible story. But we were greeted by people praising God, welcoming us in the was wonderful African hoots and hollers of joy and celebration and it's just forever burned into my ministry. My memory I just thought to myself, "These are my brothers and sisters in Christ, whatever the cultural barriers, the language barriers, these are people that have been redeemed by Jesus." Something I'll never forget, Cathy.
Cathy Herholdt: Yeah. The sound of the drums beating and the people singing and marching and just that it's worship like most of us have never heard or experienced. I mean, if you don't cry at that first ... that just it sends chills just thinking about it. But that experience of seeing and participating in that worship is just unbelievable.
Steve Brooks: Unbelievable. We're greeted. We meet the chief, and then they want to have a worship service, which as you know, probably these after worship services go on for about three or four hours, mercifully for us travel weary as we were they cut it to about two hours. That might have been because they had to endure my preaching, which they asked me to preach.
Steve Brooks: I preached on the devil as a roaring lion, which obviously is something they can relate to. One of the things that happened during that was a bunch of these younger men that I was later told are basically the remnants of the witch doctor culture there. They were dancing around the church building, trying to invoke some evil spirits while I was preaching about Satan, and his work in the world.
Steve Brooks: That's something I'll never forget either. They were clothed from the waist up in leopard skins, which presumably they had killed themselves. They weren't clothed from the waist down. I will say that might be the most distracted I've ever been in my preaching. That was a little bit of a distraction.
Cathy Herholdt: All the pastors who are thinking, that baby crying in the back row, that person coughing, such a distraction to me when I'm trying to preach. But witch doctors dancing in leopard skins with no pants on, I think that's pretty distracting.
Steve Brooks: Yeah. I think it takes the cake for me. I'll never forget that. One other part of that experience, I mean, so many things I could tell, some of the wonderful believers I got to meet that day. But while we wrapped up the service, there was a commotion and a distraction outside. A young couple had showed up with their young child, maybe three or four years old who looked lifeless to me. Eyes half opened in some kind of a delirium, some kind of a fever.
Steve Brooks: They asked us to pray. Dave and I and Pastor Acol and several others gathered around this child and prayed, and his eyes opened, which is the closest I've ever come to a miracle. I don't know what the condition of that child was. But the child literally before our eyes became full of life. They said to the parents on the spot, "Do you believe in Jesus?" They said, "We do now."
Steve Brooks: They said, "Well, let's burn those amulets that you're wearing around your neck, which are symbols of the gods you worship." They did that. I got to see an experience, some incredible things. But you know, I mean, again, I'm always worried as a mission's pastor, that we can just sensationalized so much. I did get to see some amazing things.
Steve Brooks: But the most impressive thing to me there, Cathy, was just that there were people who had put their faith in Jesus Christ in the hope that he brings the life and death and resurrection of Jesus and all that that means, just like I have.
Cathy Herholdt: Yeah.
Steve Brooks: Those are more my brothers and sisters than most people who walked the planet. I'll never forget that.
Cathy Herholdt: Yeah. I love that. I love that. Just to fill in a few gaps for the listeners. Many of the villages and areas in that part of South Sudan, people have never heard of Jesus Christ. They've never heard that name before. They've never seen or heard a Bible. They are desperate for hope and change in their lives. Many families, like the child that you described, have lost children.
Cathy Herholdt: It's probably malaria, which is totally treatable and preventable with medication or a doctor. But there's none of that out there. These kids get malaria, which is you transmitted through the mosquitoes and then they get a high fever and they don't survive. It's absolutely heartbreaking for these families, just many little tiny graves in front of homes of children that have died from totally preventable illnesses and diseases.
Cathy Herholdt: These parents probably knew the dire situation that their child was in. It was their only hope to come in and ask for prayer and ask for God's intervention. They probably had tried some of the traditional witch doctor treatments. A lot of people unfortunately, pay these witch doctors. This is how the witch doctors make their income. They take advantage of people whose kids are sick and promise healing through potions and spells.
Cathy Herholdt: I remember one mom telling that there was a tree bark or something that the witch doctor gave her to mix up in some water and give to the child which of course didn't work. These parents may have tried some of that and not had that work. I think it's just really important for people to just pause and think about the situation that these parents and families are in, and also just the culture in general, just physically and spiritually.
Cathy Herholdt: I want to just pause for a moment and thank our listeners for joining us today. If you're just hearing about World Concern for the first time, and you're curious to learn a little bit more about who we are and what sets us apart from other organizations you might be familiar with, please visit worldconcerned.org/podcast and learn a little bit more about what we do. Now let's get back to our conversation.
Cathy Herholdt: I'm curious what other challenges you saw that people face in a place like South Sudan? What's day to day life like for them?
Steve Brooks: Yeah. Real quick before I answer that question. I'm glad you pointed that out about those symptoms and issues that they're facing, especially with their kids being so treatable. The part of that story I shouldn't overlook is, yes, there was what appeared to be an incredible miracle. These people came to faith in Christ. But as soon as we'd finished praying, and we saw the amulets being handed over, and they renounced all that, the folks from World Concern said, "We're going to take you into town. Here's some money to see the doctor."
Steve Brooks: That's the beauty to me of World Concern. They're addressing those things spiritually, and practically. One of the issues you know about and so many of us in the West don't is just the issues related to deworming these kids. They have terrible worms in their system. It costs 40 cents for one of these pills that can turn their life around. World Concern is doing things like that.
Steve Brooks: To address your original question about some of the other challenges, I was amazed to learn that this particular tribe anyway was very unfamiliar with the simplest of ways to store the sorghum and millet that they were able to grow through the rainy season when they can't grow, just simple measures that World Concern showed them, keeping those things off the ground, putting them in dry areas to keep them usable, and from spoiling.
Steve Brooks: Just simple steps like that. They had increased their crop yields, as well, through some real simple agricultural helps. That's not my bailiwick, but by 40%. They were producing more food. They were keeping more food. Malnourishment is a huge issue, not only for the children, but for the adults. Those are just some of the everyday challenges that these folks are facing. Also, of course, water they had dug, I think, four shallow wells, which changed these people's lives, just access to daily clean water is life-changing.
Cathy Herholdt: Yeah. Yeah. Amazing. I'm curious, going back to Peter Deng. I'm sure there were other people that you met there in the village that impacted you in different ways. But what was it about him in particular. Bring us into your interactions with him, your conversations with him. What was it that impacted you so deeply?
Steve Brooks: Yeah. You'll see it. I think if the folks watch the video that you're going to make available. I have a picture that portrays the same thing. He's beaming, Cathy. He's radiant. There's just so much joy in him. It was humbling and inspiring to me. I have this picture of him sitting next to me just with this huge smile on his face. I was so struck by him and many others like him that had just this radiant joy and hope that had suddenly just invaded their lives and changed them forever.
Steve Brooks: That was the thing that stood out to me the most. This is a guy who didn't just sit on, okay, I now have hope. He is active. He is sharing it with a neighboring village. He was one of the first to reach out. At one point, I know they had planted six other small churches in the neighboring village. He was helping to train evangelists. Just the joy and the passion and the tirelessness that probably inspired me more than anything made me think. What's my excuse? I don't have any.
Cathy Herholdt: Well, in contrast that from what his life was like before meeting Christ. He had a really incredible encounter, almost a vision that he had, that was part of his conversion. But prior to that, he really described his life as one of bitterness, anger, unforgiveness toward his family members, his community. He was an angry guy.
Steve Brooks: Yes.
Cathy Herholdt: He took advantage of a lot of people as a witch doctor. He was just living a life of, yeah, worshiping idols, worshiping ... They practice a lot of animism there. Worshiping animal gods and all kinds of things like that. I think he would describe his life as spiritually miserable, even though he was very committed to his beliefs at the time. I think it's so incredible to see a transformation like that happen in someone to that beaming joy that you're describing.
Cathy Herholdt: I actually have a photo of the two of you together. You can see that incredible smile on his face and the smile on your face, as the two of you brothers in Christ are posing together for this photo. We'll put that on the website, too, because I think people need to see that smile.
Steve Brooks: Yeah. You described it. Honestly, I don't want to spoil the video, because I hope people will go back and watch it. But you're right. He really characterized much of his life prior to coming to Christ. It's just being full of anger and bitterness. Anybody who challenged him was an enemy, who was someone to be destroyed and overcome. What I saw was the exact opposite of that. I saw little kids following him around, like the Pied Piper.
Steve Brooks: I mean, little kids know when someone's warm and trustworthy, and they just followed him around, because he exudes this warmth now, and this love for people. The contrast between who he was and what Jesus is making him into is just so incredible to see.
Cathy Herholdt: A couple other things I want to touch on real quick. How would you sum up what God is doing in a place like South Sudan or in South Sudan? What did you see God doing? How did you experience God's presence there personally?
Steve Brooks: Yeah. I think one of the things I see in a lot of the mission work I get to do, but probably more poignantly there than anyplace else is we live in a world right now that's more than ever captivated and completely caught up in headlines. I find myself often thinking about what's the news on God's table this morning? What's the headlines that are capturing God's attention?
Steve Brooks: I've always thought and more so all the time that the things that captures God's attention are so different than ours. I think what I got to see and what God is doing there in Mayen, South Sudan is some of the headlines that God's paying attention to, and most of the rest of the world will never know, including the church world. I count myself incredibly fortunate to be able to get a glimpse into this awesome God we serve who's reaching the lost, seeking and saving the lost.
Steve Brooks: This may be where you're going next. But I can't help but just be so grateful for World Concern, because your motto, serving those at the end of the road. I mean, I have to see that. You guys aren't looking for big kudos or props. I think that's how God so often works is those places that maybe not many people will ever see, won't be celebrated like so many of the things we'd like to tout in our culture.
Steve Brooks: But man, God is doing what God does. He's bringing repentance. He's bringing new life. He's bringing hope and Jesus Christ. He's helping people to see there's a God who knows their name, and loves them and sent his Son to die for them and to give them new life. I just can't believe I had the privilege, Cathy, of getting to see that up close and personal. I'll never forget it.
Cathy Herholdt: Amazing. It sounds it changed you as well and grew your faith. That's awesome. Because a lot of people probably think, "Oh, you're a mission's pastor. You do this all the time. You see this kind of stuff all the time." To have an experience like that really changed you and changed your faith, your perspective on God, on the world, on people, we talked a lot about some of the places that World Concern serves, the people that we serve being the forgotten places. But no place is really forgotten by God.
Cathy Herholdt: He's there. He's present. It's not we bring him there or bring Jesus to these people. He's there. He's in their midst and reaching out to them and ministering to them. It's pretty cool that you got to see that.
Steve Brooks: Yeah. Another thing that you guys do so well, World Concern, and I'm so just proud to partner with you is you really involved in value the local brothers and sisters that are ministering through World Concern there. I mentioned Andreas earlier. Andreas, like I said, this gentle giant, so many of these Dinka men, like the chief, even in this tribe, this guy probably grew up malnourished.
Steve Brooks: He was like 6'6". These guys are huge. But Andreas, I learned later there with this threat of the coup that thankfully never materialized while I was there or after words in Wau, he actually spent the night outside the gate of the hotel compound where I was staying to make sure that nothing happened while I was there.
Cathy Herholdt: Wow.
Steve Brooks: I'm not overstating it to say, "This guy could have saved my life." He did that quietly. He never told me that. Someone else made that ... brought that to my attention later on. These wonderful people that I've gotten to meet both there and in Kenya, we're now working with you guys on a partnership in Central Kenya. Just some of the most godly people, humble people I've ever worked with, who are doing incredible things for God that for the most part, only God knows.
Steve Brooks: They will get their reward, because God sees it. I'm glad I get to see it. But what matters is God sees it because they're just doing it because they love Jesus. It's amazing.
Cathy Herholdt: It is. It really is very humbling. It's very inspiring. Thank you for sharing that. Yeah. I want to go back to what we mentioned at the beginning about how this experience might be different from what some people might think of if they think of a church mission trip. I don't want to discount those because a lot of good is done. A lot of people are brought to faith through short-term mission trips, and things like that.
Cathy Herholdt: I don't want to discount that. But I also just want to contrast how this might be different. I think it was Peter Deng that said, "World Concern came out, first ones to come to our village." They came to where the road ended. Then they took out machetes and cut back the bush so that they could get the vehicle out to our village. That's why we talk about not just going to the end of the road, but going beyond where the road ends in order to reach people that no one else is reaching.
Cathy Herholdt: That's just a unique calling we feel like on World Concern's mission. We're humbled and blessed to be a part of that. But yeah, if you're sharing with somebody, and they say, "Oh, yeah. I went on a mission trip once or I heard about things like that. That must have been really cool." What goes through your mind in terms of you have no idea how different this was?
Steve Brooks: Well, there's the frog, the sink. There's that.
Cathy Herholdt: Yes.
Steve Brooks: But I mean, that was unusual. That's my personal story on a much bigger level. I think what's so valuable about this from a short-term perspective is I was there just to bless and love and be blessed by and loved by my brothers and sisters in Christ, not just those that had come to faith in Mayen village, but these dear brothers and sisters that you guys work with, and work through all over the world with World Concern.
Steve Brooks: I wasn't there as anybody who had a whole lot to give other than to say, "I'm so glad I'm a part of the family of God with you. I'm your brother. I love and care about you. I will pray for you for the rest of my life and someday, you and I will get to worship together in heaven. I can't wait to hear you hoot and holler, like you do here the way you worship. You'll hear my very boring western worship. But it's all worshiping the same king."
Steve Brooks: Man, that changes you. I hope it changed them. They said to me, "The fact that you were just willing to come and show that you care about us and want to know our names and care about our story means more than you'll know." Yeah. That's what that trip meant to me. It was a different trip, but I value it probably more than all the others combined.
Cathy Herholdt: Yeah. Yeah. I think out the window goes the notion that I'm going to go on this trip, and I'm going to bring something to these people. I'm going to do something for them that they need, whether it's paint the walls of the school, or whatever. I'm going to go and they need my help, because they have or are less than I am. Those notions really go out the window.
Cathy Herholdt: I think it's really important for people to hear your experience and your story, particularly just what I really hear from your heart is that we're all on an even playing field here, other than the fact that we were born into different parts of the world. Otherwise, we are sinners, saved by grace. We are human. We have so many of the same needs and desires for our kids, for our families, all these kinds of things.
Cathy Herholdt: When we can go and be present with people, at that level, as equal as brothers and sisters, I think that that's where it opens the way for real transformation, for real relationships to happen. Anything you want to say about that?
Steve Brooks: So true. I mean, you nailed it. First of all, that is not our core conviction that we are all sinners saved by grace, and we got no business doing any of this stuff. But you're pointing to a tension that I think we're still trying to figure out in the western church. Frankly, there's a lot of other places in the world that try to figure it out, too. We might have material blessings. We can share. We're called to share.
Steve Brooks: But one of the things I love about World Concern, again, is your approach coming into these places at the end of the road, machetes in hand, hacking your way further in, and then saying, "Hey, we're not here to save the day. We have the hope of Jesus and we also believe that God, having created you in his image has given you resources, and creative gifts that you can use to better your situation and love one another and love your neighbors around you."
Steve Brooks: You guys are doing that. I'm no expert. I don't have a background with 20 organizations. But from what I've seen and heard, there aren't that many organizations that are doing it the way you guys are doing it. That's why I'm so proud to partner with World Concern. I just think it gives so much dignity to these fellow image bearers and many of whom become fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. I really think you're doing the right thing and the right way. We're all learning together.
Cathy Herholdt: Yeah. Yeah. That's awesome. Thank you. We didn't wish for or ask for that plug there. But it is great to just hear from somebody that's been there and seen the work and seeing what's happening. It really is a different approach to tackling the issues of poverty, the issues of physical and spiritual poverty, and it does work. That's exciting to hear from somebody that has seen it firsthand and be able to share that.
Cathy Herholdt: Well, Steve, thank you so much for being with us today, for sharing some of your incredible stories and experiences in South Sudan. I think it's going to be a real blessing to people. I want to just remind folks to go to worldconcern.org/podcast. You'll be able to see some of the photos of Steve's time in South Sudan. You'll be able to see the video of Peter Deng's incredible story of transformation and learn a little bit more, too, about the work that we're doing, if you're interested in that and what's different and unique about it at The End of the Road.
Cathy Herholdt: Thanks again, Steve. Any parting words before we wrap up?
Steve Brooks: Just thank you, Cathy. Thanks for listening to the old stories of an old mission pastor. But thanks, too, for letting me just relive this, because I'm not exaggerating to say it's probably the most memorable experience I've had in the context of missions, anyway. Thanks for having me. It's been a real joy and a real honor.
Cathy Herholdt: I want to thank Steve again for being on the podcast today. I want to give a special thanks to Alderwood Community Church for their incredible support and partnership with World Concern over the years. I also want to thank Christian Ministries, World Concern's Parent Organization for making this podcast possible, and special thanks to Casey Helmick and the team at Terra Firma for their editing and production that bring these episodes to you. Thanks again for joining us at The End of the Road.