Welcome, friends! I’m so excited to welcome you to the End of the Road podcast! My name is Cathy and I’ll be your host and “tour guide” as we journey together to some of the most remote, challenging places on the planet.
I’m a Seattle native, loyal Sounders fan, wife of the best third grade teacher – quite possibly – on the planet, and mom to three amazing humans.
Cathy in Lolkuniani village.
I’ve worked with World Concern, a faith-based humanitarian organization headquartered in Seattle, for the past 11 years and had the privilege of traveling to some of the places where World Concern serves… Places where I’ve never felt so far from home in my life. Places where absolutely nothing is familiar. Places I fell in love with, and that changed me forever.
I cannot tell you how excited I am to see this podcast come to life. I know this sounds cliché, but it truly is a dream come true.
The vision behind this podcast is to take you – our listeners – to some of these places through the stories and experiences of our guests. They have lived and worked far beyond the end of the road … from a village that takes an entire day to reach by canoe through the Congo jungle … to a war-torn city in the Middle East, you’re going to hear, first hand, what life is like in some of these places, and how God is present and active in these places and in the lives of people who live there – moms, dad, kids, families – just like yours, only they live at the end of the road.
You’re going to hear from some incredible people who have sacrificed so much to serve, live, and work in some of the toughest places on earth. They’ve experienced unimaginable things, and met people you’ll get to meet too, through their stories here on the podcast. I can’t wait to introduce you to these selfless humanitarians – our guests on the podcast. I’ve handpicked each one, because I know tidbits of their stories, but even I learned so much in my conversations with them. You’ll be amazed.
I want to share with you some of the things I’ve learned in my experiences in places like Bangladesh, where 165 million people live in crowded urban slums and bustling rural villages. Or northeastern Kenya, where Samburu tribespeople have survived as pastoralists in the bush for centuries… or the mountains of Haiti, far above the teal waters of the Caribbean and far from the chaos of Port au Prince, where families live in tiny villages with no running water, electricity, or infrastructure of any kind.
As I mentioned, these places – and more so, the people I met there, changed me. Now, these places are not the places you’d go on a typical church mission trip. That’s why I want to take you there – virtually – through these stories.
I want to introduce you to people like the 13-year-old girl in Bangladesh who sobbed and told me through her tears that she was about to be forced to marry a much older man, because it was the only option her parents felt they had in order to feed her siblings. Her name was Rima… I remember sitting down on the steps of a school to talk with her and hear her story. She was about 13, but she looked very young. She was wearing a school uniform – the only thing keeping her from being married off to a family friend, a man in his mid-30s.
I want to tell you about walking 5 miles through the dry, barren desert of Eastern Kenya for water with a strong, beautiful, resilient Samburu mother who made this walk every morning of her life. During this moment, I realized we shared something... We were both moms, both working women, both human. And we shared a deep desire to make the best life for our kids as possible.
And I want to share with you how God was so present, right beside me, in each of these situations – reminding me that he is with them too – every person…
I’ve learned some things in my time at the end of the road – about myself, about people, and about God. Let me share a few thoughts with you as we prepare to travel together…
First of all, I learned that I have a lot to learn. I know so little about the world, beyond my own familiar surroundings. I had no idea how mind and heart-opening it would be to visit places I thought would be scary, uncomfortable, and disturbing (spoiler alert: they are mostly all those things!).
I remember right before my first trip to Haiti, I was telling my mom where I was going. Her naïve response was, “Why in the world would you want to go to a place like that? It sounds awful!” Now, my mom has lost her filter a bit in her older years, but I wonder if most of us, deep down inside, think the same thing about these places. They sound awful. And I’ll admit, I thought that way.
After working a few years for World Concern, I was sifting through photos of Bangladesh for a project I was working on, and I remember looking at the crowded streets – there was literally garbage piled up so high on either side of the street, it was like a 10-foot wall. In one of the photos, there was a cow standing on top of this pile, eating the garbage. And in another photo… much more heartbreaking. In fact, it’s a photo that has stuck with me ever since. It was of a young boy, maybe 8 years old, shirtless, but wearing a pair of adult pants that were cinched up around his waist and tied with a piece of rope or string. He was picking up a piece of rotten fruit from the garbage pile and smelling it – I’m sure to check if it was safe to eat…
So I was looking through these photos, and I thought to myself, that is NOT a place I ever want to go. I’d go to some of the other places World Concern works, but not Bangladesh.
Well, God has a sense of humor, you know? My very next trip, I was assigned to go to Bangladesh to interview and capture stories of young girls who were at risk of becoming child brides. Bangladesh has a longstanding and harmful practice of child marriage. I was like, really, God? After I said that’s the last place I’d want to go? Yes, really, He said.
That trip, and subsequent trips to Bangladesh, changed my heart for that place. Yes, it was hard. Yes, it was so foreign to me, and yes, it was hot, stinky, indescribably crowded, and all the hard things. But I prayed for God to help me see the people there the way He sees them. I prayed a dangerous prayer – for Him to break my heart for the things that break His. And He did – into a million tiny pieces.
Another thing I learned is that I have a much greater capacity for empathy and compassion than I thought I did. We can become so consumed with the struggles of our own lives that we forget how important, and I’d even say, freeing (from self-absorption) it is to consider the needs of others before your own.
I’ve also learned about people in my journeys. I’ve learned that people are essentially the same, when you get down to the heart and soul. We have the same needs, desires, and even similar dreams.
Lastly, I’ve learned a ton about God at the end of the road. Mostly that He is there. Always. Constantly. He is present in the hard places, and He loves the people there – those who by chance were born into such hard places.
God was always present with me there, but He used the hard places I’ve been to show me how utterly alone I am in the world, and how much I need Him.
I remember one time, in a very remote part of Northern Kenya – I’m talking 8 hours by car from Nairobi, the last hour and a half on very bumpy dirt roads (so bumpy I’m shocked I didn’t break a tooth!), and the last half hour beyond where the dirt road ends and goes into the bush! That’s how remote we were.
We stayed in a guest house that was basically a concrete room with bars over a square cut out in the concrete wall to make a window and bugs were everywhere. And for the first time, I got sick with a stomach bug in the field, and I was down for the count. So, I didn’t travel with the team out to the field that day. I stayed back at the guest room. Alone. No cell coverage. No internet. No nothing. Just me in that concrete room. And I didn’t feel well at all.
God was there, and eventually showed me through two angels—World Concern staff who checked in on me—that He was right there with me. He heard my cries for help, and He sent them. I was able to rest peacefully the remainder of the day.
I hope this gives you a little taste of what it’s like at the end of the road. There is pain and there is beauty. And we can learn so much about ourselves, about people, and about God, if we’re willing to make the journey. I’m so glad you’re joining me!
So buckle up, my friend, this is not a podcast about your average church mission trip... Are you ready? Prepare for takeoff … we’re going to The End of the Road.
For more information on The End of the Road podcast, visit www.worldconcern.org/podcast. Listen, download, and subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever podcasts are available.