The other side of the road is safe, where we sidestep being bothered and avoid getting involved. But rolling up your sleeves and boldly going where few dare to tread? That's "Walking Through Samaria." Each week in our new, provocative podcast, Giving Company introduces you to the special few who walk in the spirit of the Good Samaritan.
Walking Through Samaria: The Side Road
Meet Link Forester III. He’s an author whose life story, a winding path of triumph and tragedy, is readily identifiable with many of our own. The only difference is, he’s put his into a book titled The Side Road: Finding Joy and Purpose Through the Twists and Turns of Life, which takes him through an earlier-than-expected pregnancy, marriage and fatherhood in 1987 to an early and never-expected tragedy in 2011, when his son Tyler died.
Simple pleasures have helped him cope — the love of golf, good wine and grandchildren — but mostly it has been his strong faith in God. Through it all, from his initial days in sales at IBM to his management of a financial planning firm, Forester’s 35-year marriage to Carla has survived and thrived and he’s learned lessons about what traveling “the side road” really means.
“Just being a follower of Jesus puts you on the side road,” he says. “It’s an easy club to join but it’s a hard life to live. It can be a lonely life.” Yet it is one full of purpose and perspective and leads to a lot of hilarious tales that his son, Cole, finally got him to put into print and he recounts some of them with Dan and David on the Walking Through Samaria podcast.
Walking Through Samaria: A Beacon of Hope
Meet Talli Moellering. For the last 13 years, she has been the executive director for A Beacon of Hope, a metro Atlanta-based organization that assists women facing unplanned pregnancies — and particularly women who feel that abortion is their best or only option.
In the light of the recent Supreme Court ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which had the effect of overturning the 1973 precedent-forming case Roe v. Wade, Talli provides expert insights into what it will mean. No matter which side of the abortion debate you favor, she says, the only true victory is when pregnant women are addressed and treated with compassion.
“There’s no way we can just focus on the baby,” Talli says. “The only chance that we have of saving the life of the pre-born is if the mother feels heard and cared for. That’s what the focus needs to be.”
Talli wrote “Let’s Talk About Sex,” a book which has become a tool for parents. Published in 2015, the book is based on Talli’s 20-plus years of teaching sexual health education in private and public schools.
A graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, Talli leads a team of 18 employees and 25 volunteers at A Beacon of Hope. They strive to ensure that every patient who enters her clinics in Decatur and Johns Creek feels safe, and is informed, prior to making a choice.
Talli has been married to David for 32 years and they’ve considered Atlanta home since moving from the Midwest 20 years ago. The Moellerings have three married daughters, three grandchildren, and two grand dogs, all of whom live in Georgia.
Walking Through Samaria: Going Against the Culture
Meet Kelly Miller. Formerly a standout in the software industry, Miller became the Dean of Student Life for the Amazima School in Jinja, Uganda, and visits the Walking Through Samaria podcast to talk about what the Holy Spirit has done and is doing in the lives of people who are “going against culture to follow Jesus” and becoming examples in their own communities.
He has been married to Danlyn for 25 years, and though they have no biological children of their own, they became father and mother figures to their Ugandan students, who used to call him “Uncle Kelly.” He’s undertaken 13 overseas mission trips, but upon rigorous self-examination questioned whether what he was doing was genuine service to God as opposed to a point of religious pride. Once he resolved that question, he says, he found himself on a “journey to unshakable faith and complete joy” which led him to write an upcoming book called “No Greater Joy.”
The key, Miller says, is being properly motivated.
“If somebody’s motivation is for the other person’s benefit, whatever we’re doing — whether it’s buying somebody’s Starbucks coffee or just asking somebody, ‘Hey, what do you know about Jesus?’ — you can do ministry everywhere, anywhere, anytime,” he says. “If we want to do something meaningful for others, meaningful for the Kingdom, and faith-building for us in our own walk with Christ, we have to do it with the strength of the Holy Spirit. If we try to do it on our own, we will fall into selfish motivations.”
Walking Through Samaria: Parenting In a Tech World
Meet Matt McKee. An author, entrepreneur and ordained pastor, among other things, he has found his sweet spot at the intersection of parenting and technology. He likes to think of himself as “just another guy trying to make a difference.”
Married for 23 years to Jessica, with whom he has two teenaged sons, McKee has — and is in demand to speak publicly — a wealth of information and insights about raising kids in the digital age. He has written Parent Chat: The Technology Chat for Every Family and co-wrote Parenting in a Tech World with Titiana Jordan.
“As a parent, we really have to up our emotional intelligence more than anything else in helping our kids deal with all the difficult things happening on tech,” he says.
In addition to founding three technology companies, McKee also is the senior vice president of business development with Bark.us, an internet safety solution that helps parents and schools keep children safer across social media, text messaging, and email. One of the solutions that makes the most sense to McKee, that builds greater trust and rapport with your child, involves making your kid your teacher.
“Go ask your kid, ‘Can you teach me how?’ ’’ McKee says. “Can you teach me how this app works? Can you teach me how this video game works? Can you teach me how this device works? And what you’ll start to see is technology through the lens of your child and because of that, you will be able to give them purpose, and without purpose you can’t have accountability. Without purpose, you can’t get them to the places you want them to go.”
Walking Through Samaria: The Big Reveal
Meet Debbie Causey. She’s a licensed professional counselor, an ordained minister and has served 24 years as the care director at North Point Ministries in Alpharetta, with responsibility for nine different ministry areas ranging from marriage counseling and financial support to substance abuse and parenting LGBTQ+ kids. It’s a big job and the coronavirus pandemic has kept her busy.
She has been married to Al for 33 years and they have four kids, three of whom are married. She has two grandchildren, with more on the way. Some of the best training she got for her North Point job came in 2014, from within her own family, when her one of her children came to her and revealed that he was gay.
It wasn’t a joke, even though her family is known for playing them. That caused her to reexamine her theology, provided material for a book titled, “The Big Reveal,” and led her to some other surprising discoveries about sacrificial love.
“There’s a lot of things that are gray that I once thought were so black and white, but in the end you do not have to choose between your faith and loving your kids,” she says.
Walking Through Samaria: It Takes Boldness
Meet Matthew Harrison. He’s the senior Vice President for Talent & Development and Diversity/Equity/Inclusion at Jackson Healthcare. A graduate of the University of Georgia and Emory, Dr. Harrison is also well known for his research on colorism, which deals with discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group.
He worked toward that position after learning early in life that he didn’t want to be a farmer like his father in Maysville, a small town northeast of Atlanta. Acknowledging that baling hay in Georgia’s summer heat can shape your career choices every bit as much as encountering prejudice early can, Dr. Harrison used a cool February day to address the biases that makes Black History Month a necessity in the first place.
“As human beings, we’re wired to be more naturally OK with people who are similar to us,” Harrison said. “One of the biggest issues we have … is that we all want to ignore that we have that bias. The bias isn’t what the issue is — because we naturally have it. … What potentially makes you wrong is how you choose to allow that bias to impact the decisions that you make. We tend to get so stuck at being able to even acknowledge that the biases exist that a lot of times, the conversations stop there.”
Dr. Harrison says it takes boldness to take the next step.
“I think to act like a true Samaritan, we have to take that walk from Jerusalem to Jericho together,” he said. “The Black Lives Matter movement is not just about Black people. The #StopAAPI hate movement isn’t just about Asians and Asian-Americans. The Women’s Movement really wasn’t just about women. The sooner we realize that something just because is happening to someone else … we have to realize that it also impacts us. it’s about coming together and walking together.”