Entrepreneur Helena Cho and radio host Susie Larson were devastated by different events that rocked their worlds and found themselves with nowhere to go—except to their knees in prayer. Helena Cho immigrated to the United States when she was just eight years old. Through hard work and the strong faith of her mother, Helena eventually began building a successful company at age 25. But in the 2008 financial crash, Helena lost everything. In the days that followed, she began to realize God had a much bigger plan for her life than she could’ve ever dreamed of. Through her radio show Live the Promise and now her new book Fully Alive, Susie speaks as a survivor of physical traumas to encourage women everywhere that they are loved, they are strong, and through Jesus they can overcome.
Helena Cho: Once we completely lost everything, we realized we just don’t know the essence of what is really important anymore. And God, through His words, He kept bringing me closer and closer to the definition of His love. And so amazingly, miracles started happening.
When the World Brings Us to Our Knees, God Lifts Us Up: Helena Cho and Susie Larson – Episode #138
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. Today’s guests have each had their worlds rocked with devastating events and found themselves with nowhere to go except to their knees in prayer: entrepreneur and philanthropist Helena Cho, and radio host and author Susie Larson.
First up, Helena Cho immigrated to the United States when she was just eight years old. Through hard work and the strong faith of her mother, Helena eventually began building a successful company at age 25. But in the 2008 financial crash, Helena lost everything. In the days that followed, she began to realize God had a much bigger plan for her life than she could’ve ever dreamed of.
Helena Cho: My name is Helena Cho. I’m CEO of Good Work(s) Make a Difference. I have inspirational company that empowers and inspires, and we give 25 percent back to make a difference in the world.
I came to United States [at] about eight and a half [years old]. I am born from a four-generation Christian family. I’m Korean, and I came to Monterey, California. I lived in a small town called Marina. My dad was a pastor. My grandfather was a pastor.
Our house was over 100 years old. It was in a lot that [we thought], One day, we’re going to build a church. We lived in this little home, and our house was a humble home. We had mold everywhere in the ceiling. We had to wait until our water turned white, because we had rusted pipes and all the water was orange. My dad had small ministry in this little city, and by the third week we had no money. But it was still a beautiful place. I was still excited to live in America. I felt like, This is going to be a land of opportunities, and I’m going to have a new life here.
The Power of a Praying Mother
And then in seventh grade, my mom sees a newspaper article about this wonderful girl who’s a genius and she got a full scholarship to Robert Louis Stevenson in Pebble Beach. It was an amazing boarding/day-student school in Pebble Beach. And it was very reputable, still reputable today. And my mother said, “I want you to go to school [there], Helena. And I know God is going to send you to this school.
And she said, “You know what, Helena? God can make this happen.”
I just really wanted to give up, and I hated my mom for having such a fantasy dreams.
Eighth grade comes. I walk into my room, and I see a hundred-dollar application on my desk. And to a girl that grew up with knowing the family doesn’t have ten dollars, a hundred dollar application itself was a miracle.
The minute I saw that application on my desk, I just literally got on my knees. How in the world did she get this application? For the first time in my life, I got on my knees and I said, “God, Maybe with you, I can go to this school.”
And I prayed and prayed with God every day, “Help me with this math. Help me with this English. Help me with science. Help me with this history.” Just like that, just a little eighth grader just praying on her knees to God for the first time.
Of course, the miracle is this: I graduated valedictorian, got straight A’s, and got accepted to Stevenson on scholarship. And that was my first miracle at age 13 and a half, that with God all things are possible.
“With God all things are possible.” – Helena Cho
That’s kind of where my life began. This country has been amazing for me from an early age.
When You Have Nowhere to Go, Kneel to God
At 25 and a half, I started a company, and I got a $50,000 loan from a bank. I was bold and I thought, Okay, I’m going to do everything I can to build this company. And so we used to live with 200 dollars just grocery fees, my husband and I. And whatever we could, we were going to give it to mission funds. So that’s how I started.
And so by my early thirties, I was already a very, very big company and close to 870 employees. I was living the American Dream. I had buildings, I had houses. I was dining with celebrities. I was invited to all the galas.
But arrogance came in so fast. And I didn’t even know that I was that arrogant, but arrogance took over. My pride took over. Now I was too busy to study the Word of God.
In 2008 the market crashed. And the company that I had built, that has never known failures since [I was] 25 and a half, it tumbled. [I was] completely bankrupted [and] lost everything.
It’s so easy when you’re rich and you’re you have everything. Everyone loves you. When you lose everything, you know how that goes. Everyone leaves you. So that’s where I was. I lost everything, and everyone left me. I had nowhere to go. I don’t have a rich uncle or a rich father, a rich anybody.
So in my desperateness, because I had no one, nowhere to go, I’m just lost and broken and broke, I kneel to God.
I was actually so far away from God’s words, I had no idea where to even turn in the Bible. And actually, that’s when I actually got a gift from somebody at church: Jesus Calling.
And day by day, it led me to one verse at a time. Sometimes it started out with just reading the words for the day. But then I started studying the Bible verses that [were] given to me, and those words spoke to me encouraged me and strengthened me.
There’s many days [in Jesus Calling] but I love September 18:
“Seek to please Me above all else. Let that goal be your focal point as you go through this day. Such a mind-set will protect you from scattering your energy to the winds. The free will I bestowed on you comes with awesome responsibility. Each day presents you with choice after choice. Many of these decisions you ignore and thus make by default. Without a focal point to guide you, you can easily lose your way. That’s why it is so important to stay in communication with Me, living in thankful awareness of My Presence.
You inhabit a fallen, disjointed world, where things are constantly unraveling around the edges. Only a vibrant relationship with Me can keep you from coming unraveled too.
And this word speaks to me because each day reminds me, “Where is my focal point? It is not to please man. It is to please God.” No matter where we go, He is with us. And when we do, we do it with all our heart for Him, for His glory.
“[The September 18 entry of Jesus Calling reminds me,] Where is my focal point? It is not to please man. It is to please God.” – Helena Cho
Everything That’s God’s Is God’s
Now I’m losing everything, I’ve lost my houses, I’ve lost my buildings. Everything is just gone.
And my mom, who is just fearless, just a faithful giant, she said, “What is God’s is God’s. Helena, I know what you see with your own naked eyes, with the human eyes. You see a cliff. And that’s all you see. You can fall off that cliff the minute you think, I’m going to fall. I’ve got to hold on to something, or I’m going to fall off that cliff. I know that’s how you feel. But I tell you, when you hold onto God’s Word and you obey, He will never let you fall off a cliff. Never.
I couldn’t go home, and I had to stop somewhere because I was crying so much.
I stopped my car at a parking lot of bank of America. I parked my car. And I’m just crying and crying and crying.
So amazingly, probably because my mom was praying, for whatever reason, I start praying. And I pray probably . . . I don’t even know how much, maybe 50 minutes. I just finished my 50-minute prayer in my car and I realize something.
I was so busy making money, I was so busy with life, I forgot the last time I prayed 50 minutes. I don’t remember.
And I’m praying to the Lord God, “I don’t know where to turn.”
I’m not that familiar with the Bible still. And I grabbed the Bible, and the Bible was still a little bit dusty. I haven’t opened it enough. I said, “God, just give me one confirmation that you are with me.”
I opened the Bible, and it lands with Psalm 121. And it reads, “Lift your eyes to the mountain. Where does my help come from? It comes from above, the maker of heaven and earth.” And it just it was such a confirmation of His words and just confirmation that He is with me.
“Lift your eyes to the mountain. Where does my help come from? It comes from above, the maker of heaven and earth.” – Psalm 121
And you know what’s amazing about a confirmation of God’s words? Nothing’s changed, you know. I’m still broke. My situation did not change, not one bit. But there was something that I felt the first time in my life: a complete peace.
God Can Use Us to Multiply Blessings for Others
And of course, just because you have this joy, just because God gives you this amazing joy and peace, that doesn’t mean everything just gets solved, right? You know that. You know that your finances just don’t turn around in one day because you hit a lottery. Come on. You know that doesn’t happen. Well, it didn’t happen for me either.
“Just because you have this joy, just because God gives you this amazing joy and peace, that doesn’t mean everything just gets solved.” – Helena Cho
God says if you’re faithful with small things that he’s going to bless you with more things. I used to pray like this, “Please, Lord. Please, Father. Bless me with something a little, and I know you’re going to multiply that.”
When I was a rich girl, I made this bracelet. [It was] thirty-six inches long, like a string-looking thing, but it was nice. It was leather, and it was debossed with these 21 inspirational words like “faith,” “make a difference,” “sow love.” Like those kind of words. And so I made these bracelets, I made 2000 of them, and I gave out 1400. I had 600 that I just forgot to give out. They were packed in a garbage bag in a garage.
I’m praying on my knees, “Lord, please bless me with small things.” In a moment I saw the garbage bag In my garage. I’m thinking to myself, This can’t be it, God.
And so I took that garbage bag back into my prayer room, I got on my knees, and I said, “God, what do I do with this? You are not serious. I’m not going to be going door to door. I used to be executive of a big company. I used to run a big company. I’m not going to go door to door and sell a little dinky thing I used to give out for FREE. I mean, how do I make a living with this?”
And amazingly this little department store called Buckle popped up. I’ve never done business with them and never dealt with the buyers before. But I think, You know what? I’m going to be brave, and I’m going to make this call, and I’m just going to try to set up an appointment.
So I called the buyer, and by some amazing miraculous blessing of God, I connected with a GMM, Which is the highest person of all the buyers. I just prayed, “God, give me wisdom,” and this is what I said: “I have a miraculous product, a miraculous bracelet ,and you’re going to have to see this. So can I see you on a Wednesday or Thursday?”
Amazingly, she set up an appointment for me but because I said it was a miraculous product, she called in all her 12 buyers. So here I am with my little bracelet in my pocket and it’s 36 inches long, like a little leather thing. I pick up the bracelet and I say, “Here it is!” It is a little string dangling 36 inches like a shoelace or something.
[The buyers look at me like,] “What is that? This is ridiculous.”
And then I boldly state, “With your help, we’re going to help 10 families to move into their new home by the holidays.” And this is like the end of June or something like that.
And so they’re like, “We’re going to sell that piece, that string-looking thing, and we’re going to build 10 homes? Okay.” So they all thought it was ridiculous that I’m claiming this kind of thing.
But I’m trying so hard they said, “You know what? Why don’t we do a test order of 10 stores,” which is not a full test when they had about 450 stores or so at that time. You need at least thirty stores to be a full test.
Then I was waiting at the airport, and somebody called me from the Buckle—it was the GMM. And she said, “I changed my mind. I’m going to give you 50 stores to test,” which is a full test.
So I go in on Thursday, and by Sunday night, it’s sold out. By Tuesday morning, I get a full 450-store PO, and we become a number-one seller.
We become a number-one seller at Buckle, and it’s just a dream come true. And then I had a crown princess in Sweden that wore my bracelet. This is all the same time frame. And so the future queen of Sweden, she wears my bracelet, and we become a number-one seller in all Scandinavian countries. And by the end by the beginning of December, we build 10 homes in New Orleans for families that have lost everything through the Hurricane Katrina. And so that was a miracle that happened.
That’s how the whole company was birthed Good Work(s) Make a Difference. It came from two Bible verses: Matthew 5:16, “Let your light shine before others so they could see your good works and glorify Father in Heaven,” and Proverbs 19:17: “Be generous to the poor. You’ve lent to the Lord, and He’ll reward you for your good deeds.”
And so today I am able to do many things that God gives me opportunities to do. We support seminaries all over the world. I do 150,000 bags of groceries with Dream Center. With after-school students, [I support] them so that they can have amazing after school programs that they don’t have to pay for.
This year, we are building a school. We built a kindergarten school, and now we’re building it from first grade to eighth grade in Kenya. They’re learning about God every day and about Jesus Christ every day, and we’re hoping that these children will become the future leaders of Kenya with God’s words. And so we have projects like that we’re doing, and I’m so grateful for it.
We all have obstacles and hurdles in our life. We go through a financial crisis, and we go through a health crisis. God multiplied me much bigger than I ever imagined that I could ever do. So with God all things are possible.
Narrator: To learn how you can help support Good Work(s) Make a Difference, please visit goodworksmakeadifference.com.
Stay tuned for our conversation with radio host and author Susie Larson after a brief message about a free offer from Jesus Calling!
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Narrator: Our next guest is radio host and author Susie Larson. Through her radio show Live the Promise and now her new book Fully Alive, Susie speaks as a survivor of physical traumas to encourage women everywhere that they are loved, they are strong, and through Jesus they can overcome.
Everything I do comes out of the passion and the belief that God is who He says He is, and His promises are truly true for us. And yet He also says that, “In this world you will have trials, you will suffer, but be of good cheer. I’ve overcome the world.” And so my passion is to get with people who are walking through those long valleys of suffering to remind them not to lose hope.
“Everything I do comes out of the passion and the belief that God is who He says He is, and His promises are truly true for us.” – Susie Larson
A Lifetime Battle with Fear Begins
So I grew up in a large family, seven kids. It was a large Catholic family. My dad is the mayor of our local city, and we had a regular big family with a sock basket. Nobody had their own socks, we just grabbed two and went on with the day, you know, stuff like that.
Being the fifth of seven, I had great parents, but you get little bit lost in the shuffle at times.
I had two pretty traumatic experiences when I was about nine and then again 10 that really really marked my years after that.
At nine years old, some boys in the neighborhood pinned me down and put their hands all over me—I’m not going to say more than that, but it was a sexual assault.
And I was such a insecure, people pleasing girl that I got up from that place, and it opened a canyon of insecurity in me. I didn’t know if I’d done something to cause that, so I didn’t tell anybody. But I started to have nightmares, and it was traumatic, as you can imagine.
And then about 10 years old, I was walking home from school—and I am literally about four and a half feet tall, just a small thing—and I was jumped by a different group of boys. They beat me badly.
When I got up from that place and they were sort of done with me and they walked away laughing about what they just done, I heard a rail in my ear, just these words in my ear: “I can get to you anytime anywhere. God will never stop me.” And that’s when I knew the devil was real.
That thing got embedded into my soul in the deepest places.
Whenever something happened that was kind of traumatic, that thing would rise up in me again. “I can get to anytime anywhere. God will never stop me.” So to be honest with you, that shaped my thinking and really set me up for a major fear battle for a lot of my life.
I believe this with everything in me, that enemy sees your potential long before you ever do. And I think many people listening today, all they have to do is go back to their childhood and look at the first traumas they experienced. I feel like there’s something in there where the enemy saw something of God in you and wanted to take it up before you knew you had it. And he fights dirty, but overwhelming victory does belong to us.
Finding an Outlet to Help Others Can Help You, Too
I got married in my young 20s. We got pregnant right away, and through the pregnancy found out I had something called endometriosis. We were going to wait five years to have babies, but we got pregnant. It was really the grace of God because they said, “If you were to wait five years, you’d have no children because you will need a hysterectomy in your 20s at some point.” So they said, “You need to have your kids right away.” So we had number two and then number three.
During my third pregnancy, I was put on bedrest for six months. So I was three months along. I had a one-year-old and three-year-old, and had to go to bed for six months with different people taking care of these two boys of mine.
I’d been in bed few months, and the doctor said, “Hey, you can get up and test the waters now,” because I was getting depressed and I wanted to feel the sun on my face and I hadn’t contracted in a few days. So I met a couple girlfriends from college, and we went for a walk. It was a fall day and I was super careful, but by nighttime I was contracting. Back to bed I go.
Two weeks from that day out, a friend was visiting and she said, “Hey, can I get you your water?”
I said, “Sure,” and I point to where my bottle of water was—and pins and needles shot out my arm. And as she continued to talk with me, this numbing, crawling feeling started the base my skull and crawled over my head down to my face. And it started this trainwreck of neurological symptoms.
I delivered our son, and it took a year to find out that I had Lyme disease. I was bit by a deer tick my one day out with my friends. And again [I heard] the lie in my ear: “I can get to anytime anywhere. God will never stop me.”
And it was a major battle for me. I was very very sick for those first number of years as a young mom.
But I was a gymnast, I was an athlete. My one doctor told me to go to some support groups and that’s super helpful for some. But because I’ve dealt with so much fear, I thought, I can’t hear everybody else’s symptoms, it’ll scare me so bad. So I’m going to get certified as a fitness instructor instead.
I was in the fitness industry for about 15 years, and I trained other instructors in different things. Once I stepped away from that in 2000, I self-published my first book, and then I started to write articles and got another book or two published.
I was in studio doing an interview on one of my books. And live radio, when you’re in studio, you’ll see all that the host does because she’s behind the mic talking to you, but she’s cueing the producer, watching emails. There’s so many facets to a live show that you do to keep going. In fitness, when you’re executing a class, you’re doing one move and executing and cueing the next move. There’s a lot that goes onto that as well. My brain works that way.
So I’m watching this host cue the producer, checking email while she’s talking to me, and my heart start to do a pitter-patter.
I’m a total introvert too, and I love deeper life conversations. I mean, if I were to be at a party, which is torture for me, I would be in the corner with one person asking the deeper questions about their story, going deep with one versus shallow with twenty.
I just came away from that and said, “Lord, I don’t know what has happened in me. But if this is from you, grow this desire in me.” And every time I was in a studio interviewing, it did. It grew on me. So then I said, “Lord, you have to take this desire and open the door because I feel like I am made for this.”
At my local station, this is 13 years ago, I was walking out after an in-studio interview and the producer chased me out and she said, “You seem like a natural behind the mic. Would you ever be interested in it?”
“Yes! Whatever you wrote to ask me, yes!” And they asked if I would be their backup, their bench host, and I did that for four years. Every single time I would come in and step in and guest host, my heart would beat so hard for it that I when I would walk away, I was like, “Lord, either you have to take this desire away from me, or you have to give me my own show. I’m made for the interview.”
Long story short, after four years, they opened the door and said, “Let’s try a show.” And I already had the name, Live the Promise.
I’m so honored and grateful that God would do that.
Learning How to Battle Trauma
I don’t know if you know this, but three years ago, I suffered a massive health relapse that was so disappointing to me. I could not believe I was going around the mountain again, and this is where the book Fully Alive came out of.
But guess what lie came back up?
I was in the bathroom, having a massive neurological flare up my arms and my face is numb. I couldn’t swallow. Bone crushing headaches. Severe dizziness.
And I hear the little whisper my heart: “The storms reveal the lies we believe and the truth we need.” I’m like, what?
“The storms reveal the lies we believe and the truth we need.” – Susie Larson
I went through Jesus Calling over and over again. I got Jesus Today, and I didn’t know until I got Jesus Today—and I think it’s in the introduction—I gasped when I read it because I always tell my husband, “This woman has suffered. I know she has suffered,” because I would be crawling through my own valleys hanging on to some of the things that she’s written. So I can’t even tell you of what it means to me. When you’re a sufferer, to hear from someone who’s suffered is just a great, great gift.
But I’ll tell you like one of the strategies when I was begging God to help me get through this last battle. He gave me three point kind of strategy. He says, “You rest while I work. You feast while I fight. You wait to take flight.”
This is day number 33 on Jesus Today. This is for somebody today. And maybe you need to remember just those three strategies that will help you when you’re striving, “You rest while He works. You feast while He fights, and then you wait to take flight.” Listen to this:
“I will fight for you; you need only be still. I know how weary you are, My child. You have been struggling just to keep your head above water, and your strength is running low. Now is the time for you to stop striving and let Me fight for you. I know this is not easy for you to do. You feel as if you must keep struggling in order to survive, but I am calling you to rest in Me. I am working on your behalf; so be still, and know that I am God
Quieting your body is somewhat challenging for you, but stilling your mind may often seem downright impossible. In your striving to feel secure, you have relied too heavily on your own thinking. This struggle to be in control has elevated your mind to a position of autonomy. So you need to intervention of the Holy Spirit. Ask Him to control your mind more and more—soothing you from the inside out. Take time to rest in the shadow of the Almighty while I fight for you.”
Is that perfect or what?
“Lord, what are the lies that I believe?” And I hear the enemy rail in my ear from childhood, “I can get to anytime anywhere and God will never stop me.” And the Lord came back so strong: “This is a lie. It is not true. He cannot get to you anytime anywhere. You have no idea what I’ve prevented in your life. You can’t fathom how I’ve provided in your life, but this thing’s been nipping at your heels your whole life.”
I really thought this relapse was going to be the one to take me out because I had a core belief that he could really get to me, that I would have to endure everything that I feared. And when the Lord just said, “We don’t outrun lies. We turn around and face them. Yes, it feels like he has you by the throat, but you will have him under to your feet. I’m not gonna let you lose, but I have to let you fight,” that began a D-Day battle for me with fear. That lie was so much that was in my soul that was even affecting my health.
So this last three-year journey has been miraculous to me because there was stuff in my soul that needed to surface so God could fully restore my soul. And if you don’t contend for the stuff and deal with what’s in your soul, it will affect your cells. It’ll affect you physiologically. So that’s where my passion really is, to say we’re so connected. We’ve got to look at this and trust that Jesus wants to lead us to a place of rest and restoration.
My book has only been out a few months, but hearing from people who are saying, “I did not know what I was in for before I got this book,” but to go with God to some of these places and revisit trauma that was still infecting their soul and let God heal them . . . they feel like God is taking up more real estate and the enemy has less now in their soul.
But when you can, slow down long enough to give yourself some credit, [to just say,] “That hurt!” and let God speak to you about it. You know Psalm 51:6 says, “Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.” Well, when there’s not a truth and that in most being around a memory there’s a lie, you don’t have wisdom you have brokenness. You have reaction you have triggers. But when truth gets in there, suddenly you have credibility. You can speak from that place. You can minister to others out of your trauma.
He wants to get truth to that place. And I’m just hearing stories of people who weren’t even expecting to revisit something and at first were afraid to. But the grace of God was just so there for them, and suddenly they can breathe and they feel like they’re healing and they’re not afraid of that past memory anymore. I’m just so grateful for that.
Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we speak with author and speaker Dr. Jim Burns. Jim is the president of Homeword, the largest provider of parenting seminars in the United States. He’s recently written an insightful book called Doing Life with Your Adult Children.
Dr. Jim Burns: Parents who have adult children are having to kind of relearn how you parent and that their children are adults themselves and are going through what I call kind of a “parallel track.” That parallel tracks simply means that it’s the first time for the adult child to figure out how to relate. It’s also the first time for the parent.
So there were certain rights and privileges we had obviously as a parent, but at the same time we really had to learn that we had a new job description, and that our role as a parent had to change.