If you know Katie Gurzi, you know her as a vibrant woman who trusts God completely. This trust has grown in the 66 years that she has been a Christian, but she’ll be the first to admit that there is a huge difference between where she was before knowing Christ and where she is now.
In 1950, at 20 years old, Katie was struggling to find meaning and hope in her life. She was empty, but couldn’t figure out why. She constantly thought, “If this is life, I don’t really want to continue in it.” It wasn’t until her neighbor invited her to go to church with him on Easter Sunday that she heard about the redemption that the gospel offers.
She arrived late to the Easter sunday service, just as the choir sang, “There’s a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole, there’s a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul.” Listening to that song she thought, “Maybe that’s my problem.Maybe I’m a sinner.”
During the sermon, the pastor said, “John 3:16 says ‘For God so loved the world that He sent his only son’ but you should put your name in there.”
So Katie told herself, “For God so loved Katie, that He sent his only son.” For the first time she realized that putting her faith in God would give her hope she couldn’t get anywhere else. She talked with the pastor who shared the Roman’s Road process with her and she accepted Christ.
Katie quickly began to absorb everything she could about the Bible. Two weeks later she heard a missionary speak about the work he was doing. As she listened to him, she remembered a verse in 2 Corinthians, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” This verse was God’s way of telling Katie that she needed to go to Africa.
After being trained at the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, she left for Zululand South Africa in December 1956. She served overseas for 35 years and officially retired in 2010 at the age of 80. However, she still goes back every year for four months to share God’s hope with women suffering from HIV and AIDs.
Sometimes people wonder why she goes back, and she always shares a story about when she was working in a government hospital packed with 50 sick, bedridden women:.
“I remember so well a woman who had AIDs. She couldn’t speak because of the tumors that had invaded her body and mouth because of the Sarcoma. I asked if I could talk to her. She nodded, so I took her hand and shared the Roman’s Road. I prayed with her and when I was done, I said she could squeeze my hand if she accepted Christ. She squeezed as tightly as her strength would allow. I told her I would see her in the morning, but when I got back the next day a nurse told me she had already passed away.”
When Katie heard this, she walked out of the room and cried. She’s shed a lot more tears since that day in Zululand, but she returns because, “When you see women giving their lives to God in their dying moments, that spurs you on to continue.”
Her faith has only grown in these years, but not without moments of intense trials.
In 2014, she had only been back in Zululand for a few weeks when her hip gave out. She had already had two hip replacements while in the U.S. and no one could help her while she was away.
Her pain was excruciating and she couldn’t continue to do the work she came to do. Katie asked God, “Did you just send me here to fail?”
She asked people back home to pray for her hip. That night she went to bed, and the next morning her hip was fully healed. For Katie this healing affirmed that, “He called me back to Africa and it’s his responsibility to keep me strong.”
A lot of us have had moments when we’ve thought about talking to someone about Jesus or invited them out to church, but we didn’t because we weren’t sure how to tell them about it without sounding abrupt.
But Katie’s story is exciting because it reminds us that the gospel is an announcement of good news because it brings hope. The people we talk to may be feeling the same way Katie felt when she was younger- that this world is hard and disappointing, and there isn’t much reason to exist-and they will welcome you interrupting their day to share that there is a God who cares for their well being, and will walk with them in everything.
Maybe we don’t need to go to travel to Africa, but we do need to walk across the street and talk to our neighbor. It still might seem odd to bring up religion, and whenever we’re worried about sharing our faith, we can remember the truth in Katie’s words.
“I’ve been walking by His grace for sixty-five years and He’s never failed me…He’s a God who cares and a God of love. He’s never promised that it would be an easy road, but He has promised His presence with us.”
Written by: Robert Heckert