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Confessions of faith: Linda Sherman

After many years, a woman finds true happiness, hope, and peace in God’s Word.

Linda Sherman says she has been searching for something her entire life. She didn’t find it in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Episcopal church, or Buddhism. But when she attended Trinity, Temple, Texas, she learned that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life—and she knew she had finally found what she was looking for.

Linda was raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormon church. Shortly after graduating high school, she started dating a man who was also Mormon. They got married and had three children. A few years into the marriage, however, Linda started questioning some of the Mormon practices and beliefs. That’s when things started to fall apart.

“I went along with it for a long time, but I didn’t like it and I never wanted to go to church,” she says. “The Mormon church is very controlling, and I felt very trapped. I tried to get out of it, so they ‘disfellowshipped’ me. Then I got a subpoena, commanding me to appear in the bishop’s court and stand trial. I would not do it, so they excommunicated me.”

Linda says the excommunication was bad, but the aftermath was worse. She got divorced, and her husband took their children; she didn’t see them for many years. “After that, I didn’t go to any church for a really, really long time,” Linda says.

Linda eventually moved to Maine and met a man who was Episcopalian. They got married, and she started going to church with him. But she says she never really felt connected to the church or to God’s Word. “I felt like I was on my own,” Linda remembers. “Even when I started serving in the church, nobody asked me my beliefs. Nobody really talked about religion.” During this time, she says she didn’t read or study the Bible. “To be honest, I really had no idea that the whole Bible was about Jesus,” she says. “I thought it was some history here, a few events there, and a little bit of Jesus tossed in.”

Linda started questioning some of the Episcopalian beliefs and ended up leaving the church. Many years passed, and Linda was still without a church home. That’s when a friend introduced her to Buddhism. That belief system was different from everything else Linda had encountered. Followers of Buddhism don’t acknowledge a god or deity; instead, they focus on achieving enlightenment—a state of inner peace and wisdom.

“They believe that you get to a point of nirvana, a state of perfect nothingness,” says Linda. “I thought, You cannot go wrong with that.” For the next 22 years, she did the daily chanting and recitations, attended monthly meetings, and even went on pilgrimages to visit a Japanese temple at the foot of Mount Fuji.

But over time, Buddhism lost its luster. “I still had my Buddhist altar in my home, but I stopped practicing,” Linda remembers. “I was spiritually drifting for some time, questioning if I had a real purpose in life. I felt empty and alone.”

Confessions of Faith May 2024
(Left) Linda Sherman was baptized and confirmed at Trinity, Temple, Texas, in June 2023. (Right) Linda Sherman and Steve Karkanen. When Steve and Linda became neighbors in an apartment complex, Steve talked about his faith with Linda and then continued to share the gospel with her. (Inset) Linda reading from the study Bible Steve gifted her.

A few more years passed, and Linda ended up in Texas. One day she met a new neighbor, Steve Karkanen, who was moving into her apartment complex. He asked her if she read the Bible. That encounter ended up making a big impact on her life (see “A bold witness,” below).

“At that point, I was living day to day, thinking, What is it really all about?” remembers Linda. That feeling intensified when she had major heart surgery. “I wondered why I was still here,” she says. “Buddhism wasn’t giving me the answers; in fact, I felt more and more spiritually isolated.” So when Steve, a member at Trinity, invited her to church, Linda asked herself: Could Christianity be what my heart had been seeking all along?

She attended a service, and then she kept going back week after week. “I love that WELS centers around Jesus Christ, what he taught, and what’s in the Bible,” Linda says. Soon she was taking Bible information classes with Benjamin Ehlers, who was serving Trinity at the time.

“Pastor Ehlers spent many hours helping me learn and wrestle with my place in this new faith,” she says. “I learned that contrary to the philosophy ‘there are many paths to the same mountaintop,’ there is only one way to receive the gift of salvation and eternal life. That’s through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. I also learned that throughout the Bible, it teaches about Jesus’ love and great sacrifice. Whoever truly follows him will never be alone and will always have hope and life everlasting.”

Now Linda says she has true happiness and is living for the glory of God. She attends Bible study, reads her Bible every day, and tries to share God’s love with the people in her life.

“I love the gospel, and I love Jesus!” she says. “I still cry every time the crucifixion is mentioned because I know that I don’t deserve any of it. But it’s not about me. It’s about Christ taking our sins away when we don’t deserve it in the least.”

Author: Alicia Neumann
Volume 111, Number 05
Issue: May 2024

A bold witness

Linda Sherman still remembers the day she met Steve Karkanen. During their first conversation, Steve talked about Christianity and asked her if she read the Bible. When Linda answered no, he told her that she should start.

bible gift inscription
When Steve gave Linda a study Bible, he included the following inscription: “Linda, read this Bible every day. The true Word of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Share its teachings with someone every day and be at peace.” Linda became a member at Trinity, Temple, Texas. She and Steve continue to encourage each other in the faith.

There was something about his direct, matter-of-fact approach that intrigued her. “I’ve had a lot of people share their faith with me, especially after I moved to Texas,” says Linda. “I wouldn’t listen to anybody, but for some reason, I listened to Steve.”

As they got to know each other, Steve continued to share his faith boldly. He even brought his Bible over and read to Linda. “I listened day after day and hour after hour,” she says. “One day he read to me for three hours, until his voice ran out.”

Linda says there was something poetic about the way Steve explained things; it really spoke to her heart. “He talked about the firmament, its beauty and order, and how no mere man could bring all things and all life into being. He talked of God’s mighty and wonderful power,” she says. “He poured water through my cupped hands, and as it ran out, he told me that’s all the time we have on earth; it’s over in the twinkling of an eye. He said to enjoy salvation before we leave this earth, we must know and confess that Jesus is the Christ.”

Linda agreed to go to church with Steve and was eventually baptized and confirmed. Seeing her journey of faith made a lasting impression on Steve. “I saw her turning toward Christ, so I invited her to my church, and she never stopped attending,” he says. “It felt great; it was the first time I had experienced that.”

The two remain friends, often texting each other passages from Scripture and encouraging each other. “He sends me messages a few times a week, asking if I talked to anyone about Jesus today,” Linda says.

Steve says encouraging others is just part of being a Christian. “It’s what God tells us to do in the Bible,” he says. Steve tries to share God’s Word with anyone who will listen, whether it’s a coworker or someone fixing his internet. His motivation comes from the significant challenges he’s faced in his life: loss of family members, failed marriages, drug addiction, and alcoholism.

“I didn’t care about living or dying for many, many years. I was a mess,” Steve says. “But I climbed out of that very dark hole, and I did it with the Spirit of God. So when I can, I spend time trying to tell people about God. I don’t want to see anyone else be a mess.”

Not everyone has been receptive, but Steve hopes that some of the people he’s talked to will get to know God better. “They don’t know what they’re missing by not following Christ, praying, reading Scripture every day,” he says. “I don’t want them to be without Christ.”

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