This post is part of a series of three that highlight stories of some women of Westside leading up to our 2019 Women’s Retreat called Warrior.
It’s a warm summer afternoon in Vancouver as I pull two leather chairs up to an empty cafe table. I say a quick prayer as I look out the large windows, past the sparkling green trees, waiting for Natalia’s arrival. We’ve never met before, but I sense that God will enliven our conversation to reveal the story of His work in her life.
I was right. Despite Vancouver being long-touted as Canada’s loneliest city, God has an extraordinary way of connecting perfect strangers who are united in common purpose and desire. No sooner had Natalia taken a seat than she began to passionately share her journey of coming to know God, and the difference it’s made in her life. This is her story.
EARLY LIFE IN BRAZIL
Natalia grew up in Brazil. Her father became a Christian in his teenage years, and her mother came to know Christ after having a bible study held at her house. It was at church where they met and were married.
As a young child, Natalia and her family attended church together. “For a time, we ended up in a small, unhealthy, Neo-pentecostal church. We were a big family, and it was a challenging time for us. Despite this, God began a big work in my family’s life by calling my dad to learn more about the Word.”
Natalia’s father began actively pursuing education to learn more about God; so much so that he completed a theology program. By the time Natalia was fifteen, he was a pastor in their community. “His pursuit of the knowledge of God impressed on me the importance of understanding the truth about what the Bible says. But this didn’t happen right away for me.”
Despite her upbringing, Natalia struggled to understand who God was in her own life, and often wondered, What does God intend for me? How should I live in response?
“I got to a place where I was questioning everything about life and God. I became a very anxious person. My feelings would easily fluctuate based on what was happening around me. And for a long time, I didn’t see much value in studying the Word.”
This attitude changed as Natalia grew older and experienced some drastic life changes—like leaving the familiarity of her home country behind, and moving to Canada.
NEW COMMUNITY, FRESH REVELATION
Natalia’s move to Canada altered both her worldview and her relationship with God.
“Coming to Canada, my husband and I were on our own. With no family nearby we had to learn to trust God more and rely on Him for provision and guidance.” Finding community at Westside helped them to grow deeper in God, and each other. “Church played a really important role in helping us build our first community in Canada. Through Westside we’ve met amazing people who want to share their lives with us and experience more of God together.”
The exposition of the Word through Sunday sermons, studying Scripture in a Women’s Bible Study and studying on her own, as well as being a part of a Community Group revealed a lot to Natalia about who God truly is—His sovereignty over her life, and how to trust Him in all circumstances.
“Since studying more of the Bible, my perspective towards life has changed. I’ve realized that I used to fit God into my own mould of who I thought He should be. Now I understand that life is never about myself. Everything we do is always about Him. Through prayer and studying His word, you’ll understand that all you need is more of Him.”
For those looking to build a stronger foundation of faith, Natalia urges people to spend more time in the Word. “If all you do is think about your own desires, it’s very easy to get off track,” she says. “You also don’t really need to hear everyone else’s opinions. Focus on what God says first, and be sure you’re not adapting your own worldview to what the Bible says.”
To Natalia, being a warrior means understanding that there is no strength without God—and understanding that He is the one who enables us to be victorious in each battle, big or small. “We must fully submit to God before we can be effective. Our response to life’s battles will either reflect our sinful nature, or our total submission to God,” she shares.
Natalia has seen this truth work in every aspect of her life, including her marriage. “Every day as a married couple, you practice submitting to one another. Sometimes we struggle, sometimes we get it right. But we can’t do it on our own strength.”
Pursuing God as a couple has meant spending time praying together, talking openly about God, and listening to how He’s speaking to their family. Most recently, this has lead to a new test of obedience: the call to move across Canada to plant a church.
Natalia and her husband will be heading to Winnipeg along with a handful of other Westsiders to support a new church plant in 2020. But the decision didn’t come lightly. In fact, Natalia recalls poking fun at the idea, at first.
“Our friends told us they considering going, and we all joked about how funny it would be if we ended up in Winnipeg together, like that would ever happen! But then we both started to think about it. As my husband was getting ready for work one morning, he was walking around the house singing a song called ‘We Look To You’ from church with the lyrics: “Deliver us from evil, Lord. We sojourn in a broken world. Though evil hands give rise to war, remind us this is not our home. We look to You, we look to You, sovereign King of all the earth.” The next thing I knew, he had turned to me and said, full of emotion, "I think we should go to Winnipeg. God just made me realize that our home is not here in this world. We live here for his Glory!"
Natalia took a few days to think and pray about the move before she, too, realized it was something God was calling them to do. “In Matthew 28:19, it says we are all commanded to go and preach the gospel. Through this opportunity to plant a church on the other side of the country, God is teaching me more about the importance of listening and doing.”
Natalia’s reminder about what it takes to be a warrior for Christ is key: it requires full submission. “When you have struggles, it’s not an excuse to not do what needs to be done. Even when it’s hard, we are called to love each other, help others, and share the gospel.”
Her words make it hard not to think of 2 Corinthians 12:9 — His power is made perfect in weakness. As we face daily battles, it helps to be reminded that even when we feel the least capable, that’s often when—in Christ—we are the strongest.
Elise spends her days telling stories as a writer and marketer, who sometimes takes photos. She also serves at Westside on the Storytelling & Visual Arts Team. When not lost in a good book or behind her piano, she can be found exploring Vancouver on foot to find the best tacos in town.