By Kimberly Grace Bowman
“But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus Christ—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.” (Acts 21:24).
As Americans, we take for granted many of the blessings God has given us. Modern life has attempted to steal gratitude from our hearts. And at the end of the day, are we really making a difference in this world for Christ?
For Natalie Brown Stephens of Magee, Mississippi, her path to the mission field was not a certain one. In fact, she went to college, and while there, she began praying and truly seeking the Lord as to what He would want her to do with her life. Meanwhile, she was quite successful at what she was striving towards in college. But all throughout her senior year, she felt an emptiness and a longing in her heart that there had to be something more, something beyond success, something that was truly the path that God wanted her to take in life—something that was her purpose on this earth.
While in prayer, she researched mission trips. Nearly immediately after her college graduation, Natalie took her first trip to the Philippines with the Bob Tebow Evangelistic Association. But three weeks turned into months as she returned and served in his orphanage. During this time, the Lord showed Natalie that this was his ultimate call on her life. This was what He made her for.
Returning to the United States after those three months, Natalie entered a season of uncertainty. A season that had her wondering, “What do I do now? America is wonderful. We have everything.” But her heart belonged in the Philippines. Then she was encouraged by someone who said, “It doesn’t matter where you go or what you do, as long as you do it and take the name of Jesus with you.”
At that moment she knew that God was telling her that it was time to make a decision. She could pursue seminary and return to the mission field, or she could get a job in America and be successful at that also. In her heart, she knew God would be pleased with either direction she chose.
Moving to Dallas, Texas, Natalie pursued seminary. And even as she pursued this direction for her life, God was also able to use the other path as she served with Prestonwood Baptist Church in Texas. During this time, Natalie would learn, grow, and prepare for the season ahead of her.
In May of 2012, on a trip to the Philippines that Natalie assumed was just an opportunity for her to take her family to see the country that she was very passionate about, God opened “the big door” for her entrance to the work she longed to accomplish there.
It was at this point that God connected her with Jeff Long, an IMB (International Mission Board) missionary to the Philippines who founded Kids International Ministries (www.kidsim.org).
During their conversation, she discovered that Jeff Long was seeking to begin a branch of his ministry for street kids on the very Filipino island and the exact ministry avenue that was on Natalie’s heart—Mindanao and the precious street kids of the islands. Her heart was filled with joy. This seemed so good to be true! Was this the Lord’s leading?
After a time of prayer and confirmation, Natalie officially moved to the Philippines in January 2013, and spent the next seven months learning the necessary languages. And after those months, she moved to Cagayan De Oro, Philippines, on the island on Mindanao to begin a center and ministry for street kids there.
In my recent interview with Natalie, she explained that the children they serve come from every kind of life. Although not all are orphans, some may come from abusive families or families who are unable to fulfill all their needs.
Some may be decently taken care of but desire freedom and therefore run away from home. Others are victims of poverty due to the typhoons of the recent years. These situations drive the young people to live on the streets, beg for daily income, and live in a terribly unsafe atmosphere.
Natalie’s ministry in Cagayan De Oro brings 16 children into their center each day and provides food, hygiene care, and education. Each evening, they gather with these children plus many more for night ministry where the Gospel is presented.
But they are trusting that God will provide the funds and staff so that land can be purchased and a permanent home can be built and established in order to give the street kids an inviting place to live and call home.
The life we all live in America is wonderful. It is a blessing from God. But let us never forget the true purposes God has placed on each one of our lives. There lies a higher purpose than day-to-day living. Seek God today and allow him to show you just where you belong on this earth. It may not be a Third World country. But it will be exactly where God needs you in his Kingdom.
To learn more about Natalie’s ministry Kahayag nga Dalan (“Streetlight”) and her life calling to help the children of the Philippines, visit her website at www.nataliebrownstephens.com.
Kids International Ministries and Natalie’s branch of the ministry is openly welcome to receiving school, medical, and clothing supplies. Mission trip opportunities are also readily available for those who are interested. Those who are interested in any of these wonderful endeavors for the Kingdom of God can email Natalie directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.