This is the fourth interview in a series entitled An ‘Entrusted’ Life. This series serves to introduce you to Christians who display faithful stewardship amid an entitlement culture (Our first three interviews featured authors Jaquelle Crowe and Claudine Broussard and talented musicians Jonathan and Emily Martin). For our fourth interview, we welcome Natalie PunKay. Natalie PunKay serves as the Youth Services Coordinator at Hope Ministries in South Bend, Indiana. She is a certified teacher who serves at a homeless shelter to help school-aged children (grades K-12) and their parents succeed at Hope Ministries and in their educations by offering daily tutoring programs, providing educational and therapeutic resources, and serving as an advocate for each student at his or her school.
Natalie, first and foremost, thank you for your willingness to participate in this interview. Would you begin by sharing your testimony of how you came to saving faith in Jesus Christ?
Natalie: I grew up in Southern California and regularly served in an impoverished community in Tijuana, Mexico with my family (practically my entire life). Before giving my life to the Lord, I could feel the hurt that those living in poverty faced. I deeply desired to help them. At the time, I felt that giving them food, clothes, shelter, etc. was the only way to help, so through partnering with my church, those were things we helped to provide. But, I knew, even from a young age, that it wasn’t solving the issue. Therefore, I kept searching for the answer. I eventually learned of the hope found in Christ. The Creator of the universe offered an ETERNAL life away from hunger, hurt, and sadness. This was something I wanted to offer others. This was something that I needed, myself. And from that day, I decided to spread this hope to the world. My heart to serve the poor was not because of my relationship with the Lord; however, my heart to serve the poor is what brought me to a relationship with the Lord.
As Christians, God gives each of us gifts and passions to use for His glory and in service to others. What particular gifts and passions has God entrusted to you?
Natalie: God has given me a passion to serve those living in poverty. He has equipped me with the gift of teaching and a heart that deeply desires to spread the love, joy, and hope found only through a relationship with Jesus Christ. It is my calling to use education to combat poverty at its root—through working with children in my community and across the globe to face any obstacles that may prevent them from living life to the fullest.
One of your favorite Bible verses is Psalm 143:8, “Show me the way I should go [oh Lord] for to you entrust my life.” How does understanding God as the One who has entrusted you with these gifts and passions impact the way you use these gifts and passions?
Natalie: This is a verse that I recite to myself throughout the day—every single day—because, if I’m honest, I feel that I often simply don’t know the way I should go. Yes, I feel that the Lord has given me gifts that allow me to serve effectively. However, I still come across situations where I have NO CLUE how to respond, and I have to simply entrust myself to the Lord and say, “show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.” It is in these times where I see the Lord work in the most miraculous of ways!
Recently, the Lord provided you with the opportunity to use your gifts and passions at Hope Ministries—South Bend, IN. Please share about Hope Ministries and your current role there.
Natalie: The Lord threw the opportunity at me (yes, ‘threw’—it was in no way my plan) back in February to coordinate an after-school tutoring program at Hope Ministries. Since then, I have grown in my relationship with the various residents and staff members at Hope, and I have had the opportunity to create additional programs for the children. Recently, I was offered a full-time position at Hope as the Youth Services Coordinator so that I’d be able to expand these programs, as well as directly connect with each school-aged child’s teachers, counselors, and principals to best support the academic and behavioral needs of every child. I can now serve as an advocate for my students and their parents in the school system so that they each feel that they have a voice and a loving support system.
Natalie, if someone would like to support and serve you and Hope Ministries, in what ways can they get involved and how can they contact you for more information?
Natalie: Our primary need at Hope Ministries is volunteers. I’d encourage you, even if you do not live in the South Bend area, to get involved in some form of service opportunity in your own community, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve…” (Mark 10:45). Whether serving at homeless shelters, in community events, at churches, at literacy centers, etc., there are so many ways that you can serve! Yes, it’ll be a sacrifice, but it’s what we are CALLED to do, and it opens up opportunities to spread the love, joy, and hope found in Christ to the world.
If you live close enough to South Bend to serve at Hope Ministries, we’d LOVE to have you come tutor for even just an hour a week and watch growth occur in the lives of the children you serve (because I GUARANTEE you that you’ll see growth with your own eyes). Send me an email for details.
Prayer is also greatly needed. If you’d like to be a ‘prayer buddy’ and pray for a specific child, email me, and I’ll send you a name and specific prayer updates about one of our children. Otherwise, please keep Hope Ministries and our children in your daily prayers, that each child will find the lasting hope found only through Christ and allow that to guide his or her life.
You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information! Thank you!