Natalie Simpkin may be an officer’s kid, but she is a child of the world by calling. A widely-travelled social justice advocate and professionally trained youth worker, Natalie undeniably wears her heart on her sleeve. But those sleeves are always rolled up!
Someone punched Dad at church when I was a four years old. Not surprisingly, I’ve always struggled with ‘church’. But not with Jesus. I made a firm decision to follow him at a ‘crusade’ as a child. I’m an Aussie officer’s kid, and we moved around in my first few years. However, at 18 I knew what I was experiencing in church was lacking somehow—there had to be more. I was studying psychology at university and working part-time, when I attended a Salvation Army ‘Take Time to be Holy’ conference. It was here that I first heard about Sydney-based Praxis.
The next few years were life-changing for me. Not only was I having my mind blown learning about youth development through Praxis, but I had the privilege of interning at The Salvation Army Auburn Corps in Sydney. This was church, but not as I’d known it! It was insanely multi-cultural with 90 different ethnicities represented. I had heard social justice preached, but never really seen it in action. Auburn Corps was a busy, chaotic, mission-focused, seven-day-a-week community hub. I was utterly enamoured! This was an incredibly formative season for me.
After completing my studies, I travelled to India, Nepal and South East Asia. The people were materially poor, yet incredibly rich in other ways. When I returned home I was overwhelmed by the juxtoposition between what I had just experienced and the lavishness all around me. I was deeply conflicted and a calling to do more stirred within me. So I applied for a job in Mexico.
Six weeks later, I arrived in Tapachula, on the Guatemalan border. My new home had a population of 10,000 that doubled when migrant caravans arrived en route to the US border. Smuggling of drugs, arms and women were all part of the day-to-day reality of life there. My job was managing a youth transition programme for six girls from a local orphanage who had come of age and were preparing to live independently. The work was rewarding but challenging, and I experienced burn-out after contracting salmonella, nine months into my 12 month contract.
I trained my replacement and then travelled around Mexico for a while recovering and reflecting. It was during this time Mum spotted an advertisement for a youth worker position with the Army in Auckland. The phrase ‘multi-cultural community’ piqued my curiosity. I prayed and thought, ‘God if you want me there, I’m willing to go but you better be sure about what you’re doing!’
I arrived in September last year and here I am! I’m confident God has called me to help the generations work together here at Auckland City Corps so that we can be really effective in our local multi-cultural community of Mt Wellington. ‘For such a time as this’ keeps playing on repeat in my spirit. So, like Esther, I will keep trusting and praying, positioning myself for whatever God requires of me.
(c) by Natalie Simpkin - 'War Cry' magazine, 9 March 2019 p11. You can read 'War Cry' at your nearest Salvation Army chur h or centre, or subscribe through Salvationist Resources.