Should I move there? How we met.

Natalia. Living in NYC, my life was fast, exciting but empty. I had just finished school and wanted to do something meaningful. One day, I was asked by the Emmanuel Community, a Catholic Community I was part of, if I would serve for one year at one of their FIDESCO missions. It was the answer to my prayers! I could work in my field of study (international development) serving the immigrant community, but I could do it in a community that would help me come closer to God. Little did I expect that the fist Sunday of my arrival I would meet my future spouse.
John. It was Pentecost Sunday and I was ready see what the Holy Spirit had in store for me! I had no idea that he was about to change my life forever! I was not a member of the Emmanuel community, but I was a volunteer at the John Paul II center (a local mission supported by Fidesco with ties to the community). After Mass, I stopped to greet to my friend Pablo who was speaking with some young adults I didn’t recognize. We all went out to lunch, and that’s when I learned that Natalia was going to be a new missionary at the center.

Natalia. Moving from NYC, this small town in the South was a shock. The city was very small and there was not much to do. I found out on my first Sunday, that there was only ONE Catholic Church in the entire city. After Mass, Pablo, the president of the mission, introduced me to the “Catholic Young Adults” of the town. There was like 5! LOL. That is when I met John. John was a short and skinny single, so I was not very interested in him.

Who is this person? When that person sparks curiosity

John The next time I saw Natalia was at Eucharistic adoration where she was praying. All of a sudden, I saw something that I hadn’t seen before; I wanted to know more about her. As days went on, I saw Natalia a few times at the JPII Mission. I tried to join in the conversations that she was involved in, but she wasn’t as interested in me.
Natalia As months went by, I continued to meet John at various events of the mission. Like I said before, I never really cared for him, but Zach, his son, was adorable! I could not stop hanging out with him. Getting to know Zach, I began to discover John. Why was he a single dad? What was the whole story? Of course my curious self had to know everything!!!

Is it a date? When one day can change everything

John I had an extra ticket to a concert in Atlanta, so I decided I would ask her if she was interested in going. I didn’t expect her to say yes, I mean she really didn’t know me and I wasn’t sure if she would think it was a date. To my pleasant surprise, she agreed to go! The day of the concert we really got a chance to get to know each other, we got deeper in our conversations and we began to find out who the other person really was.
Natalia John invited me to a concert in Atlanta! HURRAY!! I get to leave this boring town and do something fun for once! Being a missionary was hard. I was alone and bored all the time. I left NYC because I was alone, but at least there I could find distractions to escape my loneliness. Here, the loneliness caused me pain. There was nothing for me to escape it. I had no car to drive me anywhere. I stayed alone day, after day. When John asked me to Atlanta, I didn’t agree because I cared about him, I just wanted to STOP BEING ALONE and to do something fun for once! That day, I got to ask all my curious question and began to discovered the kind of man he was. Wow, he was amazing!! Maybe one day John can tell you his story, but it was the most beautiful story I had ever heard. A lost young man who was truly pursued by God… and wow the marvels God had made!

Are our emotions real? Discerning a relationship

Natalia That summer, we continued to hang out. I was becoming interested in him… but was I REALLY??? There were many questions that I had to ask myself as I discerned if my feelings where true or not: am I interested in him because I am a missionary all alone, no money, no friends, no car, new to this town, craving for attention and fun… is he an escape from the work God is asking me to do here? Am I using him to avoid being alone and bored? Oh lawrd. I am a missionary, I don’t think I’m even supposed to date!!!!!!! Check, nope, I’m not. But why do I feel this way!??!?!?! I can’t stop thinking about him, I need to see him and talk to him everyday!!

The JPII Center team at the march for life

John Natalia wasn’t here to find a boyfriend; she was here to serve in a mission and I didn’t want to be the one to ruin that. I could tell that our feelings were having impact on our lives. I wanted to pursue these feelings, but I feared pulling her focus away from her mission. After a lot of prayer and discussion, we decided that we would try staying away from each other for two weeks so that she could focus on her mission and we could discern our feelings. After about a week, she was already trying to cheat! I wanted to cheat too, but I knew that I had to be strong in my conviction because if we began compromising on the small things then we would never get through the big challenges that would lie ahead if we decided to pursue a relationship.
Natalia My companion (kindda like spiritual director in the Emmanuel Community) suggested that I stopped talking to John so I would face my loneliness. If I did not like him, I would forget and be able to continue my mission. If my feelings for him where real- not an escape mechanism- I would miss him. I told John of this plan, and he agreed to stop speaking to me. After a week, I was dying and I told him I was ready to speak to him again and that I knew my feelings for him where true. He refused to talk to me!! So we continued our “fast” from each other… day after day my heart was burning for him. This is when I discovered that not only where my feelings for him real (not an escape), but in fact that I was in love with him! WHAT?!?!?!?!? Seriously??? LOVE???

Boyfriend and Girlfriend? When people around confirm your relationship

NataliaIf I was in love, this was a problem. If I could not handle a couple of weeks away from him, how was I going to finish the mission with him around? Yah, that wasn’t happening. We talked about it, and he said he would wait until I was done with my mission, and we could be together after. The problem with that was that my visa was going to expire. I would be in Colombia and he would be in the USA by the time we could date and discern a relationship together. Finally, after speaking a lot about this with my companion, I decided to speak to the leader of the mission and express my feelings and concerns.

Jean Robin, Mission Director

John Once our fasting period was over we knew that our feelings were true and that it was time to not only be honest with ourselves, but also with Jean Robin, the mission Director. Natalia wasn’t supposed to date while she was a missionary, but we knew that her visa expired once her mission was complete. This might be our only chance. We didn’t want do date in secret because we felt like that would be a bad way to start a relationship. We didn’t know what the right thing to do was, so we decide to just tell Jean and let him decide. Fortunately for us Jean knew that there was potentially something special between us and gave his blessing for us to date.

Natalia When I talked to the Mission Director and I told him that I thought I was in love, he responded quickly with an, “Ah, its John… We all know you two are in love”. He told me he thought that John and I should discern a relationship before I went to Colombia, even if I was a missionary, or else I would never have a chance to know if a relationship together is something we wanted to have. I ran out to tell John we could be together!! It was the happiest day of my life.

Is Zach onboard? When relationship involves more than two people

Natalia We were sure that we wanted to date, but how did John’s son feel about it? I told John I would not date him unless Zach was ok with it. I did not want to move forward in our relationship if this was going to hurt Zach; I didn’t want to become the stepmom of a child who did not agree to have me. For me, the whole discernment process was not just between John and I, but it also included Zach.
John When Natalia and I began dating I did not give much thought to how my eight-year-old son would react. I assumed he would be happy since he and Natalia got along so well. When we told Zach that we were interested in each other, he broke down crying. This was a very difficult moment for me because I had finally met the girl I wanted to marry. My son did not want any part of it and he wouldn’t tell me why! He had never had a problem with the other girls I had dated, why was he so against this one? Natalia, being the amazing woman she is, began to try talking to Zach in a different way. She would draw a picture to illustrate how she felt about the situation and then she would offer him a chance to draw a picture about his feelings. Any doubts I had about her being a good fit as a stepmom faded away.
It turns out that the reason Zach was so hurt from the idea of us dating was that he had become very attached to other girls that I had dated in the past, just for them to fade away out of his life forever when we broke up. To him, Natalia being my girlfriend meant that, one day, she would disappear from his life. Also, being together was a difficult concept for him because he longed for his own parents to be a family. I wasn’t sure how to handle that, but Natalia and I continued praying a daily rosary. One day when I picked Zach up from his mom’s, he told us that he talked to her, and now he was ok with us being together. After that, Natalia felt good about us dating!

Do we want to be together for ever? Discerning marriage

John Natalia was unlike any girl that I had ever met. She was unique, fun, attractive, mature, and strong in her moral convictions, a combination that I hadn’t found in all of the other girls that I had dated. She was definitely a social personality who loved having fun and wasn’t afraid to put herself out there in order find it. She had a physical beauty that was accented by her moral conviction, and a wisdom that I never expected form a 26 year old. On top of all this, Natalia was amazing with Zach, I had never met a girl before who was able to communicate this way with him, and whom he was so comfortable with; he would even share things with her that he had never said to me. I had no doubts that she would be a wonderful stepmother, and this was very important for me when considering finding a wife. I was already resigned to the idea that I would be a single man forever because I didn’t think I could find a woman who shared my faith and morals, while also being beautiful, fun, and attractive. Natalia inspired me to be the best man I could be, and blew my expectations out of the water. I was sure she was woman I wanted to marry. Natalia, however, had a few things holding her back from knowing if she wanted to be with me for sure. She had a difficult time accepting the fact that she would not be the only mother of my children. My past caused many issues and this was a dark time in our relationship.
Natalia We had a lot of trails and questions while we courted. One thing, for example, was the fact that John was already a father and that I would not be the only mother to his children. This was an area of deep pain for me because I loved John so much that I wanted him to be totally mine; that included his fertility and his ability to be a father. Creating an immortal soul with someone, and being part of this creation with God, is something truly deep that bonds and unites two people together. I wanted this bond to be just between John and I, not between him, another woman, and me. It was like I wanted him to give me something that he could not give me. This broke my heart. However, the question was, Do I CHOSE to love him regardless of this? Many days I thought this was an issue I was not willing to live with and I struggled with my longing to love him, and wishing his past was just NOT THERE!
In the end, I realized that love is not about finding a perfect person. But alas, what is love? I came to realize that love is a choice. Do I CHOOSE to love John even though he has this complicated past? Do I love him enough to expand my heart to love what hurts me? Am I willing to allow God to make my heart bigger so that all those things can make a home in there? Those where some hard questions. If the answer was no, then in fact, I did not love John because I would not be willing to choose him. But I could not bear the thought of not being with him. So, I chose to love him, and it has been the greatest adventure of my life.

Our wedding day – when two people say “I do”

Natalia A few months later, I in fact said “I do” at the altar. “I do, John”, I do choose to enter into this renovation of my heart so that I can love you even when it hurts. “I do, God”, I do allow you to expand my heart so I can love the parts of John that hurt me (even when humanly I feel that I can’t). The theme of our wedding was “Behold, I make all things new”; God had made John a new man because many years ago, John said “I do” to Him when he decided to change his life and allow him to enter. Yes, now he was a single dad, and he did have a past, but this was nothing for God. God takes our brokenness and mistakes making us a complete new creation. Walking down the isle, as I looked at my groom waiting at the altar, all I could see was God’s Mercy. He had made all things new in John, and made a new creation especially for me! It was the most beautiful gift God has ever given me!
John The grace of God helped us to overcome our hurdles. On August 13th 2013 I married the woman that would fulfill my life by loving me and helping me become a better man, a better companion, and a better father. Over almost six years of marriage she has given me 3 beautiful girls that I love with all of my heart. She continues to find ways to inspire me to push myself further. Before I met Natalia I always found myself settling, especially in my mediocre relationships. Once I met Natalia, I knew that settling wasn’t an option, I had to strive for the impossible. And that’s the secret… Nothing is impossible for God!

Natalia and John (GA)

  1. A beautiful story. And what a gift you’ve given to each other on St. Valentine’s day – to have this testimony posted! God bless you!

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