Not more than once in a blue moon a person comes along who impacts you deeply on the inside, every bit as much and far more than on the outside.
Ten days ago a stunning light went out in the earth, as a dear friend and true beauty, Natalya Kim, passed away – devastatingly -to those who were blessed to have known her.
The 38-year-old mother-of-three was someone I had met for the first time during what was for me, a life-impacting first ever trip outside the UK back in August 2000, at the precarious age of just 17. I was part of a team who traveled as a member of a Christian organization from Northern Ireland, to the eastern, fascinating, poor city of Ternopil, Ukraine. Natalya was one of the blonde, beautiful translators assigned to help our team with the charitable work in orphanages and children’s homes we partook of.
As a result of that trip, I ended up being gripped by the Ukraine, and leading a team back again to Ternopil, in summer 2003, in what was for me, another life-impacting trip, yet in such a different way. This time amidst adversity and difficult team situations, Natalya became a deeply needed and appreciated personal encourager and source of wise counsel to me – feeling very alone as a leader, in a far away land.
I recall being so deeply grateful for her help, encouragement, prayers and support by the end of that trip, that I ended up giving her my then prized possession, a brand new personal CD player and all my best CDs, including some Christian worship CDs. I remember Natalya being bowled over by the thought of receiving this gift, which made my painful sacrifice (as it felt to me then!) more worth it, as far as I was concerned.
After that trip, Natalya and I became good friends, and corresponded quite frequently by the then relatively new medium of emailing, and soon we were also texting a little bit too, (as I finally gave in to owning a mobile phone). Over the next couple of years, we emailed and prayed and encouraged each other in life, many, many times.
Natalya was always so positive and in person, so full of the joy of the Lord, and truly impacting with her sincere, strong, often shy, smile – which she has now become famous for. Her simplicity of faith & purity of heart, coupled with very real passion and a true worshiper’s heart, were something I have now (only in the past ten days) realized impacted me deeply. It seems so cruel that her life was cut short, by what feels like so many years.
However, Father God knows best, and his ways are not our ways. Who knows what may come out of Natalya’s passing? I pray it will be much and I pray there will be much, much more ‘fruit’ to come, and deep, sincere comfort and extreme grace to her husband and three dear children.
My last trip to Ternopil was, crazily, summer 2009, which I can hardly believe.
Not quite sure where the last six and a half years went, and at the risk of sounding old, I am freshly reminded of the brevity of life.
Natalya had got married to a lovely gentleman from Korea, whom she’d met through YWAM (a Christian organisation) and they had invited me to their wedding, but I never made it. My pennies and purse strings at the time did not stretch that far. So it was with great joy and delight I got to see and spend fresh time with Natalya in that last trip to Ukraine in summer 2009, and also met Slava. Natalya looked radiant and beautiful, despite being then hugely pregnant with their first child.
Natalya still made time for me, and we chatted and encouraged one another in our Christian faith. I remember praying over her ‘big bump’ for the child that would come forth to be prophetic and mighty in Ukraine. Natalya and Slava soon had their first child, Nathan.
Since then, it is much to my deep regret now that we had not been in regular touch, as life just moved on and got busy. All of a sudden, on 5th January I was getting messages coming up on my Facebook saying to ‘please pray for Natalya ‘ urgently. She had been taken in for a C-section to have their third child. Unfortunately, and devastatingly, things did not go well, and she lost a lot of blood, and needed a blood transfusion for her rare blood type. Drs ended up having to put her in a medical induced coma.
Things deteriorated, and with deep sadness to all her family and friends, Natalya passed away on Saturday, 16th January.
I am selfishly sad that I will never get to see this dear saint again this side of heaven, but, I thank God for the privilege of having ever met her and known her, and truly being impacted both then and again now, by her true beauty much more than skin deep. We also grieve, as Christians, with the phenomenal comfort of knowing death here is not the end.
Natalya had a hugely generous, warm heart, hidden in rich humility and gentle meekness. Because of this, it would have been very easy to meet her and miss how amazing and mighty she was. Now, though, as I always suspected, since her passing, it has become more and more apparent, this dear saint touched literally hundreds of lives all over the planet. Many outreach teams from YWAM and other organisations passed in and out of Ternopil and Natalya welcomed and loved every one she met with faithful, consistent warmth and sincerity Ive been freshly deeply challenged by this week.
The scroll of Natalya’s life is now complete. After over twenty years since repenting and turning to Jesus as a post-Communism Ukrainian teenager, She ran the race well and I, and many others including some at her memorial service aired online last week, believe God is saying, ‘Well done good and faithful servant.’
Natalya radiated deep beauty.
She has been a wonderful Mummy already to her two eldest children, teaching them to pray and be brought up in the ways of the Lord Jesus Christ, though her time seems to have been cut so painfully short for them. One day I hope to meet them, but until then, I would strongly commend this fund to you, (see link below) to please consider supporting her widower husband Slava and Nathan, Esther and baby Leah – who survived the C-section, and whom Natalya literally died for.
If you are of the praying variety, please uphold them in your prayers.
Thanks for reading.
Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live. And everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die…” John 11:25&26