Since Natalie Rodriguez was 12-years-old, Texas Baptists have invested in Natalie Rodriguez in multiple, life-changing ways.
At the age of one, Natalie was placed in the foster care system, where she grew up living in multiple homes with her younger sister. Then, in 1996, she and her sister were brought to the Texas Baptist Children’s Home. During her first few months, she tried to adjust to new surroundings but was very overwhelmed and unsure about the permanency of her new home.
“I heard about Jesus daily, but I was so upset,” Natalie said. “I wasn’t ready for someone to actually be there for me.”
That December, Natalie was in a Christmas play followed by a candlelit service. Having previously heard about the significance of Jesus’ birth, that evening for the first time, she truly understood how He was her Savior.
“I felt a rush over me and I felt God telling me, ‘I am going to be there for you no matter where you live, no matter what happens,’” she said. “That’s when I decided to accept Him in my heart. I told everybody the next day and since then my life has been dramatically different.”
The next few years at TBCH were filled with joy and growth for Natalie. Her house parents, Mom and Pop Toner, were a constant source of encouragement and strength.
“I’ve never had anyone who cared about my emotional and academic needs like they have,” she said. “They’ve always encouraged me and told me I can do anything and God will be there no matter what.”
She also built strong relationships with her "house sisters," with as many as eight girls living in the house at any given time. While they may not be related by blood, Natalie counts many of the girls as her sisters.
Following her high school graduation, Natalie moved away from TBCH and enrolled in a local college to receive training to become a medical assistant. She worked for seven years as a medical assistant and greatly enjoyed the opportunity to minister to her patients. While she saw great worth in her work, Natalie had a bigger dream of becoming a nurse and was unsure how it would be possible to afford nursing school.
One day, she made an appointment to meet with the Executive Director of TBCH, who she saw as a father figure because he had always been very supportive of her. After sharing with him about her dream to become a nurse, the director suggested she take two classes on her own and then come back and he would help her find funding for more school.
She enrolled as a student at the Scott and White College of Nursing at University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and soon found out wonderful news. Through connections with Texas Baptists, the director was able to help Natalie apply for and become the recipient of the Roger Hall Opportunity Scholarship, awarded to students attending Texas Baptist universities who are the products of children’s homes.
“I don’t know how I would be paying for school if it wasn’t for Texas Baptists,” Natalie said. “I feel so blessed and happy. There are not many foster kids who get to go to college, let alone, nursing school. I apply every year and they keep believing in me.”
Pursuing education to become a nurse through a Christ-centered program has been an uplifting experience for Natalie. Through weekly chapel services, prayers before classes and testimonies from instructors and classmates, Natalie has found constant affirmation of the Lord’s calling on her life.
“Being a nurse is so important to me,” she said. “I know this is what I am called to do and that God has constantly been with me. I love serving my patients. Not only am I helping them – they are helping me.”
Now, Natalie works as a student nurse at Baylor Scott & White, another Texas Baptists institution, and is giving back to those who have invested in her life in so many ways.
She has also found continued encouragement from her family at Texas Baptist Children’s Home.
“Through my trials and tribulations as a child, they have always provided for me,” she said. “I can stop by there any time and they will keep pushing forward with me. I went to visit TBCH recently, and I was discussing with another set of house parents about the challenges I was facing at the end of the semester. Right there, they pulled me aside and prayed over me. I’ve had that as a kid and I’ve had that as an adult and it doesn’t get any better than that.”