Natalie Gavan awarded Cross of St Piran
“God gives us different gifts and He works through those gifts,” says Natalie. When asked if she knew what her gifts were before she became involved with Christians Against Poverty (CAP) she said, “No! Not at all. But now I would say that it is simply to love people and to point them to Jesus – and I haven’t really got anything more in my bag than that!”
It’s proved to be a very deep bag. Since Natalie started as centre manager with CAP, she has, with her team, led it to become one of the top ranked centres in the UK, seen around 12 clients a year released from debt and, in the last three years, had the joy of introducing over 50 people to a relationship with God.
“I’m just ordinary, what could God do with me?”
When Natalie first heard the call from Kea Church for someone to lead the CAP initiative in Truro she worried that it might be for her but convinced herself it was for someone else. “I’m just ordinary, what could God do with me?” But the uncomfortable feeling grew and didn’t stop until she responded. “It came a year after I had given all my rubbish to God and although I felt ready to do something for Him, I honestly didn’t know what a calling was and thought it was probably something that should make you feel peaceful, not churned up and terrified!”
But answer she did and found that God gave her the tools she needed. “It wasn’t complicated in the end. To be able to do something like debt counselling is an amazing combination of pragmatism and love. My parents set a wonderful example by giving up their own home to help others with assisted housing, sowing seeds of compassion in me for people in poverty. Working with CAP gave me the opportunity to explore that.
With so many people who accessed CAP searching for a deeper meaning to life, Natalie didn’t have enough hours in the week to keep pace with what God was doing. So, Lanterns was born. “I wanted it to feel like I do when I turn up to my mum’s kitchen – welcomed with open arms, a cup of something hot put in my hands and the freedom and space to be myself.” Lanterns is gloriously ecumenical, with input from all denominations and has taken on a life, and congregation, of its own. “It is that safe space where people are part of a family, in all its messy honesty, and are nourished, encouraged and loved.”
“God works through all our gifts, mine, the teams’ and the people who we work with. By being rooted in Him, giving Him the glory and relying on Him to provide what we need, who knows what will happen next? It’s very exciting!”
The work is growing, with CAP Job Club, equipping people with confidence boosting skills to get back into work, and Release, a group to help those battling with addictions. Natalie feels blessed with support from an amazing team, without whom, she says, and the centre would not be possible. “God works through all our gifts, mine, the teams’ and the people who we work with. By being rooted in Him, giving Him the glory and relying on Him to provide what we need, who knows what will happen next? It’s very exciting!”