LEWISTOWN - Natalie Goss never thought of herself as the missionary type.
But after the shy, young Lewistown woman led a missions trip with her church to Nicaragua, she felt God's calling to work full-time with young girls who are rescued from the capital city dump.
Goss heard God's call in 2008, but it wasn't until this June that she moved permanently down to Mangaua, Nicaragua, to work with the Villa Esperanza, which cares for impoverished girls who are abused, neglected or at risk of being sold into prostitution.
"As I was playing with the girls (during the 2008 trip), I felt that this was what God created me to do," Goss said. "I felt comfortable."
Still, Goss admitted that she "thought God was crazy," calling her to missions.
"I never thought of myself as a missionary," said Goss, a graduate of Mifflin County Christian Academy. "I'm shy, timid, and I was happy living in Lewistown."
Goss said she kept praying, and God gave her very clear signs that he wanted her to serve in Nicaragua.
Before settling at the villa this summer, she made two additional short trips to Nicaragua and even went to school there for three months to learn Spanish.
Three years ago, the villa was established as a mission through the Forward Edge International organization, Goss said. Currently, 24 girls live in the villa; but with increased support, Goss said they hope to someday care for 48.
The girls, usually ages 8 to early teen, come from the city dump where they subsist on the trash with thousands of other people, Goss said. If the girl has a family, the villa requests permission to take her in; but some girls do not have anyone to care for them, she said.
A 9-year-old girl who now lives at the villa was found taking care of her seven younger brothers and sisters, Goss said. Others as young as 13 were found pregnant; still more have been abused or neglected, she said.
"The girls are deprived of their childhood ... and experience things that children never should," she said.
One of the things Goss does with the girls is to give them back their chance to be children. Just last month, she took a group to a playground and soccer game.
"... to see them giggle uncontrollably on the tire swing - it brought joy to see they got their childhood back," Goss said.
The villa welcomed eight new girls on Oct. 23. Goss described it as a joy to watch them see their beds and sheets - many never had their own bed before - and to smell the shampoo in the bathroom. They also were excited to take care of their new home by helping their housemothers sweep and wash dishes, she said.
While the girls do go to public school, Goss also teaches them life skills such as sewing, cleaning and jewelry making to help them make a living after high school.
The jewelry and other items that the girls make are sold to missions teams who visit the villa, but Goss said eventually she may bring some home to sell in the U.S.
A portion of the proceeds go back to the girls, who are taught money management; and the rest goes to the villa, Goss said.
"Our goal is to show them their God-given potential," Goss said, "to show them that they are a child of God and to give them the love of Christ."
Some of her other duties include taking the girls to the doctor or dentist and filling in for the Nicaraguan house mothers when they need time off.
With the eight new girls, Goss also is working to find sponsors for them. She also sends letters to the sponsors to keep them informed of the girls' lives, physical and material needs, and prayer needs.
Sponsorship for one girl is $30 per month, and it provides care, food, education, medical care and life-skills training to the child. To find out more about sponsorship, visit www.forwardedge.org/childsponsorship or call (360) 574-3343.
Goss is visiting home this week, and she will receive her commissioning during a service at 11 a.m. Sunday at Calvary Bible Church in Lewistown.
Goss said her reason for serving is 1 John 3:16-18, which says: "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth."
Before becoming a missionary, Goss said she turned her head away from people in need, because it hurt too much to see them.
"It's hard to understand how some are given so much and others nothing," Goss said. "Surely I can give up this life here to love his children in Nicaragua."