Opening My Heart to God's People

“As an African, community has always been a way of life. The Lord knew I wanted to walk intimately with other faith-filled women who desired to love God and allow their lifestyle to reflect His love. Community at Watermark afforded me that privilege.” – Sheila Etonga

“I came to this country from Cameroon, Africa to pursue the American dream – a good education, a career, and to make money,” said Sheila Etonga. “The Lord got my attention during this pursuit when, after starting my first career job, I lost the two most important loves of my life. My sister passed away in her mid-twenties from food poisoning. Not long after that, my fiancé broke our engagement and married someone else six months later.

“I felt angry and bitter after all of this loss. Shouldn’t my sister have been given some warning before she left this world? Why would a man who said he loved me break his promise? I didn’t know how to process such pain, so I cried out to God with one simple question: ‘Lord, if you are real make yourself real to me.’

“About a year later, I met a lady who invited me to a Bible study. I wanted to go, although I had not been to church for many years. I heard a lesson on 1 Corinthians 13, where the Bible says that love is patient, kind and does not take into account a wrong suffered. I felt like God was telling me that I needed to resolve these feelings of unforgiveness. When I took steps toward forgiving all that had happened, God radically changed my life.

“The Lord used three things to woo me to Himself: His Word, His Spirit, and His people. Because of His Spirit, I read the entire Bible in a year and started serving at my church. I had peace and joy that I could not understand. God continued to use these things to draw me to Himself, even while the biggest desire of my heart – to be married – was withheld.

“Early in my journey with Christ, I looked at singleness as evidence that I was not doing something right. Was I not in the right social circles? Should I find a bigger church with more opportunities to meet Mr. Right? I tried online dating, but how could I pick a godly guy from a few pictures and descriptions?

“Through prayer and study of Scripture, the Bible became my anchor, and I gained more perspective about who the Lord is, who I am in Him and how much He loves me. God’s Word assured me that He has a plan for my life (Jer. 29:11), that He would never leave or forsake me (Heb. 13:5), and that I was His forever (Hosea 2:19).

“My continued desire to know God more intimately brought me into a new and unique season. I moved to Dallas five years ago after quitting my job to attend seminary. Then the Lord showered me with another treasured gift – biblical community.

“As an African, community has always been a way of life. That is why after visiting Watermark only once, I decided to make this church my home. The Lord knew I wanted to walk intimately with other faith-filled women who desired to love God and allow their lifestyle to reflect His love. Community at Watermark afforded me that privilege.

“My community stretched and loved me in ways that overwhelmed me. These women were there in times of financial difficulty and heartbreak. They cheered me on as I graduated from seminary. They supported me as I launched a Christian non-profit organization. They prayed and provided godly counsel for me when the Lord answered my desire to be married.

“On December 26, 2015 while I was in Cameroon, I crossed paths with my childhood friend named Divine, and we fell in love rather quickly. When I told my community group, they were concerned that the relationship might be moving forward too fast. They encouraged me to return home to Cameroon for a while to get to know him better and to allow things to unfold in God’s timing rather than my own.

“God definitely took over from that point on. My parents approved, and my community group continued to give wise counsel and support me as our relationship progressed. Eight months later, Divine and I were married on the island of Curacao, with my family, community group and other friends all present for that beautiful day.

“To have my community group there was so sweet because they had journeyed with me through singleness and other struggles. When I was vulnerable about my pain, my community group served as the hands and feet of God. I have found such strength and freedom by opening my heart to God’s people.

“The Lord indeed fulfills His promise to make me His wife. Not only am I married to a man named Divine, whose heart increasingly reflects the divine character of Christ, I still enjoy the wisdom of His word, the grace of His Spirit and the sharpening of biblical community. The greatest love in my life still remains for my forever bridegroom—the One who found me in pain and gave me both a new life here on earth and assurances of a perfect life to come with Him in eternity.”

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