Breaking The Glass Ceiling – Heloisa’s Story
I had never experienced the ‘glass ceiling’ until I moved to Australia 15 years ago. Growing up in Brazil I always believed that anything was possible for me. My parents were my greatest encouragers. From an early age they taught me that no matter whether I was a man or a woman, I could achieve anything that I put my mind to and our Catholic belief system reinforced the notion that hard work and success went hand in hand.
I moved to Australia in 1999 looking for new experiences and keen to improve my English. Three days after arriving in Australia I went to a salsa dance class run by one of my friends from Brazil, Marcia. It was there that I met a handsome Australian man named Paul. Our friendship soon became romance and by the end of the year we had decided to marry and settle in his hometown of Wollongong. Paul and I started a family and I loved being a mother but I struggled to find a sense of community and belonging in a culture that was so very different to my own.
One day a woman from my neighbourhood started chatting to me in my front yard. She had a child the same age as mine and over the course of the next few months we struck up a friendship. Nicola was friendly, hospitable and caring. We would catch up regularly but I noticed that every Thursday she was out at some ‘group’ she was part of. Eventually I asked her ‘what do you do every Thursday?’ She told me that she met with some ladies from her church, for a Bible study, I was intrigued. She asked me if I would like to come along. I was so desperate to meet people and make some friends I said ‘Yes, absolutely!’ I had heard some of the Bible stories before but now I was starting to see the truth of the Bible demonstrated by the lives of people like Nicola. I had already experienced the love of God without even realising it and now I was learning the truth of God. I started attending church with Nicola and on Good Friday 2006 I realised the significance of what Jesus had done for me. I made the decision to follow him that day.
The change in my life was dramatic. I had always been convinced that if I wanted something enough I could achieve it but now I realised that there was an even greater purpose and power behind what was possible for me. My relationship with Jesus changed the focus of everything I was doing. I was so hungry to know more about God. I devoured books and Bible teaching; I listened to worship music and spent time praying. The more time I spent with God the greater my desire to share his love with others became. I started gathering women around me and realised that for so many of them they were not aware of their identity in God and how powerful His purpose for their life was.
In 2013 I watched a film clip about a movement of women in Toowoomba that was changing the culture of the city. Women from many different churches had come together to bring the reality of God’s love in practical ways to the people of their city. I was captivated. My heart exploded. What if we could do the same thing in my city? God brought some key women into my life and we began to pray. By June 2014 we had started a monthly prayer group and after contacting the City Women team in Toowoomba, we held our first City Women Illawarra event in September 2014. There were more than 200 women present as we outlined our vision for unity and community transformation. Since that first meeting we have trained 22 women as Shine and Strength facilitators to take a message of value and identity to high school students and received financial contributions for the establishment of seven projects.
I look back over the last few years of my life and am in awe of how powerfully and creatively God has moved in my life. I can see from before I even knew about Him, He was shaping my life for this moment. He has given me the confidence to not see obstacles only opportunities. I am convinced that he has called me ‘for such a time as this’ and I am ready to show women that there is no glass ceiling in Gods kingdom.
To find out more about City Women Illawarra including upcoming events go to www.citywomenillawarra.com