Pastor: My walk with God
Rhonda Santucci never expected to make history.
She was simply obeying a call from God when she decided to enter ministry full time in 2002.
Today the 53-year-old is the senior pastor at the Edgbaston New Testament Church of God. She's also believed to be the first Bermudian female pastor appointed to lead a church in the UK.
“This was and is a God appointment and I'm humbled by it,” Rev Santucci said.
“My biggest reward thus far would be seeing the positive impact it has had on my husband, Raymond, and son Jermaine who, although he still lives in Bermuda, has been impacted in a positive way by my ministry.
“He goes out preaching the Gospel, has added others to the church and helped people to see that even though Bermudians are small in number we are still kingdom builders. That is the providence of God.”
Rev Santucci said her faith walk didn't truly begin until she was in her late 20s.
She went to church one morning not just for the worship and the message, but with a determination to change her life.
“On that particular Sunday, I had been sensing what I now know to be God's calling to turn my life over to him,” she said.
“I was never saved prior to that. We went to Sunday school as children, but that was it.
“I attended Mount Zion AME Church and then pastor Samuel Hayward, affectionately known as Papa Hayward, was proclaiming the word of God with conviction. I can't recall exactly what the message was about. I only remember finding myself at the altar saying yes to Jesus.”
Her faith was often tested.
Shortly after marrying her husband, Rev Santucci learned he was wrestling with an old drug addiction.
“That caused me to see that my relationship with God, hitherto that point, was superficial,” Rev Santucci said.
“My husband has now been drug-free for 14 years. However that situation forced me to search myself and propelled my walk with God to develop at a deeper level.
“It thrust me into a realm of spiritual warfare that also demanded I deal with my own personal demons.”
She learned that inward healing often comes before any outward change.
“I needed to be transformed by the renewing of my mind and deal with the things that had held me in bondage since my childhood,” she continued.
“I thank God for that revelation as it has dramatically changed every area in my life. I'm also thankful to everyone that God allowed to be a part of that process.”
Another test came when she decided to become a pastor full-time. She was taking part in a ministry event when she heard the voice of God calling her to step out of her comfort zone as a pastor's aid, and step into more of a leadership role at the church.
She immediately enrolled in courses at the Bermuda College and later pursued a degree in social work in Atlanta, Georgia.
Then in 2008, her husband felt it was time for them to relocate to England.
“He thought it would be beneficial for me educationally and ministerially,” Rev Santucci said. “I, on the other hand, was not so convinced and didn't agree with this decision.
“Then one evening after ministering at the Healing Centre New Testament Church of God, a lady stood and said she had been sent to Bermuda by God. She held up a £20 note and declared that it was for the person He was sending to England. I took my £20 note and within the week we were in England.”
The move stretched her faith to new limits and took her trust in God to a new level.
“This move to England was a God move, there's no doubt about it,” she said.
“I would not have accomplished any of this had we not moved to England. It has been the best of times and the worst of times, literally, but I'm so glad that we obeyed God.”
She said there have been many times throughout her life when she has enjoyed the ‘blessed stage' — where everything in life seems to be going great.
Now she feels like it's her turn to pour out the blessings to others.
“The blessed stage is just to prepare you for the broken stage,” she said. “For the more He breaks you the more He can use you for His Glory. However, when He breaks you, it is not to destroy you, but to strengthen you for the journey ahead, for we are in a spiritual battle and we must be prepared to fight — the good fight of faith.”
She said there are still some who believe women should be reserved to evangelism and not step into leadership positions in the church.
Rev Santucci maintains that God has used females throughout the Bible to share the Gospel.
“He often uses the foolish things to confound the wise,” she said. “In other words He uses the least likely, those that mankind would not consider using, like Rahab, Mary Magdalene, and the woman at the well in Samaria, as well as myself.”