Today’s guest is Celeste, and Celeste is living in London, yes?
Yes, in Surrey, an hour from London.
In Surrey. So I met Celeste in Tasmania when she was there from Brazil, working as a missionary –
No? Not Brazil?
From Argentina. (laughs)
From Argentina! Wow. What a thing to get wrong. Okay, see, I should have been nervous and not you. She came from Argentina to work as a missionary in our church. Priscilla and Celeste came together, and they were just – you were such a blessing to us, it was wonderful.
Oh, thank you.
And I always remember, but I don’t know which one of you said it, at that final service where we were saying goodbye, one of you said about identity, that my identity is that I am the disciple that Jesus loves. That was really meaningful to me at that time.
We have remained Facebook Friends, but I don’t know a lot about what you’ve been doing in the intervening years Celeste, so it’s going to be exciting to chat today, and I just want to say to everyone listening, that if you hear another voice that I can hear right now, that is Celeste’s daughter Mia, who is chatting with us as well.
So that will be lovely. Cool. So we might start where we always start, which is: how did you become a Christian?
Well, really I was born in a Christian family, so I was brought up Christian, but I remember praying, inviting Jesus into your heart and everything, but what was important to me was when I got baptised, because my parents, even though they were Christians and they met at a church, they decided not to baptise us when we were little, so I decided to get baptised at 12, and I think it was something important for me so I could really own my relationship with God. It’s not anymore through my parents, it was a moment that I could decide how to go about with my faith.
Growing up, I always envied a tiny bit, or really wanted to have a more, I don’t know… a story to tell that would be amazing about how I became a Christian, but really God showed me that some people have those kinds of stories and some other people were blessed to – God shielded them from lots of things, and that’s how I feel now. God showed me to be grateful that I didn’t have to go through any difficult situations and tough times in my life, and I was protected by Him through my youth, that other girls weren’t as blessed as me.
Yes, it’s very – when you grow up in the church, because I did too – and it’s very easy to think ‘Oh, my conversion isn’t as real as somebody who has the horrible story and then the great story,’ but it is! It is still faith and it’s still real so it’s precious.
So how old were you when you came to Tasmania?
Um… I think I was 21. I had just finished studying early years, teaching, so I wanted to have an experience abroad and talking with one of my best friends Priscilla, and she was a fellow leader at the church with me, we both wanted to have an experience abroad. So we talked to our pastor in Argentina, and he said, ‘Well actually I know the bishop of Tasmania John Harrower,’ because he used to live in Argentina many years ago. He used to go to the same church as my pastor when he was growing up. So we got contacted with John Harrower, which is a lovely person, and yeah!
Then God made it so that we could go, but it was a time of some uncertainties and having to do steps in faith, with paying for the visa, not knowing if we were going to be accepted or not. So from the beginning it was a journey of learning and having to rely on God, and for me it was a life-changing experience from the start. And then our trip to Tasmania and our journey there and the 6 months we spent there were life-changing for me, in lots of senses. From getting to know the area to going to a lovely church as St Clements, where God really, I don’t know, pampered us with… we got there and we were received by all the families. Everything was so organised. Different families had arranged to take us different places or invite us to their homes, so that was amazing for us. But I think what really God showed me, more than everything that we learned and all the experiences we had, was as simple as His relationship with me through that time, and His provision for us.
For example, we had an experience where we were leaving Tasmania, we had our farewell party, and a lady from church gave us an envelope with money on it, and we said ‘No, we don’t need anything, don’t worry about us.’ And then when we had to leave, the day before we received the news that our flight was cancelled. Our flight from Sydney to Argentina was cancelled, so we had to stay a night in Sydney, and the money in the envelope was enough for the night in Sydney.
Wow, that’s amazing.
Do you remember giving us that envelope?
(laughs) No, I don’t!
That’s a surprise for you.
Wow, that’s amazing. There you go.
Later we thought, you had told us that, ‘God showed us to give you this envelope,’ so then we thought – your parents were missionaries, right?
So I thought, ‘well, this is what – missionaries depend on God showing other people what they need before they know it themselves.’
So that was one of the times God really showed, ‘I am in control, I have you in My hand.’
And it really shows that God is real. You have a couple of experiences like that and then you look back at it all your life. When you get into that new risk situation and you’re like ‘What am I doing?’ and then you think ‘Let me just remember back to that envelope with the money in it.’ He knows what’s going on.
We can forget about the extraordinary things that God did in our lives. So it’s good to write it down, and then when you write your prayers and you go back and see ‘This has been answered, this has been answered, this has been answered, this has been answered.’ If not, you go through your life like, ‘Oh, it must have been a coincidence that…’
Sure, yeah. I remember now, I can’t remember who the famous person is, but he said ‘When I pray, coincidences happen, and when I don’t pray, they don’t happen.’
I’ll have to look that one up, put it in the show notes. So do you keep a prayer journal, or some sort of formal record of your prayers?
Yes. Mainly when there’s something that I’ve been praying for a long time, or when there’s something that is really important for me. If you ask me when do I feel God closer to me, it’s when He puts me in situations where I need to depend on Him. And when we went to Tasmania we were away from family and friends, and now when we came to live in the UK, we’re also away from family and friends and having to depend on God for everything. And when you’re put in those situations by God, and also when we allow God to put us in these situations of stepping out of our comfort zones and being in situations where things are not easy and we have to rely on God for… I think when I was back in Argentina and we both had jobs, and a car, and a place to live, you can forget or you can think, ‘well, yes, you’re not in that situation of having to depend, to rely on God’.
What brought you from Argentina to Surrey, to the UK?
Well, my husband is from an English background. His mother was born here in England, so we used to go to an Anglican church in Argentina, so he always had in the back of his mind ‘What would it be like to go and to come and live here in London, in England?’ So when we had our first child, I think he got a little bit… yes. He didn’t have a meltdown, but he started saying, ‘Well, my job is not going anywhere, where is our daughter going to go to school, are we going to be able to afford it?’ et cetera, so I think that’s when he made a click and he started thinking really about the future. And I told him, ‘Well, let’s wait. We’ll pray about it and see. I need to feel that God is showing us to go.’
And the way things happened, I had a lot of peace with coming here, and God showed us that it was the thing to do by how things developed, and things quickly… like, he got a job here while being in Argentina, we have friends that were living here in Leatherhead, Surrey, so they said, ‘You should come here,’ and we said, ‘Well, we’re going there 9th of September,’ and they said, ‘Oh! You can come and live in the flat that we are renting, because we are leaving, like, the 8th of September morning,’ something like that.
Oh my goodness.
So it was a bit obvious that God was putting things together so that we could come here. When I came here, it was like, ‘Pablo has his job, and I have friends at church…’ it’s different when you come and you go to another country but you go to a church, you feel like you have a family. I instantly went to a bible study group with mothers with babies, so that it was what I needed. I prayed for God to show me what He had for me here in the UK, what He wanted me to do here, and He responded that prayer not so long ago. Like, last month, I got a job as the children and families minister at a church near here where we live. It wasn’t our church, but we moved church. So it’s a very exciting time for me, and to see how God responded – and we had prayed with my daughter, my eldest daughter, she’s 4. We used to pray at night, and she would say – she struggled with differentiating ‘We ask’ and ‘We thank you for,’ so she’d say, ‘Thank you for a house, thank you for a job for my mummy’, so she used to thank God before things happened. So I think maybe it’s the way to go! ‘Thank you for the job you are going to give me.’ And God provided! So it’s my second week on the job. I’m new, everything is very new, but we are very happy. So I think the puzzle is starting to look… well, not complete now, but God is putting everything so that we can see clearer what He has for us here, and what His plan for us is, for the near future at least.
That’s absolutely fantastic. Wow. So you said that you felt close to God when you’re absolutely depending on Him – are there any other times when you feel especially close to God? Do you like being in nature, or do you have a quiet time every day? Your life must be pretty mad with the children…
Yes. We live in a lovely place. We are really blessed that we have… you think England is a tiny island and it’s full of people, but we live in a place where we have parks, and lots of green, so I’m reminded of being grateful to God for His creation and what He does. And being away from family and friends, it’s very important to feel God close to us. So it makes us draw closer to God.
As a child, did you always have a big desire to travel internationally, or is this just something that’s happened?
My father is a pilot, so we used to travel a lot. Yes, I always wanted to travel, but I always wanted a family. Sometimes you think things cannot go together, but I think I was so lucky – well, ‘lucky’ – when I went to Tasmania I had my boyfriend Pablo that is my husband now, I always thought, ‘Do I regret something about my youth, like not… I don’t know, not being like the rest of the other teenagers that went to clubs and did other types of lifestyles that as a Christian I didn’t?’ And really I think I could do everything I wanted. Because Pablo really supported me when I wanted to travel to Tasmania for those 6 months, and everyone was like ‘Oh, 6 months!’ If anything I think it got us closer together, because having to write letters, or… so I think I was very fortunate that God showed Pablo to support me in that, then I supported Pablo when he wanted to come here.
But also I think it’s like when people are not prophets in their lands. I feel like being in another country, I feel that I can talk about Jesus more openly, because, ‘Oh, you don’t do this here? Talk about Jesus? Well back in my country, yes!’ So I can be a bit quirky or something and get away with it because I’m from another country.
So that leads me nicely to my last question, which is: what is one thing about God or Christianity that you wish everyone knew?
Well, first of all, for people to know that God is real, God can be real in your life if you let Him, if you give Him that opportunity to be part of your life and to bless you, and also for people to know that you don’t have to carry with all of your problems and your worries and your past, and everything that is a big bag of loads of bad things. You can present it to God and ask God to take that load off from you, and ask God to help you with that. We could talk theology for hours, but what’s most important is to say, ‘This is how God reveals Himself to me, and how God is present in my life.’ Encourage people to step out of their comfort zones too, and to rely on God more. That’s when God can really show what He can do, if we give Him the reigns of our lives. That’s when He can really show His power and what He can do in our lives.
And then you get such great stories that you can tell people, or remind people!
That’s fantastic. Well, thank you so much for sharing with us Celeste, it’s been amazing, and Mia as well.
Thank you! Yes, now I have to see what she has been doing while she was out and about. I’ll find some things smeared somewhere.
Motherhood is a wonderful thing.
Yes. Well, thank you for inviting me on your podcast! I have such fond memories of Tasmania, and I always say, ‘Tasmania has the shape of my heart.’ It’s very corny. (laughs) But I always have a special place in my heart for Tasmania, so I’m hoping someday I’ll take my family there.
That would be wonderful.