Ruth: Today I’m here with Anastasia, and I just want to say that ‘here’ is Vanuatu, Teouma Valley, Port Vila, Vanuatu, which is not my normal place of habitation. But I’m here with Anastasia, and I’m going to talk about Anastasia. So, Anastasia, why are you here in Vanuatu?
Anastasia: So I’m here serving a beautiful missionary family as their Nanny.
A: So I volunteer for them, look after their three children, Mattaiu, Manoah, and Leilani.
R: Cool! And how long have you been here for?
A: About three weeks now
R: Three weeks, so you came, I remember you saying you came Easter Sunday.
A: Yep, that’s correct.
R: How are you finding it?
A: Really, really good. Really good. Like a lot of changes at once but in a good way. It’s put me through a lot of interesting situations that I’m glad to say I’ve come out of a lot stronger.
R: OK, so when you say interesting situations, everyone wants to know more. What would you call the most interesting situation? I don’t think it was when the cat caught a rat behind the table here.
A: No, or when one of the rats peed on Roger at lunch time.
R: Yeah, we felt some, or Roger felt some liquid coming down from the ceiling.
A: Is it rain?
R: No, it’s cat, it’s rat pee. Even cat pee would be preferable. But yes.
A: Yeah so my most interesting situation would be probably what I’ve coined ‘a spiritual culture shock’. So back in Australia I go to an Anglican church, and it’s a beautiful, beautiful church. Very heavily emphasising the Bible and the significance of that. I wouldn’t say ‘ignores’ but doesn’t really pay much attention to the work of the Holy Spirit. And so coming here, it’s definitely not the flip opposite but there’s much more of a balance between the Bible and the Holy Spirit. Which has been interesting for me because I’ve been taught always Bible comes first, Bible, Bible, Bible, and how do you know what is true if it comes from the Holy Spirit, like is it just your human emotions, or all that stuff. So all that’s kind of been challenging me. Yeah, lots of challenging, and growing at the same time.
R: So going back a bit, you’re fairly young, this is your gap year after year 12, so 18?
R: So how, and the other thing I know about you is that you come from somewhere so far outback in Australia, that when people ask where you are from, you can’t tell them. Because they’ve never heard of it, so Ebenezer…
A: Ebenezer, yep. So I usually say Windsor because they kind of know where that is. They know the road that leads to Windsor and then I’m about twenty minutes outside of that. Probably 25 including the driveway.
R: Outback. Right so, how did someone from Ebenezer come to another completely out of the way spot, Teouma Valley?
A: That’s a really good question. So originally, the process probably started about three years ago. I definitely knew I wanted to have a gap year. I knew that. And my heart, my passion was for Italy. So random but… And so school didn’t offer Italian but I chose, I really wanted to learn it, so I taught myself, for year 11 and 12, Italian, and then, got to the end of it, and then my friend Emma Caterson (shout out)
R: Hi Emma
A: was talking about doing au paring work in America and I was like, oh that’s really cool, maybe I can do that in Italy. And then I was like, a year is a long time to spend in a secular environment, I wonder if there is a Christian version of that. So I typed in ‘Christian nanny’ and it came up with Mission Aides, which is nannying for missionary families. And I was like wow what a different blend of cultures and experiences, so I thought ‘yeah I’ll do that’. And I was like, God knows Italy is on my heart, He’ll give me Italy.
R: Yeah, for sure
A: And what I did was put Italy in as my first preference. And I was looking through the list of all the different stories and pictures and people, and God put Vanuatu on my heart and I was like Italy will work, Italy will work, me and my stubborn frame of mind, and then the beautiful family in Italy said, ‘sorry we already have a nanny’ and it got to the point where Mum and I were emailing families who weren’t asking for nannies [asking] if they wanted a nanny. And I felt uncomfortable about it because it’s a whole year to take on an entirely new person into your family.
R: When they are not even asking for that.
A:Exactly, exactly. And I was like, oh I don’t feel comfortable with that. So all the doors were shutting. And then Roger and Cindy emailed me and said ‘look, we’d love to have you here, we think you’d fit right in’ and I was like ‘wow! God is this where you want me to go? Vanuatu?’ And so I was praying about it and praying about it. And this was around Christmas time and I went on a beach mission with Scripture Union and I heard a sermon, and it wasn’t even the main point of the sermon, and it wasn’t even a planned tangent, it was very much a tangent of a tangent. But one of the small messages was, ‘if one of your brothers or sisters has a need, and you’re able to provide it, and it’s in line with God’s will, why wouldn’t you?’
R: Yeah, yeah, for sure.
A: We are so blessed, why wouldn’t you be a blessing to others? And I was like ‘ok God, that’s all I need.
R: So you talk about not having an emphasis on the Holy Spirit, but boy I can see the Holy Spirit speaking into your life through that.
A: Yeah, exactly. And so now it’s been interesting reflecting on my life and the times when I’ve definitely had God directing me. Even more than that, directly speaking to me. And how I’ve kind of absorbed that and taken it on board in a different way to what it is done here. And I’m, wait, it’s the same God, the same message, I’ve just been experiencing it differently.
R: Yeah, wow. So I mean, at three weeks in, you fit this place so well, and the kids, you wouldn’t, the kids just love Anastasia, Aunty Stasia.
A: I love it so much
R: And you see her jumping in and out of trucks, it’s incredible. I think the outback upbringing has really helped you fit in here very well too.
A: Yeah I love it.
R: So you’ll be here until the end of the year, and then what’s your plan after that?
A: Wow, that’s a really good question.
R: That’s what gap years are for, right?
A: Yeah, so originally, before coming to Vanuatu, I had my heart set on psychology, and I had a few other options sort of banked up to see, ‘cause I was like, God will direct me in different ways. So I was like, depending on what it is, I will just defer a whole bunch of options. And then, actually just today, sitting in the truck, I was sort of sleeping but at the same time doing a whole lot of reflecting, because we heard some really sad news at church. And I was reflecting a bit on that and how broken this world is. And how the effects of sin are never really going to leave us until we reach heaven. And I was thinking about that, reflecting on it, and all of a sudden it just clicked, psychology, it’s a beautiful thing, the human mind, but how that interacts with sin and stuff, we’re only on this earth for 80 years if we’re lucky, if that’s what God gives us, and so why would I dedicate my life to helping people for a short amount of time when I can dedicate for them being healed for eternity? Short term healing vs long term eternity with God. And so I don’t know what that means for me. But I kind of had that realisation, I’m learning that you would call that a revelation here.
I was like wow, that’s very much a, I don’t want to dis all the Christian psychologists here but short term healing is definitely not long term healing and the best healing that someone can experience is the love of God.
So I don’t know where God is taking me now. I don’t know if psychology is still on the cards. But it kind of shifted my whole understanding of what I am doing next year. So in answer to your question, really long way back around, I have no idea.
R: That’s very cool and it’s just so true that when it comes down to it, whether you become a psychologist or not, I mean I’m a scientist and an author and my husband’s a teacher and we have these professions but underlying it all, underneath, has to be that heart for people and that heart to know God because if we don’t know God, as you say, there’s an eternity lost.
OK, my next question, as I lean over to look at the questions, is how did you become a Christian? There we go, going right back to the beginning.
A: Another really good question. So I was raised in a Christian family, but at a very young age I experienced quite a terrible tragedy and so going on into teenage hood was a time of really intense mental turmoil. Which spilled over into spiritual turmoil. And so that was a time of a lot of anger and a lot of frustration. Which I directed at God. Sadly.
R: Oh he can take it.
A: Yeah. To the point where I didn’t really call myself a Christian anymore. To myself. To my friends and everyone else I was… I’m beginning to realise that I do like to please people. Which I’ve heard other people say and I’m like ‘I’m not one of those people’ but I’m starting to realise I do like it when people like me.
R: Yes, it’s very tempting.
A: Yeah, so I put on the facade, oh yes I’m a Christian and all that, and then I went on a Christian camp. This is one of those times that God spoke to me. And I was pretending to do my devotions, had the Bible open in front of me, just looking out over the lake, not actually reading the Bible, and these four words came to me and they were so strong and it was almost like, the only way I can describe it is like being in a washing machine and having those words constantly around you in your head, and they were ‘I am with you’.
R: Oh wow.
A: And it was just constantly, ‘I am with you’ ‘I am with you’ ‘I am with you’. And it just clicked. God is with me in my anger against sin, he is with me in my anger against the injustices of the world and he is with me in my healing of that and he is with me even though I don’t deserve him to be with me.
R: Love that, love that.
A: So I wrote it on my arm because I was like I have to just write this down somewhere. I’m very much a writing-learning person so that kind of spilled over into … I wrote it everywhere.
R: It’s not tattooed
A: Not yet, Mum, surprise! And then I found the verse in the Bible which I don’t remember reading at all prior to that point and I remember whether it was subconsciously in me or purely the Holy Spirit, but it says… no pressure
R: Is it ‘surely I am with you always’? That one?
A: Oh no it’s from Isaiah 41 I am with you … my right hand
R: Oh, I will uphold you with my right hand, that one?
A: Yeah, I am with you says the Lord, anyway I’ll get it for you.
R: I’ll put it in the show notes. [Isaiah 41:10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you’ I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.]
A: Put me on the spot, I’m like Ah! Freaked out. And so from that point on things really started to change. I was like wow, I’ve led this life of bitterness, and a lot of resentment towards God and towards another person and it was like it had really drained me of all other emotions. I was just pure anger and sadness. And it had drained me of my ability to love God and others because I refused to feel God’s love. Anyway, it was a really interesting time of learning what that felt like again. That was really powerful.
And then God very, very intensely changed me and showed me his ways which was a beautiful thing. Learning to let go of a lot of the anger because I looked at the cost and like …
R: Look at the cross
A: Yes, that’s the ultimate example of God not showing anger on those who deserve it. And I think I have been shown so much mercy, so much grace, and it’s almost, if I don’t show that to others it’s like, I dunno, it’s kind of selfish. So I learned to forgive.
R: That’s amazing, that’s really amazing. So how does your faith affect your everyday life? Obviously you’re here in Vanuatu, but are you a one-hour quiet time in the morning person?
A: Coming to Vanuatu I was like ‘that’s what my life’s going to be, yes! Finally all of this crazy social life will just get put to rest and I’ll have really good sleeping patterns and wake up and like so much time in the Bible’ it worked for about a week (laughs) and now it’s become still very much a heavy reliance on God. Not so much a heavy reliance on waking up early. But I’m seeing him everywhere, in my relationships with people, in the beautiful, beautiful environment that God’s put me in here. Like I love looking up at the stars here and I’m constantly reminded I have no idea how big God is. He is so much bigger than I could never know (I’m going to get to that later) so just, the people, the environment, they all help me shape my life and my faith. And I don’t think I rely on them but God uses them to show himself to me. Which is a beautiful thing.
R: So when do you feel most close to God?
A: Probably. I don’t think I can pinpoint it.
R: It’s a big question, when do you feel close to God? Let’s change it slightly.
A: Probably, as I said before, when I look up at the stars, or when I see a kid’s look that I’m looking after, their beautiful laughs. Or when I sit and I re-evaluate in my mind the significance of the cross. I don’t think you can ever stop learning how beautiful the cross is. I don’t think you can ever move on from the cross. You’re always looking at it and thinking, ‘wow how good is God?’. So, the last one in particular, but all of the above.
R: So is there something you would like to tell everybody about God or Christianity? Something you wish everybody knew?
A: Yep, so what I was saying before. God is so much bigger than we could ever imagine. He has so much power and so much magnitude that our minds can’t even comprehend it. So our sin towards him, our rejection of him as Lord, isn’t some small Sunday school thing, it’s a huge thing. It is absolutely atrocious that we could reject the God of the universe. And in that, it is so incredible that he forgives us, it is so incredible that the God who created the stars that you see, everything, and the whole universe is tiny to him, and every detail he knows so well, and he sent his only son into that tiny world and through him provided salvation for everyone on earth. To know him, not only as Lord again, not only as King, but as Father. As a relational God. And I think that message is so incredible.
So for me, I think basically, the magnitude of God, the magnitude of my sin, and the magnitude of God’s grace.
R: Yeah, that’s wonderful, we’ll take that home. Thank you very much.
A: That’s alright, no problem Ruth
R: And I hope you have a wonderful year
A: Thank you, you too. Bye everyone.