Sister Stories - Cornerstone Church Kingston
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Sister Stories

This podcast encourages us to reflect on how the Lord has grown and moulded us into becoming more like Christ.

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S2 - 5. Anja

In this episode, I am interviewing Anja, who is married to Jon and is a mum of two young children. She also works for Co-Mission. Listen to be reminded to rely on the Lord at every step of your life.

Transcript (Auto-generated)

Welcome everyone to the sister stories podcast.

This podcast's aim is to marvel at God's sovereignty over each of our lives as women and to encourage 1 another by sharing our stories.

My name is Sophie, and today I am joined by Anya.

Hello? Hello, Anya.


And so first of all, can you tell us, who you are? Hi.


I'm Anya.

So I've been at Cornerstone Church about 13 years now.

I'm Marita John, and I have 2 children, Theo, who's 4, and Martha, who's 18 months old.



And what do you do? And so I work for Coalition, which is the network of churches that Cornerstone is part of, and I'm in the finance team.

Just part time working in the evenings at the moment.



Thank you.

So we're going to talk about, your journey to faith and how you've been walking with the lord Jesus Christ.

In your life.

So can you tell us a little bit about your family background and how you were brought up? Yeah.


So, I was very blessed.

I was I'm so grateful that I god gave me Christian parents.

So their faith was very evident.

It was part of everything they did, everything they do, and they lived out their faith in very practical ways.

So, my brother and I were very, clearly talked the gospel from a very young age.

And we just we prayed a lot together.

We talked a lot about the Bible.

So talking about god and Jesus and creation was just kind of waving into every part of our life, really.

Just ordinary chats.


And growing up, we saw so many answers to prayer, because Yeah.

We didn't have very much money.

We didn't, yeah, have that much, but that was actually really good because god was just really evident in the way he provided for us.

So I saw lots of answers to prayer.

So on number of occasions.

I remember money just arriving through the letter box, in an answer to prayer, or, 1 particular occasion, I remember, we needed a house urgently.

We're renting 1 that our landlady was gonna sell.

And we all just sat together around a map.

We drew a circle around our house and a circle around our school, and we just asked god for a house in the middle of it.

But the circle's overlapped.

And none of us doubted that he would because he'd always provided, and he did.

He just, quite miraculously, gave us a house in that in that bit, and my parents still live there to this day.

So just so there are so many, so many kind of examples like that that I could give just that I could see god was providing for us in very practical ways.

That's amazing.

And did you notice that from very, very early on, would you say, or was it something that in a way was so normal that you didn't really take into account? I think I did think about it because my parents would pray with us.

So the needs weren't kind of hidden from us.


What some might might have been, but we it was all we were all quite together in the the praying and seeing god working.


That's amazing.

So where did you live at that time? So that was in South End in Essex.



And so, obviously, you've moved around a little bit and and eventually arrived to Kingston.

Can you take us through what happened next in your life? Yeah.

So, as I've said, I had a very kind of secure home life.

I had a very happy family.

I was I was very kind of happy, but then also quite troubled as a child.

I think I had a very lonely childhood in the terms of, I didn't really have a best friend.

I had friends, but not a best friend.

I was always kind of the odd 1 out.

We we didn't have a TV, not much of kind of the world.

Going to our home.

So I didn't really have much to talk about with people, my own age.

So I was always a little bit of an old 1.

Which I could tell, you know, as a teenager, you want to be kind of in the know and Yeah.

Like everybody else, but I was just I was just kind of crippled by that fear of what people thought of me, really.

I, yeah, I didn't, I didn't talk much because I didn't know what to talk about.

So I'd I was a bit lonely.

So God was a a great comfort to me during that time.

I did have a very personal relationship with God, I would say, at that time, but I did have a lot that I hadn't sorted out yet about my Christian faith.

I got a lot wrong.

So I thought, I needed to please god.

Like, I was desperate to please him.

I knew that I would never stop being his child, but I thought I had to please him.

And I kind of pitched him as this disappointed dad.

Who would always be kind of loving, but disappointed in me.

And I feel intensely guilty for anything I'd done wrong.

It would kind of haunt me for days or months.

So so, yeah, I I hadn't got got all my face kind of sorted up by that point.


Would you say that even if there was the case, you knew clearly the gospel? Yes.

Well, yes.

So I knew that Jesus had died for me and it saved me, and I knew that I was safe.

I I've never doubted that I could fall away from him, but I doubted how pleased he works with me, if that makes sense.

I see.

So I was really kind of constantly living in this kind of guilty mindset that so I guess I didn't really know that Jesus had died for all my guilt.


I still thought I had to kind of please him.


Or even if she did, maybe it didn't quite add up in that way.


At least or or, I mean, it's tempting even after we've understood that to when we fall to really feel that guilt.

And to be really drawn by that and drawn away from Christ's sacrifice and the grace he has provided for us really.




Would you say there was a specific time when that fear of not pleasing gods went away, or or was it kind of a gradual thing, or what happens really? So I think I think probably It was when I came to Kingston eventually that, I changed.

So I was kind of stuck in a rut in my home life.

I didn't want to go to uni at first because I was too scared of leaving home.

I didn't really know what I would do.

I was such a kind of shadow.

I I didn't dare kind of go out in the world by myself.

But then eventually I did, I did come to Kingston.

I found a degree course that really grabbed my attention.

And so kind of threw lots of answers to prayer.

I did eventually come here.

And the reason I came to Cornerstone was that I I was looking for, a church online.

My dad was helping me.

He good at that sort of thing.

And he said, well, why don't we just contact the church and see if they need there's any girls in the church that they need to house share? So a few girls did, and so I moved in with them, and then it was kind of natural to come to to call this thing.

That's really nice.

Who did you live with? With Ali who's, who left a while ago and Emma who's still here.



Oh, nice.


What did you study at uni? So I studied embroidery, which is quite a niche kind of degree, which is why I, that really grabbed my attention.

I'd always want to do something creative I wasn't brave enough to go into fashion or art or it was all the kind of bold creative types that went into those things.

And I was too scared to do that.

So this kind of sounded like my way in.

And to the creative industry.

So that's based in Hampton Court.

So that's why I came to Kingston.


Did you actually use that in in Natural job afterwards.

So Yeah.

So I, I became a freelance embroidery, so I was working in different fashion houses.

For a few years.

Yeah, but then eventually I just it was my dream job on paper, but I just quit because the glamour soon were rough.

It the superficiality of the fashion world really got to me, and I just couldn't stand it much longer, so I just quit.

Fair enough.


So obviously you're you're married with 2 children.

Can you tell us a little bit about how there.

John and yeah.


So, I was, I was at Cornerstone.

John was at Cornerstone.


We've both been there along the whole of our student life really, but we didn't really get to know each other until after I graduated when we did the 3 peaks challenge, which is oh, yes.

Remember his story, I think.

Climbing 3 mountains in 24 hours.

So we saw each other as our worst during all those practice runs and doing the actual thing.

So, yeah, we kind of hit it off after that ring.





So we've we've talked quite a lot about your childhood and how your face developed quite early on, but I guess talking more about recent times, was there anything, that you learned, especially maybe when you arrived in Cornerstone that you hadn't encountered before or something that really helped you? Yeah.


So I do think my kind of Christian life changed a lot at that point.

And my my whole life changed a lot when I came here, not just the independence that I got, but just a new way of looking at god.

So all the people around me for the first time, there were people my own age who just loved the lord who were really gripped by the Bible who could see that he was working, that god was working in their lives.

And I just remember 1 sermon particularly quite early on when I joined about the hypocrisy of the pharisees, which doesn't sound very evangelistic, but, that really stayed with me just how, how I'd never been honest, how I was such a hypocrite, I'd always kind of presented this fake version of myself.

I was so keen for others to see how good I was and that just wasn't true.

And it was just crippling to be living under that, and trying to present this fake version of myself.

To gold and probably to myself as well.


And that, that honesty suddenly became the key just to to be, honest about your failings and to be honest with the lord about your failings and to let others see that and to let others help you And I think that was really the turning point, I think, that kind of, that fear of what other thoughts started to fall away a bit when I realized that, you know, God loved me, that that feeling of the disappointed dad suddenly faded away.

And I knew he wasn't like that at all.


But he loved me so much, and he was, loving me even more when I failed.

You know, he was there to pick me up and start me over again.

And he'd already died for all those failings.

And it that was just such a breakthrough, I think.

And that really helped me for the first time ever to start sharing the gospel with people.

I'd always kind of wanted to and I I also felt guilty that I wasn't.

That was 1 of the things I felt guilty about.

But I wasn't telling people about Jesus.

But suddenly, I really wanted to because I'd I'd felt this real joy and relief, that he could give.

So I think at that point, that's when I was really, starting to share that with others.

Obviously, it's still hard to do that.


It's really hard, isn't it? Would you say as well that because you were less focused on what people thought about you, that also enable to do that a bit more freely.




Because before, I wouldn't even say my own opinion on the latest pop song or anything, I'd just say I don't know because I was too to give a wrong answer, but, which is just stupid, isn't it? You but, yeah, so I think suddenly, that really helped.

And also the that being at university, people are a lot more, open to hearing ideas.

I think people have all left home.

They're all kind of thinking things through from themselves suddenly.

It was a really great opportunity to grow in that kind of area.


It's quite interesting how nowadays you have to have an opinion about everything, and you have to have the right opinion, which can be really crippling for people, and I can see that.

And I see myself actually not commenting on things sometimes.

Because I know my opinion is not the right opinion, which is a shame because that's where we can sometimes make a difference and show that We are trying to be consistent with our beliefs and living our lives for Christ, really.

Okay, that's great.

Thank you for sharing that.

That's really encouraging actually to see the evolution of someone who knew the gospel that didn't really feel that freedom that it brings fully at least.

Yeah, oh, that's amazing.

So, obviously, we've had some odds few years, and, you've had Malta in that time as well.

Can you tell us a little bit where you've learned, in these last couple of years? Yes.


So, a lot.

So I think Well, we had 3 0 4 years ago.

So the kind of the start of parenthood, changes you a lot anyway.

So I we learned a lot about god in that time.

When he was very young, so I think just we grew a lot in the knowledge of god as our father by becoming parents ourselves.

But then Martha brought a whole new set of challenges not least because she came in the pandemic, but she was born, well, just throughout my pregnancy I had there was a lot of complications.

The consultants were quite worried about her development.

They thought there were quite few different conditions you might be born with that were quite, worrying.

So that drove us to a lot of prayer due in that time.

That was all during the pandemic.

We discovered she was on the way just as lockdown started.

So we couldn't even tell anyone in person So, yeah, that was, yeah, that was hard, but it drove us to a lot of prayer during that time.

And then at 30 weeks, so 10 weeks early, my water's broke.

And that was obviously a shock as well.

So we expected Martha to be born then, of course, but, the prayer warriors at Cornerstone were activated.

People were praying for us from church, our parents friends, even my nana's care home, everyone was praying for Martha.

She stayed inside me for another month.

And then she'd stopped growing.

So at that point, she was born.

If she was induced.

But amazingly, she only needed to be in hospital a couple of days.


And then the following 6 months was incredibly, incredibly difficult.

She, screamed every time I tried to feed her, she would scream and scream and scream.

And she was tiny, and she wasn't growing.

So that was incredibly painful.

I think I cried that whole 6 month period.

But the lord brought us through it somehow.

It was hard because it was the lockdown but I couldn't have gone out anyway, with that kind of baby, really.

And that was kind of a blessing that I couldn't go out, but it was also hard because people couldn't just pop in.

But Cornerstone were amazing.

We had meals on our doorstep every day for a whole month.

That was incredible.

The family that we we have.


It's just such a witness, to have wonderful it is to be part of a church family.

So what was I gonna say? Yeah, that really saved your sanity, I think.

I think we prayed.

I I would pray every 10 minutes for the strength of the next 10 minutes.

I think in some ways.

I'm glad we had that time because it was such, kind of intense crush course in relying on god for strength.


I really did pray a lot.

And I thought I'm never gonna stop praying like this, but then, obviously, when things get easy, you do forget again.

So it's good to talk about it actually because it reminds me of how how much I need to pray So that was hard.

And then at 3 months old, we had another trauma, so she needed emergency surgery 1 night.

I'll never forget that night.

I had to, face it all alone because theo had COVID Oh, right.


At that time.

And that was in the peak period.

We couldn't get a doctor to come to our house for the whole day.

So they wait we waited all day with her.

Finally, someone came, they would hardly come near us Arthur was screaming.

I couldn't hear him through his mask.

It was just all very traumatic.

And then I had to drive to an unknown hospital at midnight in the rain.

And then, as you know, I hate driving.

I'm scared of driving.

So that was pretty traumatic with my baby that needed emergency surgery.

So but it was strange.

I had this I was I had this piece about it.

It was really unnatural in a way, but it was divine.

I think that I knew the lord had us in his hands.

He would look after my baby and he would look after me.

And that piece has kind of stayed with me since then.

Obviously, I was worried and I was, exhausted, but that piece was there, underlying it all.

And it just, at that time, I really noticed the difference between those that have hope and those that don't.


Because all of our friends were very kind and very loving, but the messages were coming from our, non Christian friends and family were were really kind.

They were they were super kind, but they were just or you're having such an awful time.

I'm so sorry for you.

I'm sending you good thoughts.


Which is quite funny because it's the equivalent of prayer, really.

But which is quite interesting.

I was thinking, well, what good can your good thoughts do? I mean, it's very kind of you, and thank you, but that can't do any good.

That can't do Yeah.

I'm good.

Whereas people that were praying, I knew they were calling on help and strength from someone greater than themselves, and that has really stuck with me and that really has spurred me on to want to share that hope with them because I was 1 in the awful situation, but I wanted to share the peace with them.


I knew that nothing could shake god's plan.

You know, I'd had all this foundation since I was small.

I'd seen god working.

I knew his fatherhood, his love for me, and I knew he he he would have been good even if the worst should have happened, if you know what I mean.

That's right.


The worst in our eyes would have happened, he would still have been good.



As, yeah, as I've seen for all the stories I've done so far with so many women that all these circumstances we we don't understand at the moment, but as you're saying, you really experience that peace in that moment, which is such a a blessing for god from god really.

And and then in the future, when you remember that, is such a pressure thing to to remember and, you know, remember God's faithfulness throughout your life as well.



I think those hardships are such gifts to me and John.

We look back on them and that's in the comfortable times.

That's we need to keep remembering those times because that's when we really knew that god was with us and not to stray from him when things are easy because it's so easy to kinda think that you can do it all on your own when you really can't.




I was going to ask you the last question, which is what advice you would give to younger Christians.

I feel you've given much advice already, though.

Is there is there anything you would like to add? Or Yeah.

I think prayer is so powerful.

Genuinely, yeah, don't go it alone.

Ask people to pray because there are times when I've hesitated, or should I ask someone to pray for this? It seems such a small thing, but actually it's so so worth sharing your prayer requests.

Ask people to pray because you're you're enabling them to be part of seeing that answer and kind of bonds you together and it gives them greater faith because they see god answer.

I'm I'm kind of quite disappointed Sometimes if a friend hasn't told me something that I should pray for because, you know, it it's I'd love to pray with you and see god working in your life.

And, yeah, I've seen so many answers to prayer, well, throughout my life, but particularly in the past couple of years, when our home group has prayed when our bible study, women's bible study have prayed, it's just been a wonderful, yeah, strength know that other people are praying for you.

So, yeah, other people are praying.

And it's actually such an encouragement for the people who have prates for these things to see the result of that and to hear to hear god's answer afterwards as well.



And for Martha, like, seeing how many people pray for Martha? And how many would have been encouraged that today she's doing better and, you know, that she's she's growing and Yeah.

She's healthy.


She's a very normal child now.



That's amazing.

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Sonia.

And thank you for listening, everyone.

That's it for today's episode of sister's story but join us again next time.


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