Over the past month I have written about three women who have inspired and influenced me: Wendy Thomas, my wife Leeanne and my mum. Today I need to complete the set by talking about another woman who has shaped my life and continues to inspire and challenge me: My Auntie Anne.
Like mum, Auntie Anne grew up on the North West Coast of Tasmania in a middle class family headed up by an entrepreneurial father (Pa) and a mother (Mema) who knew 95% of the people in Tasmania (maybe I’m exaggerating… it could have only been 90%). I think it was probably Pa (a.k.a. Gordon Nanscawen) who shaped an understanding in his three kids that normal is not prescriptive. I think he often watched on in pride mixed with a little fear as Anne, Jenny (mum) and John all broke out of the mold in their own ways.
Auntie Anne spent time working as an English/History teacher and the government employment office before following mum to Sydney and coming to work with Fusion in the early 1980’s.
Auntie Anne never married which meant that in many ways the Fusion family became her own family in a very special way. It wasn’t long before she became the movement’s national secretary and in a very beautiful way became the heart of the organization. When people were hurting, she was hurting, when people were winning, she was winning, and every new baby was a new niece or nephew to be celebrated. This is why literally hundreds of people still call her “Auntie Anne.”
In an organization that was very mission focussed, Auntie Anne would often be speaking up for those who she felt were being overlooked or facing challenges. If Auntie Anne was fighting for you, you knew that people would pay attention to whatever it was that needed attention.
Auntie Anne became the central nervous system of a rapidly growing global movement. She knew the names of almost everyone in every centre and every country, and she made sure that others did too. She became the hub through which all communication flowed.
Auntie Anne is also extremely generous. In an organization where everyone was living below the poverty line, trusting God for their provision, I am aware that for many people at different times and in different ways, that provision came directly from Auntie Anne, who herself was living on a very low income.
Probably the thing I respect the most about my Aunt is her courage. When Fusion and Poatina hit a crisis, Auntie Anne, had only just retired as National Secretary after several decades of faithful service. She had a right to take it easy, but instead she dug in. She continued her critical role of communication around the world and began to serve in Poatina Village in very practical ways.
While Auntie Anne always cared about the people, she also never lost sight of the vision behind Fusion and Poatina village, and that vision kept her going, often coping with grief as she saw the people she loved hurting and the movement that she served so faithfully, fraying at the edges.
Auntie Anne is well into her seventh decade on the planet, and yet if you call into Poatina Village and order a meal at the local restaurant, there is a good chance she will have cooked it. If you turn up for a village event, there is a good chance she will have been involved in planning it and if you sleep in a bed in the local motel, there is a good chance she will have made it.
Auntie Anne continues to be a central hub of communication for the Fusion movement, and continues to be driven by the vision that brought her from Tasmania to Sydney four decades ago.
When others her age are focussing on retirement, Auntie Anne continues to serve, motivated by her love for God, her love for people and her love for the vision that shaped her life.
Auntie Anne helps me understand the Apostle Paul’s words:
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
Everyone needs an Auntie Anne, someone who you know is always in your corner and doesn’t give up when things get tough.