Help, Hope, And Apathy: An Interview With Missionary Author Natalie Vellacott
Posted by Jason McIntire | Apr 07, 2016
Today we have the pleasure of hosting Natalie Vellacott, missionary to the Philippines and author of the book They're Rugby Boys, Don't You Know? After reading and reviewing the book, I asked Natalie if she would give us an interview here on Elisha Press, and she was nice enough to agree. So here we go!
Give us the thirty-second version of what Olongapo Christian Help and Hope is all about.
Olongapo Christian Help and Hope is the UK based charity I set up in 2013 to provide funding for ministry to street teenage boys who are addicted to a solvent called "rugby" in the Philippines. The drug is used by the children to stave off hunger pangs but causes serious irreversible physical damage. I befriended these boys during outreach from Logos Hope (a Christian Missionary Ship) in 2012 and later returned to the Philippines to continue working with them.
You have a great testimony of how you came to repentance after running from God for a number of years. What did the Lord use to awaken you to his truth?
During my 6 year rebellion I always knew that God was there but I did everything in my power to block Him out and try to forget Him. I tried to fill the emptiness in my life by going to extremes in many areas but nothing filled the void. In the end, my life lost its purpose and meaning and I came to a point where I was miserable. It was actually seeing my younger sister turn her life around when she came back to her faith that triggered my repentance but it had been a long time in the making. God had His hand on my life even when I was far from Him.
Suppose you meet a person who is basically a picture of yourself during those running years - drinking, partying, and the whole bit - and you have the opportunity to tell them one thing they will listen to and remember. What would you say?
That's a tough question. I didn't really listen to anyone that tried to confront me at that time especially the people I had been close to (friends/family) that were still walking with God. I distanced myself from anyone who seemed too "Holy," as I felt guilty in their presence. I moved further from God when people confronted me to try and ease my conscience. But I did listen to them. I don't think it's really so much about what you say but more how you prepare for that conversation. Pray that God will give you the words that will penetrate the outer layer and for the timing of that conversation. If there is an opportunity, you could try asking the person if they are really happy/content with their life. Even the question will make them think about it and most people that are living like this know deep down that they are not happy as they are rebelling against God. They may not admit it to you but it will make them think. Some may even admit at this stage that they are not happy and then you can share about Jesus. There isn't really a method that can be used. Prayer and being sensitive to the individual is key.
Time is precious, and it's easy to see you invested a lot in writing Rugby Boys. Why did you write the book? Has it accomplished what you hoped so far?
I wrote "rugby boys" for a few reasons. The main purpose was to share both the Gospel message of salvation from the Bible and my personal faith in Jesus to readers. I also wanted to encourage others to reach out to the boys, in particular the local Filipino churches. I hoped to challenge local attitudes towards the boys and help people to see that they are just children, most of whom have had difficult backgrounds and need patience, compassion and help. I wanted to share our ministry experiences so that others could learn from them and so that our mistakes wouldn't be repeated. I also hoped to raise some money (through royalties) for the charity to continue helping the boys during rehabilitation and at school. Finally I believed it was an unusual story and I wanted readers to enjoy it.
One unexpected result was that there were a few readers who contacted me to advise that they had been inspired/challenged to get more involved in mission themselves either through going or giving. In those cases I would say that God used the story to prompt them which was an encouragement.
In terms of the goals for the book being accomplished, I would say "yes" and "no." The evangelistic aspect has been successful as quite a few non-believers have read the book and thereby learned about Jesus. Some money was also raised for the charity. People also seem to have enjoyed the story. The aspect that has not been accomplished is really in relation to the Philippines itself as I was unable to find an effective way to market and distribute the book at a cheap enough price to make it worthwhile. It is available as an e-book but I would still have liked to see it in shops in the Philippines as that is where the message would be most relevant.
You stay in touch with the boys through Facebook - which, I was surprised to learn, even the poorest of them access regularly. In the overall balance, would you say social media has been bad or good for them? If you had the power to change history such that social media were never invented - at least for the children you work with - would you do so?
Social media acts as a distraction from life (and from God) for most people, including these children. In general social media encourages people to focus too much on themselves and it can also be a big waste of time. It prevents people forming proper personal relationships with others as they are either checking their social media profiles constantly or they use social media as an alternative to face to face contact. There are positive aspects to it if people choose to use it wisely (e.g evangelism/keeping in contact with people/exchanging necessary information) but most don't do this. I believe it has created a lot of unnecessary stress in the lives of people and I personally would rather return to a simpler time.
For the children it was worse than a distraction as it had taken over their lives. It was the only thing they looked forward to each day and the only thing they did. They literally chose social media/computer games over food and it consumed all of their time. I mention in my book that whilst in rehab the boys were more concerned about whether their facebook profiles would be deleted due to inactivity than what would happen to them in the future. This sounds ridiculous but it was their main concern and they were extremely pleased when I agreed to sort it out for them. In many ways this was just how the boys had learned to deal with everything; thinking only about the next 24 hours and not the bigger picture but it is shocking to learn of this level of addiction to the use of social media.
If you could have one unusual capability or "special machine" (that doesn't really exist) to help in your missions work, what would it be?
Well it would have to relate to the "hope" aspect of the work rather than the "help." The Gospel message of hope in Jesus is always the priority in any work I am involved in as people's lives can only be transformed through Him. But as faith is imparted by God I don't know that a machine/unusual capability would assist in this aspect... maybe I would have a photographic memory so that I could memorise the whole Bible and instantly be able to recall needed verses at the right time, that would definitely help....
What do you see as the #1 challenge confronting the Church worldwide at this time?
Apathy. I see a lack of care and concern in all areas of life but particularly in matters relating to faith. People (sadly including Christians) don't seem to want to know the truth about God, their lives or their eternal destinations. They surround themselves with distractions (materialism) and there is a general disinterest in the things of God. Of course, all of this is predicted in the Bible so we shouldn't be surprised but it is very sad.
Is there any way in particular that I, or readers of this blog, can be praying for you?
I'm on a break in the USA right now and am making some big decisions about the future. Please pray that God will clearly lead and guide me in this process and that I will be used for His glory. Thankyou.
Thank you, Natalie, for giving us your time. I would encourage everybody to follow your very interesting blog, as I do, to consider purchasing your book, and to stand with you in prayer as you seek the Lord in this next phase of your life. May we all be found faithful by our Lord in the calling He has given each of us!