Annette Spurr knows what it’s like to grow up in a country that is hostile towards Christianity. The daughter of missionaries, Annette was born in the United Arab Emirates where her parents ran a maternity hospital. They experienced first-hand the challenges of being part of the underground church.
Annette began her schooling in the UAE, shortly before her parents moved to Australia and her father became the Pastor of a church in Western Sydney. Annette joined us on 20Twenty to share how her experiences influenced her faith journey, and led her to write her book, ‘Seeing God.’
Annette remembers the women being cared for in the UAE maternity hospital were seeking company and often wanted to learn English. All the nurses and doctors were Christian missionaries, and they would minister and read the Bible to them.
“We actually started a home church with the mums who came in to give birth,” Annette says. “Then they would go home and minister to their husbands as well. It was a really creative way of doing mission.”
As Annette got older, she found that faith became the original inconvenient truth, and it got in the way of the life she wanted to live. But when she was 19, one of her dearest friends took her own life, and Annette found the possibility of an eternity without God devastating.
“I was struggling with anxiety and depression,” she says. “And my mum started sending me these cassettes of David Pawson. I listened to countless messages of his. She also gave me a book by Isobel Kuhn about her life as a missionary in China and how she came to faith, which I really resonated with.”
Annette can remember lying in bed at night wrestling with God. Eventually, she decided that being in control of her own life wasn’t working, and she handed things over to Him. She says she instantly felt the weightlessness of knowing that someone far more intelligent than her was now in charge.
Annette’s book, ‘Seeing God’, came out of her work with the ministry, ‘National Day of Thanks.’ She spent a lot of time educating people about God’s heart for gratitude. It was an incredible journey of discovery for her to discover the spiritual significance of gratitude.
“This book is really the culmination of over 10 years of research,” says Annette. “I’ve written it in a way that anyone from 12 and up can enjoy. It’s just full of different people sharing their stories of how gratitude has impacted their lives, and how true gratitude is about seeing God and feeling seen by God.”
One of the chapters in the book talks about an encounter that Annette had with Jesus at a prayer night. She actually had a vision of Him standing before her in beautiful rainbow colours. There was just a thin veil between them, and she remembers asking Jesus if she could enter into that space.
“The veil lifted, and then there was nothing in between us,” she says. “I remember thinking, what’s the appropriate response? When you’re sensing the physical presence of Jesus, what should you be doing? I just felt Him saying, your gratitude is the appropriate response in my presence.”
We need to be thankful in the presence of Jesus, but also realise we are in his presence because we’re thankful. He is around us all the time, inviting us to engage. Our gratitude is the key that unlocks that deeper spiritual connection with Christ.
Annette says she loves going on a morning walk being amongst nature. “There is just this beautiful cacophony going on. That’s my temple with Jesus, where I feel closest to him. If I’m going through a really difficult anxious season and I can’t hear the birds, that’s my cue that the thoughts in my head are too loud and it’s time to quiet myself.”
“I find myself pursuing things to be thankful for and looking actively looking for them,” Annette says. “Walking with God is an incredible journey in gratitude.”