As a shadow of darkness engulfed a life of sadness and impurity led by one young educated woman it would take an extraordinary moment that would allow her to grow, evolve, and finally be saved this is the story that Elsa Easton lives to share. During a recent visit to Living Waters Romania Church Elsa Easton shared her personal journey that brought her back to her lord and savior Jesus Christ.
Elsa who was born in the United States while her father was completing his degree in Colorado was relocated to her father’s homeland of New Zealand at a very young age. The move prompted by both personal and financial reasons for the family, her father in search of job security, and her mother in need of affordable medical treatment for the cancer that was waging war on her body. Having family still living in America Elsa has the opportunity to visit every few years which she enjoys doing.
Of her own omission, Elsa led a reckless life that led her feeling lonely, empty and without self-esteem. Those tortuous times would include a battle with alcohol addiction that triggered many poor decisions from those judgments a reckless and wild life style. It would take many years for her to regain true salvation that would afford her the opportunity to bask in the glow of a one and true love, and to live without fear with her father, our father, the father, Jesus Christ the lord and savior.
In the following paragraphs, Elsa will share her story that has taken her from one nation to another spreading the gospel and the meaning of true acceptance and belief. With her story, a closer examination of the differences in values between the cultures of the United States and New Zealand will be discussed and examined in relation to economics, attitudes and belief systems the nations have adopted.
Octavian Curpas: – Elsa, briefly tell us a few words about yourself. I understand you were born in the United States and relocated to New Zealand when you were a small child. What was the reason for your family leaving the United States and relocating to New Zealand?
Elsa Easton: – My dad is a New Zealander and he was given a scholarship to study at Colorado University, when he met my mom. They moved to California and I was born in Santa Barbara. We moved to New Zealand when I was a toddler.
My mom had cancer and we moved to New Zealand for financial reasons.
Octavian: – I understand that a part of your family resides in the United States, can you briefly explain?
Elsa: – Half of my family is American, and the other half is from New Zealand. It is a good excuse to travel but it would be nice if we all lived close by.
Octavian: – Please describe the difference between the United States and New Zealand, how do the two differ?
Elsa: – New Zealand is a very beautiful country. We have everything- golden beaches, snowy Alps, lush forests and clean rivers. There are only four million people in New Zealand. I think one of the best things about our country is that we are laid back (relaxed) and we have a unique sense of humor. We aren’t as flash as America – not so much into material possessions or having the latest item. I think we are more content maybe. But because we are small, we are creative and interested in seeing the rest of the world.
Octavian: – What separates the people in New Zealand from the people in the United States?
Elsa: – Americans are extremely generous and hospitable! It always overwhelms me. New Zealanders are known for being friendly but I don’t think we make as much of an effort to welcome people into our homes.
Octavian: – How would you describe Christchurch, New Zealand?
Elsa: – Christchurch is a beautiful city of 340,000 people. It is on the East Coast of the South Island. I live ten minutes walk from the beach and 90 minutes drive from the ski fields. We have many parks and pretty old buildings. Our summers are hot and dry and our winters are crisp and sunny. It snows maybe once every winter in the city, more often in the surrounding hills.
Octavian: – What occupational fields have you worked in? What is your current occupational position?
Elsa: – I have worked as a speech language pathologist and an elementary school teacher. I loved both of those occupations. In July, 2008 my church approached me to work with them. I was already involved in ministry/ leading so I knew them pretty well. In October I started working as our pastor’s personal assistant. It is the best job in the world for me.
Octavian: – What type of movement is “Vineyard Church” involved with?
Elsa: – Our church is a part of the Vineyard movement. It will be 14 years old in April (2013). We have about 2,000 members. It is one of the fastest growing churches in the country, which has taken everybody by surprise. We adopted a smaller church this year and that has been humbling and exciting. We have a much larger staff now and a huge number of volunteers. We are careful to honor God with the financial and personal resources that He has blessed us with.
Octavian: – When did you become a Christian? What happened that lead you to Christ?
Elsa: – I became a Christian – born again and following Jesus with all my heart – 4 years ago. Prior to that, I lived a very lost and wild lifestyle. I struggled with drinking addiction and low self esteem. God supernaturally healed me of a drinking related injury, and I realized He was not the stern, distant God I thought He was. I am so thankful He pursued me and heard the cry of my heart.
Octavian: – How often do you visit the U.S.? What do you enjoy doing while visiting Arizona?
Elsa: – I try to come to America every 2 or 3 years. My grandparents live in Sun City and they are very special to me. They are getting old now, so it’s important to me to spend time with them. I always shop and eat a lot here. It’s probably good that I don’t live here permanently.
Octavian: – How are the holidays celebrated in New Zealand compared to the United States?
Elsa: – In New Zealand most people have a 2 or 3 weeks vacation from Christmas to the New Year. Almost everyone celebrates Christmas, but few people acknowledge Jesus. It is more of a family time. Also, because it is summer, many families go to the beach. We often have a BBQ at Christmas time. We don’t have as many decorations in or on our houses, but is becoming more popular.
Octavian: – A new year is here. What do you wish to say to all of our readers that may inspire them?
Elsa: – I know that it is a challenging time in your country with the gloomy economic outlook. Keep trusting God and look to Him as your provider. I pray that you will all draw closer to Him no mater what 2009 brings.
Octavian: – How does the Church in New Zealand differ from a Church in the U.S.? How would you describe the Christian movement in New Zealand?
Elsa: – I haven’t seen too many churches in America, so I’m unqualified to make a comparison. A very small percentage of New Zealanders attend church and we don’t have as strong Christian heritage as you. Many church numbers are dwindling, but God is raising up people who are passionate for His name. I think the Christians generally want a genuine move of God or nothing at all! My own church is constantly challenged to bring Jesus to our lost city, to be genuine and real, and to take the presence of God out of the building on Sundays to where the lost people are. What an awesome and important commission we have.
Octavian: – You visited Living Waters Romanian Church in Glendale, AZ on December 28th, 2008. What were your impressions of this church?
Elsa: – I really enjoyed the service at Living Waters. The worship music was beautiful – I love listening to the sounds in your language. I liked the way that all prayed together as a congregation too. I thought there was a lovely presence of God there and I appreciated the way that people came and introduced themselves. I found this church to be very friendly and encouraging.
Octavian: – You reside on South Island, what is the difference between the North and South?
Elsa: – The weather in the North Island is generally warmer, especially in the winter. I don’t think there are any real differences in the people, although I found Christchurch to be more laid back than the places I lived in up north. I don’t know much about the economy sorry!
Octavian: – Is there anything you dislike about New Zealand, versus the U.S.?
Elsa: – I don’t really dislike anything about NZ – it is a great place to live! It saddens me that crime has increased since I was a child, but this is probably true of most countries. America seems a little superficial to me at times… I think I would find it hard to stay true to myself if I lived there.
Octavian: – What can the United States improve and learn from New Zealand?
Elsa: – That is a hard question! I hear that Americans only get 2 weeks vacation each year… that is definitely not enough!
Octavian: – How many weeks of vacation is allotted to New Zealanders?
Elsa: – We get four weeks vacation in New Zealand. I was also spoiled when I was a teacher as I had approximately 10 weeks throughout the year.
Octavian: – What position do Zealanders adopt towards academics? Do they value education? How many Universities are known for their academic standards?
Elsa: – I think that we have a good education system here, and it is compulsory to attend school until you are at least 15. Because it is no longer free to get a tertiary qualification, people who study at university are generally very committed. In my opinion, you can still do very well in the workforce without a degree, and I think that is important. Not everyone is book smart. Two of our universities are ranked highly by world standards.
Octavian: – Which two Universities are ranked high by World standards?
Elsa: – The University of Auckland ranked best for NZ overall and then the University of Canterbury did well for research activity. Having said that, I think you can make any statistics work in a positive light! Our university fees are probably very reasonable by international standards and you can’t beat the kiwi lifestyle to go with it.
Octavian: – Living in New Zealand have you had a chance to meet any Romanians?
Elsa: – No, I have not.
Octavian: – I understand your sister resides in Australia, tell us in your own words about your perception of this country.
Elsa: – Australia is great! I think the people are very similar to New Zealanders. The country is a lot bigger and they have a warmer climate. I visit there every two or three years.
Octavian: – New Zealanders and Australians, what do you believe the difference is?
Elsa: – Australians are more frank (not as politically correct).
Octavian: – How do Australians perceive Zealanders, and vice versa?
Elsa: – A lot of New Zealanders migrate to Australia because there are good work opportunities there. We have a good relationship dating back to the world wars, but each country teases the other.
Octavian: – Have you visited any other Countries at the present time?
Elsa: – I haven’t visited any other countries yet.
Octavian: – What are your plans for visiting other Countries in the future?
Elsa: – I am planning to go to Thailand on a mission trip with my home group this year. I would also like to get to Tanzania soon. Not enough vacation time to go everywhere I’d like to!
The interview was conducted in Surprise, Arizona in December, 2008, by Octavian Curpas.
Two years later, Elsa got married with Craig Wright, a wonderful man from New Zealand. Shortly after, on February 22nd, 2011, Elsa’s car was almost completely crushed during the Christchurch earthquake with her still inside. Here is a video in which Elsa and her husband, Craig, share the amazing story of her miraculous survival: