This tribute was written by Anthony's wife, Anne.
Anthony joined the NZCMS family by association when he married me (Anne Giles) in 2004. Prior to that time, he had considered short-term Mission. After my six years in Pakistan (1989 until 1995) when I returned home to care for my elderly father, I felt that Global Mission wasn’t yet over for me. We decided to pursue mission service together, applied to NZCMS as a couple and were accepted as candidates-in-training at the end of 2008. My father died in 2009 and the following year, we went to St Andrew’s Hall in Melbourne without any clear idea as to where we would serve.
While at St Andrews Hall, our attention was drawn to Cambodia. After much prayer, thought and discussion, we concluded that Cambodia was indeed the place for us. In April 2011, we left New Zealand for Phnom Penh and spent almost two years studying the Khmer language. Although Anthony didn’t find language study easy, he persevered and learnt to read, write and speak Khmer, but didn’t achieve the proficiency he would have liked. We moved to Battambang early in 2013 and took up roles at the World Mate Emergency Hospital, a trauma hospital for victims of landmines, traffic and workplace accidents.
Anthony set up a social work department at the hospital, writing policies and procedures before recruiting and training Khmer staff to carry out social work amongst patients and caregivers. After two years at the hospital, he handed the programme over to Khmer leadership. He then spent his remaining years in Cambodia training social workers in non-government organisations. With the help of a translator, he devised and delivered training on almost 50 topics on social work theory and practice which were very well received. Anthony enjoyed this teaching role, valuing the opportunity it provided to upskill Cambodians to face the challenges that arose in their lives.
Anthony formed friendships with a number of Khmer people he met through his work, as well as at church and frequently found himself in a mentoring role, particularly to younger people, many of whom lacked older role models in their lives. In his quiet way, Anthony drew alongside these folk and they were very appreciative of the advice and encouragement he gave them, sometimes also having an opportunity to share his faith with them.
Anthony struggled with aspects of life in Cambodia, particularly the corruption, dishonesty and extreme poverty prevalent there. He missed the outdoors, the New Zealand bush and activities such as camping and tramping. He encountered challenges in both life and work but he faced these head-on, in the knowledge that God had called him to work there and had equipped him for this work.
As I have reflected on the obvious influence Anthony had on peoples’ lives, reading and listening to many kind words since his death, I have been humbled to realise again how privileged I was to be his wife and am so thankful that God brought us together for a season, albeit too short. Sharing some of what was expressed to me seems a fitting way to end this tribute to Anthony.
Anthony was funny, definite, caring, interested and interesting, a visionary, risk-taker, a good sort. He was a safe, solid presence to his siblings in what was often a chaotic home. He faced life’s challenges and overcame many obstacles particularly during times of untold sadness in his twenties. He had a mystical nature, didn’t suffer fools gladly, fell short in his own eyes and was sometimes misunderstood. He was a curious observer of people who valued actions more than words. He was astute, intuitive, sensitive and wise, possessing both earthly knowledge and spiritual sensitivity. He had the ability to stand alone, yet also valued community.
His life story was one of searching, adventure and transformation and he demonstrated fidelity in living out the phrase from Romans chapter 1, about being transformed by the renewing of his mind. He allowed himself to be moved by the suffering of others and knew how to serve others well.
Throughout his 15 month battle with cancer, Anthony refused to acknowledge the seriousness of his illness, remaining steadfast in his trust that God would heal him so that he could continue the work in Cambodia he believed God still had for him to do. Sadly, this was not to be. He allowed no negativity or pity about his situation even as he became increasingly vulnerable and didn’t like how fragile his body had become. I, along with two of his sisters, was privileged to be able to fulfil his wish to remain at home, nursing him there up until his peaceful passing on 26th May.
Mission accomplished, Anthony. Well done, good and faithful servant.