The Anemaat Family:

A job well done

After 14 years of service in Changsha, International China Concern volunteers Justin and Lisa Anemaat returned to Brisbane, Australia in July of this year. 

HEARING THE CALL 

Lisa recalls how she immediately fell in love with the work and the children when she first went to Changsha in March 1999 as part of a China Team. “I knew this was the place for us,” she says. In October of the same year, the couple went on their first China Team together. 
Justin Anemaat during his first China Team in October 1999.

‘I CAN BE A FATHER TO THESE KIDS’ 

 Justin remembers the moment he first walked through the gates of the Changsha Welfare Centre. “I thought ‘I could be a father to these kids,’” he recalls. Within a year, the couple moved to Changsha to begin language training. 

The Anemaats became an important part of ICC’s work in China over the next 14 years. They managed Team Life groups for all the volunteers in Changsha for several years. Lisa worked in a number of areas, including the Vocational Training Centre where she introduced art to the children and young adults. Justin was most recently responsible for all of ICC’s operations in the city as the Changsha Area Director.
Justin and Lisa Anemaat (centre) on the October 1999 team.

FRIDAY NIGHTS 

The couple recalls “Friday Nights” in the early days of their service with special fondness. Friday evenings were spent in much the same way as a youth group in a western church would, and the Anemaats grew to be friends and role models for the children. Over the years, they watched many of the kids mature and grow into independence; many are now responsible for their own living. 

During their years in China, the Anemaat’s two sons, Tyson and Josh, and daughter, Brianna, were born. In addition, the couple recently adopted their daughter, Rebecca, from Hengyang. All three of the older children attended local public schools and were part of ICC team life. However, as they grew older, it became clear to Justin and Lisa that it was time for them to connect with their “home” country. 

The Anemaat family today: (L-R) Justin, Rebecca, Tyson, Josh, Lisa, and Brianna.
Today, the family is adjusting to life in Brisbane. The children are adapting well to Australian schools. Lisa is now in university with the goal of re-entering the healthcare field, and Justin is looking to put his considerable knowledge of Chinese language and culture to work. 

Living and working in China is an experience they would never trade away, says Lisa. “If I had it all to do again,” she says, “I would.” 

Justin feels their work with ICC “has had a ripple effect” in China. Both the wider society and the government have begun to see the value of children with disabilities who have been abandoned. During their stay in Changsha, other government welfare centres visited ICC’s projects, taking knowledge and methods back to their own cities. 

“Being part of that was pretty cool,” Justin says.