Natasha Tordoff, 30, grew up in the UK but moved to her mother’s native country, Papua New Guinea, to serve with Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) in 2021
You grew up in the UK, but your mum is from Papua New Guinea, so can you tell us a bit of your background?
In the 1980s my father was studying at Sydney University, researching tropical diseases. He decided to go to Papua New Guinea to do a research project on malaria. He met my mum through her auntie, who was his research assistant. My mother is from a remote island, off the northern coast of Papua New Guinea. It is very rural; she was living in the bush. When I was a little child, she would tell me stories of all the myths that come from her volcanic Island. She told me about how their ancestors came on big boats from another land, carrying bananas and pigs, and they settled there. She influenced me to be open minded to other ways of thinking, and instilled in me a love for the natural way of living.
Had you been to Papua New Guinea before moving there with MAF?
I went as a baby, and then when I was about 14. I absolutely loved it. We were camping in the middle of the jungle, going on a speedboat for four hours to get to the remote village. It inspired me to love adventure.
How did you come to faith?
It was actually my older brother who led me to Christ. He became a Christian at 17 after one of his school friends had invited him to church. One night he told me that God had told him to tell me the gospel. I must have been about ten years old. I listened, and I believed. We prayed together, and I just remember crying and feeling God’s presence come over me. But then when I became a teenager I started to rebel. My parents got divorced, and I went to live with my dad.
When I was 23 God pressed it on my heart to go back to church, but I felt unworthy. I thought that, as I’d once believed, and then walked away, that I couldn’t come back to God. But he very quickly showed me that that wasn’t true, that he’s always loved me and there’s nothing I can do to earn his love.
What was your career path, and how did you end up joining MAF?
When I was a teenager I got kicked out of college for bunking lessons and not getting my A-levels. My family were really disappointed in me, as they expected me to get to university and become a lawyer or a doctor or something like that. We moved an hour out of London, and the only thing I could do was cleaning. Work was just about necessity, getting money in and doing whatever I could to pay the bills and help my mum and my younger sister.
I decided to do an accounts diploma when I was about 19. I managed to get a job working for Network Rail. I prayed for the job and God blessed me by giving me a salary that was enough to pay for all the bills.
I had a heart to help the poor, and kept thinking about Papua New Guinea. I think I prayed for at least two years just saying: “I want to go and do something that gives you glory and that helps people, I don’t care about the money.”
I kept praying every year. When 2020 was approaching I said to God: “If I don’t quit now, I’ll never go.” So I decided to hand my notice in. I had savings, so said to God: “I’ll go to Papua New Guinea on my own and you show me what I can do.” I heard there was a missionary living in the mountains of my mum’s island, so thought I could just go find her and say: “I’ve come to help you!”
So I quit my job and my flight was booked for March 2020 – the same month that they put a ban on flights globally! I’d given up my room that I was renting in Milton Keynes at the time, so had to move in with my grandma in Yorkshire. I was asking God to show me how to get to Papua New Guinea during the pandemic, and then found the advert for MAF technologies. The skills for the role that I applied for suited my work history in administration and finance perfectly. I got the job, and then started fundraising for support.
Something that holds people back from missions is singleness. Some women look at their circumstances and think: “I’ll find a husband and then I’ll go”, or “I’ll never find a husband if I go to the jungle so I won’t go.” As a single woman, where do you stand on that?
I’ve been praying for a husband since I was 23! Some people advise: “Don’t just pray; you’ve got to get out there.” And others say: “Trust God’ don’t rush.” Before I left, I thought God would provide a husband when I’m out in the field. Now I’m here, I’m realising how difficult it is to find somebody because there are not many other single missionaries out here.
Sometimes I feel really sad that I’m at this age and not married yet, but at other times I’m very accepting of my situation. I can’t control what comes tomorrow, and if God says he looks after the sparrows and the flowers of the field then I can trust him to provide for my needs. So I try to balance the negative and the positive sides of being single. If I was married, then I’d have companionship, but as a single person, I can do so much more than if I was married.
I know I’m not the only single missionary who has thought like this – I met another lady recently who’s older than me and still single. When I meet people like that, it’s comforting because at least you know you’re not the only one. So I don’t know what the future holds, but I am learning to trust.
What does MAF do in Papua New Guinea and what is your role?
MAF technologies exists to bring hope, help and healing to the isolated communities of Papua New Guinea through technology. Unlike the aviation arm of MAF, our team focuses solely on supplying remote communities with electricity and communication with the outside world, through solar panel and radio mast installations. 80 per cent of Papua New Guineans live in rural communities with very little access to essential amenities. We hope to be beacon of light to these communities who have no other way of reaching the outside world when disasters or emergencies strike.
We intercept emergency radio calls from our head office in Goroka and direct the emergency to the appropriate responder; either MAF aviation who carry our medevacs, or other non-government organisations or governmental bodies. We also provide remote communities with audio Bible devices in their unique languages by partnering with other Bible translators in the country. I help by assisting in the office so that our engineers can do what they do efficiently.
What would you say to anyone considering going on overseas missions?
You’re never going to learn, grow or see what God has in store unless you go outside of your comfort zone. That is where God takes us when we choose to step out and turn away from the things that we are very comfortable in. There is so much to learn on the mission field. Any fears that you might have, just give to God, and what you’ll gain is far more amazing than just staying put in the same place. You’ll never be the same person; you’ll come back transformed. That’s something to live for and put all your energy in in this short life that we have.
To find out more about the work of MAF visit: www.maf-uk.org