Monday, January 23, 2006
IN THIS HOUSEWIFE’S LIFE, FACT STRANGER THAN FICTION
By Sam Cruickshank in Challenge Weekly, New Zealand
Special to ASSIST News Service
CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND (ANS) -- Although film producer Lisa Abbott is proud to be known as a Christian housewife and mother, she is not your “typical” New Zealand housewife.
The Abbott family, from left Olivia, David, Brooke, Lisa, Austin and Tessa, at the premiere of Meet Me in Miami at the International Latino Film Festival in Los Angeles.
It is rare that a romantic comedy movie is invited to premiere at big film festivals, let alone receive such a good audience response. But when you meet Lisa such a result is not surprising - miracles seem to follow her wherever she goes.
Although filmmaking has become Lisa’s recent passion, as in her romantic comedy film Meet Me in Miami her own life reads like a love story of international, epic proportions. How she came to live in New Zealand is nothing short of a miracle.
Lisa says that her “love story” with God that first brought her to New Zealand began on March 28, 1982, at 4.30pm at San Diego airport.
She was in her 20s and someone had challenged her to read the Bible, starting from the book of John, and to pray in the name of Jesus. Being young and adventurous, she was up for the challenge.
Reading the book for the third time in the airport lounge, Lisa says that it was “like being caught up in a movie”, in which she saw the events occurring in the Bible so vividly and clearly. It was so real to her.
Until that point in her life Lisa had been a career-focused woman flying across the US managing a property investment portfolio and 4000 apartments. She had been raised with no religious faith as a child.
As a career-driven woman, the last thing Lisa had ever wanted to be was a “born-again” Christian. But her life changed in San Diego airport when she prayed her infamous first “Jesus” prayer.
She says that in that moment she saw the incredible face of Jesus and her life was completely and miraculously transformed. She still can’t fully explain it, except that it was “a miracle”.
This miracle in an airport lounge was the first of many for Lisa. Soon after she met someone who invited her to attend a ball for Prince Charles, Princess Diana and the Queen. Although she initially thought this person was crazy, when the ball invitation arrived for her in gold lettering she knew God wanted her to go.
Lisa found herself jet-setting the world and going to similar balls and functions for three years where she met some of the world’s most “powerful” people. For her, they were all people who needed to know God.
Lisa says this whole “surreal” period of her life was another “little miracle”, and the experience was an excellent training ground with a diverse range of people for later on in life.
In 1989, in the midst of a jet-setting lifestyle, Lisa awoke one day with a really strong feeling that she had to go to New Zealand. She found a world map and chose Christchurch as her destination.
“I was a young Christian and the name ‘Christchurch’ looked like a good place to go and visit,” she said smiling.
Bravely turning up in Christchurch on her own was just the beginning of an amazing New Zealand adventure with God. She took in the beautiful scenery of New Zealand’s Garden City, then began to wonder what it was she was meant to be doing there.
Little did she know that a miracle of romantic joy lay just around the corner - one that would alter the course of her life forever.
She needed a place to live and it was a real estate agent who introduced her to her husband-t- be, a young Kiwi jeweler named David Abbott. From the moment they met, David and Lisa both knew they were destined to spend the rest of their lives together.
”Who can find a virtuous woman? For her worth is above rubies,” is an ancient adage penned in the book of Proverbs. But when David laid eyes on Lisa he had already crafted her engagement ring 10 years before out of a rare deep-pink tourmaline stone that he had bought from Germany.
David knew that the special ring was meant for a special person and he knew that was Lisa from the moment he met her. Lisa is a firm believer that God does the groundwork for His children and that we have to be open to listen to His voice and His leading.
“Where He leads He feeds, where He guides He provides,” Lisa calmly states. ”When I looked at the ring that David had so lovingly crafted for his wife-to-be 10 years earlier, I knew that the man who had hand-crafted this beautiful stone and had put so much love into his work, had faith to believe that God would bring the right woman all the way down to beautiful New Zealand for him - even though it did take 10 years to happen,” she says with laughter and a contented smile.
Thirty days after they first met, Lisa and David married. And 16 years on they have four children, Tessa aged 15, Brooke, 13, Austin, 12, and Olivia, 10, who all provide her with a lot of joy.
However, over the years while the kids were at school all day, Lisa discovered that God had a special work cut out for her.
Her first foray into the world of film took place in 1993. Lisa awoke in the middle of the night clearly hearing God speak to her, asking her to do something for Him. This period of her life she refers to as “the Jesus film” because, in the night, she heard God telling her to organize a showing of the Jesus film at a theatre in Christchurch on Christmas Eve.
Realizing that no one goes out on Christmas Eve to the movies, Lisa was fully aware this would look absurd to most people, but she obeyed and ordered a print of the Jesus film starring Brian Deacon as Jesus and released in 1979. Lisa paid for it on her credit card and the print arrived five days later.
”I approached the local Hoyt¹s cinema with the idea and the manager thought I was insane,” she says with good humor. But on Christmas Eve when the theatre was entirely sold out for the Jesus film he changed his mind.
To him this event was a miracle; to Lisa it was normal.
The Jesus film was so successful that it had repeat screenings in movie theatres all over the country. Lisa had to get five more prints made to keep up with the demand. Then the distribution of the film went into other countries, with her phone ringing red hot. Lisa’s career in the film industry had begun.
She started a company called Family Films, a distribution company with the aim of distributing films that are pure and wholesome. Lisa felt this was important because as a mother she was struggling to find movies without profanity to take her children to.
In 2003 she undertook a great exploit to make the leap of faith as a movie producer. Originally called “The Gardener”, Meet Me in Miami was a film that Lisa’s young daughter, Brooke, had won a part it. Being a parent-support on the set of the film in the US, she was alarmed when the Italian-backed movie ran into financial difficulty.
Because of her background in investment management, she was asked to consider producing the film. In true Abbott style, she said she’d pray about it. She felt that God had presented her with a challenge that He wanted her to say “yes” to.
”God chooses the most unlikely people to do the most impossible things,” says the lively and radiant Lisa. “If it was possible for them to do it all by themselves, then it wouldn¹t be a ‘God thing’. I really want to be involved in things that God is totally the greater part of, because that is exciting and adventurous to me. I think that’s why He chose me.”
Being a Kiwi now, Lisa moved the entire production from its intended Italian set down to New Zealand. This was another exploit she knew was just meant to be as she felt it would be good for both the movie and the picaresque moviemaking location Down Under.
Lisa says she has gone through all the struggles other producer¹s have had to endure in getting their films made, but the difference is that her faith in God has equipped her to rise up and overcome any obstacles that stood in her way.
”What I love most about it is that because I am perceived as being ‘the boss’, I can say to people, ‘Let¹s pray about this’ before any major decision is made,” she laughs.
So far she has had a great response, and has even managed to get entertainment guru Gabriel Reyes, who manages international celebrities like J-Lo and the Desperate Housewives cast’s media publicity, to be open enough to be led into God’s presence and pray with her.
”I feel that this opportunity to be a film producer allows me to share my faith, joy and hope in God with others. Making films is just the vehicle,” she says.
Who Lisa gets to meet and work with along the way is part of her joy relationship with the Producer and Director of her faith and the journey so far has been fun. She believes that all things happen for a reason and she can move boldly forward because there is a greater hand that guides her.
The Christchurch housewife will once again be walking the red carpet, in New Zealand this time, with some of the biggest names in New Zealand film-making when Meet Me in Miami has its New Zealand premiere on Valentine’s Day next month.
Lisa’s next adventure will be making a film about Rachel Scott, a Columbine High School massacre victim who was a committed Christian. In her personal diaries, Rachael predicted her own death before it happened and was ready to meet her Maker. Lisa finds this young woman¹s story of joy and hope amid tragedy breathtakingly incredible.
Sam Cruickshank works in strategic communications for Chambers PR in Christchurch. His parents, Graham and Tui Cruickshank, are the senior pastors at Christian Renewal Fellowship Church in Whangarei, New Zealand.
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