YOU can hear her on the radio, she’s a married mum of two, she’s head of Youth and Emerging Generations for Tearfund, and if you’re coming to our Weekend Away you will have the privilege of hearing from this month’s Dangerous Woman, the incredible Kiera Phyo.
Kiera, tell us a little bit about yourself:
Well, I’m 34, I’m married to Trevor, and that will be 10 years in October, and we have two little girls age three years and four months old. I’ve been at Tearfund for eight years now but was a schools worker before that, and had a bit of time mentoring vulnerable girls as well as doing local church youth work.
What’s your favourite kind of food?
Probably something Italian. But If I was to pick a single food, I think it would be tomatoes. I really do like tomatoes.
What’s your idea of a perfect day?
I don’t have something specific, but it would definitely start with a lazy morning. It would be sunny, friends and family would be with me. Maybe a picnic in the park? It would definitely involve being with people I love the most.
Do you have a happy or funny memory?
Aside from having my daughters, which was of course, the happiest of moments, I have a bit of a superficial memory from when I was younger. Can you remember those competitions where you could win something inside a packet of crisps? Well I must have been about 14 and ended up dancing around my kitchen because I got a fiver from a bag of crisps. It was the first time I had ever won anything and I just remember being really happy about it.
What about fears? Do you have a fear or a phobia?
I think losing family members is always my greatest fear, but I definitely have a thing about earwigs. Would I say it’s a phobia? Yeah, probably. I do hate them, they’re the only insect that I would kill. My brother was pinched on the finger by one when he was little, and I think I read somewhere that they can burrow into your ears and lay eggs. Whenever I’m camping at festivals I’m always paranoid that an earwig is in my tent. If I see one, I’ll definitely kill it.
Okay, so what’s your most embarrassing moment?
Is telling you that I have a fear of earwigs laying eggs in my ear not embarrassing enough? I do have one moment that sticks out. I had been for an interview within Tearfund for a leadership role. I left the interview, went to the bathroom and as I came out and walked up the staircase a colleague who I didn’t know that well told me that my skirt was tucked into my knickers. I spent the whole rest of the day thinking I had been for an interview like that! I later found out I hadn’t, but that was as embarrassing as it gets really.
Kiera, we know your dad is a Christian – he’s speaking at Inside Out too – but how did you first find faith in Jesus?
Actually I couldn’t tell you when there was a first or a beginning to that but I do have a memory of Spring Harvest when I was little, I think when I was about seven, and I walked back to our room afterwards and told my dad that I had given my life to Jesus ‘again’. So although I can’t remember it something must have happened prior to that. I did, as you say, grow up in a Christian home and have loved Jesus all my life. I definitely did the typical teenage thing of exploring all the things of the world, and in my late teens and early 20s I sort of waded through a lot of theological issues that I had to figure out for myself. I even did a theology Masters but it always came back to the fact that when it was all stripped back I did still believe in God, Jesus was too compelling to leave and that the character of God is good. That settled it really.
Kiera you must have seen and experienced a lot working for an international organisation like Tearfund? Is there a defining moment that’s shaped who you are?
Tearfund has stretched my faith to see some of the blind spots that you grow up with. I had not yet captured the wholeness of God’s invitation… love the world, and love your neighbour and how wide that stretches. I remember I had the opportunity at work to see a video that came from Bangladesh about a young girl, maybe about 14, making a denim jacket. And we actually had this denim jacket in the office because one of the team had been out and made this little video. Anyway, it was part of ongoing work we were doing to highlight the situation of these young people living in poverty, without an education, working sixty hours a week but living in a slum and being in these factories. There was just this one line in it that said, “God has called us to clothe the poor but the fact is the poor are clothing us.” It got under my skin and I guess from then on, even now, I have Sheema’s image with me. But what is amazing is the place of the church in all of the this, coming alongside on a local level helping them work themselves out of poverty, but also of the global church being able to contribute to this transformation. There’s such a strength in that, and the church really does have a role to play.
We are very excited to have you with us at our weekend away. Are you looking forward to it?
I’m so looking forward to being with you all – especially with the younger women who will be there for Miss Activate. I love being with a gathering of women when it’s about them being released into who God has called them to be.
You mentioned that you have two young daughters, has being a mum changed the way you see yourself, and your own place as a woman in the Kingdom?
I think I’ve been going through a bit of a quagmire of self discovery. Who am I? Where do I get my identity? What’s my role in society and in life? I discovered a lot of junk within that but also a lot of inspiration. I suppose you could say I have grown up in a Christian bubble, around YWAM, the local church, working at Tearfund too. So it’s really nice to be in a season where I am meeting other women, often with small children too, and I’m on a par with them. It’s been great to be able to just talk about my faith and what that means to me, and to discuss who Jesus is, and also to be able to create opportunities to engage with community and be a bit of salt and light.
What do you think of when you hear the term ‘friendship evangelism’?
Holding my friend’s hair back, at University, when she had been out all night and then was sick all day. It sounds odd but in the mornings at University, there was opportunity when we were sober and not in the same way as our friends, for a couple of us Christians to really be proper friends. We would notice the small things, like someone having a difficult time, or the girl who had just been dumped by their boyfriend, and they would realise they could come to us and could trust us. I think friendship evangelism has to start with being a great friend, alongside being the person God has called you to be.
Kiera we are so thrilled you will be with us at Inside Out. Can’t wait to see you then.
Thanks! I’m excited to come to your conference. It’s always brilliant to be with women in all their diversity – and I get to hang out with my dad too.
Kiera Phyo and her dad Laurence Singlehurst are our guests for Inside Out, our annual luxury weekend away in Daventry, and will be speaking alongside the Activate team for the 2015 event.