A time to reflect and reassess

“The tree of life is Love” – Laurie-Ann Zachar Copple (c) 2021

Hi everyone. I came to the end of the prepared Ways to Grow articles in March, and I still plan to write another, but the words just won’t come. I can say that this time has been a season of growth in care of my dad, who is 93 and has vascual dementia. He has mini-strokes and seizures, where more and more of his memories and reasoning is taken away. He is horribly confused and sometimes belligerent, depressed and ambivalent. He refuses to be in a care home and wants to stay in his own home. He wants his finances to be handled by another family member (which is his choice), although he accepts our daily care and meals. We have a PSW come care for his hygiene and we do the laundry and some of the housework. We monitor his needs as best we can, noting when he has these episodes, and his behaviour for his doctor.

At the same time, we are both working through our own health journeys. I now have care at Sunnybrook Hospital for potential breast cancer resurgence and will have lymphedema care. Tony will have a video-assisted biopsy on May 4th at Toronto General Hospital, to assess the tumour that is in his left lung lining. There will also be samples taken. To do this, they must drill a 1 cm hole in Tony’s rib cage. It’s a lot more involved than the core needle biopsy that L-A had. We researched it through a booklet sent by the asbestos.com people in the US. It looks like Tony has a form of mesothelioma, due to past asbestos exposure in the Royal Navy. Financially he can’t have compensation from HM government, but since we are in a public health care system, compensation may not be an issue for health care. We will know soon from Tony’s biopsy whether this is a malignant mesothelioma or a benign one. Either way, the tumour will have to be removed.

Meanwhile, we have been attending Catch the Fire Toronto (near the airport). I have some history with this church, although almost all the people who were there in the late 80’s and the 90’s have moved on. One Sunday, we were sitting in a spot close to the front in a disabled row. It had a good view of the stage, although there were also screens by both sides of the stage. One of the church leaders asked for the Holy Spirit to speak ONE WORD to each person about the season we were now in. I’m sure that there were different answers for other people, but for me, the word was, PERSEVERANCE. This set well with my spirit, and I plan to write on this journey – I’m sure the words will be there soon.

I do know however, that perseverance isn’t just waiting something out or coping, it is much more active than that. I am sure that it will be another way to “Grow in God,” and involve more of a refiner’s fire to make me a little more like Jesus. That’s the point! But it’s not easy. So as we battle the confusion and enmeshment of three medical journeys in a perfect storm, we will not quit. May you also not quit in your own journey. If you don’t quit, you WILL win. That piece of lovely wisdom is pure hope, shared by Mama Heidi Baker herself.

Bless you on your own journey. I will be back.

Love, Laurie-Ann

Growing in God through Seasons of the Pause Part 3:  Surprise interruption and rest (An Oasis on the Journey)

View of the Augdensberge from the upstairs window of our quarantine home

My name is Laurie-Ann, and I’m a missionary. During my mission travels, I have ministered with people in Northern Ireland, Pakistan, Canada and the USA.  I’ve also ministered in African countries like Kenya, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. But at this time, we are living in Toronto, Canada.

During our last article, we learned about growing in God through times of pain and difficulty. We can grow in God through pain; our painful experiences, emotional, spiritual and physical.  None of our pain need be wasted, whether it’s secret chronic pain or struggles that have been allowed in public.  Some of the pain was in recovery from breast cancer surgery, where my husband nursed me quite well.  Through my cancer journey, I drew prophetic drawings, one after another.   This was a time that I echoed a sentiment of God’s presence along with worship leader Brian Johnson.  He wrote the book, “When God Becomes Real.”  The Holy Spirit was incredibly close to me during my journey, and as a survivor all I can remember about that time is the glory and love showered on me.  I don’t even remember the pain, unless another cancer survivor or current warrior mentions it.   It’s a testimony of God’s grace.  Transparency of the pain journey becomes important as a healing tool for others. 

When the leaders at Bethel Church in Redding, California go through difficulties, they aren’t hidden.  They are used as an opportunity for God to work in their lives as a very real example to others. God’s Holy Spirit is seen most beautifully not just in our successes, but in our pain.  People need to know how God is so very real in the midst of their pain.  They need to see the very secret that holds together a Christian going through incredible pain, yet they exhibit a positive attitude of joy, trust, peace and gratitude.  They are seeing God create a masterpiece right before their eyes.  He invites all of us to also have a Holy Spirit make-over from the inside-out.   We also don’t need to hide our pain from each other.   Jennifer Camp from Gather Ministries shared this gem in an email in September 2021: “Healing and strength come when you’re vulnerable with Jesus and His people.”  We need to be willing to show who we really are.  God does deeply loves us, but as John Arnott used to say during the Toronto Blessing, “He loves us too much to let us stay that way.” 

Tony also told me that it is amazing that I still get up and minister despite chronic pain from osteo-arthritis, and ache from post-cancer treatments/ailments.  That’s due to determination to use the pain as long as I focus on what I am doing.  I focus beyond the pain, just like Jesus did when he endured the cross.  Hebrews 12:2 says, “We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.[a] Because of the joy[b] awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.”

Worship leader Brian Johnson found that his last step to his painful healing was publicly sharing his journey.  [Brian Johnson When God becomes Real pg 172]  Brian shares that “our culture always teaches us to man up, instead of admitting that we’re hurting or feeling any pain. We were designed to feel the pain, and then bring it to the Father. That’s what Jesus did. He felt the pain and laid it at the Fathers feet.” He explains the action of ignoring the pain or compartmentalising through an analogy of a balloon and that it overfills and eventually pops. Brian says, “there will come a time where you can’t avoid the stress of life or numb the pain anymore. And when your coping mechanisms don’t work anymore, consider it a gift.  Consider it a gift when God becomes your only option! Experience the pain and bring it to God.”  You will find that God is faithful.  

So pain is not something to be avoided.  It is the same with having yet another delay – not a ‘pause button’ as I have shared about in other articles, but that of a rest stop on the journey – an oasis place along a journey of transition.

Tony and I attempted to leave South Africa in April 2020, in order to have breast cancer surgery and to re-settle back into Canada.  That was interrupted by the first covid-19 wave, so we were stuck under quarantine lockdowns in South Africa for months.  I had my surgery and the rest of the cancer treatment in South Africa.  In a way, I’m not sorry.  We had financial help with the treatments (especially the surgery), and although many aspects of our ministry closed down, others opened up BIG TIME.   It was a mini-season that lasted through a move to central Worcester, and another attempt to return to Canada after we had sold or given away nearly everything except what was in our trunks or suitcases.  We invested a lot into South Africa, including two published colouring books.  I’m not sorry, that was good sowing for the future.

When Tony and I attempted to leave South Africa to care for my frail father (who had then had a series of mini-strokes and was in hospital), we tested positive for covid-19.  I had set up a place for us to quarantine in Canada, not in South Africa.  We were totally unprepared, with no transport, and no place to stay.   We were completely dependent on God.  At the moment we discovered our health status, we were sitting in an outdoor table at a restaurant, awaiting our tests, so we could fly to Canada.  We needed a negative covid PCR result, but the emails and text rang instead as “covid-19 detected.”  Oops!   Our host Kevin, and his friend Andrea were incredibly kind.  They both offered us refuge!  We chose to stay at Kevin’s – a lovely old mountain house in the Brandwacht – Augdenberg foothills, away from Worcester, and not even at a deliverable address.   After living in central Worcester for 16 months, this was paradise.  It truly became an oasis; especially when our friend left to spend the quarantine 14 days in another location.  We had the house to ourselves.  Surely it would be a sweet quarantine.  Three groups of people brought over the counter medications and groceries.  Tony had very few symptoms, while I got hit with the cold from hell.  It brought sinus pain, extreme congestion, sore throat, intermittent fever and chills, loss of smell, intense brain fog and vertigo.  So my sense of balance was such that I really needed that borrowed walker that I had since my fall in October 2019.   After more than two weeks, most of the symptoms disappeared, although some remained; we weren’t sure if it was “long covid” or not. This was especially when some of the same symptoms applied to post cancer treatments.   Tony got to catch up on needed writing and website work.   I finally got to write, although did not have energy to draw. 

Then I prayed, journaled and asked the Lord about this time.  Why was it so difficult to get another flight?  Even by our professional travel agent?  Yes, we knew that some air crews have tested positive, so they’ve had to quarantine themselves.  But surely that’s not all flights?  It’s like South Africa doesn’t want to let go of us. We were concerned about overstaying our welcome with our friend.  We were sleeping in his bed.  Some of the girls kept calling Tony on his South African phone, which is something that honestly would not work when we really got back to Canada. They didn’t know that we were still in South Africa, on an “oasis pause.” 

So just like we had earlier delays of receiving our second medical visa, God was keeping us in South Africa a little longer just to rest, receive and enjoy the oasis.  We weren’t burned out, but we were in recovery.  In Tony’s case, he needed rest before going for more treatment, something that he wasn’t looking forward to.  In this delay, we had a little pause to breathe and get as well as we could.   We can’t live in the oasis forever though.  It’s a rest-stop.  I had an impression of us travelling with camels.  When camels get thirsty, they drink a lot of water, taking a long time.  We also need to stop and drink the living water, during these times of oasis. 

There is a church that L-A often visited in rural Ottawa. It used to be led by friends of ours.  It’s called the Oasis.  It’s been a place of receiving new wine (Holy Spirit) and the Father’s love for years now.  They call this the “Kinburn blessing.”  It’s an oasis in the middle of farmer’s fields and a few important roads.  Kevin’s place is like that.  It’s filled with: the peace of God, the relative quiet of nature, and the call to rest and receive.  One of the scriptures that impacted me in the 90’s was Isaiah 30:15.  “This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel says:  “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength…”  This is insightful during an oasis pause.  The pause is not an accident, or a little circle on your iPad screen telling you that your video is yet STILL buffering.  This is intentional.  So pause.  Consider the heavens, and the God who made heaven and earth. 

I would guess that the pause is a way of reflecting on the Sabbath, as Exodus 20:8 commands us to do (to “remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.”   There is an intentional pause, and a space set apart to focus on God and his many wonderful character traits.  It was a space to focus on relationship with him.  We need to do the same, and to stop our frenetic running in circles, even for a moment.  Tony and I were forced to do this in times of illness, although I often took time to have soaking prayer.  It wasn’t enough.    

Even when I had cancer, I slowed down and retired from certain ministry, but was still frenetically drawing.   Then we tried again to return to Canada, and were both hit with covid-19.    That hit me so hard at first, but during recovery, I became grateful for each day, the graciousness of our host, and a final opening for a flight on January 17th.  Even when arrived on January 18th, we were to have an additional quarantine, for a further two weeks.  This is actually good, for we acclimatized from summer to winter, across seven time zones and the opposite hemisphere. We began to let go of our favourite South African customs and rediscovered the Canadian ones.  All cultures have beautiful aspects that we can champion.  To pause and reflect in quarantine is a good thing.  To pause and remember is important, as long as you don’t stay in that place.  It’s meant as a place to visit, and it’s not a forever home spot, unless you’re called there for a longer season.   In Joshua 4:21-22, Joshua spoke over a memorial cairn that honoured the Israelites’ journey through the Jordan into the Promised land.  He said “to the children of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, saying “what do these stones mean? You are to tell them, “Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.”  This was the second such dry crossing, the first one being the Red Sea.  Both were of divine origin.   The monument was a call to remember.   

I remember my years when I visited Yorkminster Park Baptist Church in Toronto during their Sunday evening services. I loved hearing the wisdom of their head pastor at the time.  His name was John Gladstone.  I remember many of his teachings, since I took notes, but one sentence struck me and remains in my memory regardless of looking it up or not.  He said that “the most used verb in the Old Testament was “zachar”, which means remember.”  Since my last name was Zachar, this struck me.  It was the beginning of realizing that my name means something very special (that’s another teaching for a different time).    To remember, is to pause and reflect on something significant.    The psalms often reflect on Israel’s history of escaping Egypt.  It’s likely because people can easily forget their origins, heritage and the love of God when they are focused on themselves.  When we are reminded, or we remember who God is and what he has done for us, we can choose to linger, and encounter the living God.  Some people run in fear, some shake their fist in self-importance.  They are given that choice, to love God is something that you willfully do.  This is like the “selah” pause that is mentioned again and again in the Psalms.  When we pause and reflect on scripture, we absorb the words into our hearts.  They can impact us and change us for the better.  The Holy Spirit uses the words of scripture to capture our hearts, as he fills us with love.  We can only receive when we pause.  When we submit, or surrender.  Surrender is not a bad thing. Coming to the end of self-effort is a good thing.  Our identity is not in what we do, but rather, who we belong to – God.   I’m a beloved child of God, and that is enough.  It took me long enough to get to that place.  I will never forget that journey.  But sometimes you need to return and be refreshed, especially when you are between assignments.  

Lord, thank you that you are there for us when we are in a transition oasis.  You are there when we mourn. You are there, making us rest when we are in stress, and to bring our burdens to you.  We lay our burdens down and choose to rest.  We choose to receive and learn from this little pause.  We won’t do this in sadness, looking back at the past.  We are thankful that you were there for us in the past.  You are in our present, and you are in our future.   You never leave us and are always faithful.  Thank you for that.  We won’t run away, but rather, run into your arms. 

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

If you’d like to hear an audio version of this article, please visit the Ways to Grow in God (WTGIG) podcast page on coppleswesterncape.ca.  Mouse over the “Listen” drop-down menu, or click here:  (https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/wtgig-podcasts.html)  and scroll down to #76! 

If you have been blessed by this article, please let us know! 

Updates:  For those looking for news on my cancer journey, I was declared chemically cancer-free as of February 2021 (one year ago).  I will still have checkups to monitor if there is any resurgence, and a mobility disability (currently with my documents still waiting in triage at a Toronto hospital).  My husband Tony is a different story. Tony has skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma) and prostate cancer.  He is undergoing tests for Canadian treatment of the tumour in his left lung lining through the University Health Network in Toronto. He passed all the referrals and is being cared for a Toronto General team as well as additional doctors at Etobicoke General Hospital, added when he went to have his lung sac drained.  Instead of the simple procedure and rest time overnight (as he had in South Africa), he was given an ECG, blood tests and a requisition for an MRI.  The doctor there didn’t think the PET scan, CT scan and other scans were sufficient.  We’ll take that and are waiting for the MRI appointment time.  But I can say, the PET scan doesn’t look good, so we need your prayers for the best treatment, and that this tumour responds well to care and heals at an accelerated pace as in my own cancer journey.

Thanks for coming alongside in encouragement and prayer.   If you feel led to contribute towards medications, this would be most welcome.  Not everything is covered under his senior drug plan and OHIP.  We don’t have additional insurance; it’s too late to get it now.  Giving is not mandatory, all my teachings are online for free to bless you, with no pressure.  Here is our Paypal for any of you who feel led to contribute: https://www.paypal.me/WaystogrowinGod

Laurie-Ann’s Colouring Books:   If you are in South Africa, and would like to purchase one of L-A’s colouring books, they are available at LeRoux and Fourie wine shop on R60 beside Cape Lime.  This is west of Robertson.  Or you can have your own copies printed for you through Print on Demand through Takealot.com. 

Link for Colouring with Jesus 1:  https://www.takealot.com/colouring-with-jesus/PLID68586424

Link for Colouring with Jesus 2: https://www.takealot.com/colouring-with-jesus-2/PLID72991486

We plan to republish the updated books in North American format (and in English only) in the future (after taking care of family).   Colouring sheets are available to children’s ministries for free, please just let us know.  Bless you, and thank you for your support!

Love, Laurie-Ann

Growing in God through Pain

“A New Heart Infusion” by Laurie-Ann Zachar Copple (part of Colouring with Jesus book, copyright 2020


Tony and I were Canadian missionaries in South Africa.  We have learned through our African friends in different countries how to slow down and be relational.  This is something all of us in fast-paced countries need to learn.  So come along with me and we’ll learn together on the adventures of Growing in God.

My name is Laurie-Ann, and I’m a missionary. During my mission travels, I have ministered with people in Northern Ireland, Pakistan, Canada and the USA.  I’ve also ministered in African countries like Kenya, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. But at this time, we are living in Toronto, Canada.

During our last article, we learned about growing in God through generosity. We found that generosity, worship and obedience are all connected.  I shared about a colleague of ours who always had an attitude of obedience to the Lord and worshipping him.  She was always generous, and despite being a missionary on a trust the Lord type income, she gave to us more than anyone else during my cancer journey.  Others were close competitors though!  The apostle Paul said in 2 Corinthians 9:13. “Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for your obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.”  The giving is an act of worship, whether it’s giving in finances, time or talent.  This attitude of giving to help others isn’t just in the New Testament, but was encouraged among Israel as well. Psalm 41:1-3 give a blessing to those who are generous to the poor. “Oh, the joys of those who are kind to the poor! The Lord rescues them when they are in trouble.”  Giving implies pouring out oneself for another, and this is what Jesus does in Philippians chapter 2.  However, there is another way to grow in God.  It’s not as fun as generosity, but it’s one that can turn our journey in a broken world into one that makes us stronger.  We can grow in God through pain; our painful experiences, emotional, spiritual and physical.  None of our pain need be wasted.

I was a Canadian Iris missionary in a South African environment, a first and third-world country at the same time.  I love the people, especially its children, very much.  If you didn’t think that the first scenario of first and third world together is unusual, it’s actually evident in many countries.  In some of these countries, he poor are often hidden (as in Canada and the US).  They aren’t in South Africa.  Here’s another interesting combination. I was an inflammatory breast cancer patient in a covid-19 world and we managed this journey on the mission-field until January 2022.  We still safely ministered despite the varied levels of lock-down, although many of our indoor activities were cancelled to stop the spread of this nasty virus.  We were to arrive back in Canada for a life-saving radical mastectomy, but the lock-down and covid-19 measures prevented us leaving our home, let alone flying back to Ottawa.  My Canadian surgeon had been all set to receive me, assess me and schedule the surgery.  But the aggressive cancer that had disappeared under strong chemotherapy (as verified by PET/CT scans) returned and my oncologist wanted us to act quickly.  The pain increased, and I was back in another season of pain.  I surely knew physical pain from osteo-arthritic knees, HS boils, and the burn of breast cancer pain since late July 2019.  I was on opioid medicine in a careful regimen, only taking what was absolutely needed.  I needed a clear head.

The mastectomy surgery rolled around on May 12th, 2020, and I spent four days under excellent care at Worcester’s MediClinic hospital.  During that time, and upon arrival home, I knew a new pain – the pain of the incisions from mid-chest, around to below the adjacent underarm, and the underarm itself. I now was forced to learn my limits far more than in any other recovery.  No more heavy lifting, no bending to tie shoes.  Help was now needed to dress and wash.  Thankfully Tony managed these quite well. He even became good at bandaging me for compression therapy and for lymphatic massage.  And during this time, a teaching surfaced:  a teaching on growing spiritually and emotionally through pain. It had been weeks since I had been able to write anything new for my Ways to Grow in God devotionals.  I was drawing prophetic drawings instead for a colouring book.  That’s a different story.   Yet while I was in the hospital, I was reading Brian Johnson’s book, “When God Becomes Real.”  This is a man who learned through a lot of pain, as did his famous dad, Bill Johnson, of Bethel Church, Redding California.  Tony and I visited this church in June 2017.  It was very special.  The freedom in Christ at this church came through radical obedience, committed Christian love and an amazing transparency.  When their leaders go through difficulties, they aren’t hidden; but rather they are used as an opportunity for God to work in their lives as a very real example to others. God’s Holy Spirit is seen most beautifully not just in our successes, but in our pain.  People need to know how God is so very real in the midst of their pain.  They need to see the very secret that holds together a Christian going through incredible pain, yet they exhibit a positive attitude of joy, trust, peace and gratitude.  They are seeing God create a masterpiece right before their eyes.  He invites all of us to also have a Holy Spirit make-over from the inside-out.   We also don’t need to hide our pain from each other.   Jennifer Camp from Gather Ministries shared this gem in an email in September 2021: “You might tell people everything is fine when you know it isn’t.  I’ve been there, too. And I know it’s a painful way to live. But God has called you and me to something better and more beautiful! He’s called us to let our guard down with Him and with other people. Healing and strength come when you’re vulnerable with Jesus and His people.”  We need to be willing to show who we really are. 
We come to Jesus as we are, and he accepts us as the merciful Father accepted the wandering prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32.  God does deeply loves us, but as John Arnott used to say during the Toronto Blessing, “He loves us too much to let us stay that way.”  This means Holy Spirit changes our hearts, takes away the fear, anger, rough edges and sinful ways that have marred the image of God in us.  He changes us more into his likeness.  He makes us more like Jesus.  The more we allow him to change us, the better.  This requires repentance, humility, and obedience.  But then he gives us far more in return:  love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and tolerance (self-control).  Just read Galatians 5.  God uses the difficulties of life to refine us into beautiful vessels that reflect his love to others.  One of these is pain.  Pain?  Pain, you say?  How can God use something as difficult as pain?

Yes, God uses everything in our lives to whittle us down into something of beauty.  Silver has to be fired several times to get the impurities out of it.  So we too, go through struggles – some minor, some major, and still others that seem to happen all at once.  One time, Tony challenged me and told me that he’s never seen someone go through as many physical challenges as I have.  He was referring to the amount of pain and other medications that I have – either in Canada, or in South Africa, actually, especially South Africa.  And yet, I still function and minister.  Tony also told me that it is amazing that I still get up and minister.  That’s due to determination to use the pain as long as I focus on what I am doing.  I focus beyond the pain, just like Jesus did when he endured the cross.  Hebrews 12:2 says, “We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.[a] Because of the joy[b] awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.”

Listen to our colleague Pamela Jourden, who ministers in Northern Ireland, Zimbabwe, South Africa and the US.  She has major kidney problems and has been in hospital many times.  She’s waiting for a new kidney.  Her oldest son fell off a mountain near Cape Town and died. Later in 2021, she caught Covid and nearly died.  Her younger son became seriously mentally ill as he battled serious autism issues.  Both she, her husband and white international team were thrown out of Zimbabwe, because the country’s leaders became xenophobic.  This is what Pamela had to share about pain on a May 23rd 2020 Facebook post”  “What difficulty have you passed through? I have been in a mountain range of trials for some years. Loss of reputation, mental illness of the worst kind visited my family, death of a child, removal from a land I love, and a health condition that has threatened my life and sent me to the hospital several times. Facing famine, starvation, and hunger of thousands every day. Is this a sob story? Far from it! I just want you to know that no matter where you find yourself, He is faithful!   I wish I could show you my heart. There are terrible scars there. Some make me shudder to behold. But the beauty there far outweighs any pain I have endured. The sheer joy of knowing God intimately through this mountain range of difficulty empowers me to put one foot in front of the other every day.  Incredibly and against human reasoning, HOPE not only resides in me, but HOPE GROWS daily. Even after what the last few years have brought me, I am dreaming now more than ever. I am looking to a God who is TRUE and REAL and I know I will not be disappointed.  I am not out of the mountains of trial yet. God is here though, most tangibly. He is my steadfast Rock and my Eternal Reward. I hope I get to stick around for a while longer because I am really just beginning to enjoy myself! What a good Father who hears and answers His dearly loved children.”

When I hear Pamela’s story, I think about the hope that grows as you persevere through trials.  The Apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 5:3-5  that “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”  Pamela has learned to persevere through her pain, as have I.  Pain seems to come in season – it’s not forever.  Even Job was rewarded at the end of his testing.  Is pain a test?  Not necessarily, but I believe that while God didn’t give me the breast cancer, and didn’t give Pamela a failing kidney, he is pruning us through our pain.  We will be healed, we are being healed.  Through my perseverance, the treatments, prayer and vigilance, my body has responded in ways far beyond doctor’s expectations; whether it would be the shrinking of the tumour in chemotherapy, as confirmed by PET scans, the report of excellent margins after the mastectomy, the radiation journey and the declaration of my oncologist that I was ‘cancer-free’ in February 2021.  But the journey still isn’t over, but that will come in time. Then there’s lymphedema and physiotherapy treatments, and in September 2021, I developed issues with a pinched nerve in my neck. More pain indeed. 

Katie Davis Majors is a well-loved American missionary in Uganda.  Like most workers in Africa, she has encountered deep joys and deep pain.  She shares many gems from her book, Daring to Hope: Finding God’s Goodness in the Broken and Beautiful.    Here’s one of them:  “The world would teach us that once we are broken, we cannot be used, we cannot be strong, we cannot be happy.  But this is not true. After Jesus’ beating and death, our Father God resurrects His Son Jesus out of the dark tomb and conquers death.  Out of the black of the tomb, new life emerges and new light shines forth. […] God uses all things, even pain, for his glory.  He teaches me to view pain as a holy invitation to know him more so I can share him more.” [Katie Davis Majors, Daring to Hope: Finding God’s Goodness in the Broken and Beautiful. Pg. 61]   

Here’s Brian Johnson’s take on the pain of his breakdown [from Brian Johnson When God Becomes Real].  His body and mind endured tremendous stress and panic.  He said that he had to learn to go slowly.   “The panic was a natural way of the body saying, hey, slow down and heal. Be still and know he is God. But “if we continue to ignore ourselves and numb the pain, then the pain gets infected. It’s this kind of infection that allows us to be poisoned from the inside out.  And no one is exempt from this kind of poisoning.” 

Then Brian, like me, agrees that there are seasons. We have crutches.  Sometimes they are pain medications, like I was on oxycodone for nearly 11 months, just to get through the pain of cancer, and then mastectomy.  But I had to come off, even though I was still in some pain, although less than it was.  I eventually decreased to a few ibuprofen, Tylenol and anti-inflammatories a day.  Brian says, “There are times when all of us need a crutch. … But crutches are designed for season. Eventually, you will have to throw these crutches out and learn to walk without them. I was learning to feel the pain and work through it with God, to deal with the real root of the matter.  God wanted to bring complete healing and wholeness to my life. He wanted to fully restore me.”

How can God use that pain in the midst of bringing full healing?  We know about pruning, but the rest seems to be a mystery.   Brian also says, “How does God work through pain? How does he use it?”  Brian didn’t understand it then, and to be honest he’s not sure he could understand it now.  But he came to see that of his own efforts to ease the pain, pressure and tension worked the best.  Brian found that It was his full surrender to the process with God that [finally] brought [him] peace. Brian says that “Pain is never God’s endgame. He allowed it to bring me to the end of myself.  Brian Simmons says that “the heart that remains innocent will progressively see more and more of God.” That’s exactly what God had done. He’d restored my heart so I could see more of God.” 

Brian found that his last step to his painful healing was publicly sharing his journey.  [Brian Johnson When God becomes Real pg 172]  Brian shares that “our culture always teaches us to man up, instead of admitting that we’re hurting or feeling any pain. We were designed to feel the pain, and then bring it to the Father. That’s what Jesus did. He felt the pain and laid it at the Fathers feet.” He explains the action of ignoring the pain or compartmentalising through an analogy of a balloon and that it overfills and eventually pops. Brian says, “there will come a time where you can’t avoid the stress of life or numb the pain anymore. And when your coping mechanisms don’t work anymore, consider it a gift.  Consider it a gift when God becomes your only option! Experience the pain and bring it to God.”  Brian says the same as Pamela does, that “You’ll find him faithful. 

Brian found that sharing his story was the very last step to his healing. People needed to hear that he struggles too.  “We are all desperate to know that we are not alone and are looking for a glimpse of hope.  [Brian shares] that season of darkness had opened [his] eyes to the reality of a better way.  That darkness gave way to light. It was in that darkness that God proved himself faithful. It was in that darkness that God became real.”

So pain is not something to be avoided.  Like the Footprints poem, we find that this is the time when Jesus carries us. This is the time he is actually closest to us, even if he doesn’t say a word.  Psalm 23 catches this beautifully when it says, in verses 4-5, “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.” These verses show comfort, protection and provision in a very dark time. This is exactly what we have experienced during my cancer journey. Even in pain, God is there, and shows himself faithful.  And so, pain leads us to the end of ourselves, so that God carries us.  It’s a lesson that only God is faithful in times like this.  He will not fail.


Lord, thank you that you are there for us when we are in pain.  You are there when we mourn. You are there, making us rest when we are in stress, and to bring our burdens with you. You know pain, Jesus.  You endured pain for us.  So we bring you our pain, and ask that you would carry us through it. We won’t run away, but rather, run into your arms. 

In Jesus’ name, Amen.


If you’d like to hear an audio version of this article, please visit the Ways to Grow in God (WTGIG) podcast page on coppleswesterncape.ca.  Mouse over the “Listen” drop-down menu, or click here:  (https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/wtgig-podcasts.html)  and scroll down to #75! 

If you have been blessed by this article, please let us know! 


Updates:  For those looking for news on my cancer journey, I was declared chemically cancer-free as of February 2021 (one year ago).  I still have checkups to monitor if there is any resurgence, and a mobility disability, but am much more healthy than I was.  My husband Tony is a different story. Tony has skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma) and prostate cancer.  He is still waiting for Canadian treatment of the tumour in his left lung lining, since Ontario requires all foreign referrals and medical records to be referred by an Ontario doctor.  Getting to see a local doctor during the pandemic is more difficult than we expected.  His South African doctor gave a probable diagnosis of mesothelioma based on a recent CT scan (which needs to be followed up with a current scan).   This is a form of cancer, and as a cancer survivor myself, I can see that chemo may be the way to go to get that tumour down to an operable condition.  But I’m not a doctor.   Please keep Tony and his health journey in prayer for healing, and favour for God to open doors for treatment despite omicron covid all around us.  We had covid ourselves in December 2021, which prevented us from returning to Canada for an extra month.  As of February 1st, 2022, we came out of post-travel ‘quarantine,’ and are ready to begin a new chapter of our lives in Toronto, Canada with my frail 92 year old dad.  This is a challenge in of itself! He’s had multiple mini-strokes right in our presence, and his care requires a 24-7 watch, which may find it a challenge to go to the doctor ourselves, unless we went one at a time in a taxi (we don’t yet have our own transport)

We will work through our SA medical debt slowly, but we’re thankful for the care that helped save my life.  We just couldn’t continue to stay for Tony’s care, after an additional year drained us (retinal re-attachment surgery, multiple hospital stays to drain his lungs, treatment of the skin cancer, scans and the like). Thanks for coming alongside in encouragement and prayer.   If you feel led to contribute, it would be most welcome towards beginning again in Canada after returning from our South African assignment.  It’s not mandatory, all my teachings are online for free to bless you.  Here is our Paypal: https://www.paypal.me/WaystogrowinGod

Laurie-Ann’s Colouring Books:   If you are in South Africa, and would like to purchase one of L-A’s colouring books, they are available at LeRoux and Fourie wine shop on R60 beside Cape Lime.  This is west of Robertson.  Or you can have your own copies printed for you through Print on Demand through Takealot.com. 

Link for Colouring with Jesus 1:  https://www.takealot.com/colouring-with-jesus/PLID68586424

Link for Colouring with Jesus 2: https://www.takealot.com/colouring-with-jesus-2/PLID72991486

We plan to republish the updated books in North American format (and in English only) in the future (after taking care of family).   Colouring sheets are available to children’s ministries for free, please just let us know.  Bless you, and thank you for your support!

Love, Laurie-Ann

Growing in God through generosity

by Laurie-Ann Copple


My name is Laurie-Ann, and I’m a missionary. During my mission travels, I have ministered with people in Northern Ireland, Pakistan, Canada and the USA.  I’ve also ministered in African countries like Kenya, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. But at this time, we still live in the beautiful Western Cape of South Africa. We leave in a few days for Toronto, Canada.

During our last broadcast, we learned about growing through loving our neighbour.  We found that our neighbour isn’t just those who live next door.  It includes the foreigner, the refugee, the single mom, and fatherless boy.  Those are just examples, but there are many more than that.  Loving your neighbour is compassion in action.  It’s costly, but the Lord repays, since you’re doing this for him.   How important is it to love and help our neighbour?  Here’s Jesus’ take on that.  Listen to Matthew 22 verses 37 – 39.  “ Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’[e] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is also important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’[f]  So Jesus shows us just how important recognizing our neighbours, loving them and being there for them really is.  This isn’t just a wave across the street.  It’s actively looking out for each other. It’s loving them with the overflow of love that comes from having spent time with the Lord in prayer and worship.   Loving your neighbour flows out of a heart filled with generosity.

There are other ways we can grow in God through being generous.  Our God loves to be generous, and I’ve heard it said many times that we can’t outgive God. When we give in our tithes and offerings, it’s an act of worship, especially when we’ve given in obedience.  Sometimes Holy Spirit whispers a figure to our hearts that might seem a little high, but it’s OK, since he’s the one who has helped us earn those funds.  We didn’t earn them entirely by ourselves.  Lately Tony and I have been the recipients of such generosity, from those who were led to contribute to our medical needs. Some people gave a small portion of what they had, since they were measuring it against what they had left to live on.  Others gave far more than we could ever expect. The largest giver is a friend who came to minister here in Worcester.  She gave not just once, but TWICE.   We know that we could never repay this person, but God can.  She gave out of love, and obedience.  For her, it was an act of worship to the Lord.

Generosity, worship and obedience are all connected.  The apostle Paul said about generosity and obedience in 2 Corinthians 9:13. “Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for your obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.”  Generosity and worship are connected also, for they are both offerings and gifts to the Lord.   When the Philippian Christians gave their money for Paul’s support, God viewed it as special. Philippians 4:18 shares that the offering gave “an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God.” 

Generosity isn’t just about money!  With God it includes time spend with him in worship and sharing your heart. With people, sometimes it’s about acts of service, use of resources, and spending quality time with people.  There is something special about these offerings. They are sacrificial.  Sometimes I am led to give away a valuable drawing or painting.  I only do this when I’m led by the Holy Spirit. This to me is sacrificial.  It’s about giving.  When a Christian doing humanitarian work named Sandy loaned us her car for a few weeks, before we leave Worcester, that was sacrificial.  We are thankful to her and bless her.

You don’t have to be rich to be generous.  Most of the people who have given to us are either middle class or just barely getting by. They were giving us widow’s mites.  Some gave to Iris for our mission needs.  Others gave to us directly when L-A needed to pay a lot of rand towards cancer treatments, diagnostic procedures and medications. Some gave so sacrificially that it made us cry, but also praise God.  We are so thankful for them.

Giving can be an act of worship.  There is a reason why family stained glass windows are captioned “to the glory of God.”  Those windows cost a fortune.  Mike Harland shares that  “scripture helps us understand that generosity has nothing to do with wealth. In 2 Corinthians 8 we read about the churches of Macedonia who had two attributes over-flowing in ample supply: extreme poverty and generosity. They gave out of their poverty in abundance after first giving themselves completely to God. They gave in order to survive.  They begged the apostles for the privilege of giving because they knew their generosity was the key to their survival.

Paul goes on to instruct the church at Corinth who excelled in everything, to excel in generosity as well. And, in just a few verses, he unlocks the secret of generosity. In the last verse of 1 Corinthians 9, we find the key to growing in generosity. Those of us who plan worship need to bear this in mind: that the willingness of our people to give is directly tied to where their focus is in worship.” [Mike Harland, “Encouraging Generosity in Worship” from Worship Life https//worshiplife.com/mike-harland/encouraging-generosity-in-worship-by-mike-harland/]

The Corinthians’ focus was in worship, not on themselves. Notice what Paul shares in 2 Corinthians 9:15: “Thanks be to God, for his indescribable gift!” The Macedonian Christians were also generous, because they were focused on the sacrifice of Jesus. It is in this context that Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 2:9, “for you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ: though he was rich, for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty, you might become rich.” This of the Isaac Watts hymn, “When I survey the wondrous cross.” Here is the pinnacle of that hymn: “were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small; Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all,” [Isaac Watts, “When I survey]

What does the Old Testament say about generosity?  Let’s look at some scriptures – you’ll be surprised that generosity did not just begin with the church.  Here’s Leviticus 25:35-37:

“If one of your fellow Israelites falls into poverty and cannot support himself, support him as you would a foreigner or a temporary resident and allow him to live with you. 36 Do not charge interest or make a profit at his expense. Instead, show your fear of God by letting him live with you as your relative. 37 Remember, do not charge interest on money you lend him or make a profit on food you sell him.  Jayson Bradley says that “God commanded the Israelites to be generous and merciful to each other. Your brother’s need was not to be capitalized on for personal gain. If you loaned money to a fellow Israelite, you were not to charge interest. Because the Israelites were delivered from Egypt, and therefore recipients of God’s generosity, they were to show impartial generosity to each other.” [Pushpayblog – [Jayson D. Bradley, “20 Bible Verses on Generosity.”  Sept 12, 2019. https://pushpay.com/blog/20-bible-verses-on-generosity/]

Here are some other admonitions to be generous.  Deuteronomy 15:7–11 says, ““But if there are any poor Israelites in your towns when you arrive in the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tightfisted toward them. Instead, be generous and lend them whatever they need. Do not be mean-spirited and refuse someone a loan because the year for cancelling debts is close at hand. If you refuse to make the loan and the needy person cries out to the Lord, you will be considered guilty of sin. 10 Give generously to the poor, not grudgingly, for the Lord your God will bless you in everything you do. 11 There will always be some in the land who are poor. That is why I am commanding you to share freely with the poor and with other Israelites in need.”   

Generosity defines your whole experience, according to Proverbs 11 verses 24-25.  “Give freely and become more wealthy. Be stingy and lose everything.  The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.”   Jayson Bradley notes that “this passage communicates a principle [that’s] sewn into the fabric of God’s world. The more you grasp and hoard, the more you need.  Those who give freely and generously find that they’re happier, healthier and experience more blessings.” [Jayson Bradley]  Proverbs 19:17 confirms this principle of sowing and reaping. “If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord – and he will repay you!”   Jayson Bradley adds, “can you imagine being in the Lord’s debt?  How much more would you give to the poor if you knew that God himself planned to pay you back?  True altruistic generosity requires a certain amount of faith.” [Jayson Bradley]  I remember the still small voice of the Holy Spirit speaking into me with this verse after a friend in trouble asked me to lend her ten dollars. It was true, although not every time she asked did I get this leading from the Lord.  It is the same with helping the girls we work with.  It’s important to listen for his direction, so that they don’t take advantage, and that it shows that the Lord is their saviour.  We are NOT the saviour.   I did however get a strong sense of God’s direction when Tony took two of the girls we mentor to our dentist in Worcester.  They had already been to the free dentist, who wasn’t able to help them.  They mostly deal with extractions.  One girl had her front tooth repaired, since her young sister accidentally smashed her mouth with a hook, and half the tooth broke off.  Our dentist was able to repair the tooth beautifully at a very good cost.  The other girl needs more extensive dental work, which requires extractions and a dental plate.  While we need to fundraise for her needs, it was clear that we weren’t going to leave her in the lurch.  This girl is an amazing teacher, and after finishing matric, she’s been given a scholarship to a university. We are so proud of her.  Proverbs 22:9 expects the Lord’s generosity. “Blessed are those who are generous, because they feed the poor.” We often feed the poor, both the girls, their families and sometimes others as well.  We took in one girl’s family for a Christmas dinner and we had a wonderful time with them. Jayson Bradley says that “many people live from deficit, believing that there’s only so much to go around – and if you don’t get yours, someone else will.  It’s nearly impossible to see the world that way and be a generous person.  However, you may live with a ‘bountiful eye’ that sees the world ruled by a magnanimous God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, [according to] Psalm 50:10.”  [Jayson Bradley]  This attitude becomes possible when you believe this, and you will become more open-handed with the resources that you have.

What does Jesus say about generosity?  Jesus is right in line with these Old Testament passages.  He challenges us further with a choice.  We can accumulate stuff here, which has no eternal value.  Or we can invest in a way that deposits into the coming kingdom.  Listen to Matthew 6:19-21.  “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.  Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”  “When we are generous with the things that come through our life, we are actually sending it ahead, and we’ll be compensated by God.  The beauty in this passage is found in Jesus’ promise.  As we invest our resources in God’s kingdom, our heart will also be pulled in that direction. If you ever find yourself praying that God would awaken a desire in your heart for Kingdom things, try practising generosity for a couple of months.” [Jayson Bradley]   So if you’re still learning about tithing, this takes that challenge up a few notches!  But generosity truly is part of a supernatural lifestyle, and is tied very much to the kindnesses of God.  It can even go beyond that into “BUT God” moments, where there is a dramatic turnaround in your finances.  Some people speak of sowing out of our own need.  We’ll look into the law of sowing and reaping in a moment.

Jayson Bradley believes that God keeps track of our giving.  There is a relationship between how we treat the needy and vulnerable around us and our future rewards.  He says, “The Lord is keeping pretty intricate accounts and doesn’t even neglect to record water given in his name.” [Jayson Bradley]    Listen to Matthew 10:42.  “Whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”   The law of sowing and reaping I referred to before shows that generosity comes in more forms than commerce.  Having a generous spirit gives blessings in all forms.  Listen to Luke 6:37–38:  “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”  To withhold judgement and to forgive, is to act generously.  In God’s economy, it is rewarded with the same kind of overflowing blessings. 

Our next scripture is one that is made famous in Christian movies, and in many sermons.  It’s the one where Jesus’ enthusiasm about generosity shows the most.  Luke 21:1-4 shares the story. “While Jesus was in the Temple, he watched the rich people dropping their gifts in the collection box. Then a poor widow came by and dropped in two small coins. “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has.” I’ve had moments like this, and there are some dear donors that bless us with what we call their widow’s ‘mites.’  When we think of financial stewardship, we remember these people.  Jayson Bradley shares that “true generosity doesn’t come from our excess.  It comes from sacrificial hearts.  The beauty of this passage is in Jesus’ enthusiasm to point out this woman’s [extravagant giving] to the disciples. To think that God gets this excited when we’re open-handed, is pretty inspiring.” [Jayson Bradley]  

The Apostle Paul was also generous. He worked hard doubly when he travelled to the churches. He insisted on working to provide for himself, except when he was imprisoned and he could no longer do that.  He was generous with the funds he earned.  To those who wonder why a well-known speaker would pay for their own keep and travel, and also choose to bless their overseas hosts, they need to look at Acts 20:32-35 as an example.   “And now I entrust you to God and the message of his grace that is able to build you up and give you an inheritance with all those he has set apart for himself. 33 “I have never coveted anyone’s silver or gold or fine clothes. 34 You know that these hands of mine have worked to supply my own needs and even the needs of those who were with me35 And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”  Paul’s visit with the Ephesians ends with these words.  He wanted to leave them an example to follow of hard work, sacrifice and generous living.

This generosity also needs to be freely given, not coerced.  There are too many in ministry who manipulate their followers into giving.  There are some African churches like that.  They manipulate the poor into giving out of fear. That’s not how God would have us give.  All we have is a gift from God, including what we’ve earned from our employment. God has helped us with good brains, skills, gifts and talents.  Some funds have a more obvious supernatural source, like when Holy Spirit speaks to someone’s heart and has them give to a person, mission or cause.  My first experience of being on the receiving end of this was when I was part of a Toronto church, while preparing for my first mission trip to Nairobi, Kenya.  I was working with Somali refugees. One of the ladies in my congregation approached me and said that Holy Spirit spoke into her heart and said she was to give me a certain amount, but she wanted to ask me what I needed.  I needed $500 to pay back my dad for funds paid towards my airfare.  This was the exact amount that she was given. When I shared with her what I needed, I was amazed that she got out her cheque book and wrote that amount out to me personally, not even through the church, to get a tax receipt.  This was supernatural.  I’ve had many other times this has happened, both on the receiving and giving end.  These gifts were sacrificial and a real delight to Holy Spirit. It was the same when we were led to help a Mozambican widow named Maria, build a little stone house for her.  We had help from two ladies, so we didn’t do this on our own, and even we were blessed financially when we helped her.  This was all done freely, and even joyfully.  Notice that in 2 Corinthians 9:6-8, it mentions God loves a cheerful giver.  The word in Greek actually means joyful, and laughing.  Here’s the passage:  “Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”[a] And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.”  This is an act of worship!  This isn’t stingy, folks!  Jayson Bradley says that “God’s ultimate desire is that we would give happily.  He doesn’t want us to have to give out of obligation or coercion.  He wants to bless his children,  not so that we can live in complete comfort and luxury, but so that we can be even more generous – abounding in every good work.”  [Jayson Bradley]  

A scripture verse that also comes to mind, is the one that talks about God giving bread for the eater and seed for the sower.  God generously supplies both.  If you really want to contribute towards a worthy mission or cause, and don’t have it to give, ask God to help you with the seed to sow.  He gives us both.   Here is 2 Corinthians 9:10 in another translation.  “For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer, and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.” 

Our last scripture shows us to remember that we are given resources to do good as well as to enjoy them.  1 Timothy 6:17-19 shares this message:  “teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. 18 Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others19 By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life.”  Jayson Bradley says that “God richly provides everything for our enjoyment. It isn’t his desire to withhold or diminish our pleasure. In fact, he wants us to experience true pleasure. He wants us to experience the joy of being rich in goodness and generosity. Once again, Paul echoes the sentiment so prevalent throughout the scriptures: our benevolence now is an investment in eternity. Who would turn that down?” [Jayson Bradley]   Since we are being conformed to the image of Christ and he is sacrificial in his love and his giving nature, we could use our own generosity as a gauge of our spiritual health.  How open are we in giving?  How sacrificial are we?  Especially when we are led to be so in specific cases? We need to remember that where we are given that Holy Spirit prompting, the Lord will repay us. And he will remember us saying yes to him. 

One friend of ours recently died.  His name was Don Pruner.  He was a very generous, kind man, who always seemed to be in my life to encourage me.  We both were part of the 8 am service at St Paul’s Anglican Church in Kanata, Ontario.  He and his wife Joan were ‘salt of the earth’ people, who were involved in the community and with us personally.  He reached out when I was ill and was one of the many to help with costs for mastectomy surgery.  He helped in various costs of ministry.  We will always remember his generous spirit, not just in finances, but in his humour.  When I was told of Don’s passing, the first thing that came into my spirit was an impression of Don hanging out with Jesus, and Jesus was laughing at Don’s jokes.   His son Karl ended the email announcing his dad’s death with this line, “In the meantime, smile when you remember Don Pruner – a kind and generous man who lived for a good story, a game of golf and the love and laughter of his friends and family.”  Indeed, Don is remembered as one who sowed, and much of the sowing will be reaped where he is now.  Thank you, Don.  

I also want to be remembered in saying yes to Jesus.  Most of the time I’ve done this, although I haven’t always.  Lord, forgive me.  Thankfully we serve a merciful God, and he gives us second and third chances.  Lord, open our eyes to see the needs that you would have us meet.  Close our ears to platitudes and excuses.  Sometimes there are legitimate reasons why we can’t give, and you know all that.  But many times there are not.  You know our hearts.  Cleanse them and forgive us our hard-heartedness.   Make our hearts big and give us seed to sow as well as bread to eat. We thank you that you are in control and that you are the generous one.  Please bless us so we can enjoy and bless others too.  In Jesus’ name. Amen. 

If you’d like to hear an audio version of this article, please visit the Ways to Grow in God (WTGIG) podcast page on the coppleswesterncape.ca website (under the “Listen” drop-down menu).  Click here:  (https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/wtgig-podcasts.html) and scroll down to #74!  If you have been blessed by this article, please let us know!

Updates:  For those looking for news on my cancer journey, I was declared chemically cancer free as of February 2021, but I’m still in post-cancer treatments (lymphedema massage, physio, medications, scans and bloodwork every six months).  Now my husband Tony has both skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma and prostate cancer).  He has also been given a probable diagnosis of mesothelioma, which is a cancer of the lung lining.  However, the pleural fluid that was generated from the tumour is not malignant, so we’re not sure.  When we return to Canada (imminent after a pause to recover from omicron), and after Canadian quarantine, Tony will go to the best hospital in Canada for treatment, with his CT scan, report and doctor’s letter.  We pray this will help the process, so they can continue the treatment by another CT scan and a biopsy of the tumour.   It’s unfortunate that there is a wait, with the unstable travel due to the new omicron variant.  We are in a difficult place, but it’s one that God can and will carry us through in some way.  We just can’t afford any more treatment in South Africa.

Otherwise, we still have medical debt and we are working towards that with art commissions and donations. God’s peace is something that I’m clinging to as we plan our way back to Canada.  We also have a hiccup with our visas, which expired while we were in quarantine.  Also, we trust our express PCR test in Cape Town South Africa will be sufficient for both US and Canada (they will be within 24 hours of arrival for both countries).  Since we recovered from covid recently, it may also exempt us from the mandatory random test. 

After our quarantine, we plan to stay with and care for my frail 92 year old dad, as well as have Tony treated.  Thanks for coming alongside us on our journey.  Being an overcomer is truly a process. We still need help. Tony has significant medical bills as well for lung issues, eye surgery, urologist (who is monitoring the prostate cancer), and I have debt as well (post cancer treatment, physiotherapy, MRI, medications).

Please click here for the medical campaign page to get more info: https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/medical-campaign.html.  We are still crowdfunding to cover the post cancer treatments and Tony’s retina re-attachment operation. If you feel led to contribute, please do so via our PayPal:  https://www.paypal.me/WaystogrowinGod   If you do, please introduce yourself and say that you read “Ways to Grow in God.”  It would really bless us!  If you’re led to pray instead, we welcome your prayers and please do contact us.

L-A’s colouring books:  If you are in South Africa, and would like to purchase one of L-A’s colouring books, they are available at LeRoux and Fourie Wineshop on R60 beside Cape Lime (between Nuy and Robertson) and at Slow Living Café in Worcester.  Or you can order one (or more) printed for you through Takealot.com through this link:

https://www.takealot.com/colouring-with-jesus/PLID68586424

Colouring with Jesus 2 is available here:

https://www.takealot.com/colouring-with-jesus-2/PLID72991486

The books are available online, and through the above shops.  They are available through Legacy Relay run by Louis and Carica LeGrange, although they may all be sold soon and donated into local schools!  After we return to Canada, we plan to republish the devotional colouring books in English using landscape format.  Bless you and thank you for your support!

Laurie-Ann

Growing in God through loving your neighbour

2019 Christmas dinner shared with a local township family

My name is Laurie-Ann, and I’m a missionary. During my mission travels, I have ministered with people in Northern Ireland, Pakistan, Canada and the USA.  I’ve also ministered in African countries like Kenya, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. But at this time, until mid-December 2021, we live in the beautiful Western Cape of South Africa.

During the last article, we learned about growing through stopping fretting.  The Psalms tell us not to fret, for it leads to evil.  Short term it can lead to drunkenness, and giving up on life.  Long term, it can lead to bad life decisions that have disastrous consequences.  

Worry in any form is bad for your health. It also wastes your time.  Corrie ten Boom once said, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow.  It empties today of its strength.”  [quoted in Huffington Post, Amanda Chan, “9 Scientific Ways to Stop worrying” December 6, 2017]

Caroline Thorpe of the Touching Hearts ministry, says that excess stress, which is connected to worry, leads to burn out.  It’s not the amount of hours you work, it’s the stress that grinds you into the ground. [Caroline Thorpe, Touching Hearts Course, Talk on bitterness]. Fretting is a heavy burden that you don’t need to carry.  Fretting actually focuses your imagination into the far future, as you worry about things that may not happen and forgetting about what’s going on right now.  Choose instead to TRUST God. Live in the moment.  It is good to plan for your future. Goal setting is good, but this is with positive steps towards that goal.  Jesus reminds us Matt 6:25-27: “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?”  Jesus thought worrying was a waste of time. The Apostle Paul also encourages us to pray, and trust. 

There is a sure-fire way to stop worry. This is to begin to see other’s needs, especially at Christmas.  Once we pray, spend time with and thank God, our eyes can turn to our neighbour.  How important is it to love and help our neighbour?  Here’s Jesus’ take on that.  Listen to Matt 22:37-39.  “ Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’[e] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is almost as important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’[f]  Jesus shows us how important it is to really see our neighbour, love them and be there for them.  This isn’t just a wave across the street.  This is actively looking out for each other. This is loving our neighbour with the overflow of love that comes from time with the Lord in prayer and worship. 

How do most people see their neighbours?  Is it just our next door neighbour, or does this “relationship title” go beyond the boundaries of a little neighbourhood?   How about the people we work with?  How about our school mates and teachers?  And the people at church?  I mention different circles of people where we are connected.  When Tony and I used to go into Worcester Primary School, we spent an hour with the grade ones.  We are family, but we are also neighbours.  The retirement village we used to live in and the school is in the same Langerug neighbourhood. These children are like a rainbow of colours, races and cultures.  They were everything from Brazilian, Chinese, Afrikaaner, English, Malay, Indian, and different black tribes.  All the children were lovable, inquisitive, and usually kind. They were learning how to reach out to their Aunt Laurie-Ann and Uncle Tony. 

Many people in the United States grew up watching the show “Mister Roger’s Neighbourhood.”  Mr. Rogers, was actually a pastor. He had a gift of showing kindness to others.  This was a genuine gift, and he loved to notice and touch others.  He saw them, he noticed them.  The neighbours weren’t invisible to him.  It didn’t matter what gender, race or culture the person came from.  All of them were loved.  His show envisioned a wonderful place where neighbours are noticed.    This scenario may work on TV, but can this work in real life?  South Africa has a charity called love thy neighbour dot org.  It’s a non-profit company that is a platform for other ministries.  They have a motto, which is “kindness begins with me.”  Kindness does, although it is a gift from God.  Some of the ministries featured on this website work with the blind, deaf, down-syndrome and many other worthy needs.     Cape Town’s Bo Kaap neighbourhood also has a Mediterranean restaurant called “Love Thy Neighbour.”  I’m not sure if they actually do that, but the name does draw attention to kindness.   

Who is our neighbour?  The ancient Israelite understanding of neighbour is one nearby who is also an Israelite.  Unfortunately, they didn’t look outside of their box.  Gentiles, were not like them, therefore they weren’t considered. Yet, Lev. 19:33–34 reminds them to consider the foreigners among them:  “Do not take advantage of foreigners who live among you in your land. 34 Treat them like native-born Israelites, and love them as you love yourself. Remember that you were once foreigners living in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”  This means that the foreigners, or sojourners, are also neighbours. Tony and I are soujourners; we’re long-term visitors in South Africa.  And yet, we are neighbours within our retirement village.  We are neighbours to our church friends who live just outside the village.  We have coffee, tea, or a braai with some of our neighbours.  One of them, Willem, has even helped us with a ride to church, when our car was unusable after Christmas 2019, just a few days after we had a Christmas dinner with a township family that we are very fond of.  Willem is a great neighbour.  He intentionally grew a lovely garden on his corner lot property.  He did this so that he could work on the garden and talk to whoever passed by.  He would wave to the drivers who would drive past, so eventually they would stop and actually speak to him.  Willem considers this a ministry.  He notices people.  When he speaks to you, he is filled with kindness and he actually hears what you are saying. 

So to open up our definition of neighbour, Jesus includes the Samaritan who helped a badly injured Jew.  Two of his own kind ignored him, simply because they were too busy with their own lives.  So instead a ‘half-breed’ Samaritan, someone outside their own community, is the one to help the injured man.  This story must have shocked Jesus’ listeners.  This would be like someone from the lowest part of your society rising up and making a difference instead of who you think would help others.  Say this helper was someone from the townships, and they were helping someone from one of the richer neighbourhoods in Worcester.  That would get your attention. Listen to the words from Luke 10: 30-37:   Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.  31 “By chance, a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. 32 A Temple assistant[d] walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. 33 “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. 34 Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. 35 The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins,[e] telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’ 36 “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbour to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked. 37 The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

So to be a good neighbour, is to show mercy when it is needed.  Mercy and kindness go a long way to neighbours that hide in the shadows.  Many people are like that. They are unnoticed and lonely.  All they need is a little love.  All they need is to be noticed with the love of Jesus.  When Ruth arrived in Israel with her mother in law Naomi, she was a widow.  She was allowed to glean in the fields, especially that of Boaz, who was related to her mother in law. Boaz was a good neighbour to Naomi and Ruth, and eventually he married Ruth.  Our neighbours don’t always look like us.  They may be a refugee from Sudan or Iraq.  They may be a persecuted Christian from North Korea, or Somalia. They may be a single parent family with nine kids.  That single mom just may need a little help getting to the grocery store since she doesn’t have a car.   The little boy down the road may have just lost his dad.  He will need a godly man to be like a dad to him.  Open your eyes.  But when you do, don’t just follow the need, for you’ll see that everywhere.  If you drive into the Avian Park township, as Tony very often does, you will encounter children that will approach your car.  They will say, “Give me one rand.  One rand.”  One rand is currently nine Canadian cents.  They’ll use that to fill their bellies with cheap chips. Those chips may have been the only thing they’ve had to eat all day.  So there is need.

Don’t get overwhelmed.  Instead, listen to Holy Spirit.  Who is HE leading you towards?  That is the person to stop for.  That person is your neighbour.  We call that stopping for the one.  Sometimes that person is an obviously needy, hungry child from a township.  Other times that person may be someone in your family.  Say it could be your cousin that has been secretly depressed and lonely. 

How can you stop for the one?  How can you love your neighbour?  I believe dot com has a convenient list of eleven ways to love your neighbour as yourself.  Let’s journey through this list.  [Courtney Whiting, 10 Ways to love your neighbor as yourself” https://www.ibelieve.com/faith/10-ways-to-love-your-neighbor-as-yourself.html]

Cortney Whiting gives us her perspective, which was changed by the words of her daughter.  She says, “Several months ago, as we drove through our neighborhood, my daughter pointed out that the “mean lady’s” house was for sale. This woman had done nothing to my child to evoke such a title. However, in her yard were no less than seven “No Trespassing” signs. Apparently, my daughter overheard a comment I made concerning the signs and thus, the title was born. I immediately felt convicted for my behavior.”  I never knew much about the woman who lived down the street except that her name was Mary, she was older, and she lived alone. I waved to her when I passed by, but I never stopped to introduce myself. This was partly because I was so consumed with my own agenda, that I never opened my heart to a potential need. Another reason for this missed opportunity was I simply prejudged her as not having anything in common with myself. Popular culture often teaches to support others of similar viewpoints, interests, or beliefs. But Jesus’ command challenges the cultural norm. In Luke 10, a lawyer asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus answered with the story of what we call, The Good Samaritan.”  Again, the story of the Good Samaritan is the best example of showing how to love our neighbour.   Here are eleven top ways to love our neighbour.

Number one.  Love is pro-active.  The Samaritan saw the victim and went to him. He stopped on his way.   If we are to learn from this example, we need to be aware of those around us. Who is God placing on your heart to reach out to?  Number two. Love is observant. The Samaritan first SAW the hurting man.   Granted, a beaten man on the road is hard to ignore.  We’ve seen one in Worcester, and Tony has moved him off the road into a safer place.  Number three.  Love is compassionate.  The Samaritan went beyond seeing him and feeling sorry for him.  He responded to his needs.   Some people just need a loving hand up (rather than a hand-out.)   Number four.  Love is responsive.  He bound the man’s wounds with the resources he had on hand.  Sometimes you have what is needed right on hand. Have you noticed a specific need in your community?   Are you being led to meet it, just once?  Number five.  Love is costly.  After the Samaritan tended to the man, he spent some of his own resources.  Loving his neighbour cost the Samaritan at least two days wages, and his time.  Sometimes we have let three of our My Father’s House girls stay with us overnight on our couch.  This was one at a time.  This cost us time, resources, food and sometimes money.  For example, money for things like pads, school uniforms, electricity, bread, or a care package of emergency food.    How can you bless another?  How is God leading you?  Don’t leave it to charities and government agencies to help.  They are already overloaded.  There are forty soup kitchens in Avian Park alone.  Yet they only help specific people.  There is no room for other needy people.  We know people who have fallen through the cracks, and a few times, we were led to help.  Number six.  Love is inopportune.  It’s not convenient. It wasn’t easy for the Samaritan to lift the injured Jew onto a donkey. Yet he did it.  I can remember a few people who went out of their way to help us when we were stranded in our home for eight days. The car was broken, and both the mechanic and the car rental place were closed for holiday.  So we had friends and neighbours who brought us care packages and drove us to church or the mall.  This is something Tony did for others on a regular basis.  It made us feel both humbled and loved to receive this.  Others have driven me home from events when Tony just wasn’t available.  I am thankful that they went out of their way.

Number seven.    Love is healing.  The Samaritan not only bound the man’s wounds, but he had him rest in an inn. He took care of him.  This reminds me of one of Tony’s friends at the hospice he visits regularly.  His name is Moses. Tony comes and brings him fruit, and has even given him rides back to his home in Touws River.  Otherwise he would have been stuck with no transport, waiting in a public hospital.  Tony was led to take care of his friend.  Number eight.  Love is sacrificial.  The Samaritan gave two denarri to the innkeeper. This was two days wages, with no thought of repayment.    It’s not just about our sacrifice.  We give out of what Jesus has already given:  eternal life, and abundant life, full of love, peace, forgiveness and so much more.  Number nine.  Love is communal. The Samaritan asked the innkeeper to help.  Sometimes it’s necessary to involve others in the process.  It is essential to network when dealing with needs.  It’s been important for us, as well as the people we work with.  We have found a real safety net in Worcester, if you know where to go.  Sometimes we have been part of that safety net, and we trust others will fill in our gap, after we leave.  Number ten. Love is promising.  When the Samaritan left the inn, he offered and promised to pay for any other needed expenses. When we love others, we need to follow-up and follow-through in our care. This is the beauty of long term service, or even more to work within your own community, where you live. You don’t have to be a missionary to be a good neighbour! 

Number eleven.  Love is merciful.  The story of the Samaritan is of a man who showed mercy on his neighbour.  Mercy is compassion in action.  Mercy is in meeting the need, not just feeling it. Mercy has follow-though, which is why it’s a ministry.  When I think of mercy, I think of Heidi Baker, with multiple Mozambican children on her lap. I think of Mother Theresa loving those in the Calcutta slums.  And I think of my husband Tony when he is with children and teens.  He has a mercy heart, and I love him for it, as well as many other things.  Number twelve.  Love shows no partiality. Cortney Whiting says, “My neighbour Mary has since moved away, and a new family has bought her home. While I could wallow in guilt that I responded more like the priest or the Levite to her, I am challenging myself to treat my new neighbors like the Samaritan would. For love shows no partiality.” So being a good neighbour is to be one that is not afraid to act on Holy Spirit’s compassion. We see the need, and sense the active compassion rise in us.  Holy Spirit, what would you have us do?  What do they need?  What do you want to do in their life, Lord?

Lord, we offer ourselves to you.  Thank you for the times where we have been helped and given mercy like the Samaritan did to the broken Jew.  May you give us opportunities to reach out and help with whatever they need to receive.  We cannot do this on our own Lord, so we lean entirely on you.  Give us the compassion, the resources and the mercy that overflows onto whoever it touches.  Thank you for your mercy towards US, Lord.   And give us adequate rest between these divine appointments.  Thank you that you provide that too.  In Jesus’ name. Amen. 

If you’d like to hear an audio version of this article, please visit the Ways to Grow in God (WTGIG) podcast page on the coppleswesterncape.ca website (under the “Listen” drop-down menu).  Click here:  (https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/wtgig-podcasts.html) and scroll down to #73!  If you have been blessed by this article, please let us know!

UpdatesFor those looking for news on my cancer journey, I was declared chemically cancer free as of February 2021, but still in post-cancer treatments (lymphedema massage, physio, medications, scans and bloodwork).   Now my husband Tony has both skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma and prostate cancer).  He has also been given a probable diagnosis of mesothelioma, which is a cancer of the lung lining.  However, the pleural fluid that was generated from the tumour is not malignant, so we’re not sure.  When we return to Canada, after quarantine, Tony will go to the best hospital in Canada for treatment, with his CT scan, report and doctor’s letter.  We pray this will help the process, so they can continue the treatment by another CT scan and a biopsy of the tumour.   It’s unfortunate that there is a wait, with the unstable travel due to the new omicron variant.  We are in a difficult place, but it’s one that God can and will carry us through in some way.  We just can’t afford any more treatment in South Africa.

Otherwise, we still have medical debt and we are working towards that with art commissions and donations. God’s peace is something that I’m clinging to as we plan our way back to Canada.  We also have a hiccup with Tony’s medical visa, which isn’t sufficient to carry us to our departure date of December 18th.  Add to that five covid tests (two in South Africa, one in the US, and two in Canada, despite being vaccinated.  Ah well, it’s just what we have to go through to get back.

After our quarantine, we plan to stay with and care for my frail 92 year old dad, as well as have Tony treated.  Thanks for coming alongside us on our journey.  Being an overcomer is truly a process. We still need help. Tony has significant medical bills as well for lung issues, eye surgery, urologist (who is monitoring the prostate cancer), and I have debt as well (post cancer treatment, physiotherapy, MRI, medications).

Please click here for the medical campaign page to get more info: https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/medical-campaign.html.  We are still crowdfunding to cover the post cancer treatments and Tony’s eye operation. If you feel led to contribute, please do so via our PayPal:  https://www.paypal.me/WaystogrowinGod   If you do, please introduce yourself and say that you read “Ways to Grow in God.”  It would really bless us!  If you’re led to pray instead, we welcome your prayers and please do contact us.

L-A’s colouring books:  If you are in South Africa, and would like to purchase one of L-A’s colouring books, they are available at LeRoux and Fourie Wineshop on R60 beside Cape Lime (between Nuy and Robertson) and at Slow Living Café in Worcester.  Or you can order one (or more) printed for you through Takealot.com through this link:

Colouring with Jesus is available here:

https://www.takealot.com/colouring-with-jesus/PLID68586424

Colouring with Jesus 2 is available here:

https://www.takealot.com/colouring-with-jesus-2/PLID72991486

The books are available online, through us personally (for a short time), and through the above shops.  They will also be available through Legacy Relay run by Louis and Carica LeGrange.  After we return to Canada, we plan to republish the devotional colouring books in English using landscape format.  Bless you and thank you for your support!

Love, Laurie-Ann

Growing in God through stopping fretting

“Oceans converge and sing praise” – Laurie-Ann Zachar Copple (c)

My name is Laurie-Ann, and I’m a missionary. During my mission travels, I have ministered with people in Northern Ireland, Pakistan, Canada and the USA.  I’ve also ministered in African countries like Kenya, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. But at this time, we live in the beautiful Western Cape of South Africa.

During our last article, we learned about growing in wisdom. Wisdom was my heart’s desire, as it was for one of the children we worked with for many months here, Liam.  Wisdom was what King Solomon was most known for, and it was something he asked God for in a dream.  He wanted to rule over his people well.  And he was granted his request.  Godly wisdom is acquired by fearing, or honouring the Lord, and not leaning on your own earthly wisdom.  Godly wisdom is a gift, and one that can be developed through inclining your spiritual ears to God for direction, and through experience.  Wisdom and direction are two things that I constantly needed before I was a Christian and afterwards.  I would worry so much that even my dad would quote the Bible scripture about the lilies of the field receiving care without worry.  

Worrying, also known as fretting, leads to evil.  When I think of the word ‘fret,’ I think of this verse:  “do not fret—it leads only to evil.”   I remember this verse rang in my ears during a Vineyard camp meeting we had in the 1990’s.  I was a worrier. It took a lot of ministry, time and love to get the anxiety out of me.  I was fearful and fidgety but I didn’t know where these emotions came from.  This was in the days before soaking prayer and ‘carpet time’ were common.  Holy Spirit drew many of us to abide with Jesus on the carpet so he could deal with our hearts.  Of course, the very opposites of worry and fear are faith and TRUST. Do we really trust God?  Even though God is endlessly faithful, many of us need to realize in our heart of hearts just how faithful God is.  He isn’t like an imperfect earthly father who will let you down.  He’s God.  He’s master of the universe.

Corrie ten Boom once said, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow.  It empties today of its strength.”  [quoted in Huffington Post, Amanda Chan, “9 Scientific Ways to Stop worrying” December 6, 2017 https://www.huffpost.com/entry/stop-worrying-anxiety-cycle_n_4002914

Worry is bad for your body as well as your soul and spirit.  I learned from Caroline Thorpe on the Touching Hearts course, that too much stress can burn you out. It’s not the amount of work you do, but rather the amount of stress.  Amanda Chan shares that “while worry […] spurs us into action, too much of it can lead to anxiety, which can have a lasting impact on health and happiness.  For instance, research has shown that anxiety can take a toll on sleep, tax your immune system, raise your risk of post-traumatic stress disorder, and even affect your risk of dying from disease.” [Huffington Post, Amanda Chan]  Chan also shares nine “scientific” ways to stop worrying.  These include:  setting aside a designated worry time, kicking online addictions to social media, being mindful in choosing to think positively of solutions, instead of panicking, accepting the worry situation and moving on, writing your worries down, giving yourself a break, keeping your hands busy, making time to stop, breathe and pray, and ninth, to do some activity. Go out and exercise.  Except for the way of prayer, most of these are quite practical.  I found it interesting that Chan mentions keeping a designated worry time.  She says that if you have a specific time to work out items that you are worried about and keep it to that time, it’s actually a good discipline to cope from overwhelming worry taking over all of your time.  One stipulation during the worry time is to think of positive solutions; one is beginning to train the mind to think positively and to not panic. This isn’t an invitation to a pity party. Pity parties only invite you to dig a hole and disappear into it. We don’t want that.   Pursuing FaceBook also does not help when you’re in a worry mode.  It can make matters worse, and in fact even create an atmosphere of fretting.  Accepting the worry voice inside you may help you cope better than intentionally suppressing worry.  After all, the matter you are fretting about may be a legitimate one.  However, you can limit the worry, so it doesn’t become an obsession.  That’s where Holy Spirit comes in with His peace. It takes time to root out the issues that may be triggered by fretting.  But are you willing?  Find a good Christian counsellor, or a good person skilled in inner healing prayer. 

Writing your concerns down on paper also helps bring distance to the matter.  Sometimes your worries are fuzzy, condemning thoughts.  Those aren’t from you.  Don’t accept them. Tell them to leave in Jesus’ name. God’s Holy Spirit never condemns.  He convicts.  He leads us to the cross, has us repent, and then he touches and heals us.  That is good.  Condemnation is BAD.  But when you write down your own thoughts, and come back to the journal later, you will find you feel better. You can reassess the situation and possibly see solutions.  

Chan also advises to “cut yourself some slack.”  Some people worry about the funniest things.  For example, if one was worried about your health, and thought you had to eat blueberries every day, and they weren’t always available, you may worry that you could get sick.  Nonsense!  There are plenty of other anti-oxidants.  Give yourself leeway and live life.  Most people worry about things that won’t happen or about things that won’t matter in a week, let alone a year.   Next on the list is keeping your hands busy.  Some people knit or crochet.  I draw.  There was a reason why my chemotherapy nurses invited me to draw in the chemo room.   I’ve also kept busy continuing to draw at home.  It’s kept my hands and mind busy while we’ve been going through multiple challenges.  For me, it’s a matter of TRUST.   This means I’ve put the situation I’m concerned about in God’s hands, and to keep myself from worrying, I intentionally pour myself into drawing.  It’s an act of worship that takes my whole being.   During that time, I’m also praying – not only for my concerns, but other things as well.  I turn on worship music and even sing.  This takes my mind and heart off the concerns, and puts my focus on God.  That’s a sure way of letting go of fretting.  

Sometimes you can also burn off the energy that comes from anxiety, into a good way to both use up and generate better energy.  This is to exercise – to run, walk and be active.   I remember I had six months with my friend Lynn, exercising together in her basement.  She coached me in stretching, walking on her treadmill, climbing stairs, and other gentle ways to gain core body strength.  I found this bonded me to my exercise partner, as well as give me more resilience in walking.  This was very much needed later, while Tony and I were in Mozambique.  The base where we took the Iris Harvest School was on a steep hill, and we were walking all the time.  There were times that I struggled emotionally, since the school curriculum and life is based on much younger people.  However, through the Holy Spirit and determination I persevered. The exercise was good for me, and even allowed me to purge any frustrations and grumblings that I temporarily felt.  By the time I got to my destination, I was fine.

Notice that I used the word grumblings.  Natalie Savvides notes that to fret is to “be constantly or visibly anxious. [It also] gradually wears away something by rubbing or gnawing.” [Natalie Savviddes, “Fretting – Is it Really worth it?” Huffington Post, September 13, 2016. https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/natalie-savvides/fretting-is-it-really-worthit]

She notes that in twenty years, she had to question whether constant fretting […] served any purpose.  Fretting and worrying speed you into the far future, where you worry about what may or may not happen.  However, we need to stop and enjoy the moment.  God works in the moment.  He tells us in Psalm 46:10 to be still and know that He is God.  This word was not given during a quiet time in the valley.  It was given in the midst of a battle!  Natalie shares,” It’s important to be present in the moment, to live the day, absorb it and notice what’s going on around us.”  [Natalie Savviddes]

John McArthur states that “we all have to admit that worry is a common temptation in life – for many, it’s a favourite pastime.”  [John McArthur, “A Worried Christian”https://www.gty.org/library/articles/A112/a-worried-christian   He shares that the US is one of the most worry-filled societies.  What did Jesus say about worry?   “Jesus categorically prohibited worry […] as shown in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:25-34. Three times […] Jesus commanded, “Do not worry!” The way He said it shows the fullness of what he meant. In verse 25 he shows worry as a common practice. He says, “Stop worrying.” In verses 31 and 34 He uses the same word, but in a way that means, “Don’t even start worrying.” [John McArthur].  It is clear that Jesus thought worrying is not only a waste of time, but it’s a dangerous practice.  God wants good things for us, and worry is not one of them.  

Think of it this way: worry is not trivial.  John McArthur suspects that a majority of mental illnesses are directly related to worry.  Many cases of drunkenness and drug addiction are symptomatic of worry. And because of worry, many people make foolish life decisions, which bring painful consequences.  Worry is devastating in daily life.  But think of what is also does in your relationship with God.  McArthur notes, “When you worry, you are saying in effect, ‘God, I just don’t think I can trust you.’  Worry strikes a blow at the person and character of God.” [McArthur, “ Worried Christian]  In effect, when you worry, you make your circumstances, or your desires huge, when in fact, they are tiny, next to God’s love, power and faithfulness.

So you want to give up this burden of worries and cares.  It’s heavy.  Give it to Jesus! 

At this moment, I’m thinking of a chorus based on 1 Peter 5:7.  It’s the song that goes, “Cast your burdens onto Jesus, he cares for you, cast your burdens onto Jesus, he cares for you. Higher, higher. Higher, higher. Higher, higher, lift Jesus higher.  Lower, lower. Lower lower. Lower, lower, stomp Satan lower.”  This is what we need to do.    So we offer our cares to him.

Don’t let worry steal your joy anymore.  Worry is basically fear, shrouded in all kinds of unhelpful stuff.  And fear is cast out by God’s perfect love.    So, as you offer your burdens, one by one, let his peace wash over you.  And then wait in his presence. 

If you still struggle and fidget while waiting try these methods to stop panic attacks.  One.  Tell yourself to stop.  Take a breath. And then slowly count to ten.  Inhale and exhale, one, and repeat to ten.  Think of the numbers.  By ten, your heart rate should be lower.  Two, think about what the root cause of the fear is. Now that you know, you can deal with it in a positive way.  Three, pray about it.  Yes you offered the burden to God, but you can still pray, and offer up your feelings, and anything else connected with it.   Philippians 4: 6-7 remind us to not “worry about anything; [but] instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” So rest in the peace that comes as you pray and afterwards as you are still in your heart.  Four, start counting your blessings and thank God for each of them. You may have been so worried about one thing but then you have forgotten God’s faithfulness in other areas of your life.   They may be too many to mention here.  I’m sure you can think of at least three.  Think on these.   And step five?  Repeat as necessary.  Holy Spirit is near you. Remember that the next time you panic,  He is there holding you.  You do not need to take on the world.  It will carry on without you.  This is a good time to start to live in joy.  This means to live in the moment and to enjoy the little blessings.  God often blesses us with many small blessings in everyday life. We call these the kindnesses of God. Begin to think of all the little blessings you had today.  I’m sure that there are many more than one!   [Steps (paraphrased) – by Melissa, “Stop worrying and start trusting God. Joyfulinthemundane.com]

When you intentionally take time to think on good things, we remember the words from the Apostle Paul in Philippians 4:8:  “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honourable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”  If you intentionally focus on God AND on all the good things he’s put in your life, there is no room for worry.   Choose instead to trust.  Stop, count to ten and say, “No, I will not fret.  I choose to trust God.”   And choose his way of joy that comes as you contemplate the good things.  Make this daily choice a part of your lifestyle.  In time, the worry, panic attacks and fretting will subside.  Remember, God is in control.  It’s not all up to you.  

Lord Jesus, we offer up our burdens, concerns and fears to you.  Dissolve them in your perfect love.  Lift up those who are battered by fear, and break the chains.  Lift their eyes up to you.  And bring your perfect peace, layer by layer in our hearts, minds, wills and spirit.   in Jesus’ name.  Amen. 

If you’d like to hear an audio version of this article, please visit the Ways to Grow in God (WTGIG) podcast page on the coppleswesterncape.ca website (under the “Listen” drop-down menu).  Click here:  (https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/wtgig-podcasts.html) and scroll down to #72!  If you have been blessed by this article, please let us know!

Updates:  For those looking for news on my cancer journey, I was declared chemically cancer free as of February 2021, but still in post-cancer treatments (lymphedema massage, physio, medications, scans and bloodwork).   Now my husband Tony has both skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma and prostate cancer).  The former in treatment, the latter monitored. It’s not life threatening thank God.  We are also concerned for a newer development that the doctors guessed was TB, due to three pleural effusions (water build up in the lining of Tony’s left lung).  A recent CT scan revealed the presence of a tumour the size of an egg near Tony’s heart.  The radiologist doctor gave a potential diagnosis of mesiothelioma, cancer of the lung lining. While the fluid was tested as benign, we don’t know if the tumour is malignant or not.  Since we are returning to Canada in December, we don’t have the time or the money to go to a chest specialist, or a potential oncologist.  L-A plans to take Tony to a hospital ER in Toronto, with the CT scan and report, which can be compared with new scans later. We are sure that there is a testimony in the making, so we are choosing not to fret over Tony, but to be prayerfully hopeful. God is in control.

Otherwise, we still have medical debt and we are working towards that with art commissions and donations. God’s peace is something that I’m clinging to as we plan our way back to Canada (we were seriously delayed due to waiting 5.5 months for our South African medical visas).

We trust we will have them in enough time to ramp up our preparations to return with the help of a very capable Cape Town travel agent.  She wasn’t able to get us out sooner than December 18th. Gone are the days when we would plan our own travel online (apart from booking self-catering places).

After our quarantine, we plan to stay with and care for my frail 92 year old dad.  Part of us longs for Canada, but we still greatly love South Africa.  We are glad that Jesus is carrying us, since we are frail.  Both of us have continuing health issues, including prostate and skin cancer, eye issues (following Tony’s retina re-attachment surgery, and possible mesiothelioma). We are also working on care for me concerning a neck/spine issue that is causing considerable pain down my right arm.  It’s become increasingly painful to type, write and draw for periods of time.  So I rest more.  I had an MRI which showed various herniated discs and spine issues.  Yet, my physiotherapist is helping me work though.   

Thanks for coming alongside us on our journey.  Being an overcomer is truly a process. We still need help. Tony has significant medical bills as well for lung issues, eye surgery, urologist (who is monitoring the prostate cancer), and I have debt as well (post cancer treatment, physiotherapy, MRI, medications).

Please click here for the medical campaign page to get more info: https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/medical-campaign.html.  We are still crowdfunding to cover the post cancer treatments and Tony’s eye operations. If you feel led to contribute, please do so via our PayPal:  https://www.paypal.me/WaystogrowinGod   If you do, please introduce yourself and say that you read “Ways to Grow in God.”  It would really bless us!  If you’re led to pray instead, we welcome your prayers and please do contact us.

L-A’s colouring books:  If you are in South Africa, and would like to purchase one of L-A’s colouring books, they are available at OliveTree Bookshop in Mountain Mill Shopping Centre (near Pick n Pay), Worcester, Western Cape.  You can also buy them at LeRoux and Fourie Wineshop on R60 beside Cape Lime (between Nuy and Robertson) and at Slow Living Café in Worcester.  Or you can order one (or more) printed for you through Takealot.com through this link:

Colouring with Jesus is available here:

https://www.takealot.com/colouring-with-jesus/PLID68586424

Colouring with Jesus 2 is available here:

https://www.takealot.com/colouring-with-jesus-2/PLID72991486

The books are available online, through us personally (for a short time), and through the above shops.  They will also be available through Legacy Relay run by Louis and Carica LeGrange.  After we return to Canada, we plan to republish the devotional colouring books in English landscape format.  Bless you and thank you for your support!

Love, Laurie-Ann

Growing in God through Wisdom

“Jesus and the Riverview kids” by Laurie-Ann Zachar Copple

My name is Laurie-Ann, and I’m a missionary. During my mission travels, I have ministered with people in Northern Ireland, Pakistan, Canada and the USA.  I’ve also ministered in African countries like Kenya, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. But at this time, we live in the beautiful Western Cape of South Africa.

During our last article, we learned about growing through humour and positivity.  We learned that laughter, good clean humour and fun are good for body and soul.  These help in many ways to combat disease – even serious illnesses like cancer.  Laughter and humour are also gifts from God – they were given to us as gifts, although some became tainted with sin and Pharisees and some Christians alike didn’t want to touch it.  It seemed sinful.  But Jesus offers abundant life to those who love him and follow him.  To the humble who have suffered, he offers laughter, he offers joy.  Heaven is shown as a wedding feast, and that there is enjoyment in abundance.  To have a taste of holy laughter is like tasting heaven.

Wisdom is also a spiritual attribute that is a taste of heaven, in fact so much so that many people desire it.  This was one of my deepest desires as a baby Christian. I not only wanted to know things, just to learn, but I wanted to know how to handle situations, and just how things worked.  I still desire to learn and was encouraged after Algonquin College radio broadcasting school to be a life-long learner.  It has taken time for Jesus to blend my different skills and learning together.   He’s taken the art and blended it into soaking prayer.  He’s taken the radio broadcasting into podcasting, story-telling, devotional writing and more.  And he’s taken the ministry degree with counselling into pastoral care and inner healing in unique situations that are situated outside of an office.  I’m what you call a secondary counsellor rather than a therapist.  But Holy Spirit’s wisdom shines through as he reminds me where to go to share some word of love or correction at just the right time.  Not long ago, I attended a South African inner healing course called Touching Hearts, which was cut short by lockdown.  It’s based on some of the teachings I learned from Elijah House in the 1990’s, as well as other ministries.  Even though some of the teachings aren’t new, refreshing knowledge in a new way brings deeper insight.  And wisdom’s insights don’t just scratch the surface.  Just remember that if you’ve read the Bible cover to cover once and think you’ve read it all.  No!  There is more, just waiting for you when you read it again.  The Bible just isn’t any book. 

During our time here in Worcester, we became part of a ministry called Legacy Relay.  We and others from our former retirement village community go into Worcester Primary School as Aunt Laurie-Ann and Uncle Tony.  Our day was Tuesday morning with the English grade ones.  We bring them music (usually children’s Christian songs), five-ten minutes of science, and then art.  This starts as colouring, goes into soaking prayer and drawing their own drawings, and then learning Christian symbols so they can express themselves better.  During our first school year, we had a little boy called Liam.  He was one of the bright lights of the class, and was very inquisitive.  He has a soft heart that easily hears Holy Spirit, and he grasps what we are teaching him – especially in art.   Some of the children couldn’t understand the concept of a Christian symbol, so we taught this a few times.  I was inspired to set up a 30×40 inch canvas that I divided into four.  We made four groups and each had a part of creating an abstract background first in watercolour pencil, and then by turning the pencil into paint by using water and a brush.  This was merely the backdrop of where the learners would place their own personal symbols on the canvas.  Some of the children knew in advance what symbol they wanted to paint.  Many were crosses, others were doves, hearts and hands.  Some drew rockets, which I thought was interesting, until the teacher told me they were learning about space that week.  Oh well.  But Liam?  He was told his special Christian symbol by another way.

He loved to colour or draw at my feet, and one day I sensed something from Holy Spirit for him.  I called him over and told him that I believed I had a word for him from Jesus, just for him.  I asked if he had been asking Jesus for wisdom.  I saw an impression of him whispering in Jesus’ ear with an earnest request for wisdom.  Like me, he just wanted to know and grow.  When I shared this picture with him, he brightened.  I also told him that Jesus will give him that wisdom, and wanted to shower love into his heart.  Liam’s Christian symbol was a hug between Liam and Jesus.  Of course, this wasn’t easy for a six-year-old to draw, so he drew Jesus and himself holding hands.  It was so beautiful.  He remembered what I told him, and when it came time to paint his symbol, this is exactly what he painted.

Asking for wisdom is biblical.  King Solomon asked for wisdom to be able to govern Israel. He was granted that request and given more, since it was a worthy and unselfish request.  His motives at the time were right.  Solomon’s heart was right and he was answered in a vivid dream recorded in 1 Kings 3:5-14: “That night the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream, and God said, “What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!”  Solomon replied, “You showed great and faithful love to your servant my father, David, because he was honest and true and faithful to you. And you have continued to show this great and faithful love to him today by giving him a son to sit on his throne.

“Now, O Lord my God, you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around. And here I am in the midst of your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted! Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?” 

10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom. 11 So God replied, “Because you have asked for wisdom in governing my people with justice and have not asked for a long life or wealth or the death of your enemies— 12 I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have! 13 And I will also give you what you did not ask for—riches and fame! No other king in all the world will be compared to you for the rest of your life! 14 And if you follow me and obey my decrees and my commands as your father, David, did, I will give you a long life.”

Solomon was humble to call himself like a child, and he asked for wisdom not for his own gain, but to use for governance.  As he governed, he later become noted for his wisdom, as shown in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.  These collected books show wisdom from other wise men, as well as his own.  And yet, with all this wisdom, we are told in Proverbs 3:5-8 to “ Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.6  Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom.  Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil.Then, you will have healing for your body and strength for your bones.”   Solomon was the wisest man in all of history, and yet his downfall was in being led astray by his many wives into other religions.  He did not stay faithful to the Lord.  He did not heed to the wisdom God gave him.   The apostle James also spoke about wisdom.  James 3:13-18 shares about two kinds of wisdom. “ Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. 17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.”  So James is saying that wisdom is a fruit of the Spirit, even if it’s not officially on the Galatians 5 list of the fruit of the Spirit.  Wisdom is also a spiritual gift.   It’s something that God gives.  James 1: 5-6 share that “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone.”   So wisdom and direction come from God, where you must be in a position of trusting the one who gives.    

Tony highly respects the gift of wisdom, which is one of the gifts he often asks me to explain.  There is the gift of word of knowledge, which I am often given.  I can explain things intuitively, or I get pictures like impressions on my spirit.  I get inspired, and just ‘know.’  This happens when I pray for someone and I’m given direction on how to pray or what to pray about.  Or I get direction on how to teach, how to draw an inspiring drawing, or what to speak about when I’m to share in a Bible study.  This is Holy Spirit inspiration.  The gift of wisdom goes further in direction and the practical use of the knowledge given.  Wisdom is innately practical, as it is creative.  It’s almost like wisdom has a personality of its own.  

What is wisdom?  Is wisdom just a desirable trait or something more?  I went to Google and found various synonyms for wisdom, words like:  “sagacity, sageness, intelligence, understanding, insight, perception, acuity, discernment, shrewdness, acumen, soundness, foresight, savvy, prudence, and advisability.”  Wisdom is perceived as the “quality of having experience, knowledge and good judgement; the fact of being based on sensible or wise thinking.”  [Oxford Dictionary, via Google search engine, retrieved Feb 17, 2020]   Wisdom can be tied with experience.  In this way, Tony was discovered and encouraged by prophet David Wagner at our 2016 Harvest School. While Tony had never before had prophetic words for others, he now could prophesy.  David prophesied over Tony a blessing.  He said, “do any of you need wisdom?  Ask Tony.”  This reminded me of me of the apostle James reminding the church to ask God for wisdom.  Sometimes you pray and then ask a wise person for guidance shortly afterwards.  They will often confirm what Holy Spirit is saying.  I was very pleased for Tony’s accolades by David Wagner, since Tony does have this gift in how to practically flesh out Holy Spirit’s directions, whether in a stop for the one assignment, or on a long-term mission field like we have in South Africa.  Wisdom is practical as it is intuitive.  Proverbs 1: 21-33 share about wisdom being like a woman calling and teaching on the streets.  “Wisdom shouts in the streets. She cries out in the public square.
21 She calls to the crowds along the main street, to those gathered in front of the city gate:
22 “How long, you simpletons, will you insist on being simpleminded? How long will you mockers relish your mocking? How long will you fools hate knowledge? 23 Come and listen to my counsel. I’ll share my heart with you and make you wise.”    When I read this, I remember the streets of Avian Park, or any township really.  And in those streets, you will find gang members sitting around the ‘gates’ of their own territory, thinking they are wise by their mocking, and being the product of dropping out of school early to instead ingest drugs and alcohol, and to commit murder for money or status in their gang.  They are not wise, they are fools. Psalm 14:1 shares, “Only fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, and their actions are evil; not one of them does good!”   True wisdom begins with acknowledging God.   Proverbs 9:10-12 share just how important that is!   [The] Fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment. 11 Wisdom will multiply your days and add years to your life. 12 If you become wise, you will be the one to benefit. If you scorn wisdom, you will be the one to suffer.”  So wisdom adds to your health and longevity. Maybe that’s why some people associate wisdom with old age, because they have more experience.  Yet you don’t have to be old to be wise!  You do however have to have learned from your own experiences, as well as those of others.

Wisdom is also not locked up in one gender.  It’s not a gift just given to men.  Kristi Walker shares about characteristics of a wise woman, and chose to use Proverbs 31 as her source. She says that a “wise woman is a woman of godly character.” [Kristi Walker, “What are the  characteristics of a wise woman” July 6, 2019 (Bible Study Tools.com) https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/topical-studies/what-are-the-characteristics-of-a-wise-woman.html?utm_source=jeeng]

 Proverbs 31: 10–12 states: “A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.”  “A wise woman is a woman who does not waste her time, her resources, her abilities, or her life.” [Kristi Walker] Proverbs 31:13-27 shares that the wise woman is industrious, she selects raw products like wool and flax, spins, weaves and sews. She makes useful things like bedding and linen, garments and sashes. She sells her goods, buys real estate, plants vineyards, helps the poor and needy, she teaches those in her household and well beyond. Due to the fruit of her labour, attitude and diligence, she has dignity and strength, and her husband is highly respected because of her.  She is also a woman who is praised and loved, even by her husband and children.  Too often we see families where the reverse happens; but the fruit of a wise woman is there for all to see, and she keeps her own praise for the Lord.    Kristi Walker notes that this wisdom is practical and active, in both Proverbs 31, and Matthew 11:19, which says that “wisdom is proved right by her actions.”   Wisdom is also something that can be passed on in legacy.  It’s one of the reasons why we are involved in teaching and loving the grade ones in Worcester Primary every week.  We are passing down gems of wisdom, whether it’s in science, worship, art, geography or about my cancer journey.  We shared this week about what my health concerns meant, and the deepest impact was the loss of my hair. I explained how my hair was, what the cancer medication does to hair, and what my hair looks like now.  Of course they were curious and got to see what was under my hat.  I was prepared for the shocked whoops and giggles, although I did warn them that my new hair was very short!   They now know what a cancer patient looks like, and they related their own hospital stories.  They learned from my story, and many of them shared their own.  Proverbs 13:20 shares that if we “walk with the wise [we] become wise.”   Wikihow shares a page on how to gain wisdom.  It says, “Wisdom is a virtue that isn’t innate, but can only be acquired through experience. Anyone who is interested in trying new things and reflecting on the process has the ability to gain wisdom. By learning as much as you can, analyzing your experiences and putting your knowledge to the test, you can become a wiser person.”  [https://www.wikihow.com/Gain-Wisdom

Wisdom is more caught than taught; but it’s also a gift that you can develop.   Wisdom is also the ability to discern the consequences of your actions.  Sometimes this is developed through bad experience turned into a learning situation.  Other times it’s to make that connection without having to go through that process.  Or it can be to take other incidents and extrapolate them onto their personal circumstances.  Tony taught three of our teen girls about consequences of certain actions and to warn them of the results.  One of the girls already had a pregnancy scare, so she should have put two and two together.  However, this same girl went into our bathroom and sprayed Tony’s shaving gel onto the wall and the toilet.  She apparently thought that was funny.  She did this before, but we didn’t know it was her.  This time, we knew and called her out on it.  When we confronted her, she was shocked because she didn’t believe we didn’t ask each girl if it was them, rather than her.  But we knew it was her, and we knew the other girls.  Tony forgave her, and we trust that she’s learned not to do this to other people.  Sometimes wisdom is hard won when you are a fool.  But when you genuinely seek to be wise, open your heart and ask God for it, he will generously give you the foundation of wisdom with some pearls to grow.  He also gives us mentors, and situations.  So grow in your garden, lots of pearls of wisdom.  You may just find the pearl of great price in that garden.  The one that leads many to the kingdom of God.  

Lord Jesus, thank you for wisdom, the gift of wisdom, and the potential for wisdom.  We ask  for your intervention from our own silliness, and to make us wise in you.  Please reach out to those who have been seeking you to learn and grow wise, like Liam.  It was his greatest wish and still remains one of mine.  Thank you for already making me wise, and yet to know there is still more to learn, so we must be teachable and humble in spirit.  Thank you for these wonderful things,  in Jesus’ name.  Amen. 

If you’d like to hear an audio version of this article, please visit the Ways to Grow in God (WTGIG) podcast page on the coppleswesterncape.ca website (under the “Listen” drop-down menu).  Click here:  (https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/wtgig-podcasts.html) and scroll down to #71!  If you have been blessed by this article, please let us know!

Updates:  For those looking for news on my cancer journey, I was declared chemically cancer free as of February 2021, but still in post-cancer treatments (lymphedema massage, physio, medications, scans and bloodwork).   Now my husband Tony has both skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma and prostate cancer).  The former in treatment, the latter monitored. It’s not life threatening thank God.

Otherwise, we still have medical debt and we are working towards that with art commissions and donations. God’s peace is something that I’m clinging to as we plan our way back to Canada (we are still waiting on our South African medical visas that are already 12 weeks later than promised!)  At the moment, our passports are still in the hands of Home Affairs.  We had hoped to return in September 2021, but this may end up as November or even December (which is after the applied for visas would be good for). Why the delay?  There have been active covid cases at Home Affairs, which caused a stoppage to the already increasing processing backlog.  The visas that we applied for expire in November.  We trust we will have them in enough time to ramp up our preparations to return with the help of a very capable Cape Town travel agent.  Gone are the days when we would plan our own travel online (apart from booking self-catering places).

After our quarantine, we plan to stay with and care for my frail 92 year old dad.  Part of us longs for Canada, but we still greatly love South Africa.  We are glad that Jesus is carrying us, since we are frail.  Both of us have continuing health issues, including prostate cancer, eye issues (following Tony’s retina re-attachment surgery). We have good news that Tony’s eye surgeon found the equivalent in Toronto, so he will have his eye operation, which will save us the funds we expected to pay in South Africa. Good news, indeed   We are also working on care for me concerning a neck/spine issue that is causing considerable pain down my right arm.  It’s become increasingly painful to type, write and draw for periods of time.  So I rest more.  I will have an MRI in a few days to determine the damage, which my physiotherapist is helping me work though.   

Thanks for coming alongside us on our journey.  Being an overcomer is truly a process. We still need help. Tony has significant medical bills as well for TB, eye surgery, the urologist (who is monitoring the prostate cancer), and I have debt as well (post cancer treatment, physiotherapy, MRI, medications). Please click here for the medical campaign page to get more info: https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/medical-campaign.html.  We are still crowdfunding to cover the post cancer treatments and Tony’s eye operations. If you feel led to contribute, please do so via our PayPal:  https://www.paypal.me/WaystogrowinGod   If you do, please introduce yourself and say that you read “Ways to Grow in God.”  It would really bless us!  If you’re led to pray instead, we welcome your prayers and please do contact us.

L-A’s colouring books:  If you are in South Africa, and would like to purchase one of L-A’s colouring books, they are available at OliveTree Bookshop in Mountain Mill Shopping Centre (near Pick n Pay), Worcester, Western Cape.  You can also buy them at LeRoux and Fourie Wineshop on R60 beside Cape Lime (between Nuy and Robertson) and at Slow Living Café in Worcester.  Or you can order one (or more) printed for you through Takealot.com through this link:

https://www.takealot.com/colouring-with-jesus/PLID68586424

Colouring with Jesus 2 is available here:

https://www.takealot.com/colouring-with-jesus-2/PLID72991486

The books are available online, through us personally (for a short time), and through the above shops.  They will also be available through Legacy Relay run by Louis and Carica Fourie.  After we return to Canada, we plan to republish the devotional colouring books in English landscape format.  Bless you and thank you for your support!

Love, Laurie-Ann

Tony and L-A with “Colouring with Jesus 1 and 2”

Growing in God through Humour and Positivity

L-A laughing while visiting family in Las Vegas, 2012

My name is Laurie-Ann, and I’m a missionary. During my mission travels, I have ministered with people in Northern Ireland, Pakistan, Canada and the USA.  I’ve also ministered in African countries like Kenya, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. But at this time, we live in the beautiful Western Cape of South Africa.

During our last article, we learned about growing through ‘But God’ moments.  These are times where our circumstances were dire, and then God intervened.  We journeyed through the Bible, looking at Joseph’s transition from the pit to prison to the palace in Egypt. We learned of Paul’s experience on the Damascus road, where he was transformed in a moment from a murderer of Christians to a strong one himself.  Jesus death and resurrection was a huge ‘But God.’  Our faith is based on this ultimate intervention.  I shared the personal ‘But Gods,’ from Teresa’s in a Texas mission, where their extreme dependence on God is rewarded through many ‘But God’ turn-arounds. Finally we shared our own ‘But Gods’ – partly on the financial provision for my cancer treatments, but also in our lives generally, as a disabled missionary married to a senior citizen missionary.  Often ministry is done through vessels that the world does not consider important or powerful.  Paul shared in 1 Corinthians 1:2627.  “Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. 27 BUT, GOD chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.” 

Sometimes the contexts of these But God moments are dire and difficult.  Yet while we wait for God’s intervention, he gives us secret weapons.  Some of these are mentioned in the fruit of the Spirit list, in Galatians 5:22-23.   “The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control.” Note that joy has a prominent place on this list, right after love.  Joy has many forms.  Tony and I are often reminded of the Joy of the Lord, which is the fifth core value of Iris Global.  The Joy of the Lord is NOT optional.  This is the same joy of the Lord that Nehemiah encouraged his people with in Nehemiah 8:10. This verse is in the midst of a feast. He says, “Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!”

Joy is not necessarily laughter, but it can include it.  This joy is a deep trust in God that cannot be shaken despite circumstances. The book of Philippians was written while Paul was in prison, and yet, this book is nicknamed “The book of joy.”   Paul had an unshakable faith, and drew joy from gratitude that God is in control. He also drew joy from the Philippian Christians, who saw to his needs and shone with love and faith.  Joy can also be a weapon in that it shows you are standing in extreme dependence on God.

Other forms of positivity come as humour. Ecclesiates 3:4 reminds of that there is “a time to cry and a time to laugh; A time to grieve and a time to dance.”   

It feels good to laugh, and to let go of stressors.  The Mayo Clinic and others confirm that laughter is good for body and soul.  They share that “a good sense of humour can’t cure all ailments, but data is mounting about the positive things laughter can do.”   It stimulates many organs, including: your lungs as you breathe, your heart, and the endorphins released in your brain. It even brings down your blood pressure and soothes tension by stimulating your blood circulation and relaxing your muscles. Long term effects of laughter improve your immune system.  Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that add stress and decrease your immune system. “By contrast, positive thoughts can actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more serious illnesses.”  Laughter may also ease pain by causing our bodies to produce its own natural painkillers.  Laughter helps you cope, by increasing personal satisfaction, and it helps you connect with other people as you laugh WITH others.  Laughter bonds you to them and helps relationships, as you share stories with each other.  Laughter improves your mood, even if you are struggling with chronic illness. [Mayo Clinic Staff, “Stress relief from laughter: It’s no joke.” https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044456]

How can you develop or improve your sense of humour?  Humour is learned.  Some people and cultures have very different views of humour.  They laugh about different things.  Just ask a stand-up comedian.  What one “room” as they call it may find hilarious, another would see the comic as an offense, and get angry.  Or they would have no reaction at all.   But personally, we all have something we find funny.  Often it’s something that we share with family; or an experience with friends.  And we laugh best, when we learn and grow from our own experiences. Try growing by increasing positives in your life.  The Mayo Clinic folk suggest that you put humour on your horizon by finding photos, greeting cards and comics that make you chuckle. Hang them on your home or office wall.  Keep funny movies, videos, books and magazines nearby when you need a boost.  Visit a comedy club or look at joke websites. [Mayo Clinic Staff, “Stress relief from laughter: It’s no joke.” https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044456]  I’ve found the Alpha Course jokes shared by the leader after the meal and before the presentation to be a time of bonding with the other attendees.  There are websites devoted to Alpha jokes, and Tony and I have our own arsenal of jokes, whether from Nicky Gumbel or other clean jokes we’ve picked up along the way.

Laugh and the world laughs WITH you.  The world isn’t laughing AT you, except for mean bullies that are insecure in their own hearts.  Find a way to laugh about your own situations, as you look at them from a different perspective.  One of my favourite counselling expressions is “call this a crazy thought, but have you considering looking at your situation THIS way…”  Often we get stuck in one line of our personal story that seems like it’s perpetually under a raincloud and we’re stuck in a groove like a needle on an old, scratchy record.  When you find a way to laugh about your own situation, watch your stress begin to fade away.  See Jesus in the circumstance with you. Where is he?  What is he saying to you in your situation?  He is there.  And sometimes, you can remind yourself that this story may seem funny in a few years.   

Intentionally make time to see friends who make you laugh.  Return the favour by sharing your own funny stories with those around you.  You just may brighten them up and make their whole day.   Check out joke and humour books in your local library.  But it’s important to know what isn’t funny.   Don’t laugh at the expense of others.  It’s not appropriate.  These include racial and gender jokes.  Use your best judgement to discern a good joke from a hurtful one.  Ask the Holy Spirit.  Does it lift up or does it tear down?  Does it build confidence, or batter the other in pain and hurt?  Good humour is to lift up, as is good faith.  So try laughter.  We can even ask God to show us and bring us things that are funny to lighten our day.  What is best is when we ask him to lighten our situation in our own hearts.  It is to be reminded that Jesus does not leave us.  Sometimes he even gives us a little prophetic glimpse of something that is to come.  A child that we may struggle with at the moment, may bring exasperation and even anger. But God can transform that child to become loving, joyful and strong in the Lord.  We are given hope as we are shown what can be.  And we laugh because we know that this is in God’s hands, NOT ours.

Laughter and positivity in general also help me battle breast cancer, as it did for HS.  If you have a chronic illness, it is essential to de-stress and keep positive.  This speaks life to your good cells, so they have a chance to fight the cancer.  Negativity feeds the cancer, as it increases the chemical reactions that cancer cells like.  Bitterness and unforgiveness can contribute to cancer, as well as other unchecked baggage that poison the soul, and so the body as well.  Jean Wise takes the Mayo Clinic staff’s view of laughter even further. While she agrees with all the physical and emotional benefits, she also believes it is a spiritual gift, and a way to stimulate creativity.  [Jean Wise, “The Spiritual gift of laughter” (healthspirituality.org) April 1, 2014 https://healthyspirituality.org/spiritual-gift-laughter/]  She believes that the joy found in laughter comes from God. It helps you recharge your focus, and renews your spirit to find courage to face a tough situation. Listen to Zephaniah 3:17: “For the Lord your God is living among you.  He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears.   He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

In some countries, people use the morning of April 1st as April Fool’s Day.  Sometimes those jokes are funny, but often some childhood pranks are not funny.  They create baggage.  Why not let these go by giving up that memory to God, and instead laugh back at the bully.  This is exactly what a radio host with a background of being bullied would do.  Radio hosts are encouraged to use humour to build comradery with their listeners.  As they laugh, they tell their friends, who join in on a later broadcast. Radio people are people of story. But when we think about it, we all are story-tellers.  Even the character of the Doctor  in the British show Doctor Who, especially the Eleventh Doctor, said, “we’re all stories in the end.  Just make it a good one, eh?” [Big Bang, 2010, season five]. 

The need for laughter is shared by many writers, philosophers, poets and Bible writers.  Ecclesiastes: 8:15, says “I commend mirth.”   Here is part of Jean Wise’s list. E.E Cummings wrote, “The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.”  Children’s author Dr. Suess shared that “laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face. From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere.”   Reinhold Niebuhr wrote that “humour is a prelude to faith, and laughter is the beginning of prayer.”  Comedian Milton Berle said that “laughter is an instant vacation.”  Bob Newhart wrote that “laughter gives us distance. It allows us to step back from an event, deal with it and then move on.”  Newhart’s remark reminds me of the counsellor re-frame of seeing your situation a new way and letting you re-write the situation with you as the victorious, laughing overcomer.

Canadian author Mary S Edgar chose the way of laughter when she shared this message: “I will follow the upward road today; I will keep my face to the light.  I will think high thoughts as I go my way; I will do what I know is right.  I will look for the flowers by the side of the road; I will laugh and love and be strong.  I will try and lighten another’s load this day as I fare along.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson pondered on success in life.  Laughter is an important ingredient.  This is what he said: “to laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty and to find the best in others.  [We must also] leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition.  [This is also] to know even one life has breathed easier because YOU have lived.  THIS is to have succeeded.  Emerson’s success list is like a breath of fresh air that lifts our eyes from ourselves to others.   And finally, Jean Wise’s list ends with Tom Nansbury, who said “an optimist laughs to forget. A pessimist forgets to laugh.”  And so, we should not forget, but must make it a daily habit. [Jean Wise, “The Spiritual gift of laughter” (healthspirituality.org) April 1, 2014 https://healthyspirituality.org/spiritual-gift-laughter/

Even Jesus had and has a sense of humour.  Think of the way he used metaphors against the Pharisees to get them to wake up, or to explain things.  Eliazar Gonzalez shares that when you read through Jesus’ teachings, “you’ll find a great wit, a masterful command of the language, a profound gift for irony and word plays, and impeccable timing. These are the hallmarks of someone with a great sense of humour.” [Eliazar Gonzalez, “Did Jesus have a Sense of Humour” (Christian Living) https://vision.org.au/topics/christian-living/did-jesus-have-a-sense-of-humour/ ]

Then there was considerable debate among early Church fathers on laughter in the Christian faith.  Jesus was hard on the Pharisees for their attitude and unbending ways, but in the Beatitudes he turns the tables. Terry Lindvall of the CS Lewis Institute shares that Jesus promises laughter to those who suffer now.   Laughter in itself is not a vice to be condemned; it is a reward for those who would follow Jesus.  The significance of laughter is that it must know it’s time and place. Laughter is a reward of humility and utter dependence upon God.  It descends like rain upon a parched heart.”  [Terry Lindvall, CS Lewis Institute, “The role of laughter in the Christian Life” http://www.cslewisinstitute.org/The_Role_of_Laughter_in_the_Christian_Life_FullArticle]

In Philippians 4, Paul commands, “rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice.  “He calls forth the heart to sing out with gratitude and laughter.  GK Chesterton explained to CS Lewis how the laughter of joy is necessary.  He said, “life is serous all the time, but living cannot be.  You may have all the solemnity you wish in choosing your neckties, but in anything important such as death, sex, and religion, you must have mirth or you will have madness.”  [Terry Lindvall, CS Lewis Institute, “The role of laughter in the Christian Life” http://www.cslewisinstitute.org/The_Role_of_Laughter_in_the_Christian_Life_FullArticle]

While some Christians now and in the past see laughter and joy on people’s faces as sinful, particularly while in church, they are not seeing that laughter is a gift.  Joy is a gift.  The enemy of our souls seeks to take life and laughter from us – the abundance of life from us.  Sometimes fun and laughter is tainted by sin, since we are born into sin.  It’s all around us.  But laughter and fun are gifts from God.  And joy, especially the deep joy of the Lord, is something to be treasured.  The joy of the Lord is not optional for Iris missionaries like us.  It’s part of what keeps you going.  That deep intimacy with Jesus, and the laughter you share in the midst of difficulties. Garrison Keillor once said, “some people think it’s difficult to be a Christian and to laugh, but I think it’s the other way around.  God writes a lot of comedy – it’s just that He has so many bad actors.  But it is in being truly serious about our miserable condition and about the hope of salvation that introduces an unexpected surprise – comedy.  … The incarnation [of Jesus Christ] strikes a staggering blow at the Pharisees, the Gnostics, and anyone who denies the value of the physical world or those to try to be more spiritual than God.  It is significant that for Augustine, the devil and bad angels are without bodies. For the Christian, the comic spirit is one of new life, feasting, banqueting, eating, drinking and playing.  This paradise is regained where heaven is described to be like a wedding feast or a sumptuous banquet.”  [Terry Lindvall, CS Lewis Institute, “The role of laughter in the Christian Life” http://www.cslewisinstitute.org/The_Role_of_Laughter_in_the_Christian_Life_FullArticle]

Even Israel was established on laughter.  Remember when Sarah laughed when it was announced by the angelic visitors that she would have a baby in a year?  This was a lady who had long given up, and yet the promise came.

And then there is the laughter of true joy.  Terry Lindvall shares that “joy is the laughter of heaven, the secret of the Christian life.  [It is] woven out of sorrow and woe. From the crucibles of suffering, absence and separation, comes the deep, abiding laughter of joy, without tears, promising health, wholeness, and reunion.  The desire of joy haunted Lewis, until he found its source in God.  Lewis confessed that he didn’t go to the Christian faith to be made happy.”  [Terry Lindvall, CS Lewis Institute, “The role of laughter in the Christian Life” http://www.cslewisinstitute.org/The_Role_of_Laughter_in_the_Christian_Life_FullArticle]

Yet laughter, like music, percolates as thanksgiving and praise.  Our enjoyment bubbles up and overflows with gratitude.  Or praise is [like] verbal laughter.”  The ultimate laughter of joy is in the reunion.  In the Narnia chronicles, whenever the children return, there are hugs and kisses and laughter all around, celebrating reunion.”   And then there is fun, the laughter of the earth, of our bodies.  It is play in a great sense.  We need to choose life and enjoy it.  One thing about having cancer in my life is that it forces me to live in the moment and take time to enjoy it as I can.  The Westminster Confession reminds us that our chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.  This includes fun with the Lord.  Eric Liddell said in Chariots of Fire, “I feel God’s pleasure when I run.”  [Terry Lindvall, CS Lewis Institute, “The role of laughter in the Christian Life” http://www.cslewisinstitute.org/The_Role_of_Laughter_in_the_Christian_Life_FullArticle]

So we laugh when we enjoy God, and we know his pleasure.  It’s the same when I’m creating art, especially prophetic drawing.  I feel the Holy Spirit’s pleasure that I’m intent on capturing an idea or message that’s from God’s heart;  or even when I draw a mountain.  God created both, and he helps me to re-create it.  So laughter is good, and it helps us to grow in our relationship with him.

So dear friends, I thank you for journeying with me and I trust that if you have trouble in letting go and laughing, that you will take this to God.  He brings us the big and little things.  Sometimes he even brings things that make us laugh just to get us to stop and breathe.  We’re all just so busy!  Instead of just stopping to smell the roses, stop to breathe, relax and laugh.  As you spend time with each other and Jesus, he brings times of shared laughter in the journey.  Don’t resist it.

Lord, thank you for continuing to be on our journeys and bringing laughter to us. There is indeed a time to laugh as well as a time to be sad.  Help us to choose life in the midst of hardship.  Help us to stop for those life giving moments with you.  We trust that you will continue to give us those and to help us live that abundant life.  We thank you in Jesus’ name.  Amen. 

If you’d like to hear an audio version of this article, please visit the Ways to Grow in God (WTGIG) podcast page on the coppleswesterncape.ca website (under the “Listen” drop-down menu).  Click here:  (https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/wtgig-podcasts.html) and scroll down to #69!  If you have been blessed by this article, please let us know!

Updates:  For those looking for news on my cancer journey, I was declared chemically cancer free as of February 2021, but still in post-cancer treatments (lymphedema massage, physio, medications, scans and bloodwork).   Now my husband Tony has both skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma and prostate cancer).  The former in treatment, the latter monitored. It’s not life threatening thank God.

Otherwise, we still owe credit card debt for some of the medical work and we are working towards that with art commissions and donations. God’s peace is something that I’m clinging to as we plan our way back to Canada.  At the moment, our passports are still in the hands of Home Affairs, so that we have an extension on our medical visas.  We had hoped to return in September 2021, but this may end up as October or even November. Why the delay?  There have been active covid cases at Home Affairs, which caused a stoppage to the already increasing processing backlog.  The visas that we applied for expire in November.  We trust we will have them in enough time to ramp up our preparations to return with the help of a very capable Cape Town travel agent.  Gone are the days when we would plan our own travel online (apart from booking self-catering places).  Both of us have had our first covid jab, and wait the second one.  (Although it is the right thing for us to have the jab, we don’t impose that on those who refuse it out of conscience). 

After our quarantine, we plan to stay with and care for my frail 92 year old dad.  Part of us longs for Canada, but we still greatly love South Africa.  We are glad that Jesus is carrying us, since we are frail.  Both of us have continuing health issues, including prostate cancer, eye issues (following Tony’s retina re-attachment surgery). We have good news that Tony’s eye surgeon found the equivalent in Toronto, so he will have his eye operation, which will save us the $8 – 9 K we expected to pay in South Africa.  We are also working on care for me concerning a neck/spine issue that is causing considerable pain down my right arm.  It’s become increasingly painful to type, write and draw for periods of time.  So I rest more. 

Thanks for coming alongside us on our journey.  Being an overcomer is truly a process. We still need help. Tony has significant medical bills as well for TB, eye surgery, the urologist (who is monitoring the prostate cancer), and I have debt as well. Please click here for the medical campaign page to get more info: https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/medical-campaign.html.  We are still crowdfunding to cover the post cancer treatments and Tony’s eye operations. If you feel led to contribute, please do so via our PayPal:  https://www.paypal.me/WaystogrowinGod   If you do, please introduce yourself and say that you read “Ways to Grow in God.”  It would really bless us!  If you’re led to pray instead, we welcome your prayers and please do contact us.

L-A’s colouring books:  If you are in South Africa, and would like to purchase one of L-A’s colouring books, they are available at OliveTree Bookshop in Mountain Mill Shopping Centre (near Pick n Pay), Worcester, Western Cape.  You can also buy them at LeRoux and Fourie Wineshop on R60 beside Cape Lime (between Nuy and Robertson) and at Slow Living Café in Worcester.  Or you can order one (or more) printed for you through Takealot.com through this link:

https://www.takealot.com/colouring-with-jesus/PLID68586424

Colouring with Jesus 2 is available here:

https://www.takealot.com/colouring-with-jesus-2/PLID72991486

The books are available online, through us personally (for a short time), and through the above shops.  They will also be available through Legacy Relay run by Louis and Carica Fourie.  After we return to Canada, we plan to republish the devotional colouring books in English landscape format.  Bless you and thank you for your support!

Love, Laurie-Ann

Ways to grow through “But God” moments

by Laurie-Ann Copple

“You Must Follow Me” – Laurie-Ann Zachar Copple, 2021

Growing in and through But God moments

My name is Laurie-Ann, and I’m a missionary. During my mission travels, I have ministered with people in Northern Ireland, Pakistan, Canada and the USA.  I’ve also ministered in African countries like Kenya, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. But at this time, we live in the beautiful Western Cape of South Africa.

During our last broadcast, we looked at principles on how to overcome.  We learned that we win victory through focusing on God rather than circumstances. This means we focus on his power and his love for us.  We must trust him even though it doesn’t make sense.  We must be consistent and not stop.  Remember Heidi Baker’s words that if we do not quit, we will win.  This means that we must continue in pressing forward, one step at a time.  We must also be obedient to how the Holy Spirit instructs us, directly and through scripture.  At times it may be difficult, but in the end it is worth it.  You also become stronger through the process.  Don’t forget to worship, and replace fear with love.  Keep grateful for all the little things, which keeps your focus on what God is doing.  That way you can prepare for a coming season of joy. That’s actually the beginning of a winning streak, for you are no loser.  You are a winner in Christ.  Remember that.  You are a son or a daughter in Christ. 

Sons and daughters often go through seasons of intense kindness from God, even in difficulties.  Tony and I call these the kindnesses of God – TKOG.  Our life and ministry has been full of them ever since we prepared to come to South Africa.  These included favour, open doors, opportunities, gifts, finances just when we needed them, and so much more.  Then our lives took a different turn, and I became sick; first with HS, and then with breast cancer.  Did this stop us?  The cancer nearly did because of the decision of the travel insurance company to repatriate me, however we strongly believed I must stay in South Africa for the chemotherapy.  It has been expensive, but we have been blessed with finances through friends, family, ministry partners, and windfalls just when we need to pay the bills.  We needed to stay to wrap up our ministry, and also to reduce risks to my health.

This is our season of BUT Gods.  A Biblical BUT God story is from Joseph, when he was sold as a slave by his brothers. His life dipped lower when he was stuck in prison for a crime he didn’t commit and seemed to be stuck there for a while.  Then finally, he was remembered by the cup bearer who Joseph had interpreted a dream for two years earlier.  His dream interpretation gifting was used to turn his life around.  One moment he was in prison, the next, he was ministering to the Pharaoh, like he did to Pharaoh’s cup bearer.  He was in prison BUT GOD turned his life around, and he became the prime minister of Egypt.   He also remembered God’s purposes for his time as a slave and an inmate. It seemed the years were wasted, but they were not.  Joseph helped and did good to his employer Potiphar, before his false accusation.  Joseph helped in the prison, and he helped in Pharaoh’s palace. When he was reunited with his brothers – the same brothers who sold him into slavery, he in time revealed himself to them in a way that would save face.  There was no retribution, but instead a loving explanation in private.  Listen to Genesis 45:4-8.   “I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into slavery in Egypt. But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives. This famine that has ravaged the land for two years will last five more years, and there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors.[a] So it was God who sent me here, not you! And he is the one who made me an adviser[b] to Pharaoh—the manager of his entire palace and the governor of all Egypt.”   ‘But Gods’ always have a story and nearly always point to God’s faithfulness and goodness – as provider, healer and so much more.

Joyce Meyer also points to ‘But God’ moments.  She gives examples like, “”I thought my family would never change, but God…” “My life was spiralling out of control, but God…” “There was a time I thought I’d messed everything up, but God…” [Joyce Meyer, “But God: When A Holy God intervenes” article, Christianpost.com, December 8, 2012  https://www.christianpost.com/news/but-god-when-a-holy-god-intervenes.html ] The Bible says that Satan comes only to kill, steal and destroy, BUT God came so we can enjoy our lives.  Just read John 10:10, where Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”   This But God moment is the one when God intervenes. Life may seem to go one way. Things may seem hopeless, but then all of a sudden a holy God intervenes and everything changes.  Meyer shares that one of the main prayer requests she receives is for loved ones who don’t know God and they’re in some sort of trouble. When you know God and you see people living miserable lives and you can’t get through to them, it’s heartbreaking. But God can get through to them.”  [Joyce Meyer, “But God: When A Holy God intervenes” article, Christianpost.com, December 8, 2012  https://www.christianpost.com/news/but-god-when-a-holy-god-intervenes.html ] Think of the apostle Paul.  He sought to kill and torment Christians.  He was on his way to Damascus to find some more to torment.  But God suddenly showed up.  Paul was knocked off his horse and blinded for days.  Jesus encountered him and it changed his life completely.  Meyer says that “after this experience, Paul got the truth about Jesus and ended up being mightily used by God to lead many people to Christ.”  There are many other ‘But God’ scriptures that we seem to gloss over as we read them.  Stop and take note when scripture says “But God.”   The ultimate ‘But God’ was when Jesus was laid in the tomb after he was taken down from the cross.  In Acts 13:29-30, it notes Jesus’ death and adds “But God raised him from the dead.”  The apostle Paul uses But God when he shared in Romans 5.   “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”   Paul also gives God the glory in 1 Corinthians 1:26-27.  “Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. 27 BUT, GOD chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.” 

Every time there is a BUT God, it shows a powerful, loving God who intervenes.  It gives him glory.  It shows that no one else could have orchestrated this turn-around.  Here are some But God stories in the lives of people I know.  One of our colleagues, Maggie, is an Iris missionary here with us in Western Cape. She came from a rough background, and having lost her mother, she began to lose her way in life.  She became a rebel.  But God reached into her life and turned her around.  Instead of being a hard-hearted rebel, she is now loving, kind and loves on many seniors, teens and dogs in her area. She’s known for her motherly shot-gun kisses.   Then there’s Teresa, who runs a shelter, a church and a ministry called House of Mercy.  Twelve years ago she was a cocaine addict who nearly died.  Yet in the middle of a crisis, she said to God, “God, I love cocaine, but I love my Daddy more.”  Holy Spirit spoke into her heart and asked her why she didn’t love herself.  He reached her heart and she turned to Jesus.  She came to love her heavenly Father even more than her Daddy.  She came to depend on his faithfulness in extreme trust and obedience.

These days Teresa and her husband are in 24-7 ministry with the homeless and those living in her church that’s become a shelter in Baytown, Texas.  Many times there are financial emergencies.  Surprise gifts come often, for which she is incredibly grateful.  However, sometimes the situation becomes desperate.  Sometimes there is no money for the electricity bill, or the phone bill.  And then God intervenes with a shower of funds at just the right time.   Here are two recent examples that happened after Christmas:  Teresa says, “December was a ROUGH month for the ministry, but God sure enough did a miracle this morning!!!!  We could only make a payment on the light bill for December, because it was so high, yet the finances were so low. We had to pay 300 dollars today, or they would be shut off.
[And then we got a] BUT GOD!!!!!! [My husband] Paul called the light company to check our balance one more time and we only owed UNDER $30!!!!!  We are at the library right now using their computers [for internet], because our phones were cut off this morning, but they turned them back on [We got an extension). Our phones will be back in full swing when it is time, but we HAD to give GOD some praise for that light bill miracle HALLELUJAH!!!!!” [Teresa McCartney’s Facebook page. Jan 2, 2020].

This was on January 2nd.  On January 3rd, there was another intervention.   Someone then paid their phone bill!  Teresa had no idea who, but she was thankful and blessed them a thousand-fold.    The light bill and the phone bill weren’t the only interventions. Despite lacking finances, the shelter was still running.  Teresa shares, “[I] have been wanting to brag on God.  It costs between $4,000 – $6,000 a month to run the church and shelter.  In December [less than two thousand] came in BUT GOD [still] made the way for the people here to eat, have showers, lights, water and still have a place to live!  We were way under budget last month, BUT GOD!!  Nobody but God can get the glory for this, because in the natural, it makes absolutely no sense!  Thank you God for always making the way, and keeping your house and shelter open!”   Teresa also has stories of reformed addicts, and others whose lives were turned around.  Even her marriage was on the rocks and was restored so well that she and her husband are very much in love.  Teresa demonstrates to me persistence and love similar to Heidi Baker, who also has many BUT GOD interventions in Mozambique.  But God is something you have to stop and take notice.

We also have some But God stories.  I made it as an Iris missionary despite my bad knees.  So we had to work around the problem.  We still work with children and teens, despite the mobility issues.  And then the cancer came.  What would happen to our ministry now?  The insurance company insisted that I return to Canada before chemotherapy, despite strong protests from my surgeon and oncologist.  The cancer advanced so fast that it’s probable that had I travelled back to Canada without Tony, and went to an Ottawa emergency room, that the doctors there would have re-started the process.  I could have moved to stage four cancer very fast, which would have been dangerous. I believe that God’s intervention saved my life.  I was shown through several impressions that we could stay another six months, with crowd-funding for medical costs.  The chemo treatments and the prayers of many people, including children, caused the tumour to shrink 60 percent.  This is a But God.  While we were here without insurance, a shower of funding came from friends and Tony’s family. When the friends couldn’t contribute any more, we worked on getting the insurance company to pay at least my pre-chemo costs.  Eventually they did.  The funds arrived just in time to pay a large credit card bill full of medical costs. The insurance company kept saying no, and through prayer and appeals, there was a BUT God.  He intervened and turned their hearts to at least cover what they would have prior to sending me back to Canada.  And then when that money ran out, Tony was given a separate honorarium, totally unexpected, which was enough to cover two more chemo treatments. 

Each But God is another point on the journey.  Here I am now with likely three more treatments, before I am given a PT scan to see what’s happening.  I pray that there will be very little left.   Here is a disabled missionary, struck down with cancer, in the middle of a glorious season of mission work.  And in this season, I’ve blossomed in art and am about to publish a colouring book of prophetic drawings.  I’ve taught children, teens and adults how to do prophetic art.  And as I’ve been squeezed further, the kids pray for me, and I’m progressively healed enough to go back to Canada safely. Or even more than that.  This can only be a BUT God.    Also, Tony will be 79 soon, which is unusual for a long-term missionary.  But Tony keeps going, with his strong mercy anointing, and his love for the kids we work with. Who would call a senior-citizen missionary?  God would. The children and teens are loved on as an uncle, granddad and father.  He is a stable influence in their lives, and speaks sometimes the voice of reason and at other times, the merciful heart of God the Father.  Seniors are often people that younger generations would forget, BUT GOD has a wonderful gift to give through them.

Begin to train your heart and eyes to look for But God stories.  Do you seem to be in an impossible situation?  Do you need God’s intervention?  You need a But God.  But remember, those But God moments aren’t about you.  They are about God.  Don’t forget them.  Don’t just pass them off.  They are significant.  

These are but a few examples of God’s wonderful intervention.  This is only one of the ways he works. Often he works gradually, as he re-moulds us into living representatives of Jesus. He replaces fear and hurt with love and experience.  He makes the weak strong in a way the world never could.  This requires persistence; this requires that determination to become an overcomer.  And then there comes that point where we have done all we can.  Ephesians 6 reminds us in spiritual warfare, after you’ve done all that you can, stand.  Stand and wait.  God has our back.  Then it’s God’s turn with a but God.   He is faithful. 

Will you stand and wait for God today?   God is never late.  He was just in time for my chemo payments.  He was just in time to pay the House of Mercy’s electricity and phone bills. He will also come through with my healing before and as I go back to Canada.  I am certain of this, because Holy Spirit promised me twice in a small whisper to my heart.  He said that South Africa would be the place of my healing.  What is the intervention you’re contending for?  Don’t forget his promises to you.  It’s a matter of trust.  It’s a matter of believing in God’s faithfulness, just as Joseph waited while he was in prison. Don’t give up.

Lord Jesus, thank you that you are faithful.  Thank you that you give us many kindnesses, especially the But Gods.  We thank you that these point to your glory.  Teresa would say that “YOU did this.”  And Teresa is right.  She can’t run that shelter without you.  You are the one who transforms addicts and street people into overcomers that shine for you.  Only you can take the prayers of children and bring healing to their visiting auntie with breast cancer.  You took the weak to shame the strong.  The children are empowered through their prayers for me, and I’m empowered by seeing them grow in you.  I am thankful.  Please touch the hearts of those who need a But God in their lives, and in the lives of their family members. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

If you’d like to hear an audio version of this article, please visit the Ways to Grow in God (WTGIG) podcast page on the coppleswesterncape.ca website (under the “Listen” drop-down menu).  Click here:  (https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/wtgig-podcasts.html) and scroll down to #68!  If you have been blessed by this article, please let us know!

Updates:  For those looking for news on my cancer journey, I was declared chemically cancer free as of February 2021, but still in post-cancer treatments (lymphedema massage, physio, medications, scans and bloodwork). 

Otherwise, I still owe credit card debt for some of the medical work and we are working towards that with art commissions and donations. God’s peace is something that I’m clinging to as we plan our way back to Canada.  At the moment, our passports are still in the hands of Home Affairs, so that we have an extension on our medical visas.  We would like to return in September 2021, after preparations to return with the help of a very capable Cape Town travel agent.  Gone are the days when we would plan our own travel online (apart from booking self-catering places).  Both of us have had our first covid jab, and wait the second one.  (Although it is the right thing for us to have the jab, we don’t impose that on those who refuse it out of conscience). 

After our quarantine, we plan to stay with and care for my frail 92 year old dad.  Part of us longs for Canada, but we still greatly love South Africa.  We are glad that Jesus is carrying us, since we are frail.  Both of us have continuing health issues, including prostate cancer, eye issues (following Tony’s retina re-attachment surgery). We are seeing if these can in fact wait until our return to Canada, or if Tony’s eye surgery will have to be done in Cape Town.  It would be R90,000 (or $8,000) done in Cape Town.  We aren’t sure if how much it would cost in Canada (if done there). 

Thanks for coming alongside us on our journey.  Being an overcomer is truly a process. We still need help. Tony has significant medical bills as well for TB, eye surgery, the urologist (who is monitoring the prostate cancer), and I have debt as well. Please click here for the medical campaign page to get more info: https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/medical-campaign.html.  We are still crowdfunding to cover the post cancer treatments and Tony’s eye operations. He also was in the hospital this month due to struggles with TB.  The hospital bill alone was $1200, not including the surgeon’s fees and other costs.

If you feel led to contribute, please do so via our PayPal:  https://www.paypal.me/WaystogrowinGod   If you do, please introduce yourself and say that you read “Ways to Grow in God.”  It would really bless us!  If you’re led to pray instead, we welcome your prayers and please do contact us.

L-A’s colouring books:  If you are in South Africa, and would like to purchase one of L-A’s colouring books, they are available at OliveTree Bookshop in Mountain Mill Shopping Centre (near Pick n Pay), Worcester, Western Cape.  You can also buy them at LeRoux and Fourie Wineshop on R60 beside Cape Lime (between Nuy and Robertson).  Or you can order one (or more) printed for you through Takealot.com through this link:

https://www.takealot.com/colouring-with-jesus/PLID68586424

The Colouring with Jesus 2 has been printed!  When the link is available, we will post it for you. The books will be available online, through us personally (for a short time), and through the above shops.  They will also be available through Legacy Relay run by Louis and Carica Fourie.  After we return to Canada, we plan to republish the devotional colouring books into English-French.  Bless you and thank you for your support!

Love, Laurie-Ann

Growing in and through becoming an overcomer part 2

“Power from on high to overcome” – sketch by Laurie-Ann Zachar Copple, 1989 (c)

My name is Laurie-Ann, and I’m a missionary. During my mission travels, I have ministered with people in Northern Ireland, Pakistan, Canada and the USA.  I’ve also ministered in African countries like Kenya, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. But at this time, we live in the beautiful Western Cape of South Africa.

During my last article, we looked at opportunities for growth through overcoming obstacles like our own old sinful nature, and how we grow through adversity.  We looked at Paul the apostle as an example, although Old Testament heroes like Joseph and Job received more than their share of adversity.  But they overcame and not just survived.  They thrived.  We also looked at the promises for overcomers in the seven churches in the Book of Revelation.  Since then, we’ve been given an opportunity to put the overcomer lessons to good use.  We had a lesson in this even before the covid pandemic hit.  Our car broke down while trying to get to a friend’s wedding.  We were towed home, and ever since, we were stuck at home with no transport and no way to fix the car for eight days.   We could only choose each of these eight days to turn this situation over to God and make it an opportunity to overcome. Let’s learn more about how we can become overcomers.

Dudley Rutherford believes we can learn to overcome life’s obstacles through the story of the battle of Jericho.  Some of these principles can be applied to any area of difficulty.  The first principle is focus on God, rather than your circumstances.  You’ve been looking too closely at your problem. It may seem huge because you’re looking at it too closely.  Or, it may actually be something that is life-threatening.   However, if we focus on God’s power rather than the size of the problem, it will seem to shrink.  When you can trust God to help you overcome it, the problem can be surmounted one step at a time with God’s help.  God is much larger than any obstacle we will ever face. When we focus on God’s greatness and faithfulness, you can begin to see the problem from the right perspective. God knows every detail of what we face, and he is right here along with us. So, choose to see your obstacle as an opportunity to cultivate your character. Increase your faith while you trust God to lead you through the process of overcoming it. [Dudley Rutherford’s new book Walls Fall Down: 7 Steps from the Battle of Jericho to Overcome Any Challenge (Thomas Nelson, 2014).]

The second principle is to trust in God’s plan even when it doesn’t make any sense.  God’s plan for your life may seem strange, unconventional and mysterious from your own limited, human perspective.  We only see one part of the picture; one piece of the puzzle at a time.  When you decide to trust God and his plan, you can count on God to fulfill his promises to you.  He will use whatever you are going through – even your toughest challenges – to accomplish good purposes.  While the well-known Romans 8:28 verse is certainly relevant, instead, let’s think of how the ancient Hebrews thought of marching around the walls of Jericho singing and then blowing shofars.  It didn’t make sense. But often God’s ways don’t.  He often does things differently from how we attempt to do them.  While he uses conventional means to get things done, he is creative and likes to do things ‘out of the box.’  It’s so we can say, “Hey!  God did this!”   So don’t try to solve your problems only in your limited strength.   As God reveals his plan to you, follow it day by day.  Be willing to say “yes” to whatever God asks you to do – even when it doesn’t make sense.  If you do, you’ll make real progress overcoming your challenges.  

Principle Three is to see supernatural grace in all situations and pursue holiness. Sometimes these are big “But God” moments, but many times they are smaller kindnesses of God.  Ask Holy Spirit to help you recognize the extraordinary ways that God works to break through the ordinary situations in your life.  Don’t miss God in the ordinary moments.  He is there.  Choose holiness and integrity in your everyday decisions.  You will become stronger and better able to overcome difficulties. Place your relationship with God at the centre of your life. Invite God to empower you as you practise spiritual disciplines like prayer, reading the Bible, and worshipping regularly both alone and in church groups like connect groups and larger Sunday gatherings.  Approach your life each day with faithfulness and zeal to discover and fulfill the purposes God has for you. Be confident that God is with you every step of your journey. 

Principle Four is to surround you with other believers who want the same goal. Other Christians who are honest and work to overcome their own challenges can help lift up your spirit. At times when you feel low, they can remind you of the truth, and cheer you on toward achieving your goal. Choose to be in a culture of people committed to what really matters eternally. Help each other set aside sin and disagreements. Instead, unite as pure people set apart for the plans God has for them.  In Iris, we call these “laid down lovers,” because they set aside agendas for what God wants instead. Rather than pride, they choose to go as Heidi Baker says, “low and slow.”  

Principle Five is to keep putting one step in front of the other consistently to make progress.   Take every day as a challenge and test in a good way.  Some people conquer mountains.  We don’t have to go that far, but we can choose to take whatever steps the Holy Spirit leads you to take.  Don’t compare your progress with others or get frustrated that every detail isn’t perfect.  Our timing is not God’s. Be patient and persevere through each step.  And while you’re there, find the joy in the moment.  

Also ask Holy Spirit to help you avoid becoming distracted.  That’s a big one for me.  Sometimes other things get in the way, or I become discouraged and feel like quitting.  But Heidi always reminded us in Harvest School never to give up.  She said, “if you don’t give up, you win.”  So try and keep small, consistent faithful steps towards victory.  You will get there.   I recently read the book Overcomer, which is based on the movie of the same name. The book features a girl named Hannah, who was shown at the beginning of the story to be a near-orphaned girl, who hardly saw her grandmother.  She was always working.  Hannah was a cross-country runner with asthma.  Every time she tried to run, she would be hit with asthma, a certain bully, and her own fears of not making it. She also was a chronic but guilt-ridden thief. By the end of the book, through faith in Jesus, encouragement from her newly-found but sick dad, her coach and new friends, she learned endurance. Through endurance and keeping a regular schedule in running for endurance, she became more and more an overcomer.  How?  Part of it was in learning endurance. Yet, it was important to have a coach who believed in her.   One of the book’s characters says, “Having a coach who believes [in you] is simply gold. For a runner, when you hit the wall, and in every race you will, you think you can’t run another step. You reach out and grab on to someone else’s hope, someone else’s belief. That can propel you in ways you’d never imagine. That’s the kind of hope you need to have and give your team.”  P 147 [Alex Kendrick/Stephen Kendrick, Chris Fabry, Overcomer, Tyndale House Publishers, 2019]

Finally, she was coached through the state championship cross-country race through listening to one audio file on a tiny MP3 player.  It was her father’s voice coaching her through all the sections of the race.  This was something that was arranged between her coach and dad. These were two men who greatly believed in her.  They helped get Hannah ready for a race over many weeks.  The author shares after the big win, “Hannah burst into tears and leaned back in Amy’s arms.  They were tears of joy, tears of victory. The emotion seemed the culmination of everything she had been through, the loneliness and fear, the hurdle of asthma, the guilt over things she had done.  The girl who had been abandoned and had had great loss, who ran alone with no team. She overcame it all listening to her father’s voice.”  P 345. P [Alex Kendrick/Stephen Kendrick, Chris Fabry, Overcomer, Tyndale House Publishers, 2019]  She also didn’t give up because she was focused on direction from her father’s voice.  This reminds me of Jesus, who was always listening and then doing what the Father was doing.  He was encouraged through the Holy Spirit.  We can also listen to OUR Father’s voice propelling us on.   It’s the same for the great cloud of witnesses in scripture.  They are like cheerleaders.  We can’t hear them unless we have a revelation, but they do cheer us on.  It’s our turn to run the race for Jesus.  And he will help us run it well, if we let him help us do so, step by step.

Principle Six is to usher in blessings by obeying God’s instructions every step of the way.  This is about diligence and obedience. Just like Hannah’s consistent running, we need to be faithful with every step. When we obey God in small ways, he leads us to greater levels of faith and responsibility.  Then we grow and can have victory over the next challenges that come.  This may be doing something that’s difficult, but right.  For Hannah, she repented from stealing and gave back everything that she stole with sincere apologies.  For us, it could be apologizing to someone whom you hurt, forgiving someone who hurt you, changing to a different job or beginning to tithe to your local church. When you do, blessings will come from the obedience.  

Principle Seven is to prepare for a season of joy. Even during difficult times we can have joy, but when you’ve overcome these hurdles, you can do the victory dance!  Then you’ll also be stronger for life’s other challenges.

Megan Bailey also shares strategies of overcoming obstacles.  Number one is to replace fear with God’s love. Often obstacles we face are full of different fears. If we can replace these fears with God’s love, we can focus through prayer, meditation and daily devotions. For example, after a bad breakup, you can focus on God’s love for you and that he is with you.  You are not abandoned.  [paraphrase, Megan Bailey, https://www.beliefnet.com/faiths/christianity/7-strategies-to-overcome-obstacles-with-god.aspx

Number two is to focus on God’s power.  “No matter how big your problem may feel, or impossible it may seem, […] we know that nothing is too difficult for God to handle.” Jeremiah 32:27 says, “I am the Lord, the God of all;  Is anything too hard for me?” Instead of focusing on how big the problem is,  look up at God.  He is much more powerful than any obstacle you will face.  This helps you shift your perspective to remind you that you are in God’s hands.  Just think of the children’s song “Great big God.”  God is bigger than the universe, deeper than the ocean, higher than the highest mountain.  Yet he will help YOU.   

Number three is to trust in God’s plan for you.  It can be frustrating at first to give up control of your life.  But you never really were in control anyway. We need fully to believe that God is in control and has a plan.  That plan may seem confusing, and even mysterious, especially if you can’t see much of it, other than the impossible piece you are looking at.  But you can always count on God to support you.  Be willing to say yes to that plan and the one who holds the key.     

Number four is to remember who you are.  You have a God-given identity. You are a child of God. The enemy of our souls does not want you to realize this in our heart of hearts. Don’t be afraid to stand up the obstacles and say, ‘God is here with me. I can overcome this through him.  This will not dampen my faith nor take me away from knowing him.’  Now, breathe.  You’re building faith as you stand.  

Number five is to surround yourself with other Christians.  Don’t do life alone. Don’t get isolated.  Spend time at church, and in small groups together.  Have people pray over you and with you. You aren’t alone. My Anglican pastor always tells his congregation that you cannot live the Christian life alone. It takes your community.  You are stronger together, and grow together.  They can pray, advise and cheer you on.  They can also speak life-giving words to you when you least expect it.   

Number six is to read the Bible.  The Word is incredibly powerful. It holds the key to many of our problems.  Listen to Hebrews 4:12:  “His word is alive and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword, able to pierce to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and even able to judge the thoughts and the intentions of the heart.”  There are also many examples of how God helped others overcome. One such person was Sarah, who couldn’t conceive.  In God’s time, she gave birth to Isaac, one of the great patriarchs.  

Number seven is to pray often.  Prayer is the way to communicate one-on-one with God.  Then we are never alone.  We can pour out our pain onto him.  He listens, and as we hear from him, our trust in him grows.  There is no right way to pray, just begin to speak with God, as with a special trusted friend.  Write down your requests and see how they are answered over time.  You’ll be surprised how many are answered! 

Pastor Gary Stump has his own overcomer list. [Pastor Gary Stump, Onward Church, pastoral letter February 23, 2019, https://onwardchurch.org/2019/02/23/7-steps-to-become-an-overcomer/ Number one: Start over new.  It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve been defeated. Don’t look back.   You’ll not experience victory going over the past again and again. The Apostle Paul said in Philippians 3:13: “one thing I do, [I] forget those things which are behind and reach forward to those things which are ahead.”  While you can learn from your mistakes, getting stuck in them is not beneficial.  Press forward.    

Number two: Decide to make a change.  To truly overcome, you must be serious and committed.  You can’t give a half-hearted effort.  Remember this verse from Proverbs 16:3: “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.”  To fulfil this commitment you must be specific in your goal so you can overcome, identify triggers and temptations, create a boundary of protection when tempted, and get others to help and encourage you.  

Number three: Hide God’s Word in your heart.  Memorize scriptures.  Sing them, put them on paper and paste them around the house. Read them over and over until they become part of you.  Psalm 119:11 talks about the power of the Word to restrain you from sin. “I have hidden your word in my heart,  that I might not sin against you.”  Specific scriptures will come to mind just when you need them. Meditating on scripture also helps renew your mind by re-programming it, in a good way.  

Number four: Use the power of the Holy Spirit. We often can’t solve problems on our own.  We need the power of the Holy Spirit.  When we give him control, he gives us the peace, joy and other spiritual fruit that come as a by-product. Also everything seems a lot more fun! 

Number five: Overcome one day at a time.  My counselling professor Brian Cunnington often told us that fear often tries to take over when we try to do too much.  It looks like too much because it IS.  Break down the tasks to day by day, little by little.  He called this “chunking it down.”  I call it making the tasks bite-sized.   Jesus reminded us not to worry about tomorrow, or the next task in Matthew 6:34. “Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”  Stay focused on having victory for TODAY. Don’t think too far into the future.  I am a visionary and sometimes get glimpses of something God has for me a year or two in the future.  I find this exciting rather than scary, but then there are the pesky details.  I might ask “How, Lord?”   when I don’t have all the info on hand.  Back in 2014, I was given an impression I would be teaching African children about art.  I got excited, and said, “OK” without knowing the details.  I would have no idea that I would be offered a position at MasterPeace Academy teaching art.  I’ve done this for two years now.  Did I know that then?  No.  Sometimes you just need to trust and not worry, since we don’t have all the puzzle pieces yet.   

Number sixBegin a winning streak.  Write down your little victories in your prayer journal.  There will be a time when you can soon say, “By God’s help, I really AM overcoming!”  The Apostle Paul said in Philippians 3:14:   “I press on toward the goal, for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” 

Number seven: Celebrate your victory!  Don’t forget to give God thanks for the victory you’re experiencing.  Paul says through 1 Corinthians 15:57, “But thanks to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Thanksgiving for the victory will also be an encouragement to you on your journey.   

Our last source of overcoming strength comes from Shawn Shoemaker.  His strategy to overcome is through worship, relationship with God, respecting and loving the Bible, and getting priorities straight.  Worship is essential to lay a  groundwork of building something new – it dedicates your life over to him yet again. It reminds you of who he really is.  He is Lord, and he is faithful.  But in this case, Shoemaker learns from the example of Job.  When everything was taken away from him, he didn’t complain.  He worshipped God! Listen to Job 1:21  He said, “I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away.  Praise the name of the Lord!    “Job had a made up mind that He would not allow his circumstances to dictate his worship. This is the first characteristic of an overcomer.”  [Shawn Shoemaker “4 Characteristics of an Overcomer” March 2015 https://www.apostoliclife.org/4-characteristics-of-an-overcomer/]

You must also have a relationship with God and a revelation of who he is. Job shared in Job 19:25: “But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and he will stand upon the earth at last.”  Job trusted God, and knew who he was. He knew God would overcome. He may even have had a revelation of Jesus Christ.  You must also respect and love God’s word (the Bible). Job 23:12 says, “I have not departed from his commands, but have treasured his words more than daily food.”  Jesus also treasured the Bible’s words more than food when he was tempted by the devil in Matthew 4.   We must also have right priorities.  Job was generous with the poor, fed those who were hungry, clothed those who needed clothes.  He didn’t put his hope in gold, or rejoice in his wealth.  He rejoiced in God and shared his wealth while he had it.  And when he lost it, he remembered that he still had God.  And in time, all was not only restored, but more was returned.  Job overcame.  Job had endurance and great patience as he trusted the Lord.  And he was not let down, because the Lord is faithful.

I pray that we will overcome through all these principles we have learned. We will win the victory through focusing on God rather than circumstances, remembering his power and love for us, trusting him even though it doesn’t make sense, keep going consistently and being obedient to current instruction.  Also we are to worship, replace fear with love, prepare for a season of joy, remember who you are in Christ, pray often, read and memorize scripture, recognize and rely on the Holy Spirit’s power, begin a winning streak (and take notes on God’s victories) and get your priorities straight.  These are trustworthy instructions. All of these are Biblical and I pray they speak into your lives as they continue to do into mine.

Lord Jesus, thank you that you are a master overcomer.  You overcame all for us.  We cannot imagine how hard that was, but you did this willingly.  We love you.  Please help us on our own journey to overcome.  Thank you that you journey with us along the way.  You don’t forget us in a single moment.  Please give your peace and strength to those who are listening.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

If you’d like to hear an audio version of this article, please visit the Ways to Grow in God (WTGIG) podcast page on the coppleswesterncape.ca website (under the “Listen” drop-down menu).  Click here:  (https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/wtgig-podcasts.html) and scroll down to #67!  If you have been blessed by this article, please let us know!

Updates:  For those looking for news on my cancer journey, I was declared chemically cancer free as of February 2021, but still in post-cancer treatments (lymphedema massage, physio, medications, scans and bloodwork).  Just this month, I had a follow-up mammogram, ultrasounds and x-rays. The radiology doctor told me that I still look as if I’m cancer-free!

Otherwise, I still owe credit card debt for some of the medical work and we are working towards that with art commissions and donations. God’s peace is something that I’m clinging to as we plan our way back to Canada.  At the moment, our passports are still in the hands of Home Affairs, so that we have an extension on our medical visas.  We would like to return in September 2021, after preparations to return with the help of a very capable Cape Town travel agent.  Gone are the days when we would plan our own travel online (apart from booking self-catering places).  Both of us have had our first covid jab, and wait the second one.  (Although it is the right thing for us to have the jab, we don’t impose that on those who refuse it out of conscience). 

After our quarantine, we plan to stay with and care for my frail 92 year old dad.  Part of us longs for Canada, but we still greatly love South Africa.  We are glad that Jesus is carrying us, since we are frail.  Both of us have continuing health issues, including prostate cancer, eye issues (following Tony’s retina re-attachment surgery). We are seeing if these can in fact wait until our return to Canada, or if Tony’s eye surgery will have to be done in Cape Town.  It would be R90,000 (or $8,000) done in Cape Town.  We aren’t sure if how much it would cost in Canada (if done there). 

Thanks for coming alongside us on our journey.  Being an overcomer is truly a process. We still need help. Tony has significant medical bills as well for TB, eye surgery, the urologist (who is monitoring the prostate cancer), and I have debt as well. Please click here for the medical campaign page to get more info: https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/medical-campaign.html.  We are still crowdfunding to cover the post cancer treatments and Tony’s eye operations. If you feel led to contribute, please do so via our PayPal:  https://www.paypal.me/WaystogrowinGod   If you do, please introduce yourself and say that you read “Ways to Grow in God.”  It would really bless us!  If you’re led to pray instead, we welcome your prayers and please do contact us.

L-A’s colouring book:  If you are in South Africa, and would like to purchase one of L-A’s colouring books, they are available at OliveTree Bookshop in Mountain Mill Shopping Centre (near Pick n Pay), Worcester, Western Cape.  You can also buy them at LeRoux and Fourie Wineshop on R60 beside Cape Lime (between Nuy and Robertson).  Or you can order one (or more) printed for you through Takealot.com through this link:

https://www.takealot.com/colouring-with-jesus/PLID68586424

The Colouring with Jesus 2 is about to be printed!!!  They will be available online, through us personally (for a short time), and through the above shops.  They will also be available through Legacy Relay run by Louis and Carica Fourie.  After we return to Canada, we plan to republish the devotional colouring books into English-French.  Bless you and thank you for your support!

Love, Laurie-Ann