Growing in God through Sabbath REST

“Rest Under the Shadow of His Wings” (Psalm 91) by Laurie-Ann Zachar Copple (c)

Tony and I have been 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 developing perseverance.   Perseverance is far more than resilience and coping.   It involves keeping sight of a target and moving towards it no matter what.  Tony shared with me the skill of “dead reckoning” that he learned in the navy.    If a ship or an aircraft loses communications and is unable to find land or hazards, they will look back on their chart for the last accurate position recorded, and calculate the direction they should have taken from there, and then follow that compass bearing, with an awareness of the uncertainty since that position was recorded.  They then steam on (or fly on) using the calculated bearing, and hoping that eventually they will recognize a feature of the land.   This takes perseverance, because their sense of direction will suggest a myriad of alternatives.  Keeping that goal or destination in mind, is like walking in faith.  Proverbs 4: 25-26 confirms this by directing us to: “let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.  Ponder the path of your feet, then all your ways will be sure.”    This goal orientation meant a laser focus on the promises that are to come.  This scripture is a reminder to allow the refining and uncomfortable difficulties to purify us, without my giving up.  Sometimes there are difficulties in life, and especially when you are in ministry.   Unfortunately, the average time that a full-time missionary stays in the field is a year.  Many give up before that.  Our mission was designed to be 3 years but worked out at 4 due to Covid and visa problems, and we certainly didn’t resign.   Our time included L-A’s  cancer journey and Tony’s early stages of mesothelioma, and his retinal detachment.  I am coming to believe that perseverance involves actively pushing towards a goal.  Sometimes you push hard together with others, other times, you stand alone – standing in the place where you must be to ‘hold the line.’  Holding the line is exactly what we are doing in caring for my 93 year old father.   How do we move forward?  No matter what, God is ready to listen and make a way forward.  Prayer and contemplation gives us the inner strength to do what God would have us do.  Jesus is always with us.  We are not alone.  As we depend on God, our trust and intimacy with him grows.   We also grow better and stronger together, in relationship, which strengthens our perseverance.  Our work is actually an inter-generational thing, not just individual.  This puts less pressure on us, so we just do our part as part of the whole.  This is especially true when working in ministry.  We aren’t the saviours.  Only Jesus is. Nothing we have done is wasted; it all counts.  And since we don’t work on our own, we are ALLOWED to rest.  Rest is where we will journey next.

Rest is something that is not just allowed.  It’s actually a command to us!  It’s something that we often break without even a thought about it.  Friday sundown to Saturday at sundown is the Sabbath rest for the Jewish people.  The Orthodox Jews are VERY serious about following this command: from all the details to the bigger things.  Remembering the Sabbath rest and keeping it holy is an injunction that in our busyness, we often break.  So if we don’t take a regular weekly rest, a sabbatical or even a retreat, our health can force us to “lie down in green pastures!” (Psalm 23).  Is this a joke or an exaggeration?  Yes and no.  In my own story, I burned out so many times, got serious mono in my 20’s, and spent two months where I could do very little.  This is not an exaggeration. Later, when I was helping my parents (for three months in 2015),  I would go for days and then crash and spend a whole day in bed. 

In some ways I still don’t fully understand rest, but I believe at the very core of it is a sense of trust in the Lord.  You become content in his presence, and allow him to take the burdens, just as he offers in the Gospel of Matthew. “Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matt 11:28-29)  Rest is a gift.  Rest is a choice to stop and trust.  You choose to pick up his yoke. 

Rest is also connected with repentance.  One of my favourite Bible verses when I was struggling with a mind that whirled a million miles an hour and a very sad heart, was Isaiah 30:15.  This passage didn’t talk about the ‘joy of the Lord being your strength’ (Neh. 8:10), which is also something I didn’t understand at the time. I thought the joy of the Lord was laughing all the time!  I gathered comfort from this message: “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, but you would have none of it.  (Isa. 30:15 NIV)   Salvation and the Lord’s rest are one and the same!  Would we also have none of it?

When one third of the people of Judah were imported into the Babylon exile, and most of the rest died or were scattered; the poor, overused land had a seventy year rest (or fallow).  Even the land had to recover from the defilement mentioned in multiple Old Testament prophets.  The land was defiled from shedding of innocent blood (including child sacrifice to ‘rival’ gods), corruption on many levels, idol worship, dishonesty and cruelty to the poor and foreigners. These are some of the things that God detests.  It’s also likely that the land wasn’t given a rest according to the Leviticus 25:4 requirement where “in the seventh year, the land to have a YEAR of Sabbath to the Lord.  Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards.” (Lev. 25:4 NIV)  So, the land was finally given a rest while its people were in exile. 

Does rest bring healing?  I believe so, and I’ve seen many minor illnesses go away after good bedrest in friends and family members.  Proper rest (and nutrition) is needed in order to work well.  I needed a lot of rest while fighting cancer, as does Tony on his mesothelioma journey.  Rest also is needed for your body’s natural systems to regulate and re-set themselves.  David wrote in Psalm 139 that our bodies are wonderfully and fearfully made. (Psalm 139:13-14).  

Another Bible favourite for rest is Psalm 46:10:  “Be still and know that I am God.”  This is the foundation of soaking prayer, that wonderful, gentle way of receiving gently as you physically rest on a chair, couch or floor. You rest, but your mind and heart are focused on Jesus.  I used to do this on a regular basis with my friend Lorna at the Bethesda retreat centre near Ottawa.  It was a lovely farmhouse that held many Alpha Holy Spirit weekends, church retreats and personal retreats. Lorna and I would pray gently to invite the Holy Spirit to come touch us and speak to us, while we listened to soft worship music and lay on a couch.  Nearly every time we would do this, we felt deep peace, and often impressions, images, scriptures and occasional words would surface.  We were waiting on the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit (1 Kings 19:12). We were able to hear these loving whispers of love because we were completely at rest.  This is the best kind of rest and I crave it.   This to me, is an instant Sabbath that we need as much as we need sleep.  Again, the presence of the Lord brings deep rest.  Can we live in this rest all the time?  Can we do our paid work, ministry and tasks within a context of rest?  Absolutely yes!  This is where “practising the presence” makes all the difference.  Brother Lawrence was a French lay-monk in the 17th century.  He practised the presence when he invited God into all his tasks.  Anything or everything you do can become a holy activity. 

Rest can also be a spiritual weapon.  I found a message on my Facebook feed in mid-July 2022.  It was from from the “Elizabeth Elliott quotes” page.  Listen to what was gleaned from her writings.  She said, “Rest is a weapon given to us by God.  The enemy hates it because he wants us to be stressed and occupied.”    I agree with this statement!  The devil wants us to be distracted from our source of peace (God) as well as our identity as a child of God.  He wants us not to find out our true mission assignments.  The cure?  Stay connected, but also have adequate time off from work and tasks for clear thinking, and allowing the time for you to hear the Holy Spirit’s voice.

So again, Jesus is right when he invites us to come to him when we are weary and heavy laden.  And it’s OK if it’s not just once!  And when we encounter a dark, difficult time, he carries us right though the valley of the shadow of death.  (Psalm 23) The green pastures that we rest in are a place of safety even in the midst of the storm.  His deep presence is there. 

Last month I mentioned that Tony and I needed a week of rest at our timeshare.  Did we get it?  Yes, although I am still growing in my fragmented understanding of what rest and shalom means.  But trust is at the centre.  Trust in the Lord is what keeps us before his face and in his presence.  This is what abiding is, as shown in John 15:5:  “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”  How quickly you and I forget this!  

Lord Jesus, help us always to remember that you offer the rest, shalom that we need for our souls as well as our bodies.  Remind us to invite Holy Spirit into all we do.  Teach us deeper knowledge on the importance of rest, no matter what we do.  Thank you that you never leave us, even when we seem to forget your promises in scripture and our personal words that jump off the pages of your Word.  Thank you that you never slumber nor sleep in your care for us, while we work or rest.  We are so grateful that you are our Shepherd, keeping us safe in you.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

I will record an audio version of this article, which will be posted on 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 when it’s recorded, scroll down to #78! 

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, and as of June 2022, the growth in my right breast is benign!  It was still worth checking.

In Tony’s case, he met his excellent oncologist at Princess Margaret Hospital in downtown Toronto in June.  She convinced Tony that immunotherapy was the way to go, rather than chemo.  He received his first infusion on July 15th, 2022.  So far, the side effects are minimal, other than tiredness.   His left eye has healed to the extent it ever will,  and in another month we will check on getting an updated eyeglass prescription. 

We ask you to give thanks for the skills of Tony’s doctors, and that the tumour in Tony’s lung lining shrinks and even disappears.   Thanks for coming alongside in encouragement and prayer.   If you feel led to contribute towards medications and hospital parking expenses, this would be most welcome.  Not everything is covered under his senior drug plan and OHIP, but don’t feel obligated.  L-A also has expensive lymphedema treatments that aren’t covered and we are delaying for lack of funds.  But meanwhile, 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, some are available at LeRoux and Fourie wine shop on R60 beside Cape Lime.  This is west of Robertson in Western Cape.  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

Coming Soon: Ways to Grow in Rest

Hi! L-A and Tony are in the middle of a rest in Calabogie, Ontario. While we are in the midst of a mini-Sabbath, or sabbatical, we have serious computer issues, which prevent finishing L-A’s article on rest. How ironic! L-A will finish it soon and hopefully the computer will be fixed as well. We hope, since L-A’s books are on that computer, which were too big to back up properly.

Meanwhile, Tony will be going on mesothelioma treatment under an excellent oncologist at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. L-A is in the midst of fittings for new lymphedema garments, and also work on her feet, both of which are not fully covered under OHIP. We need prayer for the finances to cover these needs, since L-A doesn’t have a pension and has no income at all (at this time). We are caregivers to L-A’s dad, volunteer, of course. It’s a lean season but we are managing, despite piling medical debt. We are just thankful that Tony’s care is mostly covered! Please pray that we have the provision that we need and for health for both of us. We are thankful that we aren’t left abandoned but Jesus is always with us and the Holy Spirit brings us joy as we trust in God for everything.

Bless you!

Laurie-Ann Copple

laurie-ann@coppleswesterncape.org

Growing in God through developing perseverance

“From a Rainbow to a Tapestry” – July 2021. Laurie-Ann Zachar Copple (copyright)

Tony and I have been 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 a different kind of pause:  that of an oasis rest between seasons.  Transition usually is a difficult period of adjustment.  We had an unexpected month at the end of our season in South Africa.  On the day of our flight we were found to be Covid-19 positive, without a planned place to stay still in South Africa.  We had sold or given away most of our belongings (that weren’t accompanying us).   Thankfully, the very kind friend who was to take us to the airport instead took us to his home, until our third attempt to leave the country (the first was at the beginning of all the lockdowns).   We had a quiet place to rest, recover and by the time we were taken to the airport (Covid-free this time!), we were given the grace and favour to travel.  We both ordered wheel chair assistance at three airports, were picked up by my cousins at the airport, and taken to our second quarantine stay – a Residence airport hotel on the same street as our future Toronto church (Catch the Fire Toronto). 

Again we had a little oasis for fourteen nights, which allowed us to acclimatize to winter in the northern hemisphere (we had come from southern summer), and we purchased phone plans with new Toronto phone numbers.  We couldn’t do anything without them – whether ordering food, groceries or update our IDs with Service Ontario.  But we managed, apart from a fault on L-A’s phone with sending texts.

We knew that we would be in for a challenging season between the care of my frail dad, who turned 93 recently, and care for Tony.  I did some research on the asbestos.com website and discovered that naval personnel were exposed to asbestos on their ships.  This could explain Tony’s diagnosis of potential mesothelioma.  Thankfully, when we discovered this in October 2021, I researched if there was anyone I could reach out to for help.  I discovered that Toronto General Hospital is a world leader in mesothelioma care.  There wasn’t any answer, but a day after we arrived back in Canada, we received an email from the secretary of the thoracic surgeon I had emailed.  So we were noticed!  It took three months, but we found out later that it takes three months to respond to family doctors referring patients.  We waited that time in South Africa, so that worked out.   Tony went through a series of tests, and after two months, he saw his specialist. It wasn’t time to diagnose him yet – he needed a special biopsy where the thoracic team would cut a one centimetre hole in his side, so they could insert a little camera and the biopsy equipment.  

Again, we need to stop, wait and trust.  This time, while we wait for the final results of Tony’s biopsy (pleuroscopy), and then the treatment plan, we are learning perseverance.   We also are learning that virtue while caring for my dad, who keeps getting TIAs (mini-strokes) that take a little more of him each time.  The first one that we observed (there were many before we arrived), had him lose his balance and he could not get up off the floor.  At that time, his legs were weak like jello.   My sister called 911 to get the firemen to pick him up and let him be comfortable on a couch.  He was also looked at by paramedics.  He did not want to go to the hospital or a care home.  He recovered after an hour, and seemed stronger.   This TIA was unusual.  In the ones afterwards, he has usually just had a meal, and then goes off into dream land, or half asleep in a kitchen chair.  One time Tony could not move him, and he strapped him in with a luggage strap.  It kept him from falling.  Since then, my dad knows the drill.  When we see him acting strangely, we get him sitting or lying down in a safe place where he cannot fall.  Are we trained for this?  No, but we have learned.   Otherwise, either Tony or I constantly cook and have snacks for dad as he makes his rounds through the house, looking for things to graze on, and sights to see.    He has a PSW to come give him a daily shower or sponge bath, which he needs since he deals with incontinence.   Well, he is 93.   Tony in particular is kind but firm in our care of dad.  In some ways it’s like he is like a child, being inquisitive.  Yet with each TIA, he remembers less.  So we turn on music that will stimulate the stories and thoughts, when he has little awakenings.

We have no idea how long our season with my dad will be, as well as the time for Tony’s treatment.  Yet we know we are to be here.  My dad is our assignment.  That is good. God has us in the right place, before we eventually return to our Ottawa condo.    Because I seldom leave the house, the only time I get to go out is when we go to church.  My sister comes most weekends and sees our dad, and with her daughter spends family time with him.   One Sunday, one of the church’s leaders asked the congregation to ask the Holy Spirit for a personal word for this season.  I was indeed given a word that was whispered with love into my heart.  The word was perseverance.  I’ve written about perseverance before, but it was in a different context.  At that time, I just had trouble waiting to get to the next season.  Now, I’m wading through just a difficult time that we must pass through one hurdle at a time.  I’m not the only one who is going through or has gone through this journey.  The families we served in Avian Park developed SOME perseverance in the form of coping, but then their desperation also made them shut down in sadness.  At this time, I choose not to go that route, but to instead TRUST in God.  He will give his grace that will be sufficient in this season.  2 Corinthians 12:9 gives this promise, when the Apostle Paul shares of his struggle with something he could not shake.  Holy Spirit told him: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 

What IS perseverance?  Is it coping?  Resilience?  Or is it not quitting out of pure stubbornness?  I believe that it is in choosing not to quit, with a goal in mind. Tony tells me that when he was in training for the navy, he was taught the skill of “dead-reckoning.”   If a ship or an aircraft loses communications and is unable to find land or hazards, they will look back on their chart for the last accurate position recorded, and calculate the direction they should have taken from there, and then follow that compass bearing, with an awareness of the uncertainty since that position was recorded.  They then steam on (or fly on) using the calculated bearing, and hoping that eventually they will recognize a feature of the land.   This takes perseverance, because their sense of direction will suggest a myriad of alternatives.  

This is similar to when Pastor Shawn Gabie prophesied over me before we went to Mozambique for our Harvest Missions School in 2016.  He told me that I must “keep my focus forward on what the Father has for me that season.”  This goal orientation meant a laser focus on the promises that were to come.  This word was a reminder to me to allow the refining and uncomfortable difficulties to purify me, without my giving up.  Proverbs 4: 25-26  confirms Shawn’s message, which is to “let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.  Ponder the path of your feet, then all your ways will be sure.”    Sometimes there are difficulties in life, and especially when you are in ministry.   Unfortunately, the average time that a full-time missionary stays in the field is a year.  Many give up before that.  We lasted four years in our South African assignment, throughout my cancer journey.  Mind you, Covid stopped travel for some time, and it was difficult to get back to Canada.  Getting back required not giving up and returning at the right time.  We did try multiple times, to the chagrin of those well-meaning advisors, who insisted that we return even earlier.

I am coming to believe that perseverance involves actively pushing towards a goal.  Sometimes you push hard together with others, other times, you stand alone – standing in the place where you must be to ‘hold the line.’  Holding the line is exactly what we are doing in caring for my 93 year old father.   It’s a daily process of continual care.  At times when you are corporately persevering together, there is even more strength, because you can encourage each other, or change roles for a time.  It’s like the birds when they migrate south or north, depending on the season.  One bird will be the head bird leading the pack in their V-formation towards warm climes.  After that head bird gets tired, they retreat to another position, and another bird takes over for a while.  I’m thankful for the human equivalent, of leadership in teams, where there is a shared burden.  And in life, I’m thankful for the Holy Spirit, who gives me life and strength, and for my husband Tony.   Yet at the same time, God gives you little “kindnesses from God” as like a breadcrumb trail of blessing.  If you are moaning and complaining about the difficulties, you miss the little (and sometimes big) blessings he sends you along the journey.  It IS a journey.  You aren’t stuck in a little valley, surrounded by rain clouds or tornadoes.  And even if you do encounter severe storms, such as those that hit Ontario in the spring and summer, you can withstand the strength of a (spiritual) tornado far more than the fences of my sister and cousins that blew over in a recent derecho storm.  Those fences could not persevere.  But, if we don’t give up, we CAN.

How can we persevere?  Perseverance is something that we develop during the difficult times, whether it is illness (like our cancer journeys), financial stress, war (like the Ukrainian conflict), transition difficulties, domestic violence, gang issues or being in the middle of various chaos.  Through those storms, Jesus brings peace.  He can bring the peace that passes all understanding, so that it feels like you are in the eye of the storm.  It will not harm you, as long as you stay connected with Jesus.    Romans 5:3-5 reminds us that our suffering isn’t wasted, especially when we choose to trust God and not become bitter.  The Apostle Paul said that “we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”   Suffering produces perseverance when we trust God that he is at work in our lives, in our ministry, and in situations that are way beyond our control.    When we stand alone in perseverance or push in community together in perseverance, we are refined and become better people.  Then we have renewed hope.  It’s a refining fire, where what is against us, becomes a pruning force to make us better.

Perseverance in the faith:   We grow stronger through engaging with scripture.  2 Timothy 3:16 reminds us that “all scripture is God breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”  We are encouraged by scripture being a “consistent anchor” that helps us to avoid traps of discouragement and apathy.  It encourages us to stay away from becoming prideful. It gives us direction and insight.  In ministry, scripture (along with Holy Spirit’s insight”) becomes the toolkit to live a life of outreach, as well as helping in our personal lives. https://www.fh.org/blog/gods-story-persevere-life-is-hard/     Holy Spirit helps us with the next step of persevering.  We gain strength to persevere by praying (communicating with God) and thinking on his revelation.  This is contemplation.  The Apostle Paul encourages us in Ephesians 6:18 to: “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”   “Throughout the Bible, God’s people are called to pray at all times, regularly, genuinely and in faith.  Moreover, prayer is a conversation with God, in which we cultivate deepening intimacy with him.” https://www.fh.org/blog/gods-story-persevere-life-is-hard/    

When we pray, God often answers right then, before we know it.  Other times, he answers those prayers gradually.  Sometimes, the full answers come a lot later.  But in hindsight, they end up being answered at just the right time.  In overseas ministry, we encountered insurmountable difficulties in the townships.  The emergencies and calamities that had been happening with the girls we mentored happened nearly continually.  Tony would constantly say to me that “they always seem to be living on the edge.”  In the first world, we can’t imagine those difficulties, although we have the hidden poor among us in cities and in rural areas.  We just don’t see them (but the need exists).  In South Africa, they aren’t hidden; the real poverty is confirmed with our eyes.  In less developed countries, roads can be washed out in cyclones (even British Columbia had that issue in Abbotsford).  People in hidden communities had no access to the outside world for help.  In that circumstance, medical emergencies can happen with no access to a doctor.  Or in the case of northern Mozambique, there are terrorist insurgencies that disrupt peaceful villages, where they persecute and kill Christians.  Corrupt government or police can stall aid workers and missionaries from making a difference in a practical way.    How do we move forward?  No matter what, God is ready to listen and make a way forward.  Prayer and contemplation gives us the inner strength to do what God would have us do.  Jesus is always with us.  We are not alone.  As we depend on God, our trust and intimacy with him grows.

We persevere better when we actively participate in a local church.  It is there that we ‘plug in’ to the Body of Christ.  Pastor Murray Smith encouraged us at Catch the Fire Toronto (May 22nd, 2022 11:15 am sermon) that we do need small groups in order to grow and develop relationship.  But in the setting of a larger church service, there is a corporate anointing, where the Holy Spirit isn’t just in us and around us, but then he works among us.  Something special happens.   We go to honour God, give him sacrifice and offer ourselves to him.  Yet, as a tribe or multi-coloured family, we grow both individually and as a group.  We are strengthened organically in a deep spiritual way.  It is like Hudson Taylor’s secret of abiding in the Lord, which is shown in John 15: 5-7.  “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.”   You are pruned – yet you produce fruit by remaining.   This is what happens when you truly follow Jesus.  When we sat with young township kids, their mothers, and the local widows, and the inmates, we felt like we heard the heartbeat of Jesus.  It was like we were deeply in his presence.  They were the least of these, and Jesus was strongly with them.  Wendy McMahon at Food for the Hungry describes the dynamic for which I just can’t find the words.  She says, “we know that the poor are very close to the heart of God, and Jesus loved to spend time with them when He was on earth.  By seeking to closely follow Jesus each day, we invite Him to make us more like Him.” https://www.fh.org/blog/gods-story-persevere-life-is-hard/      

The writer of Hebrews also encourages us to not give up on being a part of church in Hebrews 10:24-25:  “And let us consider how we may spur one another on, towards love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day (of Jesus’ return) approaching.”  God reveals himself in a different, collective way – where different strands of his revelation and encouragement bless others.  He weaves us together like a beautiful tapestry, similar to an impression I had in South Africa.  In the vision, I saw God changing the South African rainbows (aka the Rainbow Nation) into a Rainbow tapestry.  The tapestry is much stronger than the rainbow, even though it’s inspirational.  The bands of colour are stronger and more useful when they are woven together with the other fibres.  It is in the local church that we are encouraged in our own calling, and are cheered on not to give up.

So when we are to persevere, we know that we are not meant to be alone.    Perseverance is meant to be a continual lifestyle, whether it’s to achieve the end of a big project, an entire life’s accomplishment, or something that is inter-generational (like building a cathedral).  My Iris and Harvest Family Network mentor is one who encourages, and cheers alongside those running the race in ministry and assignments.  He is mentoring me even in a season of hidden family care giving.  It matters just as much to God as our four year missionary season in South Africa.  Brian shared on his Facebook page in April 2022, this important message.  He said, “most people today, especially in our western culture, want to achieve great things very quickly.  But most great achievements happen through years of hard work, dedication and perseverance.  So most, when things get hard or time is required, will quit.   I know so many who were called and made for great things, who simply gave up over the years, as they faced resistance or things didn’t look like what they planned.  I have found that there is always resistance and things seldom look the way that I planned. Hold on to the promises of God, move forward with Him daily, pray, listen and trust Him!  You WILL see victory, and what He has shown you in the secret place, shall come to pass.  I believe in you!  You have been created for a purpose.  You have an anointing that abides within you! He will never leave you or forsake you! Expect to win! (Brian Britton, Facebook page, April 12, 2022)  What a rich heritage this gem of wisdom is!  Again, Brian encourages us to trust in God throughout the journey.  He is the one who will carry you though the journey as we grow close to Him.   He even carries us through senior issues!  Isaiah 46:4 says, “Even to your old age and gray hairs, I am he, I am he who will sustain you.  I have made you and I will carry you,’  I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”  This encourages Tony and me as we care for my dad, but also in Tony’s physical issues as a senior.  Trusting in God isn’t just a “senior thing.”  Sure there are a lot of ‘gray hairs’ in the church, but challenges and growing through them is an intergenerational journey. 

There is nothing in life that is wasted as we continue on.  Absolutely nothing.  If we stand still, it’s only to rest and regroup.  It’s never in running away or quitting.   The Psalmists often exhort the people to trust in God.  Psalm 71:5-6 shares, “For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth.  Upon you I have leaned (trusted) from my birth; you are he who took me from my mother’s womb.  My praise is continually of you.”   The prophet Jeremiah was encouraged at his young age to trust God as he picked up his calling and assignment as a prophet to Judah.  He was given strength, fortitude and extreme perseverance.  Such endurance shines as an example that only God can give.  It is beyond super-hero! 

So do not give up, choose to grow in the journey.  Grow in your assignment with the Lord, whether in a difficult task, ministry, job or being in a situation where you are called to make a stand for righteousness (like Jeremiah).   Let us remember the Apostle Paul’s encouragement in Philippians 3: 14-15: “Brothers (and sisters), I do not consider that I have made it on my own.  But one thing I do:  forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”   So as the writer of Hebrews shares in verse 10:23: “let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”

Perseverance is actively tied to hope and trust in God while in the midst of staying IN the battle.  The battle is the Lord’s.  But we are IN it.  

Lord, thank you that you are there for us and with us while we persevere in your assignments for us.  Sometimes it’s a time to learn and grow.  Other times it’s to rest and be healed.  Then it’s times where we minister, whether in hidden places, or public.  You are always with us.  We choose to stay in our assignments, whether they are difficult or seemingly easy.  We choose the path of going “low and slow” (as we say in Iris):  in humility and patience; in trust and compassion, in illness and difficulty, and in all the things you experienced in your life on earth, Jesus.  We choose you, and we choose to persevere.  We choose to be rooted in you during the storms, and choose to pick up with you in transition. Thank you that you are faithful.  We choose to walk with you on the water, as we look into your eyes.  Carry us Lord, despite everything, and draw us deeper into 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 coppleswesterncape.ca.  Mouse over the “Listen” drop-down menu, or click herehttps://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/wtgig-podcasts.html and scroll down to #77

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, and as of May 2022, I am currently having ultrasounds, mammograms and an upcoming biopsy of a lump on my remaining breast.  I expect it to be benign, but it’s worth checking.   Tony is in care at Toronto General Hospital for malignant mesothelioma in his left lung lining.  He had a pleuroscopy and we are waiting  to hear an analysis of the chemical components of the tumour.  I remember this process when I had breast cancer.  In Tony’s case, he hasn’t met his oncologist yet (that’s to come in early June).  Everything seems to be in slow motion, despite multiple scans and reports that don’t look good.  However, the reports (and the doctor’s diagnosis) isn’t the whole story.  We will see what God will do, especially as Tony is one of my dad’s caregivers, an essential team member.  Tony is having major eye surgery a week from now to complete retinal reattachment that was started a year ago.  We ask you to give thanks for the skills of his surgeons, and that in the case of the cancer the tumour responds and spurs into an accelerated healing like mine did.   Thanks for coming alongside in encouragement and prayer.   If you feel led to contribute towards medications and hospital parking expenses, this would be most welcome.  Not everything is covered under his senior drug plan and OHIP, but don’t feel obligated.  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 1https://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

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”