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 journeyed through establishing legacy. Legacy applies to families, relationships, and investing in others. It also applies to passing on skills and education. Legacy in a spiritual sense is about discipleship. It’s not in creating other versions of yourself like a franchise, but in training up leaders in their callings. While we have different gifts, we all have the same ministry – that of passing on God’s love in some way. And Legacy is also something that Tony and I have in mind for leaving something behind in Worcester that will last long after we leave South Africa. We also offer these Ways to Grow in God podcasts as part of our legacy to you. Legacy is also a gift – which is ultimately based in the kindness of those who have invested in us, and also the kindness of God. Let’s journey through the field of kindness.
We need kindness. Even the Twelfth Doctor in Doctor Who always said, “Always try to be nice, and never fail to be kind.” [https://www.radiotimes.com/news/tv/2017-12-26/did-you-spot-all-the-doctor-who-references-in-peter-capaldis-regeneration-speech/ ] He’s right. But what is kindness? Kindness is often hard to define unless you use synonyms. When you Google it, the answer comes up as “the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate.” It also comes up as decency. Yet the definition goes beyond that to include tenderness, good-will, affection, warmth, concern, care, thoughtfulness, altruism, hospitality, generosity and graciousness.
Christian Cheong believes that “we all need kindness. It is a language the dumb can speak, the deaf can hear, and the blind can see. Kindness is far more than loving people. It is loving people more than they deserve. “Kindness is ‘going the extra mile’, it is grace put into action.” https://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/the-kindness-of-god-christian-cheong-sermon-on-grace-136864 Stephen Wittmer believes that “Kindness is underrated. [Some people] equate it with being nice or pleasant, as though it’s mainly about smiling, getting along, and not ruffling feathers. It seems a rather mundane virtue. ”- [https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/kindness-changes-everything] But kindness is NOT mundane. Kindness deeply touches hearts. It can melt past emotional defences and anger to soften a stone-cold heart. The Old Testament ties kindness and mercy into one word: that is ‘Chesed.’ This word comes up 35 times in the Psalms and in 1 Chronicles; within the context of worship and decrees. How often have you heard this tune, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever.”
That love is not just any love – it’s loving KINDNESS. It’s also mercy! When you look up 1 Chronicles 16:34 in the NLT version, it says: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.” In other versions, faithful love comes up as: mercy, love, loyal love, grace, and loving kindness. My Old Testament professor in Tyndale Seminary taught us the importance of God’s loving kindness. Some misinformed people think the God of the Old Testament is mean and vindictive, while Jesus is (more) loving. However, The Father is also love. Jesus told Philip that he who has seen the son has seen the Father. They have the same character. John 14:9 states: “ Jesus replied, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you?” This loving kindness is something that can be counted on. This is like God’s faithfulness like a father, because He is THE Father.
So, this love, this loving kindness has been here all along. Just as love searches out the beloved, so kindness does the same. Kindness is an active virtue. We as believers try to act in God’s kindness. Bible scholar David Huttar believes that “human imitation of God’s kindness does not come naturally. In fact, ultimately no one is kind. Psalm 14:3 and Romans 3:12 have the same message, that “all have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” Kindness can be a consistent part of the believer’s experience because it is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. [David Huttar, https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/kindness/] Kindness is supernatural, as shown in Galatians 5:22-23. Notice that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
Kindness also made the list of the Apostle Paul’s fruit in the midst of suffering. Stephen Wittmer says, Paul proved to the Corinthian church that he was a true apostle. He did this by detailing three things. These were the trials he endured for the sake of the gospel, the inner grace God gave him despite his suffering, and the God-produced fruit in his life. Read 2 Corinthians 6:1-13. In the midst of all kinds of suffering, verse 6 shows that Paul had “purity, understanding, patience and kindness.” Wittmer shares Paul’s defense this way: “You want proof I’m an apostle?” he said, in effect. “Okay, here it is: I’m kind.” https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/kindness-changes-everything Kindness within the context of being wronged, is similar to Jesus’ command to love our enemies. True kindness is Spirit-produced. It’s a supernaturally generous turning of our hearts toward other people. This means we do this even when the other doesn’t deserve it or doesn’t love us in return. God himself is kind in this way. God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance which means if we haven’t yet turned to him, we are not yet his friends. Romans 2:4 says, “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?”
When Tony and I were preparing to go back to Canada for our home visit, I prayed about the topics we would share. We wanted not to just have a show and tell of slides of the teens and children. We’re always happy to share stories, but sometimes there is a specific message for the people who come to see us. We minister as much to them as we do on our South African mission field.
Prior to our arrival, I woke up from a nap while thinking about the “kindness of God.” Part of this was tied to the Romans 2 scripture, but the kindness of God leads to more than repentance. Kindness leads us closer to God, because he softens our hearts. This is also tied to the loving kindness and care that was mentioned in the Old Testament. Loving kindness is about deep care and compassion. It’s tied to mercy because we don’t deserve it.
Sometimes kindness is to those who don’t love you at all. Proverbs 25: 21-22 tells us that, “If your enemies are hungry, give them food to eat. If they are thirsty, give them water to drink. You will heap burning coals of shame on their heads, and the Lord will reward you.” I always wondered what that scripture meant. It has to do with extending kindness on God’s behalf, even to those who have been mean to you. They may re-think their meanness. While some wrongly interpret the coals would actually burn, there is a meaning behind the instruction. In the time when Proverbs were being documented for posterity by Solomon, people heated their homes and cooked with coal or wood fire. Jeremy Myers from redeeminggod.com shares sometimes if your fire went out, you would go ask a neighbour for a coal to relight the fire. He interprets this scripture as, if the fire of your enemy goes out, and they come asking for a coal to relight their fire, to be generous. “Instead of turning them away or giving just one [coal], we should be extravagantly generous. How? You must keep one coal for yourself, and give all the rest of the burning coals to our enemy.” [Jeremy Myers https://redeeminggod.com/heap-burning-coals-on-your-enemies/]
This example gives us a lot to ponder. King David was kind to his friend Jonathan, and even more to his surviving son Mephibosheth. While other royals killed the last remaining children of their enemies, he did not. Jonathan’s son was the grandson of King Saul. Saul was the same leader who ruthlessly tried to have David killed multiple times. But David was intentionally kind. 2 Samuel 9:3 says, “The king then asked him, “Is anyone still alive from Saul’s family? If so, I want to show God’s kindness to them.” Four verses later, we see that David’s kindness was not a short-term thing. King David says to him, “you shall eat bread at my table continually.” Later verses show David meant this promise. This kindness was a commitment. This is also a reflection of God’s loving kindness to us.
What happens when you are kind? It stops people in their tracks. It also gets at your own heart. Sometimes it even exposes your sin for God to take away. Loving Kindness in the Old Testament may reflect mercy. In the New Testament, the Greek word for kindness means “goodness in action.” Kindness and goodness are kissing cousins, and are two of the nine fruit of the Spirit. When God’s goodness is prompted to us, it feels like tenderness and compassion. [http://www.christianmessenger.org/kindnessofgod.htm] I often speak about stopping for the one, or divine appointments. What happens during those special moments? They are acts of deep kindness. This kindness is received not only from the person who stops, but also directly from the Holy Spirit. They are like a spiritual love letter, and you feel deeply noticed. You’re not invisible. God has searched for you and found you. Stephen Witmer says that “kindness is no small thing. It yields marvelous fruit both in our lives and the lives of those around us.” Proverbs 21:21 says that “whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honor.” We open ourselves to the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit when we ask him to produce in us kind hearts that overflow through kind lips. [Stephen Witmer https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/kindness-changes-everything]
We need to ask God for his kindness before we give kindness to others. While people can do kind gestures for others, real kindness flows from compassion. Human kindness falls short of that. What can the kindness of God do for us? It opens our eyes to God’s care for us.
Tony and I have an expression that we’ve come to embody since before we arrived in South Africa. We say that the kindness of God chases us down. God wants to be kind to us. He draws us to him like a tender lover, even though we sometimes run from Him. We have so many examples of what we call T-K-O-G – the kindness of God – in our lives. Heidi Baker said recently at an Australian conference that “God wants to open your eyes and open your heart. When your eyes are closed, you can only feed your family of four.” She was referring to the first time that the Holy Spirit stretched a pot of chili and rice to feed not only her family, but over 300 children. An experience like this is eye-opening. So were ours, even if they weren’t as dramatic. We had a T.K.O.G moment in the speedy process of our South African visa. Normally it takes 8 weeks. We had a call to pick up ours in 24 hours. We were led on where to live – and found our gated retirement village house is perfect in size for ministry, and safe to live in. It was available right when our guest house lodgings were finished. We were given renters to live in our Ottawa condo at just the right time for us to leave. Only one couple was interested, but that’s all we needed. Their rent enables us to pay for our rent in South Africa.
We were led to our local church and bi-weekly connect group through expat YWAM missionaries that we had met through advisors. And we found that our connect group met in our prearranged guest house. This was a great kindness. We were drawn into a loving church family who, while Afrikaans, made provision for translation stations, and have been there for us in prayer and encouragement ever since we arrived. They even prayed for us while we were in Canada. We had another T.K.O.G connection when we were invited to become teachers, and I was reminded of an impression I received four years earlier. The image showed me teaching art to African children – and I was asked to teach art. We had similar experiences for many of our other ministry involvements, which are too many to mention. But in every case we have experienced sheer pleasure in ministering. That is also T.K.O.G. We have been lovingly guided on every step. We were even given expert and kind care by multiple doctors, from GPs, gynecologists, surgeons, urologists, cardiologist, oncologist and other specialists. Each has been wonderful in hearing us out, and doing the very best they can. We don’t always get that in Canada. We even had a confirmed diagnosis from an ailment that I suffer from within months, when the average is seven years.
And while we haven’t had the miracles of stretching food like Heidi Baker, we’ve had our own resources stretch when we need it. We’ve had entrepreneurial ideas for art, resources and colouring books. We’ve had special connections and networks, and have been blessed by breaks and getaways just when we need them. Even when I was enduring my first and worst flare-up, Tony was an amazing nurse. I didn’t understand it at the time, but I experienced the kindness of God through his love and service. Another T.K.O.G was when my parents gifted us with the cost of our rental car on our home visit. All of these gifts and more have been manifestations of the kindness of God. His kindness and compassion are to provide for us, guide us, and give us joy every day. He’s opened our eyes to see the smallest everyday kindnesses as well as the larger ones. So even when we’re not in good health, we have peace because we know our issues will be resolved. This certainly was the case during my inflammatory breast cancer journey from August 2019 until recently in December 2020. Even though this was a horrific season (super-imposed on a glorious mission season) in having a deadly disease, my husband and I were carried by the grace of God through the treatments. A shower of crowd-funding fell at my feet, since our insurance company refused to no longer cover me. We were given the very best of care, and there were so many tangible manifestations of God’s kindnesses extended to us.
Even after we attempted to return to Canada for surgery in April 2020, we were locked down tight due to severe covid-19 restrictions all over the world. God’s kindness at that time became emergency mastectomy (where the surgeon had excellent margins for the cancer, which he called a miracle), and following treatments of radiation, lymphedema massage, compression therapy and Herceptin injections, which ended in November 2020. We were kept away from covid-19 far more where we were than if we had returned to Canada. We are now waiting on medical visas, to carry us into May 2021, for a spring return to Canada. We trust that the visa acceptance would be another kindness of God. What about the cancer journey, you may ask. How is that the kindness of God? Well, cancer is NOT the kindness of God. However, God was kind in the midst of it. While he was healing me of the cancer through medical professionals, he was also working on other things – including my heart, the discovery of undiagnosed lymphedema in my legs. None of the pain and tears are wasted.
Is God kind to you also? I would believe that he is; but just ask God to help you notice the ways He is kind to you and to those around you. God’s kindness may also affect others in particular ways. God shows His kindness through the ongoing provision described in Acts 14:17: “He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons.”
God’s kindness is part of His nature. It’s easy to overlook the everyday expressions of His kindness, but if you intentionally look for them, you become more aware of God’s love.
As we think on God’s kindness, we discover four things; these are: that God IS kind, we choose to be kind, that kindness has a flavour, and that we can pass on that kindness to others. It’s just like paying it forward. Being kind is a choice. You make choices every day; some big and some small. Think about all the choices you’ve made in the last hour. These may be what food to eat first at dinner, where to sit while reading your Bible, and who to share compliments with; those are all choices. I believe that God wants you to choose to be kind. Boaz was kind with Ruth, as she gleaned from his field. Sometimes kindness is a choice to share what you have with someone in need. Other times, it’s a decision to encourage someone with a sincere compliment. When you do, you grow as you actively practice being kind. Remember Matthew chapter 25, when Jesus compared the sheep and the goats. The sheep were kind, the goats were not.
Kindness also has a flavour, and it is sweet. Sweet words are like honey to the soul. The words we say to others make a difference. Words can be sour, or they can be sweet. They can hurt feelings, or they can repair relationships. Words can build people up or tear people down. You need to choose your words carefully because they are powerful. The apostle Paul urges believers In 1 Thessalonians 5:11 to “encourage one another and build each other up.” When you choose kind words, you’re giving others a taste of God’s kindness, and that brings Him honour. It also honours them.
Divine Kindness is essential to be reflected in our human experience. Both the books of Hosea and Matthew note that expressing kindness to others is more important than religious rituals. We are to love kindness. We are to love kindness and mercy. Hosea 6:6-8 remind us that if we really want to please God, burnt offerings, deep sacrifices and other offerings are not what God really wants. Verse 8 gets right to the point. “No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” In other words, to be kind. There are many other scriptures that confirm this, before we even examine the nine fruit of the Spirit.
What are some ways you can show kindness to those around you every day? Could you let God use your loving touch and words to encourage others with kindness? Part of this is addressed in the Iris way of “stopping for the one.” You can also intentionally be kind to everyone, in the style of Steve Sjogren, who wrote the book Conspiracy of Kindness. While this is a gentle book on low risk, high grace evangelism, being kind does more than bring people to faith. It also brings healing and deepens relationship. Kind deeds, and kind words create “phone wires’ for sensitively transmitting love into people’s hearts. The Kindness of God does that with us – either directly through the Holy Spirit, or through other people. That heart melt helps bring a wave of emotional healing and good things to come. Don’t close your heart to it, and don’t shut down if someone rejects it. Even a little kindness is a great blessing.
The Apostle Paul experienced the kindness of God when after he encountered Jesus, he was cared for by some Damascus Christians. He was accepted. The power of this acceptance confirmed his direct experience with Jesus. It proved to him that the love of Jesus is real. People come to faith when they realise God’s kindness – either directly through the Holy Spirit, or through those who can represent God. We can represent God when we are filled with kindness and compassion. Both are from him. Ask him to fill you with both, since he really wants to do that. God loves to bless his children with kindness – just look at all the acts of kindness he’s done for us. And we pass this on to those we love and serve. We let the overflow go to others. How? Go to him and ask him to fill you, and open your eyes to those you would miss.
The kindness of God opens our eyes to others in special moments. Steve Sjogren shares that kindness includes the art of noticing people. Most people are lonely. [Steve Sjogren, The Conspiracy of Kindness p 35] This includes our neighbours. Jesus asked a lawyer who had challenged his authority by asking him the greatest commandment. When Jesus answered him correctly, he offered deeper insight into the second commandment – that of loving your neighbour. Your neighbour is the person right in front of you with a need in their life. [Steve Sjogren, The Conspiracy of Kindness p 86] The kindness is in noticing them, and not expecting anything in return. Sjogren shares that “we are by nature completely selfish. But when Christ comes in, something elemental changes. [Early Christians were known for] their generosity towards others.” [Steve Sjogren, The Conspiracy of Kindness p 80] That generosity – one of the flavours of kindness – breaks the hardness and fear in your own heart as you reach out to bless someone else.
Don’t be afraid to be kind – we have opportunity to sow the seeds of kindness every day. And as we do, we’re not doing this out of the desire to gain influence or power, but in the pure joy of sowing. There is a law of reaping what we sow. Galatians 6:7-10 shares that we should not be be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant.” This works for good and bad. If it is to “live to please the Spirit, [you] will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. Let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone.”
Lord, thank you for T.K.O.G’s – you’ve given us so many. You’ve blessed us here on our mission field in South Africa, in family, church family and ministry family. You are giving us kindness and blessings every day, whether we know you yet or not. I ask that your kindness with melt hearts so they turn to you. Melt hearts so they can also bless each other through your kindness. I ask that you be praised for being so faithful. Help us to reach out to others with your kindness. Your kindness leads us to repentance, and that’s a good thing. It leads us closer to you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
If you’d like to hear an audio version of this article, please visit the Ways to Grow in God (WTGIG) podcast page on the coppleswesterncape.ca website (under the “Listen” drop-down menu). Click here: (https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/wtgig-podcasts.html) and scroll down to #61! If you have been blessed by this article, please let us know!
Updates: For those looking for news on my cancer journey, I am still receiving oncology visits, and I am awaiting plastic surgery on the left side of my mastectomy scar (on January 12th). We have been given favour from the plastic surgeon who is waiving his surgical fees! We are waiting on my cardiologist for the echocardiogram results to be sent to us, so the anesthetist can feel safe about sedating me. We find this surprising, since I had two surgeries with general anesthetic, including the first (chemo port insertion) surgery right before the echocardiogram was done. I also receive MLD therapy, lymphedema treatments and physiotherapy to get me stronger for our eventual return to Canada.
Meanwhile, we are still waiting on our medical visas, which would allow us to stay six months longer in South Africa. According to Home Affairs, the wait can be up to 60 business days. That’s a long time without our passports, but we need to be patient and trust God and our lawyer during the process.
We believe that the medical treatment here is excellent, although expensive, despite the rand-Canadian dollar exchange has helped keep costs almost 15 – 20 percent lower. We have incurred significant medical debt, although kind people in Canada and around the world have helped us so far. God bless each and every one of them. But we still need help. 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 cancer treatments (as well as Tony’s TB treatments). If you feel led to contribute, please do so via our PayPal: https://www.paypal.me/WaystogrowinGod
L-A’s colouring book: If you are in South Africa, and would like to purchase one of L-A’s colouring books, they are available at OliveTree Bookshop in Mountain Mill Shopping Centre (near Pick n Pay), Worcester, Western Cape. You can also buy them at LeRoux and Fourie Wineshop on R60 beside Cape Lime (between Nuy and Robertson). Or you can order one (or more) printed for you through Takealot.com through this link: https://www.takealot.com/colouring-with-jesus/PLID68586424
Bless you and thank you for your support! We also wish you a blessed and happy Christmas!