Does God speak through Dreams?

by Laurie-Ann Copple

“Dancing with the Bridegroom” – Laurie-Ann Zachar Copple, 2020 (c)

Long-term readers know that I have dreams and visions, as many of us do in this season. It’s partly dreams and impressions that inspire many of my drawings, including the above drawing, “Dancing with the Bridegroom.” This drawing required more that just pulling out a picture from my head. I needed models. Thankfully, I had my own wedding pictures, and I found a good photo of me dancing in my wedding dress with Tony. I changed Tony into Jesus and went on from there. But naturally, you can put yourself in my place. You are invited to dance with Jesus too.

Meanwhile, I decided to dip into my archive to share with you a very special article I wrote back when I was attending Tyndale Seminary. My writing style was a bit more academic at the time, but still clearly devotional. I share with you this favourite article, “Does God speak through Dreams?”

Have you had a vivid dream that seems as if someone has deeply spoken to you, as if you were intensely aware and awake? Have you had this dream after prayer and having asked God for direction, or in a time of crisis? Do not ignore this message; it could be God.

I have experienced vivid dreams such as these. One of these dreams was so real that it seemed as if it happened in waking life. I had asked God for direction concerning a possible summer missions trip. Shortly after this prayer I had the following dream: A professional man wearing a white lab coat and a clipboard asked me if I would consider being commissioned to officially wash dishes and lead worship for a month. It seemed a strange suggestion, yet during the dream I had strong sense that this man was almost like an angel giving a message of importance. As I pondered over the dream, a remarkable follow-up occurred. I learned of a ministry that worked with British soldiers and their families, which needed a youth worker who could wash dishes during the day, give testimony and encourage in music ministry. The unusually powerful dream appeared to be a message from God, which confirmed and directed a missions call that was already on my heart.

While some will judge this as a fortunate coincidence, the Judeo-Christian tradition has long valued the content of dreams and acknowledged God’s use of them for divine revelation. Dreams, visions, prophetic calls, angelic visitations, prophetic narratives and indirect references to this phenomenon comprise roughly one third of the Bible. In Hebraic thinking, the supernatural guidance of God was all of the same numinous quality. In Strong’s Concordance, there are 224 direct references to dreams and visions, which are merely dreams while you awake. The belief that God speaks to humankind through dreams is both biblical and experiential.

I learned some answers while attending a seminary course at Tyndale College and Seminary in Toronto. The course explored the dream experience in Christian spirituality and considered whether dreams are messages from heaven or musings of the soul. According to Paul Meier and Robert Wise in their book, Windows of the Soul, both kinds of dreams merit our attention. Whether they are objective and direct or subjective and symbolic, dreams give us important information that should not be ignored. Dreams direct from God can inspire and guide our faith and subjective dreams from us can give insightful and valuable self-knowledge.

Objective dreams are direct, powerful and memorable experiences where we are aware of being addressed by God. Charles Nienkirchen, one of the course professors, believes that these objective dreams comprise of about five percent of all dreams, although certain receptive people may experience a higher proportion. These dreams are much stronger than ordinary dreams, and have what Nienkirchen calls, numinous presence with clarity, intensity and vividness.

These objective dreams seem monumental to the dreamer. At Bethel, when Jacob awoke from his dream in which he encountered God, he exclaims “surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it” (Gen. 28:16). Through these strong and vivid impressions that stay with us even upon awakening, we become aware of a superior wisdom beyond our own capabilities. Throughout the Bible there are many other scriptural examples of objective dreams which forced the dreamer to take powerful notice. There are also many examples of Christians in Church history having such dreams, which deepened their faith, clarified their calling and gave deep assurance from the Lord. One of these was John Newton (the hymn writer of Amazing Grace). In a very powerful dream, he was given a clear understanding of the evils of the slave trade in which he was involved, and also of the Lord’s wonderful forgiveness. Thus, the objective dreams are strongly directive.

Subjective dreams are unique to each person, for they essentially tell us about our own lives. In these are encapsulated our personal desires, goals, wishes and often fears. They may include memories that we have distanced ourselves from, concerns that we are dealing with in our waking lives or more symbolic representations of deeper issues.

Though these dreams are not direct from God they can serve a purpose in our Christian walk. Often the Holy Spirit works with these to help us grow closer to God. These dreams essentially mirror our own souls. Russ Parker, a Baptist pastor and writer believes that even subjective dreams are like personal parables that we often need to hear. Many of Jesus’ parables were confusing to those who wanted “straight” answers without taking the time to really ponder the things of God. Likewise, more subjective and symbolic dreams may confuse us or we may leap to false conclusions concerning dream meanings. In such situations it can be helpful to discuss them with a pastor, counsellor or mature Christian mentor, who can give further insights.

In the early 1990’s, I experienced a subjective dream that troubled me: I was walking in a hallway with many doors and was searching for something. I was very strongly led to one specific door, and as I turned the door knob, I grew dizzy and ill. Upon opening the door, I saw a much younger version of myself on the other side of the mirror. When I attended a conference on dreams led by Herman Riffel I shared this dream. He advised that though dream symbols are unique to each person, he could discern that this “mirror” person most likely was another part of myself that I had denied or repressed. I considered his suggestion, prayed, and discovered that he was right. My mother later confirmed the source of this concern in my dream. Through the awareness of my hidden weakness through this dream, I was able to receive healing prayer and be given a faith challenge. Without realizing it I had buried something about myself which I was unable to accept. Thus, Riffel helped me discover the “punch-line” of what was a personal parable. What was at the core of this message was a challenge to respond in faith.

Biblically, Pharaoh’s dream (of the fat and lean cows [Gen. 41:7-36]) and Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (of coming madness if he would not repent of his pride [4:4-27]), were similar insights which provided opportunities to respond in faith. The “bottom line” of these dreams is: What is God trying to tell you about who He wants you to be by His grace and healing?

There are no hard and fast rules for differentiating objective from subjective dreams. Though subjective dreams are often more complex and tend to be about ourselves. While objective dreams are more directive, vivid and have a strong sense of God’s voice.

The purpose of objective dreams is often to console, confirm, clarify, direct, instruct, warn or encourage. Often some of these are combined. The most powerful biblical examples are of warning, such as the dreams of Joseph, which also gave him direction, encouragement (in caring for Mary and baby Jesus’ safety) and consolation. When he found that his betrothed was pregnant, he considered his options to quietly divorce her (Jewish law considered a betrothed couple married even though they did not yet live together). However, upon this decision, God intervened by having the angel of the Lord appear in a dream to convince and direct Joseph to take care of his wife and the child Jesus (Matt. 1:18-25). The theme of security continued in the directional dreams to seek refuge in Egypt (Matt. 2:13) and return when it was safe to do so (Matt. 2:19-23). Like Joseph, these dreams may come at times of crisis in which we are more open to God’s direction.

An example of a consoling dream was given to Monica, the mother of the early church father Augustine, while he was yet a pre-Christian. Monica was so in distress about her son’s immoral lifestyle, and involvement in Manicheism and Neo-Platonism that she continued to beg God for her son’s salvation. In time, the Holy Spirit gave her a dream that granted her a glimpse of heaven, where she was worshipping the Lord. To her joy, there beside her was her son Augustine. Monica accepted this dream as a promise that in time her son would be wooed to faith.

Irish church history gives us a wonderful example of a confirming directing dream. Brendan the Navigator, a sixth century Irish missionary monk was called to leave his former life behind him and serve God, yet he had a strong desire of discovery. He was inspired concerning this goal through a scripture given during his ordination (about leaving worldly concerns behind and gaining more in Christ), and this desire was further confirmed through an angelic visitation in a dream. In this dream, he was given a commission to seek out that land of promise and upon this direction and confirmation of God-given desires, he sailed the Atlantic in 545.

Another example of a clarifying, directing and confirming dream was given to the contemporary Methodist theologian Thomas Oden. This important dream clarified his vocation as a theologian and confirmed his decision to not invent new doctrines and be faithful to orthodox theology. In his dream, he accidentally stumbled on his own tombstone in a New England cemetery. Its epitaph read: “he made no new contribution to theology.” Oden woke up feeling deeply reassured, because he had been impacted to follow the mandate of the early church father Iraneus: to not invent new doctrine, despite his training to be innovative. Thus, Oden’s dream gave him clarification of his role as a theologian as well as deep reassurance that he was being led in the right way.

After Jacob’s Bethel dream in Genesis 28:12-19, he later was given a few dreams when he was away from his land of birth. After his uncle and father-in-law Laban had tried to cheat him of his wages, he was instructed by the angel of the Lord in a dream that he was to trust in God’s strange way of ensuring his wages. He was to trust in God’s sovereignty, causing the newly born sheep to be born with whatever appearance that was necessary for payment (Gen. 31:10-13). Thus, this instructive dream gave him great assurance that he would not be cheated because the Lord was with him according to His promise.

Despite the powerful biblical evidence, individual Christians have struggled for centuries on whether some dreams can be from God. This unbelief is even more common in our own postmodern age, with the exception of New Age searchers who desperately look for God in the wrong places with no discernment. Some people overlook and dismiss dreams as irrelevant. Often what we have decided beforehand and our worldviews get in the way of understanding the ancient wisdom and experience in the Bible. If one believes that God no longer speaks in dreams, than they be resistant to this experience.

But if God does speak through dreams how can we recognize His voice? In my studies and in discussion with various experts it is evident that there are some important steps, which can help us to hear the Master through our dreams: The objective dreams must be consistent within biblical guidelines, for God does not change His nature. Even the subjective dreams should be examined with the help of someone who understands dreams, since the symbolism is often unique to each person.

Generally a good guideline to follow is prayer. Ask God in prayer to confirm if this dream is from Him. He may give you a similar dream, or He may speak to you through specific scriptures that may leap right off the page.

Consider carefully how you felt when you awakened from the dream. Very often you will sense God’s presence in some way. God may also speak through another Christian in such a way that your heart quickens as you recall the dream. Examine scripture for dreams and visions. In some Bibles, there is a helpful list of how to find scriptures according to the topic (which is called a concordance).

Examine also the content of the dream. Does it lead you closer to Jesus Christ and does it glorify Him? This is another positive indication. Another important caution is to share the dream with Christians you trust and are open to the Holy Spirit’s guidance through scripture and in their own devotional lives. Often confirmation can come through others, because there is safety in a multitude of counsellors (Proverbs 11:14). Also, it is very possible that the dream will confirm God-given desires that were already placed on your heart, such as the above example of Brendan and of Thomas Oden.

In Joel 2:28-29, God promised to intervene by dreams and visions in the “last days,” which many believe is the time period from when Christ was raised until His return. Certainly, biblical research and Christian experience confirm that God does indeed use dreams to reveal and proclaim His loving guidance. And for those who have taken the challenge to explore their own dreams with prayer and spiritual direction have found the goodness and faithfulness of the Lord in a new way.

Laurie-Ann Zachar was a 3rd year Master of Divinity Student at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto when this original article was written. She graduated in 1999, married Tony the same year, served later with Iris Ministries Canada in South Africa with her husband, and now resides in Toronto, where they care for L-A’s dad. Laurie-Ann does not have the gift of interpreting dreams; please do not send requests for interpretations, but please do let us know if this article has helped you in your own faith journey.

An abridged version of this article is published in the December 1998 edition of Fellowship Magazine.

Health Updates:  For those looking for news, Tony continues his immunotherapy infusions for mesothlioma at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto.  He will have another CT scan December 2nd to check how the tumour has responded to the immunotherapy (after seven treatments or so).  The last CT scan showed that the tumour had actually grown, not shrunk! Otherwise, he will continue for some time. If the tumour does not shrink, we may have to switch to chemo, although that will affect his daily lifestyle. Please keep Tony in your prayers.

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.  

Laurie-Ann will have another breast ultrasound to check on the hyperplasia area of her right breast on December 5th. We will see what the surgeon will say the following week. L-A then has a follow-up appointment with her oncologist in January to relate any progress, and if she has had the expensive dental treatment done. Once zoledronic acid infusions begin, there can be no major dental work. No extractions, no implants. Otherwise, she risks a completely shattered jaw. That’s quite a side effect. The dentist has taken pity on us, and will offer up to 15% discount, since we don’t have dental insurance. Thanks, Lord for that. We need favour and prayer for provision.

L-A’s Lymphedema check ups continue occasionally. We can’t afford a lymphedema therapist, and our family doctor doesn’t believe that L-A has lymphedema in her legs (but a lymphedema nurse, L-A’s lymphedema therapist in South Africa and her fitter in Toronto, all agree L-A has lymphedema in her legs as well as her left arm, and left side of her chest. Tony gives L-A simple lymphedema massage, but it’s not like it was in Paarl. We will manage. So a Lymphedema therapist who is also a physiotherapist is on L-A’s wish list to get her stronger. (Good opportunity to pray for L-A’s “health and strength” to complete her heavenly tasks!)

If you feel led to contribute towards medications and hospital parking expenses, L-A’s dental costs and perhaps lymphedema treatments, this would be most welcome.  Not everything is covered under Tony’s senior drug plan and OHIP, but don’t feel obligated.  But meanwhile, all my teachings are online for free to bless you

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).  

L-A is beginning to imagine writing other books, so watch this blog for more info when it comes.

Colouring sheets are available to children’s ministries for free; please just let us know. 

May you continue your own growing in faith. Bless you.

Love, Laurie-Ann

A Visit to Heaven

Laurie-Ann in the Billy Graham museum, Heaven Room, Wheaton, Illinois, June 1994

Right now at our Toronto church, we have been reading the Word on experiencing heaven, with an emphasis on Isaiah 6 (the prophet Isaiah’s commission) and the Apostle John’s experience in Revelation 4. John was considering his encounter with Jesus before he was invited to “come up here” further into his heavenly experience. After all, the Apostle Paul speaks of us being “seated in heavenly places” with Jesus (Eph. 2: 6-9 NIV). “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

I remember taking a Glory School in 2003 under Patricia King. She emphasized that a part of us is already in heaven. Our spirit is connected there already. We can pray and also worship from that perspective. We don’t have to be weighed down in our troubles. We encounter troubles, absolutely. However, we don’t have to be overwhelmed by them. Remember that the Apostle John was in a prison colony and wrote the Book of Revelation on the windswept island of Patmos. This was not a retreat, but the presence of Jesus, and empowerment by the Holy Spirit helped John to pen a very misunderstood part of the Bible. I won’t go into disputed details of the rapture, tribulations and all that. We know it’s a horrible time, but at the end Jesus wins. He is the one who has the lasting glory, not the adversary. Thank you Jesus, that in you we are the winners, we are victorious through you, no matter the troubles.

In 1991, I had a throne room heaven experience that was similar to Isaiah 6. I couldn’t understand it at the time, since I was a broken person then. Since then, I’ve had a lot of inner healing, and learned wisdom through experience in life and in the mission field. While I don’t aspire to be a famous prophet, I do have a prophetic gift. I am a seer, which is normally shown in some of my line drawings (which I later colour in). Here is one of my “heaven stories.” It came to me like a movie when I was half asleep in August, 2022.

“We were singing the last song of worship, which ended in a song where the first line of Crown him with many crowns was sung over and over, deeper and deeper. Then I was shown an image of many kinds of crowns in what looked like a gigantic auditorium.  The atmosphere was of many shades of blue in a spectrum.  The sea of glass was a deep ultramarine that vibrated with pulsing love and light. 

An angel strapped little drone jets on my feet and I was able to swivel up and around without touching the ground or the sea.  The jets had eyes and wings on them and I loved the mobility. 

I saw thousands upon thousands of lovers of Jesus surrendering their many crowns, tributes, medals, honours and gifts to Jesus.  They were grateful for the opportunity to give honour and praise to the one who gave them the grace, love and assignments that originally brought the Lord glory.  Even though the crowns filled the room, there was always room for more. 

Every time a crown came down, the Sea of Glass would say, “Yes! For your glory, Lord.” The glass would also flash and light up.  There were rainbows with extra green in them surrounding where Jesus sat, and Jesus smiled at everyone and into each face.  No matter where you were in the room, you could easily see Jesus’ face. Jesus’ hair was snowy white, but his face was unlined, and his eyes were burning with deep compassionate love. 

I felt like it was an honour to be in heaven even for a short time.  The atmosphere was electric with worship, honour, holiness and deep love.  I knew I was accepted and loved, so joy bubbled up in me as I was shown about the room in the company of angels.  I was handed a pen, and asked to draw and to write.  This would be two of the ways that adults and children could receive and turn to the Lord. 

Then another angel came to me and handed me a little tiara.  I was told that this was a sign of the anointing that I would need -and to not take it off.  I would be helped in writing deeper truths and also conveying them in drawing.  Both would begin to receive favour to reach many.  My previous drawings and writings have already touched many, but the reach will expand exponentially.  This is all because my heart has been prepared and ready.  There will be no pride, for we have learned to go “low and slow” with the Iris tribe and we will continue that way.  The way of honour is key. 

I looked to Jesus for confirmation, and he smiled and nodded with the word, “yes.  I still have many souls in you.  You will not be alone. You have Holy Spirit, and I assign angels to help in your assignment.  You are always loved. Do not forget, daughter.”

I have learned that sometimes the anointing doesn’t come as we expect. Quite often the prophetic drops on me and I enter a semi-trance, while I’m doing whatever. If I’m driving it comes as little impressions, superimposed over the windscreen. That was when I was shown that I would be teaching African children about art (which turned out to be one of my tasks while in a small Worcester school for two years in South Africa). Other times I would be studying scripture and the words would leap off the page, and I would get insight into the scripture that I would be reading to my husband. We do this daily, and Holy Spirit gives me insight even into well known scriptures. Things like realizing Jesus’ power and true authority, and keeping in deep obedience to him. Others like a highlight of the historical cultural context in the footnotes and I think on what that might have been like. How would have been if we were walking with the disciples and following Jesus not just by belief, but by actually walking behind him and watching everything he is doing? Learning by his side?

Other times I might be teaching in a larger context and I get the prophetic trance thing and see that God is highlighting someone in the crowd. This happened once when Tony and I were teaching the Alpha Course in Migori, Kenya back in 2005. Tony was asking me to minister to someone, and I intended to, but Holy Spirit interupted me. I saw this man, and Holy Spirit had me call him out. I prophesied over him that God wanted to use him to tell Kenyan village elders about Jesus with his special cultural way. He was to just connect with them, be in relationship, and share his heart for Jesus. I asked him if he would accept this assignment and say yes to Jesus. He did. Then I prayed over him and ended the prayer with something simple like, “I also pray over you health and strength to accomplish your task.” Apparently, unknown to me until a day or two later, this man, Stephen, was healed from a mystery disease that the local doctors could not help him with. He also had feeble legs. So he truly had health and strength to accomplish his task! I was overjoyed in seeing how God touched him.

I had other stories that happened in Pakistan (which I will share another time), in Sierra Leone, in Mozambique (where both Tony and I had dreams) and later in South Africa. In South Africa, I continued in prophetic seer stuff, especially in our calling there, and later impressions were depicted in drawing (when I could actually capture these images!). However, the anointing came on me differently while we were concentrating ministring to children, teens and inmates. It was more gentle, less intense. It was filled with kindness (remember God’s kindness leads to repentance!), and incredibly deep compassion. This compassion was so deep at times, that I felt like it was searing my heart! It was incredible. I still get like this at times, although I would love this to come as we minister to my frail 93 year old dad. That’s another story. We are going lower still in ministering to my dad, which is a tough assignment, since he still hasn’t accepted the Lord. There is nothing quite as stubborn as the human heart. Sigh. Anyway, if any of this resonates with you, I pray it blesses you.

Health Updates:  For those looking for news, Tony continues his immunotherapy infusions for mesothlioma at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto.  He will have another CT scan in December to check how the tumour has responded to the immunotherapy (after seven treatments or so).  The last CT scan showed that the tumour had actually grown, not shrinked! Otherwise, he will continue for some time. He had his sixth infusion just last week. If the tumour does not shrink, we may have to switch to chemo, although that will affect his daily lifestyle. Please keep Tony in your prayers.

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.  

Laurie-Ann had an oncology check up last week with her oncologist, and it was revealed that the ‘cyst’ that has been on L-A’s remaining breast is not entirely benign. It is a block of hyperplasia. This means a growing area that has a 10% chance of becoming cancer. So we must keep vigilant. Meanwhile, it is sore. L-A’s oncologist also wants L-A to go on zoledronic acid infusions, which can stop any breast cancer recurrence from spreading to the bones. The only thing is, it really wrecks the jaw for dental treatment! L-A’s new dentist says that she really needs crowns for four teeth, which are basically held together by earlier dental work! The cost of the crowns and two more fillings is $5,600 Canadian dollars! We don’t have this money. At this point, we can only do one or two teeth at a time and put it on a credit card. Ouch. L-A’s not sure whether she should go for the zoledronic acid infusions now. Another option would be to extract every tooth and wear complete dentures. But after witnessing the daily trouble that L-A’s dad has with his dentures, no thank you! So dental work with the infusions, or no infusions are the two choices. We need prayer and favour for provision.

L-A was NOT approved for progesterone (or any other hormones) in treating the hot flashes. Dr. Eisen just doesn’t want to take that chance, even though L-A’s former tumour was estrogen and progesterone negative (meaning not receptive to these hormones).

L-A’s Lymphedema check ups continue (we have one in three days). We can’t afford a lymphedema therapist, and our family doctor doesn’t believe that L-A has lymphedema in her legs (but a lymphedema nurse, L-A’s lymphedema therapist in South Africa and her fitter in Toronto, all agree L-A has lymphedema in her legs as well as her left arm, and left side of her chest. Tony gives L-A simple lymphedema massage, but it’s not like it was in Paarl. Oh well, we will manage. So a Lymphedema therapist who is also a physiotherapist is on L-A’s wish list to get her stronger. (Good opportunity to pray for L-A’s “health and strength” to complete her heavenly tasks!)

If you feel led to contribute towards medications and hospital parking expenses, L-A’s dental costs and perhaps lymphedema treatments, this would be most welcome.  Not everything is covered under Tony’s senior drug plan and OHIP, but don’t feel obligated.  But meanwhile, all my teachings are online for free to bless you.  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).  

L-A is beginning to imagine writing other books, so watch this blog for more info when it comes.

Colouring sheets are available to children’s ministries for free; please just let us know. 

May you continue your own growing in faith. Bless you.

Love, Laurie-Ann

The river, fullness and Heidi: A Dream

“Blouberg in Praise” Laurie-Ann Zachar Copple, 2021 (c)

The River, fullness and Heidi – Sept 11, 2022

I’ve been dreaming significant, intense dreams since returning to Canada. I’ll share them with you as I can. This dream is not just for me and it reminds me of the 1990’s Vineyard song, “The River is Here.” I’m pretty sure it’s on YouTube. Now my dreams often have a significant Iris or Alpha leader in them, since I was involved in both movements (and we have always loved the Alpha Course in different formats (prison, seniors’ homes, churches, community centres). Iris will always be a part of my life, just like I have a history with Catch the Fire, Vineyard and the Baptist and Anglican Churches. I’m not surprised when symbols from these movements and churches are shown. It would be the same in your own dreams. Yet, Heidi Baker is often shown as she is: full of joy, faith, hard work, perseverance and LOVE. She’s someone who is intent on obedience to the Holy Spirit and is sensitive to his leading. So, when Heidi (or her husband Rolland) shows up, I pay attention.

Here is the dream: I had an intense dream full of colours, tastes and sounds.  I was quite mobile (not like I currently am in waking life), and I was working with Heidi Baker on the side of a lovely little stream.  There were people who were worshipping and doing a dance in the stream.  Heidi told me that I could take a break from the grunge work that I was happy to do with her.  She told me that I needed to drink deeply and that I could only work and minister by filling up again.  She gave me one of her sweet smiles, and a hug.  

So I walked just a bit further down the stream to find a spot where you could walk over the stream via stepping stones.  However, the stream began to run faster, deeper and wider.  I managed to barely get across, before the stones were underwater, and the current of the now river was running fast.  

The little dancing worship team continued to worship and dance in the shallows, where they welcomed me.  Then the river again grew even wider and more and more of my team members were carried by the current.  They weren’t afraid, but they were full of joy.  I laughed as my teammates received.  I continued to splash, just glad to be mobile and worship without having to sit down.  The river was filling me with life.

As the river grew, you could hear Heidi’s voice over the water, saying, “Thank you, Lord.  Thank you.  We are so thirsty.” 

The river is coming.  The tide is turning towards us.  Are you ready? Let’s pray to become thirsty.

Lord, I ask for those who are reading, as well as myself, that we become thirsty for you. Please soften our hearts to receive your life-giving rain, your Holy Spirit. Give us new wineskins to hold your new wine. Prepare us for a wonderful outpouring from you. Refresh us, as we wait on you for assignments, or as we are currently in an assignment for you. Refresh the new believers to give them extra grace to grow well in your kingdom. And prepare us for the day when many prodigals return and new people come to faith in You. Give us dreams and visions to guide us, and may your scripture come alive to us as we read your story and the story of your people. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

Updates:  For those looking for news, Tony continues his immunotherapy infusions at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto.  Tony had his CT scan recently, but we are waiting on an oncology consult in October to check how the tumour has responded to the immunotherapy (after four treatments).  His fifth infusion is in early October as well. Otherwise, he will continue for some time (years??). We are thankful that his side effects are minimal compared to how chemo was with L-A three years ago.

We are thankful 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.  

Laurie-Ann is being monitored for hot flashes but cannot yet take hormone replacement therapy due to her past with breast cancer. Perhaps her oncologist will clear it, but there are other ways to treat this menopause left-over. She continues to receive compression therapy for lymphedema but we cannot afford lymphedema massage treatment or physiotherapy due to lack of finances. We are trying to get a disability pension for L-A, but it’s extremely difficult, and even her spine MRI from Worcester, SA is being questioned. The disability pension would morph into an old age pension, so we’re wondering if it will be worth the effort for less than four years (L-A is 61 and will be eligible at age 65 if the age isn’t raised to 67). But we will manage with the Lord’s help, and we are thankful for living at L-A’s dad’s home while we care for him (he is 93, frail, with vascular dementia and incontinence). During this time, while we are in Toronto to care for my dad, we three actually take care of each other.

If you feel led to contribute towards medications, hospital parking, hospital travel expenses, and perhaps lymphedema treatments for L-A, this would be most welcome.  Not everything is covered under Tony’s senior drug plan and OHIP, but don’t feel obligated.  But meanwhile, all L-A’s teachings and articles are online for free to bless you.  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).  

L-A is beginning to imagine writing other books, so watch this blog for more info when it comes. Right now she is learning how to write in that format (and may rewrite Holy Ghost Sommelier as well). Here is a little tidbit. Did you know that it’s now the current writing fashion to write shorter books? We guess that L-A’s story (and perhaps Ways to Grow in God), will be shorter in the future. Hmmm. We wonder if that applies to sermons, haha. It depends on which church you attend!

Meanwhile, my colouring sheets are available to children’s ministries for free; please send us your email address and let us know you would like some.  Bless you, and thank you for your prayers and support!

Love, Laurie-Ann

Growing in God through his LOVE

unknown township boy at Mail box club

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 truly entering his rest.  Rest is actually a command to us (see the Ten Commandments on Sabbath!)  Remembering the Sabbath rest and keeping it holy is an injunction that in our busyness: if we don’t take a regular weekly rest, or a sabbatical 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. 

I believe at the very core of rest is a sense of trust in the Lord.  You become content in his presence, give him your deep concerns and hurts, just like when he offers in the Gospel of Matthew. “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 NIV)  Rest is a gift.  Rest is a choice to stop and trust.  You choose to pick up his yoke.  His yoke is the same connection that Jesus has to the Father.  When we abide in him, we are also connected to the Father, and his rest.

Rest is also connected with repentance as shown in 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, (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?   What about God’s love?  Would we stop and receive this?   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.”  This is an invitation to his love.  His love is like a tractor beam on our hearts (to use a Star Trek analogy) into that rest.   Let’s go and explore how God’s love helps us grow in him.  

I’ve written about growing in so many aspects of God’s grace, and in disciplines that help us grow in the gifts he’s given us.  I’ve shared my personal devotional journey within many of my articles, starting with my preferred disciplines of soaking prayer, journaling and reading the Bible (usually, chapter by chapter).  But I cannot miss the deepest foundation of all of this.  1 Corinthians 13 reminds us that you can do all sorts of things in anointing, but if you don’t have love, you’re like a clanging cymbal.  What matters most is love.   Trust is an essential thing taught by a baby bonding with their parents. It’s important.  But love?  We need love to grow spiritually, emotionally and physically!   It’s like needed water that we are meant to drink daily in order to live. 

I have learned, through one of my pastors, that a child needs that love to have their brains develop properly (Ash Smith, Living in the emotional heath of Jesus, CTF Toronto, August 14, 2022).  This is confirmed by the Canadian Pediatric Society.  They say:  Your baby’s brain needs a strong foundation. Loving, consistent, positive relationships help build healthy brains and protect your baby’s brain from the negative effects of stress.”  [https://caringforkids.cps.ca/handouts/pregnancy-and-babies/your_babys_brain#:~:text=Your%20baby’s%20brain%20needs%20a,the%20negative%20effects%20of%20stress].

Stress, feelings of rejection, abandonment, shame, feeling unloved: all these things are slowly melted by consistent love.  Pastor Ash Smith encouraged us that love is the key foundation for a child (if not all of us).  She talked of orphanages in Romania where babies and toddlers were shut away; with no contact, no loving touch and no soothing lullabies.  They were catatonic, lifeless of emotion, and separated from each other.  Their brains were being stunted, and their neural pathways weren’t developing from the lack of consistent love.  They weren’t being given a foundation. 

I have found with my work in Iris Western Cape (and other missionaries would support this)  that abandoned children can be difficult to love initially.  We found that the farm workers children we saw weekly, were among the toughest kids to consistently love.  We unfortunately lacked adequate Afrikaans, which was their heart communication language.  However, they did respond, it just took longer.   They went from boys throwing stones at our car and shouting at us, to more at peace when colouring in my prophetic drawings.  They were captivated by love, especially when they saw that I drew an image of some of them with Jesus.  I had remembered them.  The Father remembers and loves them, as he does us.   Other children that we worked with responded much faster, but sometimes had ‘weedy hearts.’  What do I mean by a weedy heart?

Think of the parable of the sower (Matthew 13: 1-9, 20-23 NLT).  Three places that the sower scattered seed didn’t fully take in the seedlings.  One area was the stony path, so there was no soil.  The second was too shallow and the third grew full of weeds.  Jesus explained to his disciples that:  20 the seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”   Many of the kids we worked with had a shallow faith, which wasn’t always real to them.  Others, like C, were genuine in their faith but other concerns cropped up but choked their faith.  How I longed to uproot C’s concerns of worry, envy, comparison and gossip.  Oh, it did bother me, and sometimes when she was like that, I didn’t want to be around her.  I loved her but it was difficult for that love to penetrate this cheeky, grabby girl who loved to get attention. Then at times, she was intent on her faith and wanted to teach about Jesus to other township youth.  She was good at it, and did it with joy.  She loved reading the Afrikaans Bible we gave her.  We pray for her perseverance and that those weeds in her heart will be pulled up at the right time. 

Another girl we worked with was ‘my girl.’  We bonded deeply and she was one of the ones who helped me during my cancer journey.  She didn’t laugh at my bald head. We enjoyed quiet sharing about our faith, and she liked to colour my drawings in the most delightful way.  We connected on a deep spiritual level and it was always easy to share and pray with her.  She surely was the fertile soil that Jesus talked about in the Sower parable.  She needed deep love and stability, which we gave in part, and she bloomed.  We could see her potential beyond high school in a dangerous township.  During the time we knew her in person, her family had serious continuing struggles with health, poverty and safety concerns.  We prayed that she would be able to ‘graduate’ from the township in a way that she would be a blessing to her community and to God.  She had been given a university entrance scholarship that was deleted from the university database through administrative error, but with Tony’s help in talking to her university and to her school, it was back on track.  She underwent 3 operations for scoliosis, and at the same time as the third one was diagnosed with drug resistant TB.  Finally, school began, and she was able to attend online at the hospital with a computer we had bought her.  Now, she is happily housed in residence.  Then we found out that her scholarship only covers half of her room and board (as well as her tuition).  She had no money for that, so this means a further investment beyond how we had planned to help her and her family.  Wow, this is a serious commitment.  But we cannot end here.  We will pray that our resources will stretch so that we can handle this load with the Lord’s help.   It’s a lesson in faith to Bella and to ourselves.  God is faithful.  And his love is practical.    Heidi Baker always says that “love looks like something.”  Through this faithful consistent love, Bella is flourishing in her faith, her local campus church and her studies. 

There are so many other stories, that were also weedy hearts, but they did respond to love, whether it was given in practical ways or in encouragement, prayer and gospel truth.  We baptized one girl, who flourished through the Alpha Course, and another took us on another journey where we lost trust in her, but regained some of it back.  She knew we still loved her.

One of my favourite South African ministries was to go into a local primary school and spend an hour and a half on Tuesday mornings.  We went in using the same ‘persona role’ we use when we go to a kid’s club.  We sing together, with Tony on guitar and me on my Irish bodhran drum.  Then Tony shares an interactive nugget of science that he re-learned in a children’s science curriculum he used in our MasterPeace Academy school.  Then we either taught them life lessons, or I taught them art from a charismatic Christian expression.  It was soaking prayer and colouring/drawing.  During one semester, I created a group project where they all painted an abstract background of blue, purple and green.  Then they were to draw their personal Christian symbol that they each chose as theirs.  I had to teach about Christian symbols several times for these children to ‘get it.’  A few never did, and just copied others, or added spaceships as their symbol because they were learning about space ships in another class.  However, there were some that understood from the very first time I shared.  There were two very smart and spiritually astute children, Liam and Caitlyn.  I bonded to Liam and even had a little impression of him giving a hug to Jesus.  He understood right away, and I said, “now, I know that’s hard to draw, so draw instead you holding Jesus hand, like he is your buddy.”  Liam smiled and understood.  After weeks, sure enough, his symbol was proudly displayed within the group painting among the many crosses, rainbows, waterfalls and (haha) spaceships.   Liam also drew glasses on all the angels in our shared drawings, since he wanted the angels to look like him.  Ah, so sweet.  Later when we finally left the school, so many children had bonded to me, and despite the spread of Covid, they ignored that no touching rule for this one time.  They hugged me like they didn’t want to let go.  Each was welcome in my arms, whether it was our first grade ones, or the ones who followed.  It didn’t matter whether I knew their name or not, I loved them with the deep, jealous compassion of Jesus.  They will always be in my heart, and I trust that I will be in theirs.  This legacy of love continued through other mature people from a local retirement village where we used to live. It’s really special when children and surrogate “grandparents” (including “aunts” and “uncles”) can interact in a way that God touches and uses both to bless.  Love is shared. It grows stronger when it flows through a pipeline, instead of being stagnant like a puddle.  These children will grow with the deposit that we gave them. God willing, others will continue in this legacy.  Nothing that we sowed will be in vain; weedy hearts or not. 

I had moments when the kids of OVD township loved to sit beside me and colour.  Colouring sheets were always a tool to bless the kids, and see where their hearts were at.  One day, a young boy that I didn’t know sat beside me on a tree root.  He only had a few crayons, and I suggested in my limited Afrikaans, “groen” (green).  He gave me the sweetest smile and we connected on a deep, deep level.  The godly compassion that overflowed through me felt like love was searing my heart.  It felt like it was going to be painful, but what it did was open up a door to the deepest parts of my heart that needed to receive and give God’s love.  I grew exponentially in that moment.  It was simple but profound.  These moments are like mini-surgery, and connects you to the hearts of the “least of these” (aka Matt.25) and the heart of God the Father for children.

Our 2022 assignment of unknown duration is to love and care for my frail 93 year old dad’s needs.  Elder care of a man with vascular dementia is more challenging than it was to inspire and love wonderfully messy township children.  Even here, we have moments of deep love as we take care of his practical day to day needs.  We are slowly and gently leading him to Jesus.  Sometimes I want to ask him right off, but the time is not quite here.  We are re-establishing love in his life by giving him consistent touch, gourmet type food (I love cooking for him), listening to him, and letting him rest when he needs it.  He gets too confused to go out much other than the front porch.  The last time we took him on a summer ‘picnic’ by Lake Ontario, he had a TIA and we had trouble getting him back to the car.  Dad knows that we love him, even if he doesn’t always know who I am.  He knows me as “Laurie,” but doesn’t always realize that I am the same person he raised.  That’s OK.  He’s become fond of me anyway, and this is about God’s love and our love to him.  He will continue to grow in that reflective love of God through us, until he receives God’s love directly.  That is my greatest wish – that he would receive forgiveness, know God’s love from inside, and love Jesus.

My own desire to love others has always been there, and I wanted to do something “big” for God.  Many new believers have that desire as well.  Yet that something big really is allowing yourself to keep your heart “pipeline” pure so that you can love well consistently.  This is especially important as a long term missionary.  Short-termers (which I was from 1993-2010) make an impact, but long-termers can continue to bring lasting change in people’s lives because they are consistent.  They are re-laying foundational love in these children’s hearts.  They are helping to heal past hurts, although this doesn’t replace the need for special counselling for traumatic events like gang violence, gender based violence and domestic violence.  These things are rampant in the townships (as well as other spots).  They aren’t unique to South Africa.  It takes time and care to recover and grow in resilience, without giving up hope.

My heart was big on the short-term missions, but grew so much more in our longer South African mission.  Heidi Baker mentions in the “Compelled by Love” movie that she wanted to love people from the inside. This was her desire even before she knew Jesus personally.  When she came to faith, she also received her call to be a minister and missionary to “Asia, Africa and England.”  Since then, she and her husband Rolland ministered in Indonesia, Hong Kong, inner-city London and Mozambique.  She is in demand as a speaker all over the world.  Heidi “stops for the one” all the time, whether with the poor and needy, or among the spiritually poor in the first world.  To “stop for the one” is to say “yes” to divine appointments that seem to be set up just for you.  You may get a rush of sudden compassion for someone and you just have to respond.  I’ve done this with the homeless, with children and with adults.  Heidi did this for me at a women’s conference in 2010.  Someone had given her red roses, and she tends to not keep much for herself.  She passes them on.  So I had a moment in worship one morning, and felt the deep love of Jesus as Heidi stood beside me, hugged me and handed me roses.  I was ‘love-bombed.’  I had no idea what was going on, or why she did this act of kindness.  It took me years to realize that she had ‘stopped for the one’ – and I was in that moment the one she stopped for.  But, oh the love was deep.  I felt the presence and love of God while she stood there beside me.  So, I was impacted to stop for the one from then on, even before we went to Harvest School.  Tony took to that form of love even faster than I did, and he made good progress after missionary school.  Consistent love was a key, and still is.  

Iris is known as a ministry movement that is empowered by love.  It’s just a little bit different.  Right now there is a terrorism insurgency in northern Mozambique, and this forced Iris to move the Harvest Schools to other locations.  This love consistency, when combined with humility is the foundation of the previous and current issues in Pemba.  The “Irisers” are still empowered by love.  Heidi shares in the 2022 film “Nefento” that “love always wins, especially when you go low and slow. Instead of being overwhelmed with a world where there’s so much pain, when extremists come and war happens, we’re empowered by the love of a God who IS love to stop for the one in need.”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3g1jVzfAego

Back in 2013, I hungered to be empowered by love, and was drawn like a magnet to Heidi. I had wondered what kind of long term ministry I should be involved in, and considered my new skills in radio broadcasting and especially audio production/creative writing.  So, I considered a radio-based ministry.  But this only made sense in my head, not my heart.  I was meant to be with the children, using my art, the calling that I had abandoned for so many years, after it was originally my identity.  The Holy Spirit re-knitted me into that calling, and used it beautifully in South Africa (and beyond).  I know that he will continue to use it in other countries, as children who are thirsty for love, encounter the love of God in the colouring sheets and books.  Love looks like something.  For some, it’s sharing soup, beans and rice, or paying their school fees.  For me (right now), it’s to be with children at play – in drawing images planted by God in their hearts.   It’s my heart to do this consistently or at least whenever I’m given the opportunity. 

I’ve grown so much while learning to love.  It’s been quite a journey but I do not regret it, even having inflammatory breast cancer try to ruin our golden time on the South African mission field.   Even the refining times have carved away the dross in my life so I could love better.  I received such love and peace from God, throughout my cancer journey, often beyond it as well.  I was able to feel God’s love in every season and know that he does not fail me.  He is consistent.  He is always faithful, and we knew God’s favour and kindness at every step along the way.  He opened us up to love in so many different ways, through our different gifts.

 

Catch the Fire Toronto Pastor Murray Smith recently taught on the Emotional health of Jesus.  He spoke on love as the necessary foundation of our hearts.  He said: “the measure of our (spiritual) maturity is, how do we actually love?  How much do we walk in love?  How much do we practise love?  How much are we able to contain our souls, and our disconnection, because of the issues of our heart that we are dealing with?  Can we REMAIN in love, even when people around us are freaking out.  Let’s make that measure of love our spirituality.”  (Pastor Murray Smith, Catch the Fire Toronto, August 7, 2022)  In Murray’s context, he was sharing that nearly all of us need to go back to our basic foundations and repair them.  Ask God about receiving love for yourself.  Get inner healing from trusted people who have experience in Restoring the Foundation or inner healing background.   You can start by inviting Jesus into any hurtful memory and ask where he is.  He will open your imagination and show you.  He can and will fill you with deep love and peace as you accept his presence in your memory.  Let him love and heal you.  You won’t regret it.  Say YES to Jesus’ yoke, just to hang out with him and not let go. 

If you’ve never accepted Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, it’s very simple.  Nicky Gumbel mentions on earlier Alpha Course videos a simple way to remember the way.  It’s Sorry (for my sins and all I’ve done wrong).  Forgive me.  I now turn from everything I know is wrong.  Thank you Lord for your love, and I accept you as my Saviour.  Please fill me Lord with your love and all that comes with it.  I give you my life that I can live for you, with you and have your love in my life.  Lead me, and help me along the way. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Lord, please bless all who have read this article and may they encounter the love of God poured into their hearts, just as Paul talks about in Romans 5.  May everyone become deeply rooted grounded in your love, as in Ephesians 3.  “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Rom 3:17-18 NIV)  Holy Spirit, come and reveal the love of God to each person today.  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 #79! 

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

Updates:  For those looking for news, Tony continues his immunotherapy infusions at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto.  He will have a CT scan in September to check how the tumour has responded to the immunotherapy (after three treatments).  Otherwise, he will continue for some time.

His left eye has healed to the extent it ever will, and he now has an updated eyeglass prescription.  His vision is now better than at any time since his retinal detachment.

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, and perhaps lymphedema treatments for L-A, this would be most welcome.  Not everything is covered under Tony’s senior drug plan and OHIP, but don’t feel obligated.  But meanwhile, all my teachings are online for free to bless you.  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).  

L-A is beginning to imagine writing other books, so watch this blog for more info when it comes.

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 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