Category Archives: Talks in Africa

Unpacking our journey in the Rainbow Nation

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Hi! Tony and I continue to unpack from our adventures in Africa.  I shared in September about our Harvest Mission school in Pemba, Mozambique, as well as about building a house for a widow and her five children in that same town.  The house building is happening!  Next week, the Iris Mercy department is adding a roof to her new home.  The rainy season in Mozambique is from mid-late November until early March, so we are just in time to keep their heads dry.

I can’t deny that Mozambique was a challenge (although Tony thrived). We looked forward to South Africa – but only partly for the amenities offered (in a country with first world amenities and third world opportunities).   We found a varied nation that won our heart even deeper than Mozambique.  This is a divided land – which still bears the scars from the apartheid and colonial years.  We were in the Johannesburg area at an Iris base for three nights, due to a change in our flight out of Mozambique.  LAM (Mozambique’s airline) decided it would be more cost effective to move all Wednesday flights to Mondays, so this meant we had to end our Iris School a few days earlier. Rather than a one night stopover with our Western Cape team in a Jo’burg hotel, we now had three nights in limbo between the mission school and our outreach.  So the Iris base “Footprints” took us in as well as five other outreach teams.

We found Footprints was a wonderful base with a family of 32 sweet children, loving long term missionaries, and American visitors who were on their own mission trip.  We are incredibly thankful for their hospitality and the sparkle brought to us by bright and fun-loving children. Fierce love showered us by “Mama” Yolanda (the base leader), Natasha, her husband Mark, and others that showed deep kindness.  They took pity on my disability and that Tony had packed all our belongings together in three suitcases, rather than separately. Originally we were going to be housed with other guests in dorm according to our gender.  Thankfully, a long term missionary couple loaned us their cabin, so we were able to rest and get ready for our Western Cape outreach.  I brought maple syrup candies and Canadian souvenirs with me to share with the South African children in Robertson.  But we didn’t have to wait to share, since we had more than enough between the two bases.  So we gave away our goodies, via the leaders, so it was done in proper fashion, with each child receiving something.  The base leader spontaneously gave Tony an opportunity to teach the children about Canada (since their class was learning about other countries).  So as they learned about Canada’s flag and the maple leaf, while they enjoyed the taste of maple syrup candy.  These kids were very receptive, and it was wonderful that they could respond in English (a luxury we didn’t always have in Pemba, Mozambique).

We were really excited by the journey into Robertson, as two of the long-term missionaries, Kathryn and Barbara, drove us from the Cape Town airport.  Robertson is two hours east of Cape Town through mountains, and valleys where many wineries are located.  We were given plenty of opportunities to rest, relax, journal and pray.  The area is farming country, and farmers are, well, quite easy-going!  We were housed in a mountain homestead that had no cellphone signal, no wifi and the electrical power was generated by solar panels on the roof. Our homestead was located in a beautiful mountain valley, where my drawing inspiration exploded.  I had already drawn two drawings in Mozambique.  I drew at least five more in this place! Part of my practical ministry was to draw for base leaders Johan and Marie Fourie. They kept a drawing that was commissioned of national flags in a field (Flag World, shown above) and another that I gifted them of the house that we stayed in (Pomegranate Homestead shown below).  Because we were a couple, we are again blessed with our own room (with a toilet and shower!).  Our team of ten all shared cooking duties and spent a lot of sharing and prayer together.  We were from Australia, England, Germany, Ukraine, South Africa and Canada.

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We visited nearby “townships” – neighbourhoods of either the local Xhosa tribe, or “coloured” community.  We fell in love with all of the people, but found the most receptive ones were the “coloured” people. These are a mixed-race people that seem to be forgotten in South Africa.  I had not known about this demographic group, despite their presence in a documentary I watched this spring about a ministry who works in some Cape Town townships. Many of these people (but not all) are in the service industry, and they are very hard workers. Many of the farm workers in the wine growing region are from this people group. We listened to, prayed for and loved on quite a few of these people as we walked through one of their townships.  We also worked with coloured children in an orphanage and others in the local hospital.  I found in particular a tender compassion as I was with them, and a sense that I was “at home.”  The local Xhosa (black African tribe) were also quite welcoming, although their township, Nkqubela, had an entirely different feel to it.  They felt more ‘typically African’ and we connected with them as well. (We also were in community with some local Afrikaans people).

We also worked with the local farm worker’s children through a nursery “crèche” and a weekly kids’ club. We found these youth quite rambunctious. I think they wore Tony out through their games of soccer, baseball and catch.  I helped in the art room, by helping children draw, as well as praying for them, loving them and speaking into their lives.  During the second week, we staged a play based on the Good Samaritan parable. Our South African team member played Jesus, and read scripture in Afrikaans. It was well received, as were our Canada flags, pencils, stickers and maple candy.  One of my most treasured moments was of one of the girls asking me about Canada. When I showed her a picture of northern lights I had on my phone, she wanted to see more. She’s now a fan of Canada and would love to visit us here in Canada. Also from this girl, I learned proper pronunciation of the Western Cape place names around us.

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We also had a retreat in Whitsand, on the Indian ocean coast.  It was during that time that I was able to share with the Fouries about a series of dreams that Tony and I had while in Africa.  ALL of them pointed towards ministry in South Africa – especially the dream where Tony dreamed that I had a baby.  When he told me the dream, I knew that babies often symbolize something new or the birth of a new ministry.  But we were in Africa, so I asked Tony what colour the baby was.  He couldn’t remember – he didn’t think he even saw it.  Later during that day, I was given the same dream, and I asked in prayer if I could see the baby.  It was one of those dream-visions that you were wide awake so you could stop and pray. My prayer was answered, and I was shown the baby – which kept changing colour!  The baby was white, then turned black, then mulatto, then red, then yellow, and so on!  I wasn’t sure what that meant, at the time.  When I shared with Yohan and Marie, Yohan cried out in laughter, “it’s Rainbow Nation!”  When I heard that, it made perfect sense. Rainbow Nation is the nickname that Nelson Mandela had for South Africa.  And, that was only one dream. There were many more, as well as a deepening love for all the people there.  We felt we were more and more in tune with how that Iris base operates.  They see everything in terms of building family – which is exactly what a fractured society and people need, no matter the group or colour to which they belong.  It is Jesus who brings us into family, as is promised in Psalm 68: 5-6.  To me, these verses speak to South African townships:  Father to the fatherless, defender of widows – this is God, whose dwelling is holy.  God places the lonely in families; he sets prisoners free and gives them joy.”

Our hope is to be a spiritual mom and dad to a township in the Western Cape, while we also help with various ministries at the base.  I will definitely be drawing, and there is even a community radio station we could join, unless we are called to start another one. There is so much room for different ministries at this base – with different couples and families ministering in the area, as well as the long-termers right on the base/farm with the Fouries.  Meanwhile we have a lot of preparation work to do here in Canada, including a lot of downsizing, and finding people to take our place in ministries we do in Ottawa.  Please keep us in prayer for the process, since this isn’t official yet.  When it is, you can celebrate with us!

If you’d like to know more, message me.  To learn about the Iris Western Cape base, visit  https://www.irisglobal.org/robertson/home

Love, Laurie-Ann

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Sharing to St Paul’s and beyond

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L-A with Mama Maria. Tony said when this was taken, “Two mamas”

This article is a longer version of a talk I gave at St Paul’s Kanata Anglican Church, October 16, 2016.  We had a ‘Mission Sunday’ that included me giving the sermon, and three friends sharing on their own SchoolBOX outreach in Nicuragua. It was a jam-packed day, which also included a baptism/dedication, and more.

The scriptures for the day were: Jeremiah 31: 27-34, Psalm 119-97-104, 2 Timothy 3:14 – 4:5 and Luke 18: 1-8

Thank you to all who prayed for us for our Africa mission. It was intense, and we grew a lot. We worked through a crazy schedule and cultural differences. We adapted, were blessed, and met people who need hope.  The exiled Jews also needed hope when Jeremiah prophesied to them. They overcame the sins that brought them into exile by returning to the Lord.  They also had culture shock. Babylon was so different from Jerusalem.

The Mozambicans we met are overcoming poverty and civil wars. The Iris base in Pemba is helping bring prosperity through more schools, proper homes, farms, jobs, outreach and entrepreneurship. Churches are exploding! Eleven years ago, the Makua tribe had no Christians.  Now, there are over 16 percent and growing.

We fell in love with South Africa, but the nation is deeply divided.  Poverty and wealth are side by side depending on the neighbourhood or township you visit. Many are scarred by the apartheid years.  Many struggle with fear and isolation, anger and hopelessness. All need to understand the promise that the Lord will be their God, and they shall be his people.  No one in South Africa or Canada should be invisible.

Many people did know Jesus, but we were to deepen that faith by “stopping for the one.” This is to be available to those you meet by a divine appointment, set up by God. This is more than being in the right place at the right time.  It’s when you meet someone and ONLY YOU can minister to them. Not only are you the right one, but you’re filled with overflowing love for that person. Tender compassion filled us when we were in the townships, and people responded. They thanked us for coming, caring, and remembering their needs. This happened so many times in the kid’s club, hospital ministry, and the townships. They were hungry for love.

God created us to love him, and to receive his love. When you know Jesus, he writes his direction on your heart, and he takes away our sinful ways. Healing happens through relationship. The healing and restoration of a whole people and land only happens in relationship with God.   Today’s Psalm says the Lord’s commands give wisdom, understanding and direction. Daily scripture reading keeps you living well. When you know the Bible, scriptures will come to mind as you pray, and encourage others. Scripture is an important way that God guides us, yet God’s more than a cosmic GPS –it’s about relationship. If God is our friend, his words become as sweet as honey.  You no longer read the Bible out of duty.  You want God to guide you through life’s surprises. I had a lot of those in Africa. Here’s one. We left South Africa early to get a new visitor stamp. Otherwise we risked being banned from South Africa for 5 years!  We should have been given a second stamp for our second South African visit after Mozambique, but for some reason, we did not receive one.  So we flew to Botswana, where we ministered to two men. Although we originally went to help the visiting situation, I believe the extra Botswana visit wasn’t an accident.

The Apostle Paul mentored his spiritual son Timothy. Timothy gained wisdom from the scriptures throughout his life. He received direction through knowing scripture and Jesus.  He must be prepared to minister and preach, whether the time was favourable or not.  He was to patiently correct, and encourage his people with good teaching.  Paul reminded him that all scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives.  Scripture gives important guidance. Timothy must be prepared whether the time is favourable or not.  When I was in Pakistan, they decided to schedule a talk on my day off. They forgot to tell me. When we arrived, I was not prepared! Sometimes divine opportunities aren’t convenient.   Tony received an opportunity to teach Johannesburg orphans, when he least expected it – but he rose to the challenge.

How could sharing look in your own life?  Everyone has a story about their own faith, and life.  I shared my own faith story in the Mozambican bush (a rural village). It seemed like it was tailor made for this village.  Before we went to the bush, we watched a movie called “Holy Ghost Reborn.” Every Sunday night we watched missionary movies in the Harvest School village.  This was a fun time to inspire us for outreach.  During this movie, I felt a strong nudge in my heart that I needed to share about how I came to faith when we were to go on the Bush Outreach.  When I was spiritually nudged, we were watching a story of a Mozambican pastor who prayed for a South African witchdoctor.  Witchdoctors are very common in Africa, and many do not realize that this is spiritually dangerous. Others do, but they don’t care what source their help comes from – God or the devil. This lady sure realized the difference between the evil spirits and the Holy Spirit.  But she had to be shown the difference.

So I addressed this difference through my own story – because before I came to faith in Jesus Christ, I was a fortune teller.  I did not know the Bible, so I didn’t know that fortune telling is something that Christians don’t do.  Why seek out spirits to tell you your future, when you have God to direct you?  It’s spiritual adultery.  But I was a seeker and I didn’t yet know the love of God fully.  A conference speaker said to me that you couldn’t be a Christian and a New Ager too.  This caught my attention.  I had to make a deliberate choice, so I did.  This was just what I needed. I came to faith and gave up my occult practices.  I shared my story in Linde, Mozambique, where only a few weeks prior, the village witch doctor came to faith. He abandoned his practices and donated land for their first church. What a surprise to find out that the Makua words for witchdoctor and fortune teller are the same word!

I gave the people of Linde the same challenge that I faced back in April 1988.  I told them that they could not be a witchdoctor and a Christian too – and even not to go to them!  I gave them the choice. The Iris pastoral supervisor preached from my testimony and many more people came to faith that night.  There were miracles in that village during our visit. But to me, these precious people knowing Jesus was a bigger gift.  I was so glad that I was prepared, and that God would use even that dark time in my life to bring people to faith and full of his love.

Our Gospel story is about more than a persistent widow in survival mode.  We met women like this in Mozambique, like Maria.  Her story encourages us to persevere and do not quit trusting God in tough times.  It seems easier in African societies that are slower paced.  But in Canada, many of us scream at the microwave to hurry up.  We get antsy in traffic at red lights and slow drivers. Persistence involves waiting.  Persistence is a faith key we learned about in mission school.  Too many missionaries trained in traditional approaches, quit on the field, even after years in training.  They just can’t handle the stress and cultural difficulties.  They forget why they are there in the heat of disappointments, so they quit.  Iris uses a different approach, including cross-cultural communications that go beyond words. They also learn on the job as we did.  Heidi Baker told us:  Do not quit.  Those who do not quit WIN.  How do we keep going – when we are challenged?  Look at Jesus.  Let him fill you with his love and help you persevere. You can’t do this in your own strength.

We also learned that “Waiting is worship.”  This sounds strange if you don’t know how to wait, or become still in your heart towards God. How can waiting become worship? Anything becomes worship when you focus on God.  He fills you with joy, despite circumstances. Your heart softens, you’re more grateful, and you become closer to God. We also heard that persistent prayer builds your character and intimacy with God.  You become God’s friend, and friendship with God is even deeper than obeying him. Friends give their lives for each other. Bereavement and loss are weathered because you are not alone.  And so during that time, you’re transformed. You’re ready for the answer to prayer on the other side of the challenge.  Do not quit. Remember God carries you. I couldn’t do the mission school or South Africa alone.  There were times I found it difficult – with physically trudging up and down a steep hill in Pemba.  Our South African base was in the mountains, and one of the townships was also on a steep hill.  But we persevered. We were rewarded with amazing experiences, and a love for South Africa so deep that, God willing, we’re returning within a year.

I mentioned Maria, our adopted Mozambican widow.  She made lunch for us in her two room shack. It’s at the bottom of a hill, beside the village latrine.  The walls aren’t sturdy enough to keep out rain, wind or thieves. There were holes in the walls and roof.  When the rains come, the house floods. They cannot sleep lying down. We wanted to help with short term repairs and had her house assessed.  They said the house was so bad, it would be better to start over.  So we’re building her a new house!  It costs thirty two hundred US dollars to build her a proper block house.  We started a fund in Pemba and connected with Iris Ministries Canada to continue the fund.  We thought if we were careful, we might get her a house in a year.  But God turned up the schedule.  Tony met with two friends who wanted personal prayer.  During the visits, he shared about Maria. Both these people took out their chequebooks and suddenly, we had almost enough to build Maria’s new house! God engineered this legacy far more than we did.  Now a whole family can be safely housed during the coming rainy season, and actually sleep lying down. God was faithful – Maria received something she didn’t know was possible. She did not give up her trust in God.  We loved friending people like Maria. Tony and I hope to be spiritual parents in a township, as well as do prison, hospital and radio ministry. We plan to teach and support the Robertson base leaders. Even now, we’re going through a journey of downsizing again.

So to summarize, remember that you are a people with hope.  You have been called to know God, and be his people, as he is our God.  Spend time with him in relationship, and he will write his love and direction in your hearts. He heals us as a family and in our hearts. He is our guide and our friend. Read the Bible daily.  There are so many passages in there that will nourish your soul like honey. Too many of us spiritually starve, even when our bellies are full.  When you know your Bible and your own faith story, it also becomes easier to share your faith when you are asked. That is not just for missionaries, but for all Christians. After all, it says right in our baptism liturgy, “Will you proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ?” and will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbour as yourself?”  This means we can all be missionaries in some way (even Morgan Christina who has been baptized today)!  So learn to be prepared as we have promised.

Don’t quit.  Waiting is worship. Be persistent like the widow, like Maria.  Believe God’s promises to you, even like Jeremiah promised to the Israelites in exile.  We are God’s people, and He is our God.    (Amen)

Note:  I hope you, dear reader have been blessed by this talk.  A lot of people at St Paul’s said they were impacted by this sharing.  I hope you have been too.

Love, Laurie-Ann

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L-A helping with the kid’s club at the art table

We’re back from Mozambique (and South Africa)!

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(This is a drawing I did in Pemba, Mozambique of a courtyard in the Iris Harvest school student village. We would pick up bread rolls every morning in front of this large baobab tree, so it became known as the “bread tree.” I gave the drawing to Iris co-founder Heidi Baker)

Tony and I are back from Africa as changed people.  We’ve been in Africa many times before, but this time was even more life-impacting – on us, and those around us. Thank you so much for your prayers and support. We couldn’t have done it without all of you coming alongside us. Some of you were on our Facebook prayer team for the journey, so you would know some of our encounters.

Many of you read this blog live in the Northern Hemisphere.  While most of you had a summer heat-wave from May to September, we had varied weather in the South African and Mozambican winter (located in the southern hemisphere). South Africa was cold (they do not heat their houses like we do), but Mozambique was still still quite warm and often quite hot!  We found the Iris Global Harvest School in Pemba, Mozambique was an incredibly intense ten weeks. We learned alongside 248 internationals, plus 300 Mozambican pastors who were paired with us in groups that were named after colours. Our colour group was light brown, and we went on a trip together to a nearly unreached village called Linde.  It is not far from the mining city of Montepuez, where they mine rubies.

The people in Linde were very welcoming and open to our message and love. We made some friends, even though our knowledge of Makua was limited. There were a number of dramatic healings while we were there, including the curing of  blindness and deafness in some locals. Another team that included friends went to another village, and they prayed for a four-year-old boy who had died of malaria earlier that day. He was certified dead by the village chief. After they prayed for some time, the boy began to return to life! Yes, raisings from the dead still happen! The boy’s father came to faith in the process and joined in with the prayers for his son. They took the boy to the hospital for follow up and he was confirmed as recovered from malaria. He is going to be fine!  I also was able to share my coming to faith story in Linde before the assembled crowd, and many people in the village came to faith in Jesus Christ.

Tony and I were also encouraged by an Ottawa friend that we were to leave a legacy in Mozambique. I had assumed that meant we would sponsor or bless a former orphan, but it seemed that God had something else in mind.  Tony and I were paired with a Mozambican mama named Maria.  Maria is a widow with five children and she does not have a job (we did try to get her one, but she was not hired). She and her children live in a two room bamboo and stone house with a broken tin roof.  There are many holes in the walls as well as the roof. Her house is located at the bottom of a hill, beside the village latrine.  During the rainy season, her family cannot sleep laying down, because the house seriously floods. It is also not secure from thieves or wind.  We were asked to help with house repairs.  So we asked the Iris mercy ministry to help us estimate what was needed.  They told us that the house was not worth fixing, but that she instead needs a completely new house constructed for her. House building is one of the ministries that the Iris mercy department does for poor widows and families. Maria is not the only one that needs help!

It costs $3,200 USD to build a new concrete block house.  We prayed and were led to begin a fund with Iris Pemba and Iris Ministries Canada so that Maria could have a new house. We didn’t think we could raise enough on our own to build her a house this year, but thought perhaps next year might be do-able. Maria was worried for this year, but it turns out that God has other plans.  Tony wanted to set up a new campaign on Go Fund Me (a crowd funding website), but I strongly felt led to tell Tony that we needed to just trust God for the funds. He met with two friends on our return to Ottawa, to share and to pray with them about their own needs.  Both of them took out their chequebooks and wrote large cheques to Iris Ministries Canada.  We also received some unexpected funds, and then were were only $400 Canadian short of the goal!  Tony decided to not wait for the rest and sent the remainder to Iris Canada (although another friend gave on our GoFundMe page towards the house). This means that Iris can build Maria’s house in early October!  God is so good!  His plans are so much better than you can ever expect. We are so pleased about this quick answer to prayer.

We found many more answers to prayer when we were in Mozambique. We were continually reminded of God’s faithfulness and we often felt his love, mercy and compassion. We even had mercy extended to US during our time in Pemba. We went to lunch with our colour group in a beautiful beach restaurant and one of our group wanted to be baptized. After she was baptized in the Indian Ocean, we spent some time together and headed back to base in a truck. I had help to get into the truck by standing on concrete blocks because it was so high. After Tony and our group leader helped me in the truck, Tony left behind our shared bag of valuables. (!) Both of us thought that the other one  had the bag. As soon as we were back on base, I asked Tony for the bag.  He and Kenny,  one of the leaders, immediately drove back to the restaurant, and our other leader phoned them right away, so they could look for it.  Tony and Kenny inquired about the bag, and were asked many questions about the contents.  After satisfying the owner of the adjacent hotel, our bag was returned with not one single thing missing! We were so thankful that an honest guard handed in the bag to the management.

This action was highly unusual since poverty  is so severe in this area. After we thanked God for his mercy, I was reminded of Matthew 5:7, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” This was a promise to us, since we had continually showed mercy and help to Mozambicans in (what seemed to us) small ways.  We weren’t counting the acts of mercy, especially since the needs could be overwhelming.  There is a good reason why Iris Global do-founder Heidi Baker says to “stop for the one.”  If you stop for the person that God brings to you (like a divine appointment), loving your neighbour one on one becomes do-able. You can ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with compassion and guidance each time. We did this many times and it works, although it is always best to pray and worship beforehand, so this comes as an extension of your devotional time with God.
We found there were many needs on the Pemba base, including: working with former orphans, widows, primary, elementary and high schools, library classification, media team, the visitor centre, feeding programme, farm, clinic/birthing centre, Bible school, Pemba University, Harvest School, Iris Arts, and weekly bush outreach. That is only part of what they do in northern Mozambique, and they may do radio as well. Although I saw the radio as an opportunity, my heart was and is pulled to South Africa. We’ll see how that works. I’ll share about our time in South Africa soon.

If you are local to Ottawa, we have an in-person report back at St Paul’s Anglican Church in Kanata, Ontario. It is on October 1st at 9 am for coffee/tea, muffins and 10 am for presentation. If you’d like to learn more, please let me know (click on contact).  The QR code is at the bottom of this post.

Love, Laurie-Ann Copple

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I did this drawing from an iPad photo of fishermen working during low tide by Wimbe Beach, near Pemba, Mozambique. The view was near Kauri restaurant.

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This is the QR code for our report back on October 1st.  If you have Facebook, it will give you the info and address you’ll need.  Join us!

Almost to Africa!!

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Hi everyone!

God is still preparing us for Mozambique and South Africa.  We leave in less than two days.  At the moment, it’s the Victoria Day holiday in Ottawa – and it’s quite warm.  The lilacs, cherry blossoms and apple blossoms are out.  We’re still unpacking the condo, but have made the place more and more our home.  It now feels like home, so when I’m in our old neighbourhood (which is often), I don’t even think about driving past our old house!

Thankfully, we have a condo-sitter who has lived with us as a boarder at our old house, so everything will be in place for our return in late August.  At the moment, we are also working on how to pack camping equipment, clothes, art supplies, travel guitar, Bibles, coffee/tea, maple candies, little girl dresses and so much more into two suitcases, two backpacks and a guitar gig bag.  I am thankful for Tony’s savvy as an engineer and my experience with “ziplocking.”  Others are bringing “snacks” – which I don’t think we’ll have much room for.  This is a test of living simply.  Just eat the local snacks!  They have bananas in Africa, right?  I am bringing little maple candies though for a Canadian treat for some of the kids we’ll be with in South Africa (that is if we don’t decide to give them away in Mozambique).

Meanwhile, we’re still trusting for enough funds without going into debt.  Our costs have been expensive since we work with Canadian funds, and nearly everything is in US dollars – and we’re going as a couple.  The only things we can share are the tent and my old unlocked BlackBerry (to locally text in Mozambique).

Our budget is approx $28,000 Cdn – which includes our return airfares of Ottawa – Johannesburg, Johannesburg-Pemba MZ,  Johannesburg – Cape Town ($4,455 USD); our school fees ($6,400 USD), camping equipment ($1,124 USD), Mozambique visas ($500 USD), bedding/nets/compressible pillows ($170 USD), medications/shots ($1,326.21 Cdn), South Africa outreach fees ($2,300 USD), insurance ($900 Cdn), gifts to Pemba base ($200+ Cdn), gifts to Robertson base ($117 Cdn), various needed things ($736 Cdn), South African hotels ($642.44 Cdn), and we’ll likely have overweight or extra baggage fees!!  We also need to have a budget of $2,100 USD (combined) for the three months, plus water money (I can only drink bottled water) and taxi money.  This adds up to a lot and doesn’t include personal money for souveniers.  I don’t plan to go crazy on those but I do plan to order an African dress made for me (on Pemba base) and when we’re in South Africa, take a trip to the Cape of Good Hope and enjoy our little stay in Cape Town.

If you feel led to give, please do via our GoFundMe page – we can still access our account via debit card.  We are 80 per cent funded thanks to some generous churches, individuals and a family inheritance.

If you feel led to pray, that’s even more important! Please pray as Holy Spirit guides you for provision, protection, special encounters with God, amazing ministry, connections with Mozambicans and South Africans, connections with Iris students and staff, that we learn really well, for harmony, love and cooperation in our marriage, for good health and strength, good travelling mercies, no lost luggage, favour at border points, and divine opportunities!

Please drop me a line!  Thank you for supporting Ways to Grow in God – and us personally – Laurie-Ann and Tony Copple.  We will share more as we can!

Love, Laurie-Ann

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Iris Pemba Base “Village of Joy”

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Living Water to Thirsty People

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(image by Sheilasheart.com)

by Laurie-Ann Copple.
Given in Kissy (suburb of Freetown, Sierra Leone) April 2010

Talks in Africa series

(Props: Need glass of water, jug of water)
(Hold up a glass or a jug of water)

I prayed for what the Lord would say to you today through the Word of God and my teaching, and I kept getting pictures of the living water of God.   Look at this glass of water, it is something that we as people cannot do without, we need to drink and we get thirsty.

(THIRST)   My friends, I know that we are a thirsty people both physically and in our souls. We were made by the Lord to love him and be loved by him. Throughout the Bible, the Spirit of God is talked about as living water, a river, rain, a deep well and other pictures of water. This makes sense because as people, we are made up of 70 per cent water and I have been told that we need to drink lots of water to stay healthy. So while we are seeking the Lord for spiritual health, we are going to discover a few of those water images that are in the Bible.

We long to be loved, we long to be satisfied with what we do, and in our relationship with God. In Isaiah 55, we are given an invitation to come drink at the waters, and even the poor with no money are invited to come and buy wine and milk without cost. The Lord invites us in to listen to Him, to eat what is good for your soul and you will delight in the richest of fare (Isa 55:1-2). I am not talking about food for the stomach here, as much as I really like rice. I am talking about spiritual food for your souls and the living water that completely satisfies the thirst you have inside you. This thirst is our longing to sense that God is here with us and will give us a deep peace that we can find nowhere else. This gives us a feeling of being deeply loved so we know that even when we have troubles, God will care for us and give help in handling what we need to do.

(RIVER) In Ezekiel 47, the prophet is given a vision and sees a river of living water coming out from under the Temple in Jerusalem and flowing east. Imagine that the Sierra Leone river connects with this heavenly river. All you need to do is to walk into it.

You probably don’t swim in the Sierra Leone river right now, do you? But imagine that it’s God’s river, right here in Kissy, here in Freetown. This river is clean, and full of the life that God gives. It’s like God has breathed life into the river.

In Ezekiel 47, the prophet walks to the east, and an angel measures the depth of the river water. The depth of the river gets deeper from ankle-deep, to knee-deep, to waist-deep to a depth where he could only swim and no longer walk across the river.

Along the shores of the river there used to be a lifeless desert, but because the river was full of life, all the land along the shores were now as beautiful and full of life as a garden in spring. This river of God is full of life. There is a song that we sing in some Canadian churches called ‘The River of God.’ Some of its words go like this: “The River of God, is teeming (or really full) with life, and all who touch it can be revived, and those who linger on this river’s shore, will come back thirsting for more of the Lord.” This is a song full of laughter and joy, which is what the Holy Spirit of God fill us with as we delight in Him. Psalm 34:8 gives us the promise to “Taste and see that the Lord is good, happy are those who trust in Him.” This happiness is not something like laughing at a funny story or a joke, but a deep contentment that stays with you even on difficult days and reminds you that God never leaves you. When the song talks about the river giving life, being revived, and wanting more, what do you think of? It sounds like healing, it sounds like being full of God’s presence, and it sounds like fun!

It is this same river of life that is mentioned in the book of Revelation at the end of the Bible. This river is in Heaven, but also in a spiritual way, the Holy Spirit fills us with that river as we submit to Jesus. It is this river that Jesus talks about in John 7: 37-39. At one time Jesus came to the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem. During this celebration, the priest would pour out water from a jug (like the one I now have) into a trough. He did this to act out what Ezekiel had written about in the Bible concerning the life-giving river coming from the Temple of God. While the priest was pouring out the water for that year’s Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus was there. He cried out to the crowd, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the [Holy] Spirit, whom all those who believed in him were later to receive.

Do you also remember the Samaritan Woman at the well in the Gospel of John? When Jesus asked for some water, she was shocked because she was not Jewish like he was, and she was like the lowest class of people and a woman as well! She was very surprised he had noticed her. It would have been like a rich person noticing someone who lives on the streets. In Canada we have some people who are poor and live on the streets – others in the same city may walk by them and not notice them. They may pretend the street people are not there, so these needy people become invisible. This lady likely felt invisible and we find out later that she was considered an outcast. But Jesus spoke to her.

He tells her about the living water and she responds with a thirst and curiosity that grows as she begins to find out who Jesus really is. Jesus says to her in John 4: 13 – “Everyone who drinks this [well] water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” This is eternal life, with springs of water where you are satisfied. My friends, does that make you feel thirsty for more??

So my friends, I’m going to invite the Holy Spirit to come in a deeper way. And while I do this, I am going to pour out water from a jug, just like that priest did in the book of John. “Heavenly Father, I ask for you to become more real to us today, come and fill this place with your Holy Spirit as we lift up Jesus. When I begin to pour the water from the jug, we ask for your living water, your living river to flow to and through this place. And as part of your bride, we say along with the Holy Spirit, from Revelation 22:17, “Let whoever who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, come! And whoever wishes, let them take the free gift of the water of life.”

(Pour the water from the jug into a bowl and pray as the Holy Spirit leads…)

Blessings and happy swimming in the river!

Laurie-Ann Copple

(An earlier version of this talk was given in Lahore, Pakistan in December 2007)

living water jug

A Look at Christ and Culture

jesus in rio

by Laurie-Ann Copple (July 2005 – Migori, Kenya, updated July 2014)

[Note: This is not part of the Ways to Grow in God series, but rather one of my talks from missions.  It is a lot more wordy, but I hope it blesses you dear reader!]

Throughout church history, missionaries, pastors and evangelists have struggled how best to communicate the Gospel to their own people and to many other people groups – tribes, nations and language groups. Each group of people has a different way of living according to where they reside. These traditions, ways of life, types of food, music, and ways of speaking are all different in each culture.

In church history, some missionaries debated with each other on what is better – to completely wipe out the culture of the people they are winning to the Lord, or to use parts of that culture as a KEY to that culture being used for the Lord. The view of wiping out the culture (both good and bad aspects) involves starting on a ‘clean slate’; and to start over again with a new ‘godly’ slate. This view understands that cultures that do not love Jesus and follow his holy ways, as all ‘bad’, like tainted meat, or bad water that makes you sick. The people with this view believe that it is better to just start again. Some of the 14th century missionaries in China tried this way of working with new Christians. They called it tabula rasa, or ‘clean slate.’

Other missionaries (including the Apostle Paul) chose to work within the culture. They would transform parts of it as a tool for the gospel. This was necessary to communicate the gospel in a way the surrounding culture would understand. It was also necessary to model a holy life to the new Christians where their outreach was based. These are bridges to the gospel.

The Apostle Paul was in Athens during one of his missionary journeys. While he was prayer-scouting, he found many idols and altars to false gods, and these upset him. But he turned this around by using something he found to help communicate the gospel. He found the altar to the “unknown God.” If the people were seeking who they didn’t yet know, this provided the bridge Paul needed. So Paul stood before the Athenian leaders, and told them that they were indeed seeking after the living God. He said, “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: ‘To an unknown God.’ Now what you worship as something unknown, I am going to proclaim to you.” (Acts 17:23)

Paul (and many later evangelists) used philosophical viewpoints that were similar to the gospel as a bridge to Jesus. He brought these cultural perceptions to the Lord and then redeemed them in a way that brings God glory.

Another example of this is when Paul makes himself culturally sensitive to others, and becomes like them, “to become all things to all people, so that by all possible means (he) might save some” (1 Cor. 9:23). I often mention the importance of this cultural flexibility and presence when I am in teaching mode. I am convinced that the best way to work with Christ and our cultures (and even some of our traditions) is to use parts of them, and transform them for Jesus’ glory. Hudson Taylor did this in China, when he dressed, talked and ate like a Chinese man. He became as Chinese as he could, so he could reach the people he came to love in China.

I attended a worship and teaching conference in 1995 and met Northern Irish worship leader Robin Mark. While he was there, he taught us about redeeming musical instruments. Robin said that since the European Middle Ages, there has been worship styles have used aspects of the surrounding cultures and transformed them for Jesus. They took musical tunes that were popular and used them in worship songs, and added lyrics that taught many people about Jesus. These songs were full of good solid teaching.

Preachers began writing hymns in the time to Martin Luther (15th century), but they encountered resistance when they did so! Yet through their persistence, the church grew and was strengthened by worship the people could culturally feel “at home in.” Since these people felt validated, they would sing to the Lord from all their hearts. John and Charles Wesley were excellent 18th century circuit preachers. They rode horses many hours daily to preach throughout England. They were not just preachers, but also hymn-writers. Their hymns are so full of good teaching that they sustained the people who memorized and sang them. Wesley lyrics are literally a sermon in a song. They also used the popular music of the day as a soundtrack to growing in worship.

There have been many kinds of worship music since the time of the Wesleys! Each style has lifted up the Lord and given him glory. It is important to remember that each style can be anointed, even if the worship style is different than your own. God loves all tribes, nations, peoples, and culture is an expression from each of them. The important thing is that expressing heart-felt worship is very special to the Lord, and all kinds of instruments can be used to praise him.

When I was in Northern Ireland, I had a bodhran (Irish drum) made for me. Some Christians in my then-home church were upset that I brought this drum into the church for worship. They saw the drum as an instrument of war (or at least the traditional Irish pub bands). But once it was blessed and dedicated to the Lord, the sound it gave was a blessing, and it made the worship more beautiful. This drum was redeemed from a tradition of Irish war, or songs sung in bars, to instead be an instrument of praise. I have used it for years during worship in our weekly prison Alpha sessions.

Now, while I strongly believe in the redemption of culture, I am quite sad when some cultures are imposed upon others. I wish to apologize to Africans and Asians on behalf of many Westerners. Many North American or European missionaries thought their Western culture was more holy than African cultures and tradition. This is not true! Western cultures fight against our Lord Jesus almost as much as other cultures, just in different ways. The devil is as real in North America as he is in Africa, even if some Americans and Canadians don’t believe he exists. And so, I am sorry for the sins and mistakes of imposing much of Western culture on Africa. It is not better, it is just different. Many of the missionaries and colonial peoples imposed their own cultures on Africa, because they thought African culture was evil, and in some cases, this is true. However, these missionaries were blinded to the evils in their own cultures.

We are now living in an age where cultures are living side by side. People can move much more easily by air travel, and immigration has become a common thing in most areas of the world. Therefore, working within and across cultures is something we will all have to do. There are many people groups where I live in Canada. There is nearly every people group living in my home town of Toronto.  That’s just the ethnic groups. Then there are the culture groups centred around style of music, demographics (age), faith group, lifestyle and hobbies.  Africa also has the challenge of many cultures. African Christian pastors and evangelists minister to many people groups: some who aren’t Christians yet, new Christians, and those people in different tribes (who speak different tribal languages). Some people may have a traditional African background with different deep-set customs. They may have a Muslim background, or be Christian in name only. These people may be living a lifestyle that is not holy. They need to receive Jesus in their hearts and walk deeper in faith. They need to be discipled in holiness with lots of good teaching and much love. How do we work with the secular cultures around us in the business world and government? How do we work with the cultures of other faiths for the gospel? How do we work with those who are church-goers? They are part of the church culture, but they haven’t yet taken the step of really wanting to know Jesus.   So many needs! But Jesus is still the answer, when you honour their culture! Listen, love and honour each person.

I will share five different ways of understanding Christ and culture from Richard Niebuhr. He wrote a book called Christ and Culture. [H. Richard Niebuhr, Christ and Culture. (Harper and Row, New York 1951, ISBN 0-06-130003-9)]. Each of these ways have useful points for living and ministering a Christian life in our cultures. But, I want you to think about what may suit you best in your own ministry. The challenge of Christ and culture affects both clergy AND lay people. We all are challenged as we seek to live for the glory of Jesus Christ – especially in a world that does not know him.

Christ against culture

The first view of wrestling with culture is to reject it or run from it. This view is called Christ against culture. The monks of the 4th century AD rejected the state church when Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire. These men thought that the new church goers and the newly approved Christianized culture was not holy enough. So these people became the desert fathers. They lived in deserts, in mountains and other remote places so they could try to become closer to God. But even this posed a problem: what languages did they use? What traditions did they follow or did they start new traditions?

However, there is still something in us that fights God through our own self-centeredness. We cannot fight our own tendency to sin on our own, and certainly not by running away from culture. All that does is to remove distraction. The Bible does tell us to flee from promiscuity and evil, but what of man-made culture itself? Are we to ignore the rest of humanity? Surely not!

Some people believe that all man-made culture and tradition is evil, because it is tainted by sin; and in some cases it may be directly demonized. Yet there is some good news about this viewpoint. It shows our need for God and so it is a turning point as a call to holiness. Men and women who have followed calls to holiness have often led to renewals and revivals throughout church history. Many people have a longing for heaven to come on earth, and a call for the Lord to take us home to heaven. The writer of Ecclesiastes (likely King Solomon) notes that God “has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Eccl 3:11) This almost points to a sense of destiny. What can be a problem with this view is that it can forget our godly task of stewardship. This task is to take care of the land and ministries the Lord gives us, since we are working for him. However, God used the monks in early missions despite their desire to be left alone for God, although their time alone also recharged them and filled them up for ministry. We are not made to be on our completely own but to minister to each other. We are the Church.

Christ of Culture

This view is a form of accommodating culture so that the gospel is palatable rather than an offence. It is very common view in North America. Unfortunately this point of view hurts many of the churches. These people try to understand Jesus and his teaching through their own culture. They might select only the Christian doctrine that agrees with their own culture or theology. This is dangerous! Not only does it dilute the gospel in this generation, but it dissolves it further in later generations. Culture can easily change within one generation! This means that if you tie the gospel to culture in a way that this culture is viewed as part of the gospel, later generations will believe the gospel is “past it’s time.” In other words, the timeless gospel message is lost and you will need to re-evangelize the same places. Another hindrance is that people who took this version of the gospel to heart often get upset over minor changes in the cultural trappings. How many church splits happen over cultural differences? Far too many!

This viewpoint often diminishes Jesus’ divinity since he is viewed through the human cultural lens. Thus, Jesus is understood as a superhuman or only as a great moral teacher. The other extreme (Gnosticism) also simplifies Jesus as only divine. They see Jesus as a divine giver of wisdom that is not approachable by any of his lay followers but only by special clergy. The second view turns the gospel into a collection of stories and secrets to be interpreted only by specific people. That almost sounds like the era when laypeople could not read the Bible in their own language, doesn’t it?

In the humanized version of the Christ of Culture view, sin is not mentioned at all. Instead of the gospel of redemption, there is a ‘gospel’ of acceptance; even an acceptance of sin itself! The prophet Isaiah warned of a day when good is called evil, and evil is called good. Isaiah said, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” (Isaiah 5:20) People of this view however, may be good in service ministry, and in mercy ministry – but the power of God (and in some ways the LOVE of God) is gone. This gospel isn’t just in the liberal churches. It’s also in some of the seeker friendly churches in North America. Take a look at David Wilkerson’s warning!
Beware!

Christ above culture

This viewpoint sees Christ and culture as two completely separate areas of life. These spheres of influence don’t conflict entirely, because all works of human cultures are deemed possible only by God’s grace. Government is meant to be honoured and prayed for, as Peter reminds us in 1 Peter 2:13 & 17. “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are set by him to punish those who do wrong, and to commend those who do right […] show proper respect to everyone. Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honour the king.”

Jesus also acknowledged that culture and government were not to be rejected, when the Pharisees and Herodians asked him whether it was godly to pay taxes to the Roman government that had authority over Israel. Jesus asked for a coin, and asked whose face was on the coin. When he was told that it was the face of the emperor Caesar, Jesus said to “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” (Mark 12:17).

This view advises us to give the best of our cultures and to be stewards of a new ‘Christian culture.’ This is not to mix Jesus with the present culture, but it is something entirely new.

Christ and culture in paradox

This view of Christ and culture is especially shown in the 16th century reformer Martin Luther. He and others with this view believe that since we are Christians, we live our lives in conflict. We are part of the surrounding culture in some ways, but not in others. We are in the world but not of it. All cultures, traditions and ways of life are seen as tainted, but it is still necessary to work hard and do your best to the Lord. What matters in this view is to maintain a Christian heart of love, a holy lifestyle, and to focus on Jesus (while waiting for his return).

Jesus’ light shows the unrighteousness of every human work. We must be honest. We often want to be in control of our own work and ministry, instead of God. We want to feel right. We want to feel important. This self focus, or absorption, is in all of our cultures. So Luther believes that secular vocations could become as much a calling as being a pastor if it is done with Christian commitment and integrity. These included vocations like: Medicine, music, law, policing, government, business, teaching and many other careers. The Apostle Paul advised us that whatever we do, do it as unto the Lord. Otherwise, we are to do good in the tainted world until Jesus comes back for us.

Christ the transformer of culture

This is the most hopeful view of Christ and culture, and the one that I believe makes the most sense. It has a true understanding of the nature of sin. Yet, it sees history as a continuing story of God’s mighty deeds, as well as people’s response to the Holy Spirit calling them. It is a renewal-focused view, and it allows for God’s presence to show the church a taste of what heaven is like; even before Jesus returns!

This view seeks to redeem and transform much of cultures as tools for the Gospel. It is much more positive than the other views. People can be redeemed, so why not culture as well? The Apostle Paul used the altar of the unknown God as a bridge of understanding to reach the Greek seekers in Athens (Acts 17:23). Other missionaries use redeemed parts of national cultures as a bridge for the gospel. These bridges become keys to the hearts of those national peoples. In a sense, God has placed bridges in most philosophies and faiths. It is like a preparation for when people encounter the real living God.

The Apostle John explains the greatness and glory of Jesus Christ to the Greek thinkers in the Gospel of John. He had to use their concepts to help them understand who Jesus really was; fully human, but fully divine. Some philosophers in ancient Greek culture believed that there was a perfect original of everything beautiful on earth. This is especially shown in Plato’s concept of “forms.” Everything good on earth is just a copy of everything that is perfect in heaven. If there was a beautiful chair on earth, it is merely a copy of the original chair in heaven. The “heavenly chair” is more beautiful than the “earthly chair.” This would be like the concept that earthly chairs are copies of God’s actual throne chair. The chair is just the example. It could be anything good and beautiful, especially if it points to heaven.

John transformed the understanding of forms when he wrote the Gospel of John. He called Jesus the “Word,” or the Logos, in Greek. The Greek philosopher Plato had taught that the Logos was the ultimate being of life, knowledge, truth and wisdom, and the Logos ruled by his order of the universe. John used the Greek philosophic understanding of Logos to teach Greek believers about Jesus’ divinity and that He is not a created being. Jesus did not “begin” his existence when he was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. Jesus, like the Father and the Holy Spirit, was here before the beginning, and will be here after the end of time. He is eternal and lives forever! Yet, eternity means more than the concept of un-ending time, or living beyond time. Eternity also shows itself where God breaks through to us with his supernatural power in our own time.

God, through Christ, by the Holy Spirit, redeems the cultural institutions we bring him! He transforms them into something better – something he can work through to reach the people that he is calling to him.

So in conclusion, Niebuhr says in his book Christ and Culture, that this is no single Christian answer to live out the problem of Christ and culture. This is where YOU must seek God individually and as groups, to decide how culture can be redeemed and prayed for. The Holy Spirit can also guide you in discerning which evil parts of culture can be avoided, and what can be used to help preach the gospel.

Here is but one example for African pastors: how about the combining naming ceremonies with a service of dedicating children to the Lord? I know there are many more examples.   Please, as you consider this teaching, keep asking the Holy Spirit how he would guide you. Jesus is the redeemer, and I believe that he would use you to reach the surrounding cultures where you live. It is only a matter of his timing, discernment and your willingness to be used for his glory.

Bwana Asifiwe!  (Praise the Lord in kiSwahili)

Blessings, Laurie-Ann Copple (Sister Ann)

Laurie-Ann is an Ottawa based media person.  She has been on missions in Kenya, Sierra Leone, Northern Ireland and Pakistan. She is hoping to work in long term missions and is in discernment mode for direction.  Meanwhile, she attends St Paul’s Anglican Church in Kanata, and Kingdom Culture Ministries in Gloucester, Ontario (Canada).

(Here is a diagram of another way to view the Niebuhr book):

christ-and-culture