Category Archives: Talks in Africa

Growing in God through encouragement

 

 

 

 

During my last written article, we discovered the near joy of finally depending on God completely.  Sometimes we are forced to do so through health concerns or disability.  Yet, what may seem like disability to people, actually can be turned positive for God.

One thing that helps anyone who is struggling in life – whether disabled, ill, or insecure is encouragement.  Encouragement is a spiritual service gift mentioned in Romans 12:8.  The Apostle Paul tells us “If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging.”  Encouragement means to exhort, comfort, counsel or help.  It means to offer thanks or appreciation, and to cheer someone on.

Unfortunately the world doesn’t have enough encouragers – most people complain or are critical.  But is that actually helpful?  Complaining is different than stating a fact and moving on.  Complaining and criticism actually tear down, rather than build up.

One of my former pastors was named Dale.  He used to say that encouragement is the oxygen of life.  And so it is.  When we encourage with love, words and action we positively impact the people around us.  When we encourage in love, we change the atmosphere,  and God can bless others through us.  And they just may bless us back.

Smiles can particularly encourage.  I’ve been told many times that my smile blesses people – it disarms shyness and breaks down barriers.  I’ve had this happen in church, divine appointments, and on the mission field.   It’s the same with calling people by name.

Tony and I feel so strongly about encouragement, that we changed the regular wedding vows.  Tony did not say he would love, honour and cherish me and I did not say I would love, honour and obey him.  Instead, we chose to bless each other with the same promise:  to love, honour and encourage. We took that further and promised to always forgive and always strengthen each other.  Through 19 years, we have worked to do that.  Sometimes it’s been easy, and other times it’s been more difficult.  Yet always there is love. Always there is encouragement that comes from the Holy Spirit.  Choosing to encourage is a commitment.

When you choose to encourage daily – it affects your spouse, your friends, and all those around you.  Tony and I are called to underprivileged children.  Some of them are latch-key kids.  Others are orphans. And yet others have parents, but still need all the love and encouragement they can get.  It’s a real blessing to pour this kind of love into people.  And really, it doesn’t cost you anything. It’s kindness. It’s just one of the love languages that make people thrive.

Encouragement and kindness are linked.  Kindness can take many forms. Some of these acts of kindness are practical deeds.  Sometimes they are called random acts of kindness.  This can be going out into the community and helping a senior clean their home or garden.  Or perhaps to provide a sandwich and glass of juice to a child.  It could be taking a disabled friend to go do their grocery shopping.  In a sense, this is not just something that missionaries do.  We can all do this!  We have opportunities to be kind every day.  EVERY day!

Okay, so you’ve had your eyes open to human kindness – which is everywhere.  It’s not exclusive to Christians.  There isn’t just darkness and evil around, although there is a lot of that.  But think of God’s kindness.  Think of how he encourages us with love, joy and peace in our hearts. He opens our hearts to more.  When we act on and live in this compassion, we grow the fruit of the spirit KINDNESS.  The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!  It is the exact opposite to a lot of the evil in the world.

We are also encouraged in Colossians 3:12 to “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”  These aren’t something we can grow on our own.  We need to keep spending time asking to be filled with these things – even patience.  However, kindness and encouragement are a lot more fun to grow in than patience!

So what are some other ways to grow this gift?  It happens with practice! Also when we continue to encourage, we can also receive some back.  Remember, what you sow, you also reap. The Apostle Paul writes about this in Galatians 6:7.  If you sow kindness, you reap kindness.  Patricia King once told a story that she was led to give away many of her clothes.  She did this time and again.  Each time she did this, she was given more clothes!  That’s just a side benefit. But basically, if you are sowing blessings, you will reap blessings. If you sow curses, even if they seem to be deserved curses, guess what comes back your way?  Better to stop the cursing right now.  There’s way too much of that around.  Remember what Paul says to us in Romans 12: Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them.

So here’s some ideas to grow that gift of encouragement in your life.  Write someone a letter.  Visit a sick person in the hospital or hospice.  Pat someone on the shoulder or back. Sit with someone who has just lost a family member.  Listen to someone who is struggling.   Ask God what to say, or even, if you’re not meant to speak.  Sometimes encouragement is not saying anything at all, but is just to be there with someone – especially if they are grieving.

Here’s a good example of encouragement.  A young girl known as Little Annie was locked up in a mental institution outside Boston in the US.  Doctors saw her as hopelessly insane.  Yet an old nurse felt compassion and kindness for Annie, and in time, she responded to the nurse’s attention and regular gifts of brownies.   Eventually, Annie was completely changed and wanted to give back to the other patients. Annie became Anne Sullivan, the woman who loved and encouraged Helen Keller.  Through Anne’s encouragement through the years, Helen blossomed, despite being blind and deaf in the years before the cochlea implants.

Encouragement is indeed the oxygen of life, as the words used also nourish our souls deep within.  Choose to bless someone with encouraging words, or actions today. Once you make this a habit, it will become a wonderful lifestyle.  We were created to love.  We were created to grow in love.  So choose to be kind and encourage, even when you don’t feel like it.

Here’s a small example of my own.  When I still lived in Ottawa, I had two radio shows on CKCU.  One is a Christian show called Over My Head, where we would play music from artists from a Christian world-view. This could be music of any genre – from contemporary classical, to jazz, to blues, to folk. The other show was Window of Opportunity, a folk show where we would especially encourage up and coming folk musicians. Some were local, others from further afield.  Two musicians played in our studio live – Shane and Lynne.  Shane is a bluesy folk artist, who was accompanied by his then-girlfriend Lynne.  Lynne was and is a great musician in her own right.  She has a warm clear voice, and light touch on the acoustic guitar.  I was given insight during my interview with them, and encouraged Lynne on the spot.  I asked her, “What about your own music, Lynne?  I think you have wonderful potential.”  Lynne had a pained expression on her face, and unfortunately I can’t remember what she said.  However, apparently she needed to hear my encouragement.  She in time released her first cd, “Things I miss.”  This was the first of many cds to come.  She wrote a lovely note in the thanks section of that cd liner.  She gave thanks to “Laurie-Ann for saying the right thing just when I most needed to hear it.”  While I made a point of encouraging all of the artists who I had on the show, it was even more special when what I said made a turnaround for Lynne.  And what a turnaround it was!  Not only is Lynne an amazing singer-songwriter, but she also pairs with Lynn Miles as part of the Two Lynn(e)s!  So never underestimate the power of encouragement.  And when you are the one to encourage, it blesses you back.

Now think of all the people who need encouragement out there.  Too often some people work or minister for years and never know whether know how well they are doing.  They get no positive feedback, and eventually if they make a mistake, they only receive criticism!   Please encourage the people around you.  Like Lynne, this may be the moment they need it the most.

Lord Jesus, I lift up my friends who are reading this and ask that you enlarged their hearts.  Also enlarge mine. Give us the promptings to be kind and encourage at just the right time.  Thank you for how I could encourage Lynne.  Please give my all who are reading, the special opportunity to bless and encourage.  Let it become something that will catch on as they pay it forward.  In Jesus’ name.

If you’d like to hear an audio version of this article, please visit the Ways to Grow in God podcasts on coppleswesterncape.ca

Click the link here: Ways to Grow in God podcasts   This particular podcast is #12  It comes up as after the podcast on Growing in God through Bible Study.  The audio versions are in a completely different order than the articles on this website.  The audio versions are sometimes updated stories, but other times are completely new.  However you receive these teachings, I pray they will bless you.

Love, Laurie-Ann Copple

Waystogrowingod.org
Coppleswesterncape.ca

 

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Can God use those who are weak? Growing through leaning on God

 

 

 

 

 

During my last article, we discovered the near joy of letting go of our self-sufficiency. We often need to come to the end of ourselves to find God.  We realize that there is something more.  Heidi Baker often cries out “More!” in her pre-talk prayers.  Andrew Murray had to come to the end of himself so that he could lean more on God – in his preaching, devotions and impact on others.  He was used as one of the leaders of the 1860- 1862 Cape Awakening here in South Africa.  Sometimes those with incredible abilities have to put them aside so that they don’t coast through life on those abilities.  These are incredible gifts, yes, but God has so much more.

When it comes to the extraordinary, brilliance often comes through imperfect vessels.  This is the case in secular society outside the church, like Stephen Hawking’s science done in a body trapped by ALS.  But it shows up even more so in the lives of people like Joni Eriksen Tada, who was a very active person until she had a diving accident at age 18.  She became paralysed from the shoulders down.  However, she shines with brilliance in ministry and reaches out – she’s written 51 books, hosts a radio show and so much more.  She’s an inspiration.  Joni posted on Facebook about God being her support and stay recently.  While some people would say, “Hey, why hasn’t God healed you?”  I say, sometimes God chooses another way.  Yes, absolutely God heals.  I’ve received healing for some problems myself.  I’ve prayed for others and they’ve received healing.  But sometimes, for a season, God blesses in a different way.  Joni shared “God has used my many years in a wheelchair to remind me that yes, I am completely inadequate and anything but competent – goodness, I’m just a quadroplegic!  But my weaknesses keep pointing me to the source of all authority and ability, God, and God alone.  Praise the Lord, He makes us competent as ministers of the new covenant!”

Don’t ever think that because you have a disability or struggle with illness that you can’t have God give you a life filled with purpose.  I can think of countless times that God has used me on the mission field to surprise people.  The gospel, and especially the cross can be offensive to some people. And if it comes in a different package then what your culture expects, wow.  This happened to me the first time I went to Pakistan.  During that time, I could still walk without a cane, since the osteo-arthritis did not yet appear in my knees.  But I was still plus-size in a land where most people were rail thin.  If anyone was overweight, they would be lightly teased.  In my case, teasing came, and I just laughed it off, until it increased and I finally got it to stop. That’s a whole different story.  However, the matter was that the people of Kot Lakphat in Lahore got a taste of the gospel through a different package, an offensive one. And…it got them to think.  God is still doing the same for me in South Africa.

If God can use a donkey to rebuke and stop someone causing harm, as he did with Balaam in the Old Testament, he can surely use everyone.  Everyone has a story. Everyone has a purpose – whether they are able bodied or not.

So we’re going to hear some stories!  In Kenya, being disabled is considered a curse. Stereotyping and social exclusion are common problems among the disabled in Kenya, according to Anjeline Okola of the Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network. I’ve ministered in Kenya four times, and last stopped there while Tony and I were on our way to Sierra Leone. Thankfully for me I was not disabled at the time.  However,  I’ve learned of an inspiring Kenyan female pastor who co-pastors in the Bahati neighbourhood of Nairobi.  The Bahati neighbourhood isn’t far from the Eastleigh area where I used to minister to Somali refugees.  This pastor’s name is Dawn Gikandi, and she was ordained by the Presbyterian Church of East Africa.  She was born disabled due to her mother being hit by a car when crossing the road.  When her mother was advised to abort her child.  She was told that her child would never walk and may suffer severe deformities.  But instead, the child was loved on. She was given the name Dawn, which signified the beginning of their joy.

Dawn wears a back brace tightened around her back to give it strength and uses a walking stick for stability. She says these do not stop her from enjoying her work.  She seeks to make God real to people, and says that God is not limited to choosing able-bodied people for service. She said that “God can use anything or anybody for his work.”

To learn more about Dawn: click here

Ron Piggott:  My long-time friend Ron is another example.  Ron practically lives in a power wheelchair. I met him when I was in seminary and he was in Bible College.  He became like my little brother.  He had several surgeries on his hips when he was a little boy due to Leg Perthes disease.  He was fine and quite active in online ministry and work with youth until his hip joints deteriorated. He had four surgeries, and stayed with Tony and me during some of that time.  After his hips began to finally work, his knee joints also became very bad.  He has managed life in a power wheelchair for years now.   Many people have prayed over him for healing, but instead, Ron was given a deep grace to endure.  He has wisdom beyond his years, with an attitude of grace and perseverance. He is thankful for Holy Spirit helping him manage his life, as well as being able to reach out to others.  He continues to minister online through several websites devoted to evangelism and Bible verses.   Local youth randomly drop in on him and he pours love and encouragement into their lives.  Recently one of them shared to Ron that a few years ago, he came to visit with secret plans of suicide.  Ron spoke life into the boy without him even realizing what was in his heart.  Another boy shared that Ron taught and showed him how to be a man.  Normally a father figure does this for his son, but Ron did this instead. The mission field was coming to his house.

Ron even turns the chance encounters of curious people asking about his wheelchair to opportunities to pour God’s love into people.  And since Ron is no stranger to the internet, he set up a You-Tube channel to minister to struggling people on life skills and on dealing with disability in a positive way.  My little brother is just as much a missionary as I am, and people are receiving life through Jesus.

Avis Goodhart: Avis Goodhart got a taste of missions when she went on her first mission at age 50.  That’s not as unusual as you may think – Tony’s first was at age 64.  She had dyslexia, permanent nerve damage from Bells palsy, and a life of past abuse.  She was let go as a special eds teacher, and God used her skills on the mission of Peru.  And although he calls herself an unlikely missionary, she founded a children’s centre and school, which has lasted for more than 20 years.  She often says “Don’t waste your pain.”

I had the opportunity to meet Henri Nouwen, who was a wonderful Dutch devotional speaker and writer.  Later in life he worked with L’Arche, a French ministry to the developmentally disabled.  And he often fought depression through his life, and chose to keep ministering by allowing himself to be a wounded healer.  I saw him speak at my University – with the encouragement to put our brokenness under the blessing of Jesus.  Jesus transforms our pain and brokenness, just like he did his own.   It was a perfect example of 2 Corinthians 5:4 – He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.

Andrew White:  I was also blessed in hearing Canon Andrew White in person.  He’s a charismatic Anglican priest, who started out in England and eventually earned the nickname of “Vicar” of Baghdad.  He was the only western Anglican priest in what was originally an expat church.  During Andrew’s ministry in Baghdad, the congregation was all Iraqi.

He has a huge heart of reconciliation in the Middle East, and compassion for the persecuted Iraqi Christians. Had it not become incredibly dangerous, he would still be ministering there.  He was like a dear uncle to many children and the poor. He is not only a priest, but is also a medical professional.  He had a medical outreach in his church that provided free medical care, dental care and prescriptions to Muslims and Christians alike.  Yet he is disabled himself through MS.  His own clinic found a way to treat him with his own stem cells, which gave him further perseverance in his ministry.  He is often in Jordan with his Iraqi refugees, making sure the Iraqi church remnant survives, and there is a school for the children.   And while he walks with a cane and has to limit his ministry time, the time he spends with those he is with is very, very precious. You would feel like you were a beloved member of his congregation.

Michele Perry:  I was amazed to discover that there is an Iris example of a disabled leader.  Michele Perry has an amazing story. She accomplished much after coming to faith at age seven, including motivational speaking, leadership training, consulting and writing before she was 16.  She also “stopped for the one” in the American inner-city streets, the streets of Calcutta, and later in Bangladesh.  She was led to Iris after seeing Papa Rolland speak in Denver and went off to Harvest School, like Tony and I did years later. She even arrived at the school with shingles, which was healed by God in Mozambique.  She was the one who pioneered the Iris base in South Sudan, which is now led by Carolyn Figioli.

Michele endured the war-torn South Sudan bush with only having one leg. I can’t imagine how hard that must have been, but her book “Love has a Face” describes all the walking and ministry she did, so she must have been fit.  Add to her situation that she stood out. The fact that she was so white, among very black Sudanese, was already a contrast.  She said, “If I had been Sudanese, no one would have cast a second glance. But I am very white and everyone was fascinated. In addition, I have one leg and walk with crutches, making my white appearance all the more fascinating.”   They probably gave her the same curious looks that I received in Pemba when I was walking around with a cane, only having one leg is even more obvious. She was already forced to depend on God physically, and her time in Sudan taught her even more about extreme dependence on God in other ways.  We cannot love people to life on our own – it’s entirely with his life.  It’s entirely through Him transforming our hearts to reflect His.  Having a less than perfect body even shows the point even more. It’s only by His grace.

Michele came to faith in the hospital.  She said she was no stranger to hospitals. She was born missing her left hip, leg and kidney.  She also had other birth defects that needed 23 surgeries before she was 13.  So she walks with crutches.

Michele came to faith when Jesus gave her a physical encounter in her hospital room. He was pure love. She said, “there he was in my room. He looked with eyes that saw me and loved every part. The good parts, the not-so-good parts, the broken parts – He loved them all.”  Michele was not invisible, she was seen.  She later learned that others were invisible too, and part of her ministry was to see them, to notice them, and to love them.  In Bangledesh, she shared with beggars on the corners who wondered why she was not begging as well.  They told her, “you only have one leg, you should be in your country begging, and you definitely should not be happy.”  So she introduced them to the One who took care of her needs and gave her joy.  She didn’t let her disability stop her.  In fact, Jesus made her thrive, because she completely depended on him.   She loved on her Sudanese community as well, and had many children under her care.  Some of them were fearless and loved three year olds, who knew how to pray with confidence.  Her personal favourite prayer was offered up by such a child.  It was, “Jesus, please bring Mama her leg.  I know it is in heaven.  Bring it here now, Leg grow.”  Michele said, “If I ever had a doubt of my leg being restored, my children’s faith has sure helped to banish it.”  While she still has one leg, Michele continues to be used of the Lord to touch many lives.

Speaking of Christian leaders missing a body part, here is another example.  Bethany Hamilton is a surfer, who often speaks to youth to encourage them.  She even went on a mission trip to Thailand a year or two after the horrible tsunami in 2004. Bethany unfortunately lost one arm to a shark attack.  She struggled with what to do with her life after this event, and eventually re-learned how to surf professionally.  You can see her story in the movie Soul Surfer.

Andrew Murray:  In my last talk, I shared about how Andrew Murray’s strengths or attitudes of self-effort could get in the way.  Eventually he learned that he simply could not minister in his strength, especially when it came to writing.  He had to dictate his writings to his daughter Annie (or another relative).  He was forced to do this because he couldn’t hold a pen for long.  When he was 21, he never completely recovered from malaria and overwork in his early ministry tours in what was the Transvaal).

Andrew shared when he was praying about whether to leave his first pastorate of Bloemfontein for one further north, where there were no pastors. His mother encouraged him that God may speak of his limitation through his health.  He was encouraged to use this as an opportunity to lean on God in ministry, rather than take up another pastorate based on his human strengths and gifts alone. She was concerned that he would burn out and eventually leave the ministry. Unfortunately many pastors do this!  Andrew shared that he had “painful tingles in his arms, hands and back whenever he doesn’t get enough rest.” (Olea Nel – 2nd Andrew Murray novel)

Each of these Christian leader’s stories show that they brought their disabilities to God.  Dawn Gikandi resisted her call due to her disabilities, but then trusted God to make her able to minister his love.  This is in a country where the disabled are  shunned.   My little brother Ron has peace with how God uses him to touch lives, even when he is in daily pain.  His resilience surely is a gift from God. Avis Goodhart was given a chance to turn her life into something beautiful – so the unlikely missionary to Peru poured the love of Jesus into kids.

Henri Nouwen may not have been a missionary, but he took his own brokenness and gave it to God.  He was used to bless many, including the disabled in the L’Arche community.  Andrew White has a difficult life physically, but is ONE of the most joy filled people I’ve ever known.  He shines with the same deep light of the persecuted church, and is given the ability to minister to persecuted Iraqi Christians in the midst of his own pain.

Michele Perry founded Iris South Sudan, although she had to give it up after 13 bouts of serious malaria and other problems. But she endured the bush for seven years, plus ministry in many other slums – with one leg. And still she keeps going, because of her dependence on God.

And lastly Andrew Murray learned to depend on God once again – first he had to give God his strengths.  Now he had to give God his weakness – and he could write through help of dictation.  After all, having a co-writer wasn’t new. The Apostle Paul did this as well.

So, what are your strengths?  Give them to Jesus.  Don’t let them get in the way, so you burn out for God. Don’t live by your strengths.  Give them to God.

What are your weaknesses?  Give them to God as well.  He will make them strengths in a way that seems like a paradox.  Yet it isn’t.  Jesus promises us that we can do all things through him who strengthens us.  But this is really a promise when we rest in him and don’t strive.  Let him work through you.

Also, give him your expectations. Each of these people discovered that ministry and life would look different for them. God has a much better way. Surrender your expectations to God.  Allow him to open your eyes, and widen your horizons.  That way, it’s easier to receive God’s surprises!

Blessings to you all,
Laurie-Ann Copple

Waystogrowingod.org
Coppleswesterncape.ca

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