My name is Laurie-Ann, and I’m a missionary. During my mission travels, I have ministered with people in Northern Ireland, Pakistan, Canada and the USA. I’ve also ministered in African countries like Kenya, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. But at this time, we live in the beautiful Western Cape of South Africa.
During the last article, we journeyed through growing in our refuge. This isn’t just running to a place of safety, like the days of old when people ran for sanctuary. It’s also not about being a refugee, although there are so many examples of refugees and displaced people today. This is a world-wide phenomenon. The Bible shares about the importance of being kind to strangers and soujourners in the land. In some way, we are soujourners in South Africa, since we are here on a 3 year visa, with a medical visa extension.
But the ultimate form of refuge is to lean heavily on Jesus in hard times. He sets us above the floodwaters that come in. I spoke of the refuge boxes that are placed on the pilgrim route and road into Lindisfarne Holy Island. If someone is stranded while the tide comes, they can take shelter there. There is also the form of refuge that Jesus carries you through difficult times like in the well-known Footprints poem. That pilgrim took refuge in Jesus’ carrying him, although he did not know it. In my case, the Holy Spirit showed me an image where Jesus carried me close to his chest. Every time I began to look around, Holy Spirit nudged my head back into Jesus’ chest. I felt safe. I felt loved. I knew it would be okay. Now I also know that I was in shock, and later came to feel the normal feelings that come with loss: grief, sorrow, anger, and more. But it’s OK. Jesus has still carried me, he’s been inspiring certain people to pitch in towards our medical expenses, and giving me the needed strength to do what I must do. Then Tony got sick with TB, and I was given a dream of Jesus carrying him across a windy beach. Jesus looked back at me, walking behind him in a walker. He said to be “follow me.” Fortunately he moved slowly so that I could follow, but gain strength and courage in the walking.
Strength and courage are strongly connected. Courage is what we are filled with that gives us strength. It’s also related to joy, as shown in Nehemiah 8:10, “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
Warriors often rely on strength and courage. Warriors who are Christian trust God, despite their momentary fear, and choose to push on. This is a very real and gritty thing. A soldier may find himself in grave danger, but he pushes on, one step at a time. Sometimes soldiers will do heroic feats, like rescuing a child in the midst of a battle, or protecting a fallen comrade. That is courage. There is a special saying in Afrikaans that coloured folk here say that sums up what is needed: “sterke” or strongs. It has a connotation that is deeper than the English mentality of ‘chin up mate and carry on.’ It’s strength that requires courage. Courage strengthens. I believe that true courage is from God. During the first month or two following my cancer diagnosis, I have been told that I am strong and have shown courage and bravery, by many people, both in the church and outside of it. Tony tells people of my strong attitude. But I confess that it really is God’s strength that carries me. What people see is my determination to trust God, and they see his joy and peace in me – at most times. Even heroes have their moments of sadness, fear and confusion. Tony’s daughter-in-law is a gem who has been a cheerleader for me along the way. Her name is Kathy. She told me that I was near the top of her hero list for the strength and courage that was visible to her. Later, during a weak moment of sadness, she acknowledged that it was okay. She insightfully and tenderly told me, “it’s okay to feel sad and be what you are in any changing moment. This is your first cry since diagnosis, so you’ve probably been denying your negative feelings. Let them be what they are, so you can acknowledge them and let them go when they’ve run their course. You’re fighting an epic battle and there will be ups and downs. Walk in freedom and be beautiful you through it all. Love you and hope you find a lift in your psyche soon.” This is one of many wonderful messages that acknowledged the real journey where I have been growing in strength through God’s courage and joy.
What is courage? Courage is often understood as the choice and willingness to confront agony, pain, danger, uncertainty and intimidation. Courage gives you the ability to stand, and not back down. It is also the ability to do something that normally would frighten you, something that is BRAVE. It’s also strength in the face of pain and grief; especially in the example of fighting an extended illness with great courage. The illness could be cancer, or many other invisible disabilities that bring daily pain and discouragement. This is why courage to face the day is needed.
Personal courage has two aspects, physical (to keep you ‘going’ during each day), and moral. The moral includes spiritual, which is at the centre of our hearts. Our Faith in Jesus is the core of this. Holy Spirit is the one who fills us with what we need. There is a Bethel song called “You make me brave.” It’s a favourite from 2014 that has emboldened many hearts. One line goes “You make me brave, you call me out beyond the shore into the waves. I have heard you calling my name, I have heard the song of love that you sing, so I will let you draw me out beyond the shore, into your grace, your grace.” (You make me Brave – Amanda Cook)
The root of the word courage is COR- the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant, “to speak one’s mind by telling all of one’s heart.” Over time, this definition changed to become associated with heroic and brave deeds. And bravery is shown on the battlefield AND in your daily walk of faith. I used to work as the PA and social media assistant to Canadian prophet Darren Canning. He shared a great example of courage recently: He said, “One person in a war may seem like one piece of sand upon the seashore but one person filled with courage can speak to the wildest waves and they will have to obey.” (Darren Canning, FB post October 10, 2019)
Everyday courage is also shown in your life wherever you are. It means you don’t have to be a soldier or a missionary to have courage. Every day acts include: apologizing when you are wrong. It takes courage to admit when you are wrong. You also need courage to be yourself, especially in a culture that likes to imitate. Don’t copy or compare yourself with others. Pastor Shawn Gabie often tells his congregation that “comparison is a calling killer.” You also need to take responsibility. You are where you are in life because of your past choices, although God’s grace, mercy and favour may have altered these circumstances. Keep your commitments, and don’t be a drop-out. Let go of the past and don’t let it hinder you anymore. Listen deeply to your mentors and grow.
You may do all of these things and still need to grow further. How can you boost your courage? Continue to pray and read faith-building scriptures on faith. Stories of David and his mighty men are helpful. I will share more this later. You can also read stories and testimonies of people who have been given deep courage, like Heidi Baker, and missionaries who walk into warzones with no outward fear, although they experience many times where they must heavily lean on the Lord’s strength. Otherwise, you can remind yourself that fear isn’t always helpful. It is a warning trigger, but beyond that, you don’t need to act on it. I used to wear a giving key on a chain called FEARLESS. It reminded me to keep standing or advancing in the areas in which I was called. I always remember where a visiting speaker shared to the Catch the Fire congregation this gem: it was that when we become comfortable in the Father’s love, we become FEARLESS in our calling. It’s all about who is backing you, like Elisha who told his assistant to look at the angel army protecting them from a much smaller physical army. This is shown in 2 Kings 6:17: “Then Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!” The Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.” We need to open our eyes that the Lord is indeed with us.
Remember that you can advance in baby steps. It’s also okay to stand where you are for a little while. You can expand your comfort zone gradually. If you are in a panic mode, remember to breathe. You can even say to yourself, “STOP” and say, it’s OK. I’ve done this on occasion when my heart was pounding. Take a step back. You may be looking too closely at your situation. See it with new eyes, kind of like Elisha’s assistant. Ask Holy Spirit to help you. And begin to look to the future. Ask yourself who you need to become. This is more of who you dream yourself to be, your best self. Think of what God is doing in your heart to get you there. And then, with prayer and direction from the Holy Spirit, take action.
Jon Bloom says, “Where does courage come from? How do you get it when you need it, when some fear towers over you and threatens you, and you feel like cowering and fleeing into some cave of protection? For an answer, let’s look at one of the most famous stories of all time in 1 Samuel chapter 17 — and one of the most misunderstood stories in the Bible.” Nearly everyone knows the story of David and Goliath.
Over three thousand years ago, a massive man named Goliath of Gath stepped out of the Philistine army’s ranks, stationed in the Valley of Elah. He taunted and defied not only Israel’s army, but also the God of Israel. For forty days he continued heaping shame, insults and likely curses on them. None dared to accept his fight-to-the-death, winner takes all challenge. With each challenge, there was no one to accept, as they froze or retreated in fear. Then a teenage Hebrew shepherd boy named David showed up in camp. He brought lunch for his older brothers who were in Israel’s camp. He personally heard the giant “pour out his scorn on the impotent” soldiers. “David was indignant. So he took his shepherd’s sling, chose five smooth stones, hit Goliath on the forehead, and chopped off his head.” [Jon Bloom, Where Real Courage comes from, Desiring God, June 2015. https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/where-real-courage-comes-from]
Now David’s defeat of Goliath is not just a story of personal courage. David was not like Rocky Bolboa in the Rocky films. He was an underdog, but not that kind. He wasn’t necessarily a rebel fighter. But his courage was empowered by something else.
But let’s look at the situation in context. The Israelite army was looking at what was going on with only their physical eyes. Goliath was nine-feet tall and very strong. He was a highly trained fighting machine that physically outclassed the Hebrews. “Fighting Goliath looked like suicide, plain and simple.” [Jon Bloom] David didn’t see it that way. He looked through the eyes of faith. Even though the soldiers had seen great feats, they were weak in faith at that moment. Perhaps they forgot who they were and who God is. They were looking at Goliath’s size, and the physically impossible circumstances. They thought any challenger would end up as “bird food.” [Jon Bloom]
But David had deep confidence in God. He deeply believed in God’s promises and his power to fulfill them. David wasn’t “self-confident, he was God-confident.” Earlier in his story, the prophet Samuel anointed him as a future king of Israel. This was a promise. He went out to meet the Philistine giant knowing that God would give him victory over Goliath. The victory would demonstrate God’s power and faithfulness, not David’s courage. When David replied to the giant’s taunts and scorn, he didn’t show his own strength, but rather God’s. This is what 1 Samuel 17:46-47 says: “Today the Lord will conquer you, and I will kill you and cut off your head. And then I will give the dead bodies of your men to the birds and wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel! 47 And everyone assembled here will know that the Lord rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is the Lord’s battle, and he will give you to us!”
What’s the source of your courage? “Real courage is always produced by faith. Courage is a derivative virtue.” [Jon Bloom] For most Christians, when you lack courage, you ‘shrink back’ like the Hebrew army. They may have been distracted by circumstances, or forgot about God’s promises. All we see is our own weakness. But look up. It’s not about US! All of us experience this fear. So did David. David is such a helpful example. He fueled his confidence and courage to face Goliath from God’s promises. But he also frequently felt fearful himself. He also needed to encourage his soul again by remembering God’s promises. Just read the first 25 Psalms. It shows how often David battled fear and unbelief. Yet he always turned around the situation and declared that God was his hope and that he would trust him. David was human. Yet his gifting was to turn towards God, despite fear, and sometimes sin, and he knew how to repent. He was declared a man after God’s own heart. 1 Samuel 13:14 says, “But now your kingdom must end, for the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart. The Lord has already appointed him to be the leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.” (This was in context to King Saul when he blew it).
Faith made David more than courageous. It made him angry at Goliath’s taunts against God. And when no one defended God’s name, it made God look weak. Jon Bloom says that “our fears are not primarily about us, even though they feel that way. Our fears are primarily about God and his character.” [Jon Bloom] They see God as weak, or worse, non-existent. It’s the same today in popular culture: from Chris De Burgh’s song “Spanish Train,” where the devil cheats and beats Jesus at poker (who is “just doing his best,”) to the remote God in the song “From a distance” and the lack of God entirely in the song “Imagine.”
But as Christians, we don’t actually fight the people we deal with day to day. We are not on a battle field with them. Even if they are gangsters, or unruly learners in our little cottage school. The kids always fight, to my dismay, but I continue to pray for breakthrough. Ephesians 6:12 reminds us that we are not to battle with flesh and blood. We are to LOVE our human enemies. Yes, gangsters, that means you. Yes sangomas here in South Africa, that means you too. Yes, religious people who only complain in person and on Facebook, that means you too. We love you. Jesus loves you. And to say that truth takes courage. Our own Goliaths are not people, but the sin that entangles us, as well as the snares of the devil. But once you get free, just remember, if you don’t believe his lies, he has no hold over you.
It also takes great courage to share about yourself and of God’s love. But you can share your story. No one can counter act your story – because it’s about God’s work in you, not a philosophy that is debated. Missionaries are courageous – just look at Heidi Baker, where she willingly confronts people who are evil, but in a way where it is clear that she is a mama pointing to a mighty God. Just read her books, which are many. There are so many beautiful treasures in there.
So why should we develop courage? You may be facing an overwhelming situation. At this time we are in that place. While we love being on the South African mission field, we were hampered by my journey of inflammatory breast cancer. So I not only fought forces of darkness outside of me, but also the cancer that was inside me. But I won’t ask why. I trust that the Lord is working out this situation for his glory. And twice the Holy Spirit has spoken to me about my healing in South Africa. This was before the cancer showed up. I thought he meant about other ailments, one of which is now in remission. I choose to believe in his promise, as David did of God’s greatness. God’s glory will be shown in me no matter what. I know his strength and courage does, but that’s not mine. It’s his. Heidi Baker often shares the analogy of stepping on Jesus’ feet and going along for the ride. I do the same, except I’m allowing him to carry me. My weakness is plain to see, but the strength pouring out is all from God. I can’t claim any of it, except as a precious gift from a loving God. So we take courage, because God’s perfect power is shown in our weakness. There is much more I can still share, as I have found while researching about courage, so next month we will journey through part two.
In the meantime, cling to Jesus, the author of your salvation. He is your strength and your song. He gives me strength when I have none. May he do the same for you. Remember, he is with you, as he is with me. He never leaves you.
Lord Jesus, thank you that you are always with us – through your Holy Spirit. You guide and comfort us, and carry us when we need to be carried. You give us strength to confront evil, and the resilience to persevere in tough times. You are our strength and our shield. Bless my friends who are listening with all that they really need. In Jesus’ name.
If you’d like to hear an audio version of this article, please visit the Ways to Grow in God (WTGIG) podcast page on the coppleswesterncape.ca website (under the “Listen” drop-down menu). Click here: (https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/wtgig-podcasts.html) and scroll down to #64! If you have been blessed by this article, please let us know!
Updates: For those looking for news on my cancer journey, I am still receiving oncology visits in South Africa, and the awaited plastic surgery on the left side of my mastectomy scar has been postponed, since the surgeon was concerned about me being exposed to covid. I am waiting on the surgeon for when it can be rescheduled. He has generously waived the surgical fees, so we only need pay for the anesthetic (likely local) and the medical venue (a day hospital in Cape Town’s Panarama neighbourhood).
I had an excellent cancer post treatment appointment last month. There is no trace of cancer in my blood, although the high level of pain meds I receive does show. The supplements however, have made a difference in recovery from the treatments as well as the cancer that was in my body. Now we will continue to keep watch that the cancer doesn’t return. I have extensive scans and blood work in July (pending a medical visa extension). Tomorrow, I have a simple flush of my chemotherapy port, which I have chosen to keep for the time being.
I also receive MLD therapy, lymphedema treatments and physiotherapy to get me stronger for our eventual return to Canada (which was to be in May 2021, but it’s difficult to return so we will see if we can return in September).
We did receive our first, allow us to stay until May 2021, but we are working to reapply for the extension this month. According to Home Affairs, the wait can be up to 60 business days. That’s a long time without our passports, but we need to be patient and trust God and our lawyer during the process.
We believe that the medical treatment here is excellent, although expensive, despite the rand-Canadian dollar exchange has helped keep costs almost 15 percent lower. We have incurred significant medical debt, although kind people in Canada and around the world have helped us so far. God bless each and every one of them. But we still need help. Tony has significant medical bills as well for TB, eye surgery and other issues. Please click here for the medical campaign page to get more info: https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/medical-campaign.html. I want to thank Teriro, who blessed us with a gift last month. We weren’t expecting it when it came! Most people who are led to give are friends, or friends of friends, so when friends we’ve not met yet respond, it’s very special!
We are still crowdfunding to cover the cancer treatments (as well as Tony’s TB treatments). If you feel led to contribute, please do so via our PayPal: https://www.paypal.me/WaystogrowinGod
L-A’s colouring book: If you are in South Africa, and would like to purchase one of L-A’s colouring books, they are available at OliveTree Bookshop in Mountain Mill Shopping Centre (near Pick n Pay), Worcester, Western Cape. You can also buy them at LeRoux and Fourie Wineshop on R60 beside Cape Lime (between Nuy and Robertson). Or you can order one (or more) printed for you through Takealot.com through this link: https://www.takealot.com/colouring-with-jesus/PLID68586424
The Colouring with Jesus 2 is in the works – in translation mode into Afrikaans. After we return to Canada, we plan to republish the devotional colouring books into English-French. Bless you and thank you for your support!