Tag Archives: Iris Virginia

Growing in God through finding family

“Jesus in our School” by Laurie-Ann Zachar Copple, 2019.

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 my last article, we journeyed through forgiveness.  We learned through the story of Joseph that forgiveness is a process; and it is a choice.  Sometimes we need to forgive those who hurt us more than once.  It’s important to keep our hearts soft, and not full of bitterness.  When we give God the person who has hurt us, we give him the right to deal out justice.  Sometimes his justice turns to mercy, as it did when Stephen the martyr forgave those who stoned him. This includes Saul of Tarsus, who looked after the persecutors’ cloaks.  Joseph showed discretion in dealing with his brothers’ sin against him.  Since he did not openly share the transgression, it showed that he deeply forgave. This discretion allowed the family pain to be dealt with without his Egyptian colleagues getting involved. It saved face.   We also learned through Corrie ten Boom’s story, that when you forgive your enemies, it brings special grace from the Lord, indeed.  It took a miracle of grace inside her heart to forgive a concentration camp guard who was cruel to her family.  But she trusted the Lord. He brought healing to her heart, and likely to that of her former enemy.  God has a wonderful way of turning former enemies into family in Christ.  He did this with Corrie ten Boom.  He did this with Nate Saint’s family, after missionaries Nate Saint and Jim Eliott were killed by South American Aucas.  Later on, the killers came to faith in Jesus Christ.  One of the redeemed killers even baptized Nate’s son.  That’s forgiveness.  That’s a sign of real Christian family.    We’re going to explore how we can grow in family.

A healthy family is a real blessing.  Many families are very dysfunctional.  Some are controlling, and others enmeshed.  My own family lacked boundaries in some areas of their lives, and there was much confusion.  Many families lack a real sense of having fathers, since they would be absent in some way.  Some dads would be working and be always away from the family.  Others may be addicted and demanding, or expecting their children to perform well at all they do, and yet others not caring at all.  They may be there in person, but they aren’t there in their hearts.  Their children can tell.  I went through a lot of inner healing when it came to my father.  He teased me all the time, as did bullies at school.  There didn’t seem to be a safe place for me. So I collected big brothers who would protect me.  Sometimes if you don’t seem to have a good sense of safety in a family, you try to find one elsewhere.  Some kids find this in gangs, where they feel they belong. They feel safe, even if they aren’t safe.   Now I actually had a loving father, who cared and cares very deeply for me and my sister.  He was just insecure.  He needed love and safety just as much as I did.  And when I came to faith in Jesus Christ, I had spiritual dads who flowed from the heart of God the Father to me.  This filled the deficit that I had – since my own dad could never have loved me as deeply as that.  He still doesn’t know Jesus yet.

There are many kids who are fatherless.  I’ve seen this in Ottawa, especially among the single-parent households in the poorer areas of town.  Yet it’s even more evident in South Africa.  Teen pregnancies are common in the Western Cape townships, and likely in other areas of the Rainbow Nation.  Where are the fathers?  Some are in jail.  We’ve ministered to some of those in both Ottawa and Worcester.  Others have taken off and fathered other families.  We saw this in Mozambique.  Others have died, since they have led hard lives as labourers, or were killed off in violence.  So boys and girls grow up with their moms, who are struggling to make ends meet.  While the mom may have help from her own mother or sisters, she is continually stressed. Sometimes in desperation she spends the baby bonus on cheap wine. The kids go hungry.   Some of these kids have managed, but many of them have a sense of orphan spirit, where you can feel a sense of desperation and detachment.  They feel abandoned.  In some cases they are, but in others, their moms are trying to survive by working. 

Before covid-19 hit, we would see farm kids in one of our after school kids clubs.  Their parents work as farm labourers, and are in the fields for hours.  They don’t see their parents much, so they’ve been left to raise themselves.  We’ve found them to be some of the brashest, toughest kids we’ve ever known. They tested us at every turn, screamed, shouted and want to destroy things. Some have fetal alcohol syndrome. Yet, some will respond to steady love and discipline.  Tony and I tried to love them this way. However, since our Afrikaans isn’t strong, they needed that added commonality of a shared love language. In came their Afrikaaner leaders, Flip and Inge-Lize, who love with discipline in their language.  They were acting as parents, as family, even closer to them than Uncle Tony and Tannie Laurie-Ann.  We loved them, but they needed surrogate parents. Family draws you IN, and helps you belong.  Family usually speaks the same language.

We are created to grow in relationship.  I remember learning this deeply when I was studying counselling in Tyndale Seminary.  I remember writing about integrating different kinds of psychology and theology into counselling strategies.  When I prayed about combining different counselling methods, what came to me was a Holy Spirit insight.  Our faith isn’t just theology. It is something that is often thought through and lived out of.  It’s a foundation.  Everything needs to be based on that.  If counselling methods are to work, it needs to be thoroughly drenched in our Christian world-view – not as a fake-imposed religion, but out of genuine compassion.  God is our source of healing.  He heals the counsellee, and he heals us.    Since God is a God of relationship, as Father, so he also puts the lonely into families for healing. Psalm 68:5-6 says “Father to the fatherless, defender of widows – this is God, whose dwelling is holy.  God places the lonely in families. He sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.”   

Many of us have been hurt in dysfunctional or abusive relationships.  One of our natural responses is to run away. Others fight or freeze. I was the one who froze, or at least hid as much as I could.  But the pain would always follow.  I realized while I worked on this essay that a deep key of healing is actually received through godly relationships.  God uses them to minister to others, especially if they can see Jesus in you.  They respond to the compassion and light.   I shared this insight with two leaders who had a healing ministry in the church I then attended.  They looked at me with joy and told me I was ready to read Tom Marshall. Marshall wrote that relationships bring healing. To receive this healing, we need to connect with each other. This means your real face, rather than a mask; not a projection that is not yourself.  Real family is a safe place where you can be yourself.

To add to the confusion of the fatherless generation, there are more and more blended families.  Some of the teen girls we love and disciple are in blended families.  They don’t know their fathers, but they know their mother’s boyfriends. The relationships aren’t stable.  Other kids are jammed in with them in tiny houses.  Some kids have different fathers, with confusing family dynamics.  One pair of boys that we taught in school looked like brothers, yet the younger one was the uncle of the older boy.  The kids we taught last year were so hungry for love.  They loved the hugs and kisses I gave them, as well as the hugs and discipline Tony shared. They were unruly and had been given conflicting messages from their parents.  One of the boys said in class that he wished that he’d never been born.  Tony was shocked by this and asked him why.  The boy replied, “It’s because I’m so boring.”  This boy is anything BUT boring.  He’s a caring gentleman, loves music and is quite endearing. Does this sound like an exasperated relative told him to shut up, and that he’s boring?  Perhaps, but that sounds like a curse.  And then there is the “S” word that is banded about – “stupid.”  A bit later, the learners taunted each other with that word until I put a stop to it.  I told them not to be silly – and that NONE of them is stupid. They ALL got high marks in my art class.    This group is a dysfunctional family but we’re worked hard on fixing this by being consistent with them.  Sometimes you spend more time with classmates than you do with family members, so they are family too. Unfortunately, school can also be a place of much pain, as it was for me.  Childhood bullies are still a common problem, both in person or online. But we didn’t allow it in our school.    While Tony and I were on furlough, our school was left in the care of Helena. She is very loving South African;  both wise and strict. She doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to discipline. And while I once heard one of the boys complain to me about her, I found that some of them have grown more confident in their personalities due to her influence: especially the youngest child, Delivenance. 

I have continued to learn about family through the Iris movement.  Small groups and Bible studies had their place in my personal healing, but what I heard and my heart drank in through Iris, was transformational.  I always had a longing to belong.  I needed to know my ‘tribe.’  In Ottawa, I was part of three churches – one liturgical, one new Pentecostal, and one in the Catch the Fire stream. One fed me in communion and symbol, another in great teaching, and the third in deep worship, including prophetic drawing.  I was allowed to thrive in that gifting. I worked hard for all of the churches at different times as I was needed. Each has been supportive in their own way.  In 2014, I discovered Iris in Virginia, led by a dear Iris mentor, Brian Britton.  He offered a taste of healthy, very connected family.  Most members were loosely based, and were mostly sent out on the mission fields of South America, the US, Africa, Asia and Australia.  But this was a supportive network that encouraged you in your own destiny calling.  They believe that no one has a cookie-cutter ministry.  We are all unique. In an earlier Ways to Grow article, I have spoken of how we grow in the communion of saints. This is a deep sense of church community.  I’ve also shared about deep friendships, mentors and networking.     But this was something greater than these relationships.  This was Holy Spirit drenched connections, like deeply nourishing family.  I met people there that I call forever friends, people like Brenda and her husband Danny, who nurture deep faith and wisdom.  Then there’s Dennis and Cindy, who minister to the hidden poor in Williamsburg. And people in Richmond who are equally authentic in their faith, who treat the broken like long-lost cousins.   I know what that’s like, since I met two first cousins-once removed through Ancestry.ca recently.  One of them, Cousin Bonnie, is becoming a forever friend.

Heidi Baker always tells us that “love looks like something.”  How does that look in the West?  It looks like family with the same core values and community days, meeting together. It looks like being intentional.  You WANT to connect as family.  You love being together.  My mentor Brian says that “family is the new wineskin.  Iris is also like a family.  The church is supposed to be like that.  We need fathers and mothers – but often we quit on people.  Family does NOT and should not do that. True family sticks together. We really need consistent fathers and mothers.  We need to BE WITH people and not treat them as a project.”  We need to love unconditionally, with humility.  [Brian Britton, backporch talk on Iris in the west, June 15, 2016, Harvest School 24]    This is the environment that I was attracted towards. I found this to some extent at Harvest School, but personally, that school was a pressure cooker for me.  Where I really learned and absorbed family identity, was at the base where we are now connected.  We were being prepared as spiritual parents by seeing it modelled by Johan and Marie Fourie.

We spent 22 days at Iris Western Cape base after two months in Mozambique.  We came ‘home’ to be poured into, to rest, and to receive love.  This was incredibly freeing.  My art was unleashed as I was inspired.  Johan and Marie encouraged me to draw the beautiful landscape of the Langeberg range, foothills and bushveld.  I even drew their beloved field of flags by their winery business.  The Fouries poured into our whole team in a deeply loving, yet in a laid-back way.  I will always remember Johan telling us that “it’s all about family.” Heidi Baker had the revelation of making love practical, and being hungry for God; but the Fouries brought me deep relationship of another kind to the table.  Johan was and is a papa.

Each Iris base is different. We have experienced three bases: in Mozambique and South Africa.  We also know two affiliates: one in Virginia, and the other in East London, Eastern Cape.  The bases had a sense of family, which seemed strongest at Footprints near Jo’burg, and here at Western Cape.  Since our base is not the traditional compound base with a children’s centre, a different strategy is needed. Johan’s dream is to put missionary couples and families in a ring of towns around the base and farm.  We are to all link with other ministries and churches.  These ministries aren’t Iris, but they are still family.  And that is exactly what we’ve done.  We’re further apart geographically from the other Iriser’s than we’d like, but since we link arms with other ministries, we flourish in our own callings.  Some of us are with children, others with seniors.  It hasn’t been easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is.  We are intentionally sowing into our Iris family, as well as the family clusters we’ve joined. 

Tony and I joined with several YWAM ministries, and they’ve become family.  The teen girls who we share Saturdays and Mondays with, have become family.  Our cellgroup at church is a very tight-knit family; we’re always in touch on a Whatsapp group. We can share the need for prayer at any time.  This is the ex-pat group in our church, and is perfect for being ourselves. We don’t need to always be in ministry-mode, unless the Holy Spirit prompts us. We’ve found this group is very real; if you need them, they will come help you.  We’re so thankful for this kind of family. I had a similar experience of family when I was let go from my job in British Columbia.  I became very close to some church leaders, the women’s group, and my connect group.  They became my life-line.  It’s been the same of certain female friends – they are like sisters to me. Even my relationship with own sister has become stronger in the past few years. 

Families are actually the building block of a sturdy civilization.  Families are being attacked all the time by the enemy of our souls.  Marriages are as well. And so, this brings us to one of the core reasons why Tony and I were called to South Africa.  We are called to be mom and dad, tannie and oom to the abandoned latch-key kids of the townships.  We are like second parents, loving them, teaching them, and discipling them in the faith.  We allow them freedom to love and make mistakes; to learn and grow. Yet we have healthy boundaries and are teaching them about honour.  One of the girls, Jamelia, told me that we are her second parents. She tells me that she is very thankful for us.  Another girl, Chantelle, calls me Mommy, although she still calls Tony “Uncle” Tony.  We love them all.  As we spend time with them, they grow.  They really just need our intentional time and love.  This takes commitment, especially during covid times.  The girls had been in turn, loving younger township kids through small Bible studies.  They got to be big sisters.  That’s family.  This is how family should be.  We’re not perfect, and neither are they.  But when there’s grace and unconditional love through the Holy Spirit, we can bless each other. We can grow like plants in good soil.  I pray that this may be this way in your own lives too. 

Are you part of family like this?  If you’re not, would you like to be?  Seek God – he can draw you to the right place.  It won’t be in a gang that seeks to harm and destroy.  It will be in within family that loves you to life.

Let us pray together. Lord, thank you that you set the lonely into families. May you pick us up and out of destructive relationships and bring healing.  For the broken, I ask that you father us in a way that only you can.  Minister deeply to hearts, restore a sense of their identity in you, as your child. We ask for more spiritual moms and dads.  There are so many needed, not just the Copples and the Fouries. Not just Brian Britton and Rolland Baker.  Fill our arms with the broken prodigals and those who need family.  Prepare our hearts.  We thank you that you create the best family. May you bring your deep healing and love. And may we continue to grow in you.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

If you’d like to hear an audio version of this article, please visit the Ways to Grow in God (WTGIG) podcast page on the coppleswesterncape.ca website (under the “Listen” drop-down menu).  Click here:  (https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/wtgig-podcasts.html) and scroll down to #59!  If you have been blessed by this article, please let us know!

Updates:  For those looking for news on my cancer journey, I am almost finished the expensive Herceptin injections, with just one to go!  I do not need tamoxifen, although will need to have my chemotherapy port flushed.  I have decided to keep the port for now. I am continuing MLD therapy, lymphedema treatments and physiotherapy to get me stronger for our eventual return to Canada.  We are applying for medical visas, which would allow us to stay six months longer in South Africa.  The medical treatment here is excellent, although expensive, despite the rand-Canadian dollar exchange has helped keep costs almost 20 percent lower.  We have incurred significant medical debt, although kind people in Canada and around the world have helped us so far.  God bless each and every one of them.  But we still need help. Please click here for the medical campaign page to get more info: https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/medical-campaign.html.

 We are still crowdfunding to cover the cancer treatments (and Tony’s TB treatments). If you feel led to contribute, please do so via our PayPal:  https://www.paypal.me/WaystogrowinGod

L-A’s colouring book:  If you are in South Africa, and would like to purchase one of L-A’s colouring books, they are available at OliveTree Bookshop in Mountain Mill Shopping Centre (near Pick n Pay), Worcester, Western Cape.  You can also buy them at LeRoux and Fourie Wineshop on R60 beside Cape Lime (between Nuy and Robertson).  Or you can order one (or more) printed for you through Takealot.com through this link:  https://www.takealot.com/colouring-with-jesus/PLID68586424

Bless you and thank you for your support!


Growing in God: Suffering and Joy


Last time we discovered that thankfulness and gratitude are key to managing suffering.  This helps us in natural ways, but also gives opportunity for God to work supernaturally in our lives in the midst of difficulty. Jesus suffered for us (dying on a cross, 39 lashes) so he is no stranger to pain. He endured because of the joy awaiting him (Hebrews 12:2).  Part of that joy was for us to come to know God through him. He didn’t bemoan his situation. When we refuse to practise negativity in the midst of difficulties, our hearts are ready to receive the supernatural help to get through situations that are near impossible. God gives his grace, and in the midst of it, that grace can even bring joy.

When I wrote my earlier article on suffering, I only partly understood what it really means.  My understanding was incomplete, even though I had met Christians who had suffered greatly in northern Kenya, Pakistan, Sierra Leone and Northern Ireland.  I understood key aspects of successfully living through suffering.  My article suggested that most of these keys included attitude, gaining a refined identity as children of God, ministering comfort toward others, humility and realizing that God will somehow make sense out of the suffering.  Through these things the Holy Spirit would develop in us a deep perseverance, as well as character and hope (see Romans 5:4).  All of this is true; scripture implores us over and over again to not give up in the face of difficulty.  However, I still didn’t truly understand the paradox of joy and suffering. I have been pondering the issue of suffering for years.  Many people have, which is why it’s the number one topic in Nicky Gumbel’s book Searching Issues.

I had just returned from my first mission trip to Kenya in 1993.  I attended an evening service in Toronto with a friend who had journeyed with me through some of my own difficulties. My then-pastor Dale, had preached on Hebrews 12:1-3:  “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Most people would have focused on our cheerleaders in heaven (the great cloud of witnesses), or perhaps the encouragement to not give up (run our race with perseverance, and not losing heart). This again gives us good reason to not give up.  Never, never give up (I’ve given up too early many times in the past). Yet I was drawn to the phrase “for the joy set before him he endured the cross.”  Joy?  In the cross?  In suffering?  I also had heard of persecuted Christians who showed joy at surprising times but I wasn’t yet ready to read the stories.  I was afraid to hear their stories but I needed to read them.  I remember going up for prayer to Dale’s wife, Linda. I asked her that I may understand what joy and suffering meant, and to understand joy in the context of the cross. I don’t think she understood what I really wanted, but she did pray (albeit with a perplexed look on her face).

When I studied in Tyndale Seminary, I took a New Testament course called Prison Epistles (Philippians, Colossians, Ephesians and Philemon).  The Apostle Paul wrote these letters while he was under house arrest in Rome. I remember Paul often writing about joy in the midst of the letter to the Philippians. It’s known as the book of joy. Joy, or rejoicing is mentioned 16 times in this letter! Yet, this is the apostle who endured so much persecution (read 2 Corinthians 1:8, 4:8-12, 6:4-5, and especially 11:16-33).  Paul was no wimp. He suffered out of love to reach as many people as possible. Yet in that time, God gave him the grace of joy.   I remember I had a brief flash of insight when I was writing the final exam in the Prison Epistles course.  It was about the paradox of suffering and joy – and I believed that Paul’s statement of being content in all circumstances was the key.  I still sought the core of that inner contentment – what was it?  What came to me was a very small, but bright intuitive flash – the centre of that joy, that contentment was trust.  Pure and deep trust in God, no matter what. Since I was still working on that part of my life, I didn’t get to expound on my discovery.  Paul’s contentment is made plain in Philippians 4: 10-14 (Message Version):

“I’m glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess—happy that you’re again showing such strong concern for me. Not that you ever quit praying and thinking about me. You just had no chance to show it. Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. I don’t mean that your help didn’t mean a lot to me—it did. It was a beautiful thing that you came alongside me in my troubles.”

That trust is something I saw in the eyes of the people in Shantinagar, Pakistan. I remember seeing them as glowing, shining stars for Christ: humble, loving, full of radiant love.  I saw the same thing through the eyes of missionary Heidi Baker.  She is an apostle of radical love.  She and her husband head up Iris Global, a huge movement of missions, mercy and radical lovers.  She approached me once in a women’s conference and gave me roses. I remember the deep love of Jesus that poured out of her.  Here is one person who so completely loves and trusts God that she never says no to him. She laughs out of joy, simply because she is so filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit.

Heidi’s husband Rolland is just as amazing as his wife. I got to meet Rolland while at an Iris conference hosted by Iris Virginia (Richmond/Williamsburg).  I began my relationship with this community in June 2014, and continue to correspond, visit, pray with and minister with these folks as much as I can. I am awaiting my fourth visit in September. My second visit was for this conference and I was given the opportunity to receive lots of ministry.  Heidi had declared on the first night that some people needed to receive God’s joy in order to be used effectively for the gospel. I didn’t quite walk into that crowd at the altar, but I wasn’t far from them.  I should have been closer.  I was often sad and still grieving the loss of my only full-time job; and I still missed the Nelson, British Columbia community I came to love while I was working there. I had given my loss to God, but I didn’t yet have the joy/trust to overcome my loss. Heidi asked for Rolland to pray for all who were depressed.  Many wept deeply.  Sometime during that evening, someone had prayed for me, and I went down.  I spent a long time on that carpet, weeping almost as much as the poor people on stage.

The next night, I stood between the Iris book table and a pole in the church lobby with my new friend Ryan. Ryan was a philosophy student at Boston University and is brilliant (as Rolland himself is). While Ryan and I discussed and debated, Rolland tried to touch us many times on the arm or shoulder (he was deeply filled by the Holy Spirit, and wanted to share with us).  Rolland giggled and had a mischievous glint in his eye.  Sure enough, Ryan and I laughed and giggled as Rolland prayed for us.  I hugged a supporting pole in the church lobby and didn’t want to fall on the floor.  There was no carpet, this was hard tile!  It was also difficult for me to get up!  It didn’t matter.  Rolland was relentless and we received (although we did not fall down).

The next evening, much of the crowd didn’t return, since Heidi had gone on to another conference, far away from Richmond.  But Rolland and Mel Tari were still there. I was able to actually say hello to Rolland, and when I asked him how he was, he said, “Hi, I’ve come looking for revival, have I come to the right place?”  Surely he must have been joking, but I prayed for him anyway!  What a privilege (I was to get the same honour of praying for Heidi only four months later in Toronto)!  That night, holy laughter broke out in the meeting between the worship time and the sermon.  Rolland didn’t want to wait, and it seemed the right time to change the ‘usual format’ of the service. He invited people up to the front to receive. He jokingly called himself “Doctor tee-hee;” for he really does have a Doctor of Ministry degree (as Heidi has a PhD).  I ran up and stood right in front of him, so I ended up being one of the first “hit.”  Rolland thrust his microphone into my stomach and down I went.  It took me ages to get up later, so I sat at his feet while he talked.  While I was on the floor, the rest of my sadness poured out.  I was at peace.

You would think that Rolland would then speak on the theological nature of joy, or of God’s love.  But, no.  He gave a sermon of pure gold. He spoke on holiness and sin.  He spoke on what we desperately need in the church – repentance; and of all that keeps us from leading a holy life. Perhaps we were able to hear Rolland more clearly because we had already received ministry. Yet through it, I remembered Rolland’s words when he was praying for people earlier,  “That the joy was necessary as God was preparing us to die.”  What did Rolland mean by that?  Death of self?  Perhaps!  Many times our own selfish nature gets in the way. Or maybe he meant about inevitable suffering that comes in ministry and when you’re an outspoken Christian?  I had a sense that was what he meant.    The following day, I asked Mel Tari to pray over me that I would become fearless. He smiled and said, “I’d like to pray for you to come into your destiny instead.”  And so Mel did. By the end of the conference, and weeks afterward, I had a lasting taste of what the ‘Joy of the Lord’ meant (Nehemiah 8:10).  It really is about trust, child-like trust that is intermingled with contentment. It is deeper than a feeling, but includes emotion. It is love, trust, and joy that is not connected to circumstances.  Happiness is connected to circumstances, joy is not. I finally could understand joy.   I guess that meant that I was now prepared for suffering, but rather, what came in the wake was more subtle refining.  Some of this was: preparation for future ministry, learning to live on no income of my own, pouring out many volunteer hours in pastoral care (at Kingdom Culture and other places).

I am praying about attending a future Iris Harvest Mission School, and have been reading their required list for over a year.  I found more teaching on suffering and joy through Surprise Sithole’s biography, Surprise in the Night. As I mentioned in my last article (Growing in Gratitude: Paradox and Ministry), Surprise has an amazing way of seeing all of life through joy, despite the tremendous suffering he has endured. He can still have a “good day” every day. Rolland shares in his doctoral dissertation the five values of Iris: God can be found, dependence on miracles, humility/going to the least of these, being willing to suffer and rejoicing in the Lord.  He ties the last two values together when he says, “the joy of the Lord is not optional, and it far outweighs our suffering. In Jesus, it becomes our motivation, reward and spiritual weapon.  In his presence is fullness of joy, and with Paul we testify that in all our troubles, our joy knows no bounds (2 Cor. 7:4). It is our strength and energy, without which we die.” (Rolland Baker, Toward a Biblical Strategy of Mission. P 112)

That extreme dependence on God puts one in a good place, because then God can give us the grace, and the joy we need as we trust him.  This trust isn’t harmed if you’re deeply suffering, because you’re already rooted into his unshakeable grace. Neither is it harmed if you’re in preparation and want to run ahead but know you cannot.  You’re stuck in the place of trusting and waiting on God – for his hand in provision, direction and ministry.  He is the same God, but through this experience, he changes you and his glory inside you begins to shine out of you.  Why do many persecuted Christians seem to smile in the midst of such torture?  The glory within them leaks out. Their eyes are focused on Jesus, and they become even more filled with grace, and that’s what the persecutors see. How are these people carried?  By deep and sure grace.  Strange joy in the midst of horrible circumstances.  Now that I understand, it’s impossible to ignore.  Lord Jesus, help us to learn from those of us who lead the way in shining for you.  May we shine for you as much as these people shine in persecution and even death.

Rolland’s wife Heidi shares a vision she was given of at least a million needy children.  Her voice clip is included in Jason Lee Jones’ song “Song of the Martyr” (which is on his cd, Face to Face).  The children from Heidi’s vision were from all nations.  Jesus said to Heidi, Go give them something to eat, but Heidi was overwhelmed.  Then Jesus took a piece of his broken body and said to her, “Because I died, there will always be enough.”  I believe it was about more than just enough food and enough gospel message.  Heidi took the piece of flesh and it turned into bread, and the bread multiplied over and over. She was also shown that she would drink the cup of suffering, but she would also drink the cup of joy.  Joy is necessary to overcome; after all it is rooted in deep trust! Below I have posted a video of Jason Lee Jones singing a special song about some of the martyrs.  This is a live version, rather than the version on his cd, Face to Face (which I highly recommend) May you be as impacted as I was.

Next time we will explore growing in our identity in the midst of transition.

Laurie-Ann Copple

Jason Lee Jones “Song of the Martyrs”
Jason’s website is: http://godbreed.org/  He is one of the leaders of the Iris base at Savannah Georgia, USA.


Growing in Gratitude: Paradox and Ministry


Last time we discovered that it is possible to eliminate negativity and complaining in our lives though a lifestyle of thankfulness and gratitude.  In February (2015), I attempted to go on a negativity fast for Lent, and it was for the most part- successful.  However, there were challenges. After I declared that this was a fast for God, not only were everyday challenges more of an uphill battle, but there were other difficulties that made some days “screaming days.”  Difficulties were exacerbated by: roller-coaster hormones (after all, I am in the menopause stage of my life), financial stretching, an overlapping schedule with different ministries, a lack of sleep, and even more important, I felt like my life was stuck behind a giant pause button.  During that time, I had to lean very heavily on the Lord for extra grace.  I had to believe (along with the Apostle Paul) that God’s grace “is sufficient for [me], for [God’s] power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Corinthians 9).

Cup of Thanksgiving overflows
Some people could see my initial efforts as wimpy.  Full-time missioners and missionaries often minister no matter how tired they feel.  Many workers in the secular world work very long hours, as I did in the radio broadcasting world. I am not one for encouraging burn-out, for we all need Sabbath times of rest. Yet sometimes we are simply worn out not by work, but by complaining, bitterness and negative attitudes.  So when you give thanks in all things (1 Thess. 5:18), your cup is no longer half empty like the pessimist. Your cup is far more full than the optimist’s half-full glass.  Looking at the glass isn’t just about perspective, although it does include seeing life through different eyes. The eyes of a thankful Christian are opened to what God is doing in us and around us.  This isn’t just a human thing – it’s a supernatural thing.  Your eyes become open to the “more.” This is how the cup turns from being half-full to overflowing. The Psalmist says “You anoint my head with oil. My cup overflows.” (Psalm 23:5)  The overflowing cup is a symbol of being so full of the Holy Spirit that God’s glory and love easily spill out of you.  That’s exactly the time that God works through you, because it is clear that you are more than the “natural you.”

Cup of Suffering and of Joy
Our cup is also a cup of Jesus’ pain and suffering. “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ?” (1 Cor. 10:16) The Apostle Paul talks about sharing the ‘fellowship’ of Christ’s suffering as part of truly knowing him. (Phil 3:10)  How can gratitude and suffering be in the same cup? How can we experience joy in the midst of suffering?  How can we encounter God’s glory in the midst of suffering? Are we even willing to suffer alongside Christ? This cup of suffering is what Jesus drank when he died for us (Matt 26:26-27, Mark 14:22-23, Luke 22:17,19). While we don’t have to go through crucifixion as Jesus did, we do go through suffering and times of difficulty. Sometimes we even go through persecution because of our faith in Jesus Christ and ministry for him. Jesus walks alongside us, and he carries us through these difficulties.  When we thank him in the midst of difficulties, we acknowledge his presence, and allow him to work in our hearts despite the refining fire of challenges. We aren’t suffering alone. Jesus is with us.

Suffering and Gratitude
Suffering can make us bitter or cause us to grow.  If we keep a good attitude of thankfulness, the suffering actually refines us.  It takes us through a process which builds in us perseverance, character and hope (Romans 5:3-4). When you keep thankful in such circumstances, it helps keeps your eyes centred on what God is doing in your life.  The process actually is circular – we start with thankfulness and end up in gratitude.  Thankfulness acknowledges who God is and how he is working in your life, despite the difficulties.  Gratitude is the growing state of your heart as God uses the refining process to create good soil.  This good soil is the same believing, faithful heart that Jesus refers to in the parable of the sower (Mark 4:3-20).

Recently, my husband and I returned from a trip to Williamsburg, Virginia. We spent special time with our dear family-friends in the Iris Virginia church. The visiting worship leader, Jonathan David Pettit,  prophesied over me that I was like “spiritual Miracle Grow” (a plant fertilizer).  He told me that “because I had not allowed my heart to become bitter, despite the ‘crap’ in my life, he was using me overcoming these experiences as fertile soil.” He would use these experiences to help others overcome their difficulties. He would use me as a cheerleader for other’s dreams, because I had ‘been there.’ In the moments Jonathan shared, I had a profound sense of gratitude for God working out the messes in my life in a way that gives God glory.

How do we develop this heart of gratitude?  Perhaps the best way is by disciplining ourselves to stay thankful, no matter what we encounter.  Gratitude becomes a growing response we develop, and God deepens his imprint in our lives. Our eyes and ears become increasingly more open to his love and blessings, and our faith and compassion for others deepen.  We begin to develop a fruit of gratitude as we believe God’s promises and grow more thankful; this is similar to how one develops the fruit of the Spirit.

What is the fruit of the Spirit? These are: “love, joy, peace, forbearance (patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22-23).  We grow in response to what God is doing in our lives, and if we keep a good attitude, we are thankful. Henri Nouwen taught that when we encounter the fruit of the Spirit in others, we experience them as gifts. When we continue to be surprised by new manifestations of life and continue to praise and thank God and our neighbour, routine and boredom cannot take hold. Then all of life becomes a reason for saying thanks. Thus, fruitfulness and gratitude can never be separated.” (Lifesigns 70-71) Thus, “gratitude flows from the recognition that all that is, is a divine gift born of love; it is freely given to us so that we may offer thanks and share it with others.” (Robert Jonas, “Henry Nouwen” P 69).

Paradox of Gratitude, suffering and ministry: “How to have a Good Day”
So gratitude grows despite the paradox, and because of the presence of the Holy Spirit, gratitude can grow deeper alongside the paradox of suffering and joy.  Earlier I mentioned about people working tirelessly despite having difficult circumstances.  Some people could call that having a bad day, but they still press on with what they have to do.  Iris leader Surprise Sithole believes that it is always possible to “have a good day” despite circumstances, and he passed this belief on to missionaries Rolland and Heidi Baker.  Rolland shares, “One day we [Surprise and Rolland] were running a bush outreach meeting in Malawi, and on this day, Surprise delivered what was, for me, his most memorable sermon.  Malawi had been in famine most of the year. The crops had failed. It was extremely hot, almost 50 degrees C. The people hadn’t had any proper food in months. A lot of people were sick, and the bubonic plague had just come to this particular village.  Surprise’s sermon that day was entitled, “How to have a Good Day.”  No matter where we are or how bleak the circumstances, Surprise is always having the best day of his life. Irrepressible joy like this culturally clashes with much of the church.  I didn’t like it myself for a long time.

What I’ve learned, though, is that we minister to others out of the places in our lives where God has ministered to us. God works in us to produce a miracle, and we minister that miracle to others.  God has given Surprise the gift of joy.  When he ministers, the Lord uses this joy, supernaturally, to touch others. Some might think it inappropriate.  Actually, it is entirely inappropriate. He is bringing an authentic expression of joy to those who have none, and Jesus is producing joy in them.  Think about what Jesus has done in your life and how you express it to others, sharing His blessing.”  (Heidi and Rolland Baker, Reckless Devotion. P 23-24)

Gratitude and “Miracle Grow”
Surprise has grown in the paradox of suffering and joy (read his book Voice in the Night) through thankfulness and gratitude to the Lord. It shines out of everything he does in ministry, and Heidi Baker is very similar.  When you hear Heidi share at the end of the Compelled by Love film, she looks over her life and ministry and says that she is so grateful to Jesus for all he has done – in their ministry and generally for his sacrifice and love for all of us.   Earlier Jonathan David said that I was becoming like Miracle Grow.  However, gratitude in the midst of difficulties, gratitude in the midst of outreach and ministry is an important key to growth in these conditions.  It is one of the keys of the persecuted church that connects joy and suffering.

Earlier I mentioned Henri Nouwen.  I had the privilege of meeting him when I was a student at University of Toronto.  He spoke at St Michael’s and talked about putting our brokenness under the blessing of the Lord.  He would heal our wounds, then minister through them to others. Jesus embraces all of our lives, the sorrow, the joy and every moment.  Nothing is separate from God.  “Jesus calls us to recognize the gladness and sadness are never separate, that joy and sorrow really belong together, and that mourning and dancing are part of the same movement.  That is why Jesus calls us to be grateful for every moment that we have lived and to claim our unique journey as God’s way to mould our hearts to greater conformity with God’s own. The cross is the main symbol of our faith, and it invites us to find hope where we see pain and to reaffirm the resurrection where we see death. The call to be grateful is a call to trust that every moment of our life can be claimed as the way of the cross that leads us to new life.   (Henri Nouwen, “All is Grace” 39-40)

So gratitude directs us to where the Father would lead – since it keeps our eyes on God.  He leads us into action, and he leads us into rest; all depending on the season he puts us in.  That is the paradox. Suffering and joy? Gratitude in the midst of difficulties? Can we even figure out thankfulness and gratitude?  Not entirely – but we have spent five posts on this aspect of our faith.  It is one that goes well beyond a feeling of being blessed to being carried into what God has for us.  Gratitude should be unending, because our faith journey does not stop.  Jesus is always leading us somewhere.

Next time we will further explore the cup of suffering and joy. It’s a lesson the persecuted church through the ages can teach all of us.  Until then, be blessed, and grow in God.


Laurie-Ann lives in Ottawa, Canada.  She works for Kingdom Culture Ministries (in Gloucester, Ontario) in social media/pastoral care and administration. She attends that church and St Paul’s Anglican Church in Kanata, Ontario.  She is available to speak to small or large groups on a faith donation basis.

 L-A on KCM social media in Wburg

Laurie-Ann working remotely on social media-pastoral care ministry

Growing through Service and Compassion: Stop for the one

thumb_CD_Stop-For-The-One-Soaking_thumb  african boy

Last time we opened our eyes to injustice around us. We learned that as Christians, we are called to “do” something. Some Christians have been social reformers in church history, like William Wilberforce (abolition of African slavery). Modern versions of Wilberforce include Danielle Strickland (Stop the Traffic/Salvation Army) and Cassandra of    Justice Rising . Some Christians have a heart to free sex slaves in Cambodia/Thailand (Patricia King of Extreme Prophetic) and others minister to child soldiers. John Cassells of Arkenstone (SIM) ministers to Canadian street youth. Lyle Phillips of Mercy 29 (and Iris Nashville/Iris India) works to free child slaves in India. There is a very real call on the church to act as Matthew West sings in his song, “Do Something.”  Some of the injustices of child poverty and slavery call to us like they have to Matthew. Matthew sings, “I shook my fist at heaven, and shouted, God, why don’t you do something? He (God) said, “I did, I created you.”

Have you ever thought you were put on this earth to do something specific? I’ve always wanted to do something ‘big’ for God. Some people look at my life and think, “wow, she’s gone on nine mission trips. She travels all over the world.” They think I’ve already achieved something big. Yet I feel I’ve only scratched the surface; and I sense God is still training me for what’s to come. I believe a time is coming soon that we will need all of us on board ministering to those inside and outside the church. Some of us are already doing this. There are so many needs, and so many people who don’t know the real Jesus Christ. They don’t know his love. They need to see Jesus’ love manifest in US. Do you want to be part of a global outreach? Ask God to help you get ready. Ask him to teach you how to love.

I believe many people are waking up to the truth. This truth is about relationship. This truth is that we are created to love, be loved and to pass that love on to others. One of the ways to show this practical love of God is through service. Missionary Heidi Baker often says “love looks like something.” The love you receive is meant to be shared. What does the person in front of you need? Is it food? Is it safe shelter? Is it warm clothes and encouragement? Is it to take them into your family and to be their big brother or sister? Sharing compassion is a deeply rooted action of our faith. In fact, faith is an action word; faith and love are entwined! James says that faith without deeds is dead (James 2:14-17) but the Apostle Paul reminds us that even well-meant deeds mean very little if they aren’t done in love (1 Cor. 13:1-3)

God works on filling us with his love and compassion. We need to be rooted and established in that love. Listen to what Paul shares: “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,  may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-20). That love establishes and deepens the essential identity of who you are as a son or a daughter of God. When you are rooted in that identity and know who you are, then you can begin to reach out to others with the overflow of God’s love in you. Spend time in God’s presence, and fill up like a sponge before you serve (see my earlier teaching on soaking prayer). This is like stopping for the One (Jesus) before stopping for the one (the divine appointments and people God brings  to you).

There are many different ways that you can choose to serve. Some of these may be direct outreach on the streets (such as Jericho Road’s Wednesday night coffee house in Ottawa, Ontario), others may reach out to the working poor who need help stretching the food on the table. A good example of this is the Loaves and Fishes ministry of Iris Virginia, as shown in  The Dwelling Place in Williamsburg, Virginia. They aren’t inside a building like a food bank. They are right in the community in a restaurant parking lot! Their Richmond location also jumps into ministry with the homeless in the ‘river city.’

You may want to show love to the inmates in Prison Alpha. This course is run in prisons all over the world, including in Ottawa.  You could involve yourself in reception ministry at a local church, where people can drop in for prayer, counseling and benevolence ministry. I help in this way, and people seem to need it. It may be in being a real and living presence in the community and getting to know your neighbours. One of my churches (St Paul’s Kanata) has been doing that through free community barbeques and loving presence. My other church (Kingdom Culture) does that through Back to School, Thanksgiving and Christmas outreaches. They also held a community barbeque in a nearby park. Pastor Joe Mebrahtu says that “while the turkey dinner we give them doesn’t solve all their problems, it gives them hope.” And that seed of hope is planted through our love and compassion.

When you are given the heart to serve, you are ready for the divine opportunities that God will give you. Sometimes this may happen in the context of a planned ministry you are already doing. The difference is that you have allowed God to work within your ministry. Many opportunities have happened when my husband and I helped lead a community Alpha Course. I was the head cook yet I also insisted on showing practical love to course attenders and leaders who had food allergies and alternative dietary lifestyles. So I learned to cook for specific needs and considered it a joy, not a chore. I was rewarded for this when “Jim” told me that he felt honoured and special because I considered his low sodium diet worthwhile in my cooking ministry. Later, Jim asked to be led to faith in Jesus Christ. (He since has died, and I’m so pleased that I know where he is). There were many others who were grateful for my ministry and they felt that they mattered. They DO matter. They knew that they were loved.

Sometimes ‘outreach’ may be an everyday lifestyle. I know of a few ladies who actively go into malls and busy places intentionally looking for a divine appointment. So what is a divine appointment? Perhaps it could be understood as a date with Jesus. Remember the “least of these?” Jesus said in Matthew 25 that when we minister to those in need – we are ministering to him. This is exactly what Mother Theresa did with the dying in India. It’s what my husband and I do in the prison. It’s what the different outreaches do when they go out to the homeless, or take in the refugees.

So these “divine appointments” involve people that are usually seeking God in some way. They may been hurting and have asked God, “where are you?” And along comes someone who will encourage them in exactly the way they need it! I recently heard pastor/prophet Shawn Bolz share ministry that he’s done in coffee shops and on the street. He’s spoken to broken street kids and prostitutes on the streets, and shared how God has a special and specific purpose for them. He was used to prophesy encouragement and destiny into the lives of hurting people when he least expected it. He didn’t start out with that intention, but the opportunity just opened up. What mattered is that God brought him to that situation and he ‘stopped for the one.’ Heidi Baker also does this in her Iris ministry in Mozambique. She (and those with her) have rescued children off the streets, in garbage dumps, under trees and bridges. She finds them. Jackie Pullinger has done the same with addicts in the Kowloon district of Hong Kong. Our young friend Fred Omondi does it in a Nairobi slum, running a small orphanage. They stop for the one. They take them in and love them back to life.

Stopping for the one isn’t just a compassion phenomenon done by missionaries like the Bakers, Jackie Pullinger, or even Mother Theresa. It’s also biblical. Do you remember the story of the Good Samaritan? The man was walking down the dangerous road to Jericho. Luke tells us he was robbed, beaten and left for dead by bandits. Two commissioned ministers ignored him. (Luke 10: 25-37). In the New Living Translation, Jesus said the Samaritan had compassion on the man.  Both the priest and Levite were too busy. They didn’t bother to respond to God’s call to help him. They didn’t even hear the call of the Holy Spirit – they were too busy being religious. Heidi Baker says “he was a blind priest. His eyes were open but he could not see the face of revival. He could not see what was before him, because he was too busy deciding how to ‘grow his church.’ Sometimes we cannot see and don’t want to see because we are blinded. We need eye salve to put on our eyes [Rev 3:18]. We cry out for revival, and yet God says, ‘I want to open your eyes so that you can see what is before you. Revival has a face and a name. It lies bleeding on the roadside.’ The next guy walks down the road and is … on his way to rehearse with his worship band. He is gifted to lead others in worship to God, but he is a blind Levite. Boy, he can sing, but he can’t see! He refuses to see the guy lying beaten and naked on the road because he does not want to deal with it. It’s too simple, too direct. Surely you don’t have to stop for everyone? Anyway, it was ‘not his calling.’ He was too busy doing other things.” [Heidi and Rolland Baker, The Hungry always get Fed. (New Wine Press, 2007 p 73)]  Do we really do that? YES, sometimes we do! But the Samaritan heard God and recognized the need. He was the good neighbour. And we are to stop, especially when God’s compassion rises up in us. Remember, because we are the body of Christ, we are the hands and feet of Jesus. This means, that we must reflect the love of Christ like a mirror, and let the streams of living water (the love of Holy Spirit) flow through us.

When I worked with SOMA Canada (a charismatic Anglican mission agency called Sharing of Ministries Abroad), they often cautioned that we would meet people who had never encountered Jesus, let alone read a Bible. Sometimes we are “often the only Bible that people see.” What does SOMA mean by this? Well, the apostle Paul called us ‘living letters’ in 2 Corinthians 3:3. He said you must “show you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the Living God; not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”

This means that whatever we do, we must do it with a heart full of the love of God. That love has been written on our hearts, and has been infused with Jesus’ ‘DNA.’ His compassion flowing through our hearts is what touches others’ hearts. It is real. Love looks like something. It is real love that motivates acts of compassion. It is real love that lasts – both in bringing the practical things that are needed (food, shelter, social justice, mercy, freedom from slavery, freedom from addiction, encouragement, education etc) as well as the timeless message of the gospel. Each of us has a gift to contribute. Each of us can be given divine appointments to stop for the one. What matters is a soft heart towards God, and a ‘yes’ to the call before us. Do we want to do something big for God? I know I do. One person at a time.

Next time we will explore growing more through service – and letting it change our heart as we depend more on God.

Meanwhile, here is a special radio interview I did with an Iris missionary I know from Ottawa named Natasha Bourque Richmond. She and her husband Evan, are teachers, and work with children on the Zimpeto base near Maputo, Mozambique. Click here- Over My Head, July 13, 2014  CKCU 93.1 FM (Just skip ahead to 33:38 for the interview or you can hear the whole show).

Yours in Christ, Laurie-Ann

Laurie-Ann is based in Ottawa, Canada and is involved in St Paul’s Anglican Kanata, and Kingdom Culture Ministries in Gloucester.