Tag Archives: Iris

Stopping for the one at Christmas time

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I shared a talk at St Paul’s Anglican Church in Kanata on October 16th, which ended up as part of a very special missions Sunday.  Not only did I preach via the lectionary (flavoured with African lessons and experiences), but various members of St Paul’s SchoolBOX outreach shared as well. Both of our teams are full of ordinary Christians, from St Paul’s , learning to do extraordinary things for God.  That talk is available on this site – just click on October 2016 on the sidebar.  The SchoolBOX clan are looking forward to returning to Nicaragua and build a school in Fr. Rick Marples’ name.  My husband Tony and I also are planning to be long-term missionaries in South Africa hopefully by the summer.  But you don’t have to go to Africa or Central America to reach out – although if you do go, it forces you to rely on God so you can minister to others more effectively. You trust God, since you are out of your comfort zone.  However, if you reach out to others where you are, you are needed just as much. It’s just that you have to intentionally step out of your comfort zone and trust God. Many of you prayed for and supported Tony and I in Africa, and the team in Nicaragua.  Some of you even had stirrings in your heart that you would like to do some sort of outreach, whether wherever you live or much further afield. But where does one start?

Not all of us feel called to volunteer with the homeless, although this is a great ministry for those who do.  Others go into the prison to lead an Alpha course, or hold one in a seniors centre. We hope to have one in our condo apartment this January. One way that all of us can reach out is to stop for the divine appointments that God brings our way.  This little door of heaven can open up right in the middle of an ordinary day, and in your own neighbourhood. The world is in fact a 360 degree mission field. I will never forget my seminary missions professor telling me that. You don’t have to be a professional full time missionary to love your neighbour.  You can also look for opportunities to love within the church walls. Do you know your pew neighbours? Do you see someone you don’t know?  You never know how kind words and a touch may impact a life.

Heidi Baker (who co-founded Iris, the mission organisation I joined as a Harvest School alumna) often says that we need to stop for the one.  This is her way to describe a divine appointment. This is to STOP for the one that God brings you. This person could be anyone. The key I’ve discovered is that you sense a nudge inside you, and your fears fills with compassion towards that person. You just know that you know this is the person you are to talk to.  This is the right one.

Yet, you don’t always have to wait for this nudge.  There are many obvious opportunities. You may see someone struggling with their grocery bags. You may see someone in obvious physical pain.  They need practical help and prayer! People rarely say no, and you’ll bring a touch of hope into their lives. You may even be asked why you’re filled with love and joy, or they may remark about the peace that surrounds you. It’s Jesus!

Many of the encounters Tony and I have had in South Africa, Mozambique and Botswana were appointments set up divinely- especially in Botswana, since that whole trip was an unexpected surprise on our part.  Had we stayed longer at the time, these encounters could have led to deeper relationships. Here in Canada, we can be blessed by knowing these people better, because we live right here. Tony is continuing what we learned at the Iris mission school in his outreach here in Ottawa.  Shortly before we went to Africa, we downsized into an apartment condo in the Britannia neighbourhood. That opened up a whole new community to us, including the nearby Ritchie Street. We figure that it’s an Ottawa equivalent to a South African township.  We would like to visit people there.  I’m also part of an outreach to help struggling families at Christmas. It’s called Holiday Dream. Through this, I hope to do some home visits with those I sense a strong pull towards. Who knows where God could take this?

The key components are to allow God to love others through you, and to trust him to guide you. You don’t need fancy words or a formula. Be you, and be willing to be humble. Don’t rush. Heidi always says to “go low and slow.”  This means to be humble and take your time. The person before you is precious, as are you.  The journey is a wonderful one, especially at Christmas.  People are always more open than you think.

Pray about the opportunities as God opens doors for you. You don’t have to go to Bible school or missions school to be active in your Christian faith.  I pray you may experience this unique joy this season.  I’d love to hear your stories as you step out.  Have a blessed Advent and Christmas!

Love, Laurie-Ann

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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

Stepping into Africa in a season of learning deep trust

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Three years ago, I wrote an article on growing in God through learning trust.  Now I’ve gone into an even deeper season.  I’ve been working as an admin and ministry volunteer since October 2013, and have not had paid employment since then.  I’ve been learning to live by faith, and we have not starved.  During that time, I have been extremely busy in ministry and outreach, which I believe may have been training for what I may be doing in the future.

Last year I applied to the Iris Global Harvest Mission School in Mozambique (for June – August 2015), but they asked me to wait until my husband Tony could join me.  At the time I was crestfallen by this request, but I could see in the long term that this was a very good idea.  Last year, Tony was not able to leave his job, and he did not have a desire to go to Mozambique.  This year is a different story, and his heart has been prepared to go.  He wants to go with me.  He retired from his full-time job in March 2016. We even are moving this week into a condo (May 2016).  We were able to downsize and sell our semi-detached home in record time, with a closing date 9 days before we leave for Mozambique and South Africa!  We will be in Africa May 25 – August 28, 2016.

The entire fund-raising process is always a walk of faith.  I’ve always been able to depend on this amazing church that I’ve been part of since 2000.  Yet, this time the circumstances are entirely different than the past six missions. Here’s why:

1. We can’t give tax receipts (partly because we are going to a school as well as a mission trip).
2. There are so many events in Ottawa that many people can’t make it to our own fundraising nights, and the only availability of two of our churches is Fridays – a busy night for most people.
3. My other full-time church became a mobile church 7 months ago, so they don’t have a venue available for their people to have a ‘party’ for us.  So, humanly speaking, it’s been a very hard sell.

However, God is faithful no matter what.  I already knew that He would provide in various ways – by touching the hearts of specific individuals without our knowledge.  Tony also had inheritance money that came his way at just the right time, so we were able to pay for our airfare to Mozambique and South Africa as well as our deposits to the school.  Tony’s insurance covered our malaria medication.  And we also took our yearly timeshare holiday early so we could apply for our visas in person at the closest Mozambican embassy (Washington DC).

I expected lots of people at our fundraisers, but instead of the dinners that I planned before previous mission trips, I chose a cafe night with a barista friend that included a powerpoint presentation and art show of some of my original art work.  We invited hundreds of people, and I expected maybe 80.  40 people showed up, but it was still an amazing time.  My drawing of iris flowers was raffled off and the lady who won it was blessed and amazed.  Some people who had meant to come donated on our GoFundMe Account, so I was at peace that funds were still coming in despite the lack of donations at the event (but for one, and no art sales).  The second fundraiser (a movie night with the “Compelled by Love” film, art raffle, auction and sharing) was even smaller.  My helper bought enough soda, water and popcorn to feed at least 60.  9 people showed up.  Only 9 people!  However, this was a different crowd, with some excellent questions.  We made a small amount that night, but then a dear friend of mine bought two pieces of art work!  This friend had meant to help with the raffle, but forgot about the event and was in the process of heading off to a Friday night healing service at a local church.  I texted her, and she came right over.  I’m glad she did – not only did she help with the clean up, but she bought a watercolour painting and a monoprint.  I had deep peace during the event, and a strange joy.  And I shared deeply about the season of trust that I had been in since October 2013.  I shared about our dependence on God for a future that is entirely in His hands.  Did we know where we will be going after our mission school (Pemba, Mozambique) and  extended outreach (Robertson/Cape Town South Africa)?  I did explain that we still have commitments in Ottawa for us to return to – but other than that, we’ve left our futures in God’s hands.  Do we want more?  Yes.  We are willing to just listen and hear what God is saying.

One prophetic friend did speak to me about a sneak peak that she received – and yes, it did show ministry overseas, likely somewhere in Africa.  We’ll see where God open doors as we continue to TRUST Him.

May you also learn the joy of trusting in a completely faithful God.  He is so loving and so very faithful.  If you’d like to read more about our mission, here is our prayer letter!

If you feel led to contribute, please do!  Here is our GoFundMe page.  It may seem like our budget is high, but that’s partly because nearly all of it is in US funds.  The Canadian dollar isn’t doing well in the exchange, but God is still more than able to cover all we need.

If you feel led to pray, this is what we need most. Thank you so much.

Blessings and love, Laurie-Ann

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Growing through Service and Compassion: Stop for the one

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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.