Tag Archives: Iris

Growing in God through his LOVE

unknown township boy at Mail box club

Tony and I have been Canadian missionaries in South Africa.  We have learned through our African friends in different countries how to slow down and be relational.  This is something all of us in fast-paced countries need to learn.  So come along with me and we’ll learn together on the adventures of Growing in God.

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 are living in Toronto, Canada.

During our last article, we learned about growing in God through truly entering his rest.  Rest is actually a command to us (see the Ten Commandments on Sabbath!)  Remembering the Sabbath rest and keeping it holy is an injunction that in our busyness: if we don’t take a regular weekly rest, or a sabbatical retreat, our health can force us to “lie down in green pastures!” (Psalm 23).  Is this a joke or an exaggeration?  Yes and no.  In my own story, I burned out so many times, got serious mono in my 20’s, and spent two months where I could do very little.  This is not an exaggeration. Later, when I was helping my parents (for three months in 2015),  I would go for days and then crash and spend a whole day in bed. 

I believe at the very core of rest is a sense of trust in the Lord.  You become content in his presence, give him your deep concerns and hurts, just like when he offers in the Gospel of Matthew. “Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matt 11:28-29 NIV)  Rest is a gift.  Rest is a choice to stop and trust.  You choose to pick up his yoke.  His yoke is the same connection that Jesus has to the Father.  When we abide in him, we are also connected to the Father, and his rest.

Rest is also connected with repentance as shown in Isaiah 30:15.  “This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation,  in quietness and trust is your strength, (but you would have none of it).  (Isa. 30:15 NIV)   Salvation and the Lord’s rest are one and the same!  Would we also have none of it?   What about God’s love?  Would we stop and receive this?   Trust is at the centre. Trust in the Lord is what keeps us before his face and in his presence.  This is what abiding is, as shown in John 15:5:  “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”  This is an invitation to his love.  His love is like a tractor beam on our hearts (to use a Star Trek analogy) into that rest.   Let’s go and explore how God’s love helps us grow in him.  

I’ve written about growing in so many aspects of God’s grace, and in disciplines that help us grow in the gifts he’s given us.  I’ve shared my personal devotional journey within many of my articles, starting with my preferred disciplines of soaking prayer, journaling and reading the Bible (usually, chapter by chapter).  But I cannot miss the deepest foundation of all of this.  1 Corinthians 13 reminds us that you can do all sorts of things in anointing, but if you don’t have love, you’re like a clanging cymbal.  What matters most is love.   Trust is an essential thing taught by a baby bonding with their parents. It’s important.  But love?  We need love to grow spiritually, emotionally and physically!   It’s like needed water that we are meant to drink daily in order to live. 

I have learned, through one of my pastors, that a child needs that love to have their brains develop properly (Ash Smith, Living in the emotional heath of Jesus, CTF Toronto, August 14, 2022).  This is confirmed by the Canadian Pediatric Society.  They say:  Your baby’s brain needs a strong foundation. Loving, consistent, positive relationships help build healthy brains and protect your baby’s brain from the negative effects of stress.”  [https://caringforkids.cps.ca/handouts/pregnancy-and-babies/your_babys_brain#:~:text=Your%20baby’s%20brain%20needs%20a,the%20negative%20effects%20of%20stress].

Stress, feelings of rejection, abandonment, shame, feeling unloved: all these things are slowly melted by consistent love.  Pastor Ash Smith encouraged us that love is the key foundation for a child (if not all of us).  She talked of orphanages in Romania where babies and toddlers were shut away; with no contact, no loving touch and no soothing lullabies.  They were catatonic, lifeless of emotion, and separated from each other.  Their brains were being stunted, and their neural pathways weren’t developing from the lack of consistent love.  They weren’t being given a foundation. 

I have found with my work in Iris Western Cape (and other missionaries would support this)  that abandoned children can be difficult to love initially.  We found that the farm workers children we saw weekly, were among the toughest kids to consistently love.  We unfortunately lacked adequate Afrikaans, which was their heart communication language.  However, they did respond, it just took longer.   They went from boys throwing stones at our car and shouting at us, to more at peace when colouring in my prophetic drawings.  They were captivated by love, especially when they saw that I drew an image of some of them with Jesus.  I had remembered them.  The Father remembers and loves them, as he does us.   Other children that we worked with responded much faster, but sometimes had ‘weedy hearts.’  What do I mean by a weedy heart?

Think of the parable of the sower (Matthew 13: 1-9, 20-23 NLT).  Three places that the sower scattered seed didn’t fully take in the seedlings.  One area was the stony path, so there was no soil.  The second was too shallow and the third grew full of weeds.  Jesus explained to his disciples that:  20 the seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”   Many of the kids we worked with had a shallow faith, which wasn’t always real to them.  Others, like C, were genuine in their faith but other concerns cropped up but choked their faith.  How I longed to uproot C’s concerns of worry, envy, comparison and gossip.  Oh, it did bother me, and sometimes when she was like that, I didn’t want to be around her.  I loved her but it was difficult for that love to penetrate this cheeky, grabby girl who loved to get attention. Then at times, she was intent on her faith and wanted to teach about Jesus to other township youth.  She was good at it, and did it with joy.  She loved reading the Afrikaans Bible we gave her.  We pray for her perseverance and that those weeds in her heart will be pulled up at the right time. 

Another girl we worked with was ‘my girl.’  We bonded deeply and she was one of the ones who helped me during my cancer journey.  She didn’t laugh at my bald head. We enjoyed quiet sharing about our faith, and she liked to colour my drawings in the most delightful way.  We connected on a deep spiritual level and it was always easy to share and pray with her.  She surely was the fertile soil that Jesus talked about in the Sower parable.  She needed deep love and stability, which we gave in part, and she bloomed.  We could see her potential beyond high school in a dangerous township.  During the time we knew her in person, her family had serious continuing struggles with health, poverty and safety concerns.  We prayed that she would be able to ‘graduate’ from the township in a way that she would be a blessing to her community and to God.  She had been given a university entrance scholarship that was deleted from the university database through administrative error, but with Tony’s help in talking to her university and to her school, it was back on track.  She underwent 3 operations for scoliosis, and at the same time as the third one was diagnosed with drug resistant TB.  Finally, school began, and she was able to attend online at the hospital with a computer we had bought her.  Now, she is happily housed in residence.  Then we found out that her scholarship only covers half of her room and board (as well as her tuition).  She had no money for that, so this means a further investment beyond how we had planned to help her and her family.  Wow, this is a serious commitment.  But we cannot end here.  We will pray that our resources will stretch so that we can handle this load with the Lord’s help.   It’s a lesson in faith to Bella and to ourselves.  God is faithful.  And his love is practical.    Heidi Baker always says that “love looks like something.”  Through this faithful consistent love, Bella is flourishing in her faith, her local campus church and her studies. 

There are so many other stories, that were also weedy hearts, but they did respond to love, whether it was given in practical ways or in encouragement, prayer and gospel truth.  We baptized one girl, who flourished through the Alpha Course, and another took us on another journey where we lost trust in her, but regained some of it back.  She knew we still loved her.

One of my favourite South African ministries was to go into a local primary school and spend an hour and a half on Tuesday mornings.  We went in using the same ‘persona role’ we use when we go to a kid’s club.  We sing together, with Tony on guitar and me on my Irish bodhran drum.  Then Tony shares an interactive nugget of science that he re-learned in a children’s science curriculum he used in our MasterPeace Academy school.  Then we either taught them life lessons, or I taught them art from a charismatic Christian expression.  It was soaking prayer and colouring/drawing.  During one semester, I created a group project where they all painted an abstract background of blue, purple and green.  Then they were to draw their personal Christian symbol that they each chose as theirs.  I had to teach about Christian symbols several times for these children to ‘get it.’  A few never did, and just copied others, or added spaceships as their symbol because they were learning about space ships in another class.  However, there were some that understood from the very first time I shared.  There were two very smart and spiritually astute children, Liam and Caitlyn.  I bonded to Liam and even had a little impression of him giving a hug to Jesus.  He understood right away, and I said, “now, I know that’s hard to draw, so draw instead you holding Jesus hand, like he is your buddy.”  Liam smiled and understood.  After weeks, sure enough, his symbol was proudly displayed within the group painting among the many crosses, rainbows, waterfalls and (haha) spaceships.   Liam also drew glasses on all the angels in our shared drawings, since he wanted the angels to look like him.  Ah, so sweet.  Later when we finally left the school, so many children had bonded to me, and despite the spread of Covid, they ignored that no touching rule for this one time.  They hugged me like they didn’t want to let go.  Each was welcome in my arms, whether it was our first grade ones, or the ones who followed.  It didn’t matter whether I knew their name or not, I loved them with the deep, jealous compassion of Jesus.  They will always be in my heart, and I trust that I will be in theirs.  This legacy of love continued through other mature people from a local retirement village where we used to live. It’s really special when children and surrogate “grandparents” (including “aunts” and “uncles”) can interact in a way that God touches and uses both to bless.  Love is shared. It grows stronger when it flows through a pipeline, instead of being stagnant like a puddle.  These children will grow with the deposit that we gave them. God willing, others will continue in this legacy.  Nothing that we sowed will be in vain; weedy hearts or not. 

I had moments when the kids of OVD township loved to sit beside me and colour.  Colouring sheets were always a tool to bless the kids, and see where their hearts were at.  One day, a young boy that I didn’t know sat beside me on a tree root.  He only had a few crayons, and I suggested in my limited Afrikaans, “groen” (green).  He gave me the sweetest smile and we connected on a deep, deep level.  The godly compassion that overflowed through me felt like love was searing my heart.  It felt like it was going to be painful, but what it did was open up a door to the deepest parts of my heart that needed to receive and give God’s love.  I grew exponentially in that moment.  It was simple but profound.  These moments are like mini-surgery, and connects you to the hearts of the “least of these” (aka Matt.25) and the heart of God the Father for children.

Our 2022 assignment of unknown duration is to love and care for my frail 93 year old dad’s needs.  Elder care of a man with vascular dementia is more challenging than it was to inspire and love wonderfully messy township children.  Even here, we have moments of deep love as we take care of his practical day to day needs.  We are slowly and gently leading him to Jesus.  Sometimes I want to ask him right off, but the time is not quite here.  We are re-establishing love in his life by giving him consistent touch, gourmet type food (I love cooking for him), listening to him, and letting him rest when he needs it.  He gets too confused to go out much other than the front porch.  The last time we took him on a summer ‘picnic’ by Lake Ontario, he had a TIA and we had trouble getting him back to the car.  Dad knows that we love him, even if he doesn’t always know who I am.  He knows me as “Laurie,” but doesn’t always realize that I am the same person he raised.  That’s OK.  He’s become fond of me anyway, and this is about God’s love and our love to him.  He will continue to grow in that reflective love of God through us, until he receives God’s love directly.  That is my greatest wish – that he would receive forgiveness, know God’s love from inside, and love Jesus.

My own desire to love others has always been there, and I wanted to do something “big” for God.  Many new believers have that desire as well.  Yet that something big really is allowing yourself to keep your heart “pipeline” pure so that you can love well consistently.  This is especially important as a long term missionary.  Short-termers (which I was from 1993-2010) make an impact, but long-termers can continue to bring lasting change in people’s lives because they are consistent.  They are re-laying foundational love in these children’s hearts.  They are helping to heal past hurts, although this doesn’t replace the need for special counselling for traumatic events like gang violence, gender based violence and domestic violence.  These things are rampant in the townships (as well as other spots).  They aren’t unique to South Africa.  It takes time and care to recover and grow in resilience, without giving up hope.

My heart was big on the short-term missions, but grew so much more in our longer South African mission.  Heidi Baker mentions in the “Compelled by Love” movie that she wanted to love people from the inside. This was her desire even before she knew Jesus personally.  When she came to faith, she also received her call to be a minister and missionary to “Asia, Africa and England.”  Since then, she and her husband Rolland ministered in Indonesia, Hong Kong, inner-city London and Mozambique.  She is in demand as a speaker all over the world.  Heidi “stops for the one” all the time, whether with the poor and needy, or among the spiritually poor in the first world.  To “stop for the one” is to say “yes” to divine appointments that seem to be set up just for you.  You may get a rush of sudden compassion for someone and you just have to respond.  I’ve done this with the homeless, with children and with adults.  Heidi did this for me at a women’s conference in 2010.  Someone had given her red roses, and she tends to not keep much for herself.  She passes them on.  So I had a moment in worship one morning, and felt the deep love of Jesus as Heidi stood beside me, hugged me and handed me roses.  I was ‘love-bombed.’  I had no idea what was going on, or why she did this act of kindness.  It took me years to realize that she had ‘stopped for the one’ – and I was in that moment the one she stopped for.  But, oh the love was deep.  I felt the presence and love of God while she stood there beside me.  So, I was impacted to stop for the one from then on, even before we went to Harvest School.  Tony took to that form of love even faster than I did, and he made good progress after missionary school.  Consistent love was a key, and still is.  

Iris is known as a ministry movement that is empowered by love.  It’s just a little bit different.  Right now there is a terrorism insurgency in northern Mozambique, and this forced Iris to move the Harvest Schools to other locations.  This love consistency, when combined with humility is the foundation of the previous and current issues in Pemba.  The “Irisers” are still empowered by love.  Heidi shares in the 2022 film “Nefento” that “love always wins, especially when you go low and slow. Instead of being overwhelmed with a world where there’s so much pain, when extremists come and war happens, we’re empowered by the love of a God who IS love to stop for the one in need.”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3g1jVzfAego

Back in 2013, I hungered to be empowered by love, and was drawn like a magnet to Heidi. I had wondered what kind of long term ministry I should be involved in, and considered my new skills in radio broadcasting and especially audio production/creative writing.  So, I considered a radio-based ministry.  But this only made sense in my head, not my heart.  I was meant to be with the children, using my art, the calling that I had abandoned for so many years, after it was originally my identity.  The Holy Spirit re-knitted me into that calling, and used it beautifully in South Africa (and beyond).  I know that he will continue to use it in other countries, as children who are thirsty for love, encounter the love of God in the colouring sheets and books.  Love looks like something.  For some, it’s sharing soup, beans and rice, or paying their school fees.  For me (right now), it’s to be with children at play – in drawing images planted by God in their hearts.   It’s my heart to do this consistently or at least whenever I’m given the opportunity. 

I’ve grown so much while learning to love.  It’s been quite a journey but I do not regret it, even having inflammatory breast cancer try to ruin our golden time on the South African mission field.   Even the refining times have carved away the dross in my life so I could love better.  I received such love and peace from God, throughout my cancer journey, often beyond it as well.  I was able to feel God’s love in every season and know that he does not fail me.  He is consistent.  He is always faithful, and we knew God’s favour and kindness at every step along the way.  He opened us up to love in so many different ways, through our different gifts.


Catch the Fire Toronto Pastor Murray Smith recently taught on the Emotional health of Jesus.  He spoke on love as the necessary foundation of our hearts.  He said: “the measure of our (spiritual) maturity is, how do we actually love?  How much do we walk in love?  How much do we practise love?  How much are we able to contain our souls, and our disconnection, because of the issues of our heart that we are dealing with?  Can we REMAIN in love, even when people around us are freaking out.  Let’s make that measure of love our spirituality.”  (Pastor Murray Smith, Catch the Fire Toronto, August 7, 2022)  In Murray’s context, he was sharing that nearly all of us need to go back to our basic foundations and repair them.  Ask God about receiving love for yourself.  Get inner healing from trusted people who have experience in Restoring the Foundation or inner healing background.   You can start by inviting Jesus into any hurtful memory and ask where he is.  He will open your imagination and show you.  He can and will fill you with deep love and peace as you accept his presence in your memory.  Let him love and heal you.  You won’t regret it.  Say YES to Jesus’ yoke, just to hang out with him and not let go. 

If you’ve never accepted Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, it’s very simple.  Nicky Gumbel mentions on earlier Alpha Course videos a simple way to remember the way.  It’s Sorry (for my sins and all I’ve done wrong).  Forgive me.  I now turn from everything I know is wrong.  Thank you Lord for your love, and I accept you as my Saviour.  Please fill me Lord with your love and all that comes with it.  I give you my life that I can live for you, with you and have your love in my life.  Lead me, and help me along the way. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Lord, please bless all who have read this article and may they encounter the love of God poured into their hearts, just as Paul talks about in Romans 5.  May everyone become deeply rooted grounded in your love, as in Ephesians 3.  “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.” (Rom 3:17-18 NIV)  Holy Spirit, come and reveal the love of God to each person today.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

I will record an audio version of this article, which will be posted on the Ways to Grow in God (WTGIG) podcast page on coppleswesterncape.ca.  Mouse over the “Listen” drop-down menu, or click here:  (https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/wtgig-podcasts.html and when it’s recorded, scroll down to #79! 

If you have been blessed by this article, please let us know! 

Updates:  For those looking for news, Tony continues his immunotherapy infusions at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto.  He will have a CT scan in September to check how the tumour has responded to the immunotherapy (after three treatments).  Otherwise, he will continue for some time.

His left eye has healed to the extent it ever will, and he now has an updated eyeglass prescription.  His vision is now better than at any time since his retinal detachment.

We ask you to give thanks for the skills of Tony’s doctors, and that the tumour in Tony’s lung lining shrinks and even disappears.   Thanks for coming alongside in encouragement and prayer.  

If you feel led to contribute towards medications and hospital parking expenses, and perhaps lymphedema treatments for L-A, this would be most welcome.  Not everything is covered under Tony’s senior drug plan and OHIP, but don’t feel obligated.  But meanwhile, all my teachings are online for free to bless you.  Here is our Paypal for any of you who feel led to contribute: https://www.paypal.me/WaystogrowinGod

Laurie-Ann’s Colouring Books:   If you are in South Africa, and would like to purchase one of L-A’s colouring books, some are available at LeRoux and Fourie wine shop on R60 beside Cape Lime.  This is west of Robertson in Western Cape.  Or you can have your own copies printed for you through Print on Demand through Takealot.com. 

Link for Colouring with Jesus 1:  https://www.takealot.com/colouring-with-jesus/PLID68586424

Link for Colouring with Jesus 2: https://www.takealot.com/colouring-with-jesus-2/PLID72991486

We plan to republish the updated books in North American format (and in English only) in the future (after taking care of family).  

L-A is beginning to imagine writing other books, so watch this blog for more info when it comes.

Colouring sheets are available to children’s ministries for free; please just let us know.  Bless you, and thank you for your support!

Love, Laurie-Ann

Growing in God through developing perseverance

“From a Rainbow to a Tapestry” – July 2021. Laurie-Ann Zachar Copple (copyright)

Tony and I have been Canadian missionaries in South Africa.  We have learned through our African friends in different countries how to slow down and be relational.  This is something all of us in fast-paced countries need to learn.  So come along with me and we’ll learn together on the adventures of Growing in God.

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 are living in Toronto, Canada.

During our last article, we learned about growing in God through a different kind of pause:  that of an oasis rest between seasons.  Transition usually is a difficult period of adjustment.  We had an unexpected month at the end of our season in South Africa.  On the day of our flight we were found to be Covid-19 positive, without a planned place to stay still in South Africa.  We had sold or given away most of our belongings (that weren’t accompanying us).   Thankfully, the very kind friend who was to take us to the airport instead took us to his home, until our third attempt to leave the country (the first was at the beginning of all the lockdowns).   We had a quiet place to rest, recover and by the time we were taken to the airport (Covid-free this time!), we were given the grace and favour to travel.  We both ordered wheel chair assistance at three airports, were picked up by my cousins at the airport, and taken to our second quarantine stay – a Residence airport hotel on the same street as our future Toronto church (Catch the Fire Toronto). 

Again we had a little oasis for fourteen nights, which allowed us to acclimatize to winter in the northern hemisphere (we had come from southern summer), and we purchased phone plans with new Toronto phone numbers.  We couldn’t do anything without them – whether ordering food, groceries or update our IDs with Service Ontario.  But we managed, apart from a fault on L-A’s phone with sending texts.

We knew that we would be in for a challenging season between the care of my frail dad, who turned 93 recently, and care for Tony.  I did some research on the asbestos.com website and discovered that naval personnel were exposed to asbestos on their ships.  This could explain Tony’s diagnosis of potential mesothelioma.  Thankfully, when we discovered this in October 2021, I researched if there was anyone I could reach out to for help.  I discovered that Toronto General Hospital is a world leader in mesothelioma care.  There wasn’t any answer, but a day after we arrived back in Canada, we received an email from the secretary of the thoracic surgeon I had emailed.  So we were noticed!  It took three months, but we found out later that it takes three months to respond to family doctors referring patients.  We waited that time in South Africa, so that worked out.   Tony went through a series of tests, and after two months, he saw his specialist. It wasn’t time to diagnose him yet – he needed a special biopsy where the thoracic team would cut a one centimetre hole in his side, so they could insert a little camera and the biopsy equipment.  

Again, we need to stop, wait and trust.  This time, while we wait for the final results of Tony’s biopsy (pleuroscopy), and then the treatment plan, we are learning perseverance.   We also are learning that virtue while caring for my dad, who keeps getting TIAs (mini-strokes) that take a little more of him each time.  The first one that we observed (there were many before we arrived), had him lose his balance and he could not get up off the floor.  At that time, his legs were weak like jello.   My sister called 911 to get the firemen to pick him up and let him be comfortable on a couch.  He was also looked at by paramedics.  He did not want to go to the hospital or a care home.  He recovered after an hour, and seemed stronger.   This TIA was unusual.  In the ones afterwards, he has usually just had a meal, and then goes off into dream land, or half asleep in a kitchen chair.  One time Tony could not move him, and he strapped him in with a luggage strap.  It kept him from falling.  Since then, my dad knows the drill.  When we see him acting strangely, we get him sitting or lying down in a safe place where he cannot fall.  Are we trained for this?  No, but we have learned.   Otherwise, either Tony or I constantly cook and have snacks for dad as he makes his rounds through the house, looking for things to graze on, and sights to see.    He has a PSW to come give him a daily shower or sponge bath, which he needs since he deals with incontinence.   Well, he is 93.   Tony in particular is kind but firm in our care of dad.  In some ways it’s like he is like a child, being inquisitive.  Yet with each TIA, he remembers less.  So we turn on music that will stimulate the stories and thoughts, when he has little awakenings.

We have no idea how long our season with my dad will be, as well as the time for Tony’s treatment.  Yet we know we are to be here.  My dad is our assignment.  That is good. God has us in the right place, before we eventually return to our Ottawa condo.    Because I seldom leave the house, the only time I get to go out is when we go to church.  My sister comes most weekends and sees our dad, and with her daughter spends family time with him.   One Sunday, one of the church’s leaders asked the congregation to ask the Holy Spirit for a personal word for this season.  I was indeed given a word that was whispered with love into my heart.  The word was perseverance.  I’ve written about perseverance before, but it was in a different context.  At that time, I just had trouble waiting to get to the next season.  Now, I’m wading through just a difficult time that we must pass through one hurdle at a time.  I’m not the only one who is going through or has gone through this journey.  The families we served in Avian Park developed SOME perseverance in the form of coping, but then their desperation also made them shut down in sadness.  At this time, I choose not to go that route, but to instead TRUST in God.  He will give his grace that will be sufficient in this season.  2 Corinthians 12:9 gives this promise, when the Apostle Paul shares of his struggle with something he could not shake.  Holy Spirit told him: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my 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.” 

What IS perseverance?  Is it coping?  Resilience?  Or is it not quitting out of pure stubbornness?  I believe that it is in choosing not to quit, with a goal in mind. Tony tells me that when he was in training for the navy, he was taught the skill of “dead-reckoning.”   If a ship or an aircraft loses communications and is unable to find land or hazards, they will look back on their chart for the last accurate position recorded, and calculate the direction they should have taken from there, and then follow that compass bearing, with an awareness of the uncertainty since that position was recorded.  They then steam on (or fly on) using the calculated bearing, and hoping that eventually they will recognize a feature of the land.   This takes perseverance, because their sense of direction will suggest a myriad of alternatives.  

This is similar to when Pastor Shawn Gabie prophesied over me before we went to Mozambique for our Harvest Missions School in 2016.  He told me that I must “keep my focus forward on what the Father has for me that season.”  This goal orientation meant a laser focus on the promises that were to come.  This word was a reminder to me to allow the refining and uncomfortable difficulties to purify me, without my giving up.  Proverbs 4: 25-26  confirms Shawn’s message, which is to “let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.  Ponder the path of your feet, then all your ways will be sure.”    Sometimes there are difficulties in life, and especially when you are in ministry.   Unfortunately, the average time that a full-time missionary stays in the field is a year.  Many give up before that.  We lasted four years in our South African assignment, throughout my cancer journey.  Mind you, Covid stopped travel for some time, and it was difficult to get back to Canada.  Getting back required not giving up and returning at the right time.  We did try multiple times, to the chagrin of those well-meaning advisors, who insisted that we return even earlier.

I am coming to believe that perseverance involves actively pushing towards a goal.  Sometimes you push hard together with others, other times, you stand alone – standing in the place where you must be to ‘hold the line.’  Holding the line is exactly what we are doing in caring for my 93 year old father.   It’s a daily process of continual care.  At times when you are corporately persevering together, there is even more strength, because you can encourage each other, or change roles for a time.  It’s like the birds when they migrate south or north, depending on the season.  One bird will be the head bird leading the pack in their V-formation towards warm climes.  After that head bird gets tired, they retreat to another position, and another bird takes over for a while.  I’m thankful for the human equivalent, of leadership in teams, where there is a shared burden.  And in life, I’m thankful for the Holy Spirit, who gives me life and strength, and for my husband Tony.   Yet at the same time, God gives you little “kindnesses from God” as like a breadcrumb trail of blessing.  If you are moaning and complaining about the difficulties, you miss the little (and sometimes big) blessings he sends you along the journey.  It IS a journey.  You aren’t stuck in a little valley, surrounded by rain clouds or tornadoes.  And even if you do encounter severe storms, such as those that hit Ontario in the spring and summer, you can withstand the strength of a (spiritual) tornado far more than the fences of my sister and cousins that blew over in a recent derecho storm.  Those fences could not persevere.  But, if we don’t give up, we CAN.

How can we persevere?  Perseverance is something that we develop during the difficult times, whether it is illness (like our cancer journeys), financial stress, war (like the Ukrainian conflict), transition difficulties, domestic violence, gang issues or being in the middle of various chaos.  Through those storms, Jesus brings peace.  He can bring the peace that passes all understanding, so that it feels like you are in the eye of the storm.  It will not harm you, as long as you stay connected with Jesus.    Romans 5:3-5 reminds us that our suffering isn’t wasted, especially when we choose to trust God and not become bitter.  The Apostle Paul said that “we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”   Suffering produces perseverance when we trust God that he is at work in our lives, in our ministry, and in situations that are way beyond our control.    When we stand alone in perseverance or push in community together in perseverance, we are refined and become better people.  Then we have renewed hope.  It’s a refining fire, where what is against us, becomes a pruning force to make us better.

Perseverance in the faith:   We grow stronger through engaging with scripture.  2 Timothy 3:16 reminds us that “all scripture is God breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”  We are encouraged by scripture being a “consistent anchor” that helps us to avoid traps of discouragement and apathy.  It encourages us to stay away from becoming prideful. It gives us direction and insight.  In ministry, scripture (along with Holy Spirit’s insight”) becomes the toolkit to live a life of outreach, as well as helping in our personal lives. https://www.fh.org/blog/gods-story-persevere-life-is-hard/     Holy Spirit helps us with the next step of persevering.  We gain strength to persevere by praying (communicating with God) and thinking on his revelation.  This is contemplation.  The Apostle Paul encourages us in Ephesians 6:18 to: “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”   “Throughout the Bible, God’s people are called to pray at all times, regularly, genuinely and in faith.  Moreover, prayer is a conversation with God, in which we cultivate deepening intimacy with him.” https://www.fh.org/blog/gods-story-persevere-life-is-hard/    

When we pray, God often answers right then, before we know it.  Other times, he answers those prayers gradually.  Sometimes, the full answers come a lot later.  But in hindsight, they end up being answered at just the right time.  In overseas ministry, we encountered insurmountable difficulties in the townships.  The emergencies and calamities that had been happening with the girls we mentored happened nearly continually.  Tony would constantly say to me that “they always seem to be living on the edge.”  In the first world, we can’t imagine those difficulties, although we have the hidden poor among us in cities and in rural areas.  We just don’t see them (but the need exists).  In South Africa, they aren’t hidden; the real poverty is confirmed with our eyes.  In less developed countries, roads can be washed out in cyclones (even British Columbia had that issue in Abbotsford).  People in hidden communities had no access to the outside world for help.  In that circumstance, medical emergencies can happen with no access to a doctor.  Or in the case of northern Mozambique, there are terrorist insurgencies that disrupt peaceful villages, where they persecute and kill Christians.  Corrupt government or police can stall aid workers and missionaries from making a difference in a practical way.    How do we move forward?  No matter what, God is ready to listen and make a way forward.  Prayer and contemplation gives us the inner strength to do what God would have us do.  Jesus is always with us.  We are not alone.  As we depend on God, our trust and intimacy with him grows.

We persevere better when we actively participate in a local church.  It is there that we ‘plug in’ to the Body of Christ.  Pastor Murray Smith encouraged us at Catch the Fire Toronto (May 22nd, 2022 11:15 am sermon) that we do need small groups in order to grow and develop relationship.  But in the setting of a larger church service, there is a corporate anointing, where the Holy Spirit isn’t just in us and around us, but then he works among us.  Something special happens.   We go to honour God, give him sacrifice and offer ourselves to him.  Yet, as a tribe or multi-coloured family, we grow both individually and as a group.  We are strengthened organically in a deep spiritual way.  It is like Hudson Taylor’s secret of abiding in the Lord, which is shown in John 15: 5-7.  “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.”   You are pruned – yet you produce fruit by remaining.   This is what happens when you truly follow Jesus.  When we sat with young township kids, their mothers, and the local widows, and the inmates, we felt like we heard the heartbeat of Jesus.  It was like we were deeply in his presence.  They were the least of these, and Jesus was strongly with them.  Wendy McMahon at Food for the Hungry describes the dynamic for which I just can’t find the words.  She says, “we know that the poor are very close to the heart of God, and Jesus loved to spend time with them when He was on earth.  By seeking to closely follow Jesus each day, we invite Him to make us more like Him.” https://www.fh.org/blog/gods-story-persevere-life-is-hard/      

The writer of Hebrews also encourages us to not give up on being a part of church in Hebrews 10:24-25:  “And let us consider how we may spur one another on, towards love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day (of Jesus’ return) approaching.”  God reveals himself in a different, collective way – where different strands of his revelation and encouragement bless others.  He weaves us together like a beautiful tapestry, similar to an impression I had in South Africa.  In the vision, I saw God changing the South African rainbows (aka the Rainbow Nation) into a Rainbow tapestry.  The tapestry is much stronger than the rainbow, even though it’s inspirational.  The bands of colour are stronger and more useful when they are woven together with the other fibres.  It is in the local church that we are encouraged in our own calling, and are cheered on not to give up.

So when we are to persevere, we know that we are not meant to be alone.    Perseverance is meant to be a continual lifestyle, whether it’s to achieve the end of a big project, an entire life’s accomplishment, or something that is inter-generational (like building a cathedral).  My Iris and Harvest Family Network mentor is one who encourages, and cheers alongside those running the race in ministry and assignments.  He is mentoring me even in a season of hidden family care giving.  It matters just as much to God as our four year missionary season in South Africa.  Brian shared on his Facebook page in April 2022, this important message.  He said, “most people today, especially in our western culture, want to achieve great things very quickly.  But most great achievements happen through years of hard work, dedication and perseverance.  So most, when things get hard or time is required, will quit.   I know so many who were called and made for great things, who simply gave up over the years, as they faced resistance or things didn’t look like what they planned.  I have found that there is always resistance and things seldom look the way that I planned. Hold on to the promises of God, move forward with Him daily, pray, listen and trust Him!  You WILL see victory, and what He has shown you in the secret place, shall come to pass.  I believe in you!  You have been created for a purpose.  You have an anointing that abides within you! He will never leave you or forsake you! Expect to win! (Brian Britton, Facebook page, April 12, 2022)  What a rich heritage this gem of wisdom is!  Again, Brian encourages us to trust in God throughout the journey.  He is the one who will carry you though the journey as we grow close to Him.   He even carries us through senior issues!  Isaiah 46:4 says, “Even to your old age and gray hairs, I am he, I am he who will sustain you.  I have made you and I will carry you,’  I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”  This encourages Tony and me as we care for my dad, but also in Tony’s physical issues as a senior.  Trusting in God isn’t just a “senior thing.”  Sure there are a lot of ‘gray hairs’ in the church, but challenges and growing through them is an intergenerational journey. 

There is nothing in life that is wasted as we continue on.  Absolutely nothing.  If we stand still, it’s only to rest and regroup.  It’s never in running away or quitting.   The Psalmists often exhort the people to trust in God.  Psalm 71:5-6 shares, “For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth.  Upon you I have leaned (trusted) from my birth; you are he who took me from my mother’s womb.  My praise is continually of you.”   The prophet Jeremiah was encouraged at his young age to trust God as he picked up his calling and assignment as a prophet to Judah.  He was given strength, fortitude and extreme perseverance.  Such endurance shines as an example that only God can give.  It is beyond super-hero! 

So do not give up, choose to grow in the journey.  Grow in your assignment with the Lord, whether in a difficult task, ministry, job or being in a situation where you are called to make a stand for righteousness (like Jeremiah).   Let us remember the Apostle Paul’s encouragement in Philippians 3: 14-15: “Brothers (and sisters), I do not consider that I have made it on my own.  But one thing I do:  forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”   So as the writer of Hebrews shares in verse 10:23: “let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”

Perseverance is actively tied to hope and trust in God while in the midst of staying IN the battle.  The battle is the Lord’s.  But we are IN it.  

Lord, thank you that you are there for us and with us while we persevere in your assignments for us.  Sometimes it’s a time to learn and grow.  Other times it’s to rest and be healed.  Then it’s times where we minister, whether in hidden places, or public.  You are always with us.  We choose to stay in our assignments, whether they are difficult or seemingly easy.  We choose the path of going “low and slow” (as we say in Iris):  in humility and patience; in trust and compassion, in illness and difficulty, and in all the things you experienced in your life on earth, Jesus.  We choose you, and we choose to persevere.  We choose to be rooted in you during the storms, and choose to pick up with you in transition. Thank you that you are faithful.  We choose to walk with you on the water, as we look into your eyes.  Carry us Lord, despite everything, and draw us deeper into 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 coppleswesterncape.ca.  Mouse over the “Listen” drop-down menu, or click herehttps://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/wtgig-podcasts.html and scroll down to #77

If you have been blessed by this article, please let us know! 

Updates:  For those looking for news on my cancer journey, I was declared chemically cancer-free as of February 2021, and as of May 2022, I am currently having ultrasounds, mammograms and an upcoming biopsy of a lump on my remaining breast.  I expect it to be benign, but it’s worth checking.   Tony is in care at Toronto General Hospital for malignant mesothelioma in his left lung lining.  He had a pleuroscopy and we are waiting  to hear an analysis of the chemical components of the tumour.  I remember this process when I had breast cancer.  In Tony’s case, he hasn’t met his oncologist yet (that’s to come in early June).  Everything seems to be in slow motion, despite multiple scans and reports that don’t look good.  However, the reports (and the doctor’s diagnosis) isn’t the whole story.  We will see what God will do, especially as Tony is one of my dad’s caregivers, an essential team member.  Tony is having major eye surgery a week from now to complete retinal reattachment that was started a year ago.  We ask you to give thanks for the skills of his surgeons, and that in the case of the cancer the tumour responds and spurs into an accelerated healing like mine did.   Thanks for coming alongside in encouragement and prayer.   If you feel led to contribute towards medications and hospital parking expenses, this would be most welcome.  Not everything is covered under his senior drug plan and OHIP, but don’t feel obligated.  All my teachings are online for free to bless you, with no pressure.  Here is our Paypal for any of you who feel led to contribute: https://www.paypal.me/WaystogrowinGod

Laurie-Ann’s Colouring Books:   If you are in South Africa, and would like to purchase one of L-A’s colouring books, they are available at LeRoux and Fourie wine shop on R60 beside Cape Lime.  This is west of Robertson.  Or you can have your own copies printed for you through Print on Demand through Takealot.com. 

Link for Colouring with Jesus 1https://www.takealot.com/colouring-with-jesus/PLID68586424

Link for Colouring with Jesus 2: https://www.takealot.com/colouring-with-jesus-2/PLID72991486

We plan to republish the updated books in North American format (and in English only) in the future (after taking care of family).   Colouring sheets are available to children’s ministries for free, please just let us know.  Bless you, and thank you for your support!

Love, Laurie-Ann

Growing in God through loving your neighbour

2019 Christmas dinner shared with a local township family

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, until mid-December 2021, we live in the beautiful Western Cape of South Africa.

During the last article, we learned about growing through stopping fretting.  The Psalms tell us not to fret, for it leads to evil.  Short term it can lead to drunkenness, and giving up on life.  Long term, it can lead to bad life decisions that have disastrous consequences.  

Worry in any form is bad for your health. It also wastes your time.  Corrie ten Boom once said, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow.  It empties today of its strength.”  [quoted in Huffington Post, Amanda Chan, “9 Scientific Ways to Stop worrying” December 6, 2017]

Caroline Thorpe of the Touching Hearts ministry, says that excess stress, which is connected to worry, leads to burn out.  It’s not the amount of hours you work, it’s the stress that grinds you into the ground. [Caroline Thorpe, Touching Hearts Course, Talk on bitterness]. Fretting is a heavy burden that you don’t need to carry.  Fretting actually focuses your imagination into the far future, as you worry about things that may not happen and forgetting about what’s going on right now.  Choose instead to TRUST God. Live in the moment.  It is good to plan for your future. Goal setting is good, but this is with positive steps towards that goal.  Jesus reminds us Matt 6:25-27: “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?”  Jesus thought worrying was a waste of time. The Apostle Paul also encourages us to pray, and trust. 

There is a sure-fire way to stop worry. This is to begin to see other’s needs, especially at Christmas.  Once we pray, spend time with and thank God, our eyes can turn to our neighbour.  How important is it to love and help our neighbour?  Here’s Jesus’ take on that.  Listen to Matt 22:37-39.  “ Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’[e] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is almost as important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’[f]  Jesus shows us how important it is to really see our neighbour, love them and be there for them.  This isn’t just a wave across the street.  This is actively looking out for each other. This is loving our neighbour with the overflow of love that comes from time with the Lord in prayer and worship. 

How do most people see their neighbours?  Is it just our next door neighbour, or does this “relationship title” go beyond the boundaries of a little neighbourhood?   How about the people we work with?  How about our school mates and teachers?  And the people at church?  I mention different circles of people where we are connected.  When Tony and I used to go into Worcester Primary School, we spent an hour with the grade ones.  We are family, but we are also neighbours.  The retirement village we used to live in and the school is in the same Langerug neighbourhood. These children are like a rainbow of colours, races and cultures.  They were everything from Brazilian, Chinese, Afrikaaner, English, Malay, Indian, and different black tribes.  All the children were lovable, inquisitive, and usually kind. They were learning how to reach out to their Aunt Laurie-Ann and Uncle Tony. 

Many people in the United States grew up watching the show “Mister Roger’s Neighbourhood.”  Mr. Rogers, was actually a pastor. He had a gift of showing kindness to others.  This was a genuine gift, and he loved to notice and touch others.  He saw them, he noticed them.  The neighbours weren’t invisible to him.  It didn’t matter what gender, race or culture the person came from.  All of them were loved.  His show envisioned a wonderful place where neighbours are noticed.    This scenario may work on TV, but can this work in real life?  South Africa has a charity called love thy neighbour dot org.  It’s a non-profit company that is a platform for other ministries.  They have a motto, which is “kindness begins with me.”  Kindness does, although it is a gift from God.  Some of the ministries featured on this website work with the blind, deaf, down-syndrome and many other worthy needs.     Cape Town’s Bo Kaap neighbourhood also has a Mediterranean restaurant called “Love Thy Neighbour.”  I’m not sure if they actually do that, but the name does draw attention to kindness.   

Who is our neighbour?  The ancient Israelite understanding of neighbour is one nearby who is also an Israelite.  Unfortunately, they didn’t look outside of their box.  Gentiles, were not like them, therefore they weren’t considered. Yet, Lev. 19:33–34 reminds them to consider the foreigners among them:  “Do not take advantage of foreigners who live among you in your land. 34 Treat them like native-born Israelites, and love them as you love yourself. Remember that you were once foreigners living in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”  This means that the foreigners, or sojourners, are also neighbours. Tony and I are soujourners; we’re long-term visitors in South Africa.  And yet, we are neighbours within our retirement village.  We are neighbours to our church friends who live just outside the village.  We have coffee, tea, or a braai with some of our neighbours.  One of them, Willem, has even helped us with a ride to church, when our car was unusable after Christmas 2019, just a few days after we had a Christmas dinner with a township family that we are very fond of.  Willem is a great neighbour.  He intentionally grew a lovely garden on his corner lot property.  He did this so that he could work on the garden and talk to whoever passed by.  He would wave to the drivers who would drive past, so eventually they would stop and actually speak to him.  Willem considers this a ministry.  He notices people.  When he speaks to you, he is filled with kindness and he actually hears what you are saying. 

So to open up our definition of neighbour, Jesus includes the Samaritan who helped a badly injured Jew.  Two of his own kind ignored him, simply because they were too busy with their own lives.  So instead a ‘half-breed’ Samaritan, someone outside their own community, is the one to help the injured man.  This story must have shocked Jesus’ listeners.  This would be like someone from the lowest part of your society rising up and making a difference instead of who you think would help others.  Say this helper was someone from the townships, and they were helping someone from one of the richer neighbourhoods in Worcester.  That would get your attention. Listen to the words from Luke 10: 30-37:   Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.  31 “By chance, a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. 32 A Temple assistant[d] walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. 33 “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. 34 Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. 35 The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins,[e] telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’ 36 “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbour to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked. 37 The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

So to be a good neighbour, is to show mercy when it is needed.  Mercy and kindness go a long way to neighbours that hide in the shadows.  Many people are like that. They are unnoticed and lonely.  All they need is a little love.  All they need is to be noticed with the love of Jesus.  When Ruth arrived in Israel with her mother in law Naomi, she was a widow.  She was allowed to glean in the fields, especially that of Boaz, who was related to her mother in law. Boaz was a good neighbour to Naomi and Ruth, and eventually he married Ruth.  Our neighbours don’t always look like us.  They may be a refugee from Sudan or Iraq.  They may be a persecuted Christian from North Korea, or Somalia. They may be a single parent family with nine kids.  That single mom just may need a little help getting to the grocery store since she doesn’t have a car.   The little boy down the road may have just lost his dad.  He will need a godly man to be like a dad to him.  Open your eyes.  But when you do, don’t just follow the need, for you’ll see that everywhere.  If you drive into the Avian Park township, as Tony very often does, you will encounter children that will approach your car.  They will say, “Give me one rand.  One rand.”  One rand is currently nine Canadian cents.  They’ll use that to fill their bellies with cheap chips. Those chips may have been the only thing they’ve had to eat all day.  So there is need.

Don’t get overwhelmed.  Instead, listen to Holy Spirit.  Who is HE leading you towards?  That is the person to stop for.  That person is your neighbour.  We call that stopping for the one.  Sometimes that person is an obviously needy, hungry child from a township.  Other times that person may be someone in your family.  Say it could be your cousin that has been secretly depressed and lonely. 

How can you stop for the one?  How can you love your neighbour?  I believe dot com has a convenient list of eleven ways to love your neighbour as yourself.  Let’s journey through this list.  [Courtney Whiting, 10 Ways to love your neighbor as yourself” https://www.ibelieve.com/faith/10-ways-to-love-your-neighbor-as-yourself.html]

Cortney Whiting gives us her perspective, which was changed by the words of her daughter.  She says, “Several months ago, as we drove through our neighborhood, my daughter pointed out that the “mean lady’s” house was for sale. This woman had done nothing to my child to evoke such a title. However, in her yard were no less than seven “No Trespassing” signs. Apparently, my daughter overheard a comment I made concerning the signs and thus, the title was born. I immediately felt convicted for my behavior.”  I never knew much about the woman who lived down the street except that her name was Mary, she was older, and she lived alone. I waved to her when I passed by, but I never stopped to introduce myself. This was partly because I was so consumed with my own agenda, that I never opened my heart to a potential need. Another reason for this missed opportunity was I simply prejudged her as not having anything in common with myself. Popular culture often teaches to support others of similar viewpoints, interests, or beliefs. But Jesus’ command challenges the cultural norm. In Luke 10, a lawyer asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus answered with the story of what we call, The Good Samaritan.”  Again, the story of the Good Samaritan is the best example of showing how to love our neighbour.   Here are eleven top ways to love our neighbour.

Number one.  Love is pro-active.  The Samaritan saw the victim and went to him. He stopped on his way.   If we are to learn from this example, we need to be aware of those around us. Who is God placing on your heart to reach out to?  Number two. Love is observant. The Samaritan first SAW the hurting man.   Granted, a beaten man on the road is hard to ignore.  We’ve seen one in Worcester, and Tony has moved him off the road into a safer place.  Number three.  Love is compassionate.  The Samaritan went beyond seeing him and feeling sorry for him.  He responded to his needs.   Some people just need a loving hand up (rather than a hand-out.)   Number four.  Love is responsive.  He bound the man’s wounds with the resources he had on hand.  Sometimes you have what is needed right on hand. Have you noticed a specific need in your community?   Are you being led to meet it, just once?  Number five.  Love is costly.  After the Samaritan tended to the man, he spent some of his own resources.  Loving his neighbour cost the Samaritan at least two days wages, and his time.  Sometimes we have let three of our My Father’s House girls stay with us overnight on our couch.  This was one at a time.  This cost us time, resources, food and sometimes money.  For example, money for things like pads, school uniforms, electricity, bread, or a care package of emergency food.    How can you bless another?  How is God leading you?  Don’t leave it to charities and government agencies to help.  They are already overloaded.  There are forty soup kitchens in Avian Park alone.  Yet they only help specific people.  There is no room for other needy people.  We know people who have fallen through the cracks, and a few times, we were led to help.  Number six.  Love is inopportune.  It’s not convenient. It wasn’t easy for the Samaritan to lift the injured Jew onto a donkey. Yet he did it.  I can remember a few people who went out of their way to help us when we were stranded in our home for eight days. The car was broken, and both the mechanic and the car rental place were closed for holiday.  So we had friends and neighbours who brought us care packages and drove us to church or the mall.  This is something Tony did for others on a regular basis.  It made us feel both humbled and loved to receive this.  Others have driven me home from events when Tony just wasn’t available.  I am thankful that they went out of their way.

Number seven.    Love is healing.  The Samaritan not only bound the man’s wounds, but he had him rest in an inn. He took care of him.  This reminds me of one of Tony’s friends at the hospice he visits regularly.  His name is Moses. Tony comes and brings him fruit, and has even given him rides back to his home in Touws River.  Otherwise he would have been stuck with no transport, waiting in a public hospital.  Tony was led to take care of his friend.  Number eight.  Love is sacrificial.  The Samaritan gave two denarri to the innkeeper. This was two days wages, with no thought of repayment.    It’s not just about our sacrifice.  We give out of what Jesus has already given:  eternal life, and abundant life, full of love, peace, forgiveness and so much more.  Number nine.  Love is communal. The Samaritan asked the innkeeper to help.  Sometimes it’s necessary to involve others in the process.  It is essential to network when dealing with needs.  It’s been important for us, as well as the people we work with.  We have found a real safety net in Worcester, if you know where to go.  Sometimes we have been part of that safety net, and we trust others will fill in our gap, after we leave.  Number ten. Love is promising.  When the Samaritan left the inn, he offered and promised to pay for any other needed expenses. When we love others, we need to follow-up and follow-through in our care. This is the beauty of long term service, or even more to work within your own community, where you live. You don’t have to be a missionary to be a good neighbour! 

Number eleven.  Love is merciful.  The story of the Samaritan is of a man who showed mercy on his neighbour.  Mercy is compassion in action.  Mercy is in meeting the need, not just feeling it. Mercy has follow-though, which is why it’s a ministry.  When I think of mercy, I think of Heidi Baker, with multiple Mozambican children on her lap. I think of Mother Theresa loving those in the Calcutta slums.  And I think of my husband Tony when he is with children and teens.  He has a mercy heart, and I love him for it, as well as many other things.  Number twelve.  Love shows no partiality. Cortney Whiting says, “My neighbour Mary has since moved away, and a new family has bought her home. While I could wallow in guilt that I responded more like the priest or the Levite to her, I am challenging myself to treat my new neighbors like the Samaritan would. For love shows no partiality.” So being a good neighbour is to be one that is not afraid to act on Holy Spirit’s compassion. We see the need, and sense the active compassion rise in us.  Holy Spirit, what would you have us do?  What do they need?  What do you want to do in their life, Lord?

Lord, we offer ourselves to you.  Thank you for the times where we have been helped and given mercy like the Samaritan did to the broken Jew.  May you give us opportunities to reach out and help with whatever they need to receive.  We cannot do this on our own Lord, so we lean entirely on you.  Give us the compassion, the resources and the mercy that overflows onto whoever it touches.  Thank you for your mercy towards US, Lord.   And give us adequate rest between these divine appointments.  Thank you that you provide that too.  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 #73!  If you have been blessed by this article, please let us know!

UpdatesFor those looking for news on my cancer journey, I was declared chemically cancer free as of February 2021, but still in post-cancer treatments (lymphedema massage, physio, medications, scans and bloodwork).   Now my husband Tony has both skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma and prostate cancer).  He has also been given a probable diagnosis of mesothelioma, which is a cancer of the lung lining.  However, the pleural fluid that was generated from the tumour is not malignant, so we’re not sure.  When we return to Canada, after quarantine, Tony will go to the best hospital in Canada for treatment, with his CT scan, report and doctor’s letter.  We pray this will help the process, so they can continue the treatment by another CT scan and a biopsy of the tumour.   It’s unfortunate that there is a wait, with the unstable travel due to the new omicron variant.  We are in a difficult place, but it’s one that God can and will carry us through in some way.  We just can’t afford any more treatment in South Africa.

Otherwise, we still have medical debt and we are working towards that with art commissions and donations. God’s peace is something that I’m clinging to as we plan our way back to Canada.  We also have a hiccup with Tony’s medical visa, which isn’t sufficient to carry us to our departure date of December 18th.  Add to that five covid tests (two in South Africa, one in the US, and two in Canada, despite being vaccinated.  Ah well, it’s just what we have to go through to get back.

After our quarantine, we plan to stay with and care for my frail 92 year old dad, as well as have Tony treated.  Thanks for coming alongside us on our journey.  Being an overcomer is truly a process. We still need help. Tony has significant medical bills as well for lung issues, eye surgery, urologist (who is monitoring the prostate cancer), and I have debt as well (post cancer treatment, physiotherapy, MRI, medications).

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 post cancer treatments and Tony’s eye operation. If you feel led to contribute, please do so via our PayPal:  https://www.paypal.me/WaystogrowinGod   If you do, please introduce yourself and say that you read “Ways to Grow in God.”  It would really bless us!  If you’re led to pray instead, we welcome your prayers and please do contact us.

L-A’s colouring books:  If you are in South Africa, and would like to purchase one of L-A’s colouring books, they are available at LeRoux and Fourie Wineshop on R60 beside Cape Lime (between Nuy and Robertson) and at Slow Living Café in Worcester.  Or you can order one (or more) printed for you through Takealot.com through this link:

Colouring with Jesus is available here:


Colouring with Jesus 2 is available here:


The books are available online, through us personally (for a short time), and through the above shops.  They will also be available through Legacy Relay run by Louis and Carica LeGrange.  After we return to Canada, we plan to republish the devotional colouring books in English using landscape format.  Bless you and thank you for your support!

Love, Laurie-Ann

Growing in God: Learning how to hear God’s voice through the secret place

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 our last two articles, we learned of growing through humility.  When you choose the lower path of servanthood, and you remember others more, you will eventually get honoured. Yet while you are in that low place, you can also learn delights.  There is compensation of joy when you forget yourself in service. For those who live only for themselves, they already have their forced reward.  Julie Meyer shared of a time coming that is here for some already. Judgement and being found out is something that is happening among leaders. We are being warned to “go low.”  This means to adopt a humble attitude for real, and not pretend. It means being authentically you, with no pretense. If you make mistakes, as we all do, learn from them. Teach through them, and show that life does not end because you’re not perfect. It shows others how to be real too.  Julie also shared that those who are at the back of the line, when they look to the Lord, are being shown delight at the end of the line. That’s the delight of deep joy and contentment, as we serve Jesus in whatever He has gifted us to do. I get that when I am drawing – both of real things and people, but this fulfillment is even stronger when I’m drawing from impressions that I receive from the Holy Spirit.  I also get delight when Holy Spirit speaks from the secret place, the place where I learned to hear His voice.  Today we’re going to journey about that secret place and how you can carry it with you.  Next time, we’ll learn point by point into different ways you can hear or see his voice.

The secret place is something that prophetic people speak of in a way that it almost seems mystical.  The secret place is also the perfect place to run to in the midst of this current coronavirus pandemic.  Many countries are locked down, and South Africa, where we are right now, is in a severe lockdown.  While you are home, why not spend time in the prayer closet?  Jesus is calling us to intimacy.

I remember Todd Bentley speaking of the secret place when I watched his revival services in Lakeland, Florida in 2008.  What is this place?  It’s not as weird and wacky as you think.  The secret place is also called your prayer closet, or the place you go alone to pray and talk with God.  Some people don’t have the luxury of such a physical place, like Susanna Wesley, the mother of John and Charles Wesley.  She had ten children with her almost all the time, so she didn’t have a place where she could be private.  She also grew up with 24 siblings, so she knew large family dynamics. Her signal to the children to be quiet for a time was to wear her kitchen apron over her face.  This meant that she was having time with Jesus. The children honoured her by playing quietly or doing homework assignments without disturbing her.  I find that her story is amazing. Her children must have been impacted by the importance of prayer, and may have sensed just how much she needed it.  After all, John and Charles Wesley were wonderful influencers when they grew up. Susanna’s prayer closet was public, but her face was private.  She was a public example of prayer to her children, but her inner world, or secret place, was with Jesus.

This place can be enhanced by having an actual small room where you can retreat, if it’s available.   The movie “War Room” is all about what happens in prayer birthed from a small room.  That is its purpose.  Here in Worcester, there is a single tree atop a foothill that is a wonderful foreground to the Brandwacht mountains.  This is a spot where many people go to pray.  They call it the Lonely Tree.  Whenever I look at that tree, I smile, since I know it’s a special place.

My special place is in northern England, but while I’m in South Africa and in Canada any place can become the secret place. All I need to do is play soft worship music, soak in it and be still inside my heart. I am a creative, so I’ve always been open to hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit. I was that way even when I didn’t know it was he who was speaking to me. Artists stop to create, so I had an advantage.  Most people rush about doing, going and never stopping to even think, except perhaps on the fly.  Hearing God properly requires you to stop and rest.  I specifically remember David, my Foundations of Christian Spirituality professor, say that it’s nearly impossible to hear God’s voice in the midst of an adrenaline rush.  It’s true.

My Iris mentor, or papa, is Brian Britton. He leads a small church in Richmond, Virginia.  I met him in Williamsburg in June 2014, after Tony and I spent a week there.  I was then in a transition period that was to prepare me for becoming a long term missionary.  Tony decided that he wanted to see some of the American naval base in Norfolk, but we didn’t have the clearance to have a glimpse. We were advised at the Nautilus naval museum to take a boat tour that allowed us to see the periphery of the naval ships.  I’m not into naval ships, so I stayed indoors. While I was there, I enjoyed the quiet ambience.  Holy Spirit then whispered into my heart, “you’re about to meet some people who will be very important to you.  They will help grow you spiritually.” Before 2014, I regularly flew to Phoenix, Arizona to take part in conferences and teachings of Patricia King and friends.  From this time on, my “well so to speak,” became Virginia. So far, I have gone six times, with a seventh to come on our home visit this year.  We’ve been able to stay at timeshares there, so it’s a perfect place to receive and relax.

Papa Brian is just one of the people there who speak into both Tony and me. Brian was one of the speakers at our Harvest School in 2016, and I happily took notes.  His subject was about the very core of hearing Holy Spirit’s voice.  He spoke about getting into that special ‘secret’ place.   Here’s what Brian had to share about entering this place.  He based his talk on Psalm 27: 4, “The one thing I ask of the Lord, the thing I seek most, is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, delighting in the Lord’s perfections and meditating in his Temple.”  The other scripture he read to us was from Matthew 6:6.  In this context, Jesus taught the disciples how to pray, and gave them the Lord’s Prayer as an example.   Jesus said, “ But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”  While you can pray in public, it’s not about show. This is a private conversation.

Brian’s guide is simple.  It starts with listening.  First, you come into your real or imaginary prayer closet and shut the door.   You LISTEN.  You don’t just talk to God. Yes, do share your heart, but then you need shut your mouth, and quiet your mind and heart. Nicky Gumbel has a story where one goes to the doctor and shares all their different ailments, then leaves before the doctor can help him. Prayer is like this; it’s a two way conversation.  Brian says that nothing can replace the confidence and glory that you have heard his voice speak to your heart. God is always speaking to us things like “I love you, I’m proud of you, trust me, and don’t give up.”  God is our biggest encourager, and encouragement is one of his gifts.

It is in this place that we learn the sound of his voice. Our inner ears don’t hear through step by step manuals, although these can help gain understanding. We learn by actively listening and hearing the voice of Jesus, our shepherd.  Brian shared that his dad had died 15 years ago, and yet, he still knows the sound of his voice.  Nicky Gumbel also shares on Alpha about recognizing voices on the phone.  Sometimes you can’t quite place who is speaking, so you try to gather details about the person before you can get into the conversation.  Tony bypasses this when he doesn’t recognize who is speaking.  He’s not shy to ask “Who is this?”  This is especially if the person just gives their first name and Tony doesn’t know them well.  Yet if Tony heard my voice on the line, he would recognize me right away.  Nicky shares of a man who calls him Nicholas in a very specific, formal voice.  He recognizes him right away.  It’s the same with God.  The closer we get to him, and the more time we spend with him, the more we recognize his voice. We also have to be aware that not every spontaneous thought that comes into our mind is God.  Sometimes the source is evil, so bear in mind whether that voice is loving and doesn’t go against biblical teaching.  This is another reason why it’s so important to have the discernment that you’re listening to the right voice.

God always affirms you. Some people are uncomfortable with receiving God’s affirmations.  Maybe you don’t think you’re beautiful. Brian says that you have to be comfortable with letting God love you, like a child who knows they are loved.  When children know you love them, they are comfortable to sit on your lap, and in your arms.  They trust you to take their hand to guide them. They learn from you, and like them, you learn also your identity through listening to God.  Some of your identity is grown by listening to the Father sing over you through the Holy Spirit.  CS Lewis shared about this phenomenon when he wrote about Aslan, the Christ figure in the Narnia Chronicles.  Aslan sang the world of Narnia, and each being into existence.  He knew them. He loved them. He knew their identity.  God does the same with us.  Listen to the words of Zephaniah 3:17.  “For the Lord your God is living among you.  He is a mighty saviour.  He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”  God always sings over us. I also love to sing when I share talks.  I’ve done this in Pakistan, Sierra Leone and Kenya. I do this here in South Africa with children.  Singing over children, and even grown children like us, reaches into their hearts, and our hearts, with love.   When you’re in the secret place, you can also ask God questions. You can ask him to open your eyes on how something is made, or you can especially ask him what he thinks of you.  This is a wonderful place to begin, as He heals your heart.

Brian says that we must listen when we are in the secret place. He says that when you know that you are loved, and he has spoken over you, nothing can stop you.  The vision he gives you is yours, it’s your gift from God.  You can hear God for yourself, rather than chasing after prophetic people for words upon words.  Brian shares that prophets are great, but this doesn’t replace you hearing from God for yourself. God speaks through relationship.  Psalm 95 gives us a choice to listen.  It shares, “If only you would listen to his voice today!”  The Psalm also shares of the consequences of not listening, which is not being allowed to experience God’s rest.  While we are invited into that secret place, it is a choice. If you do respond, you will see and experience him there.  You will hear his voice there.  If you do this all the time, pretty soon you’ll see God everywhere.  You can also see Jesus in others more easily and love them more.  Brian also shared that the “secret place also empowers you in difficult times. You stop being grumpy and complaining. You won’t be afraid, because perfect love goes from his lips to your ears.”  You carry the secret place with you. It’s like a garden in your heart.

American teacher Mark Virkler taught me how to journal back in the 90’s, starting from a workshop at a Vineyard family camp. Later I learned from him at church seminars and I asked him to share at a seminary prayer retreat while I was the student prayer coordinator.

Mark shares that journalling is “to stop, listen and write what you hear Holy Spirit say to you.  He says that it’s as simple as quieting yourself down, fixing your inner eyes on Jesus, tuning into spontaneous thought (that isn’t your own), and writing.”  All Christians can do this – whether you’re an analytical thinker like he is, or a creative like me.  We can do this, because Jesus promises us in John 10:27 “My sheep hear my voice.”  Virkler says that God’s voice “sounds like spontaneous thoughts that light upon your mind, especially as your heart is fixed on Him.”

I learned from him in workshops, and the Communion with God course. However,  you can easily find his book “Four Keys to hearing God’s voice” on Amazon.  He speaks directly to left-brain analytical thinkers, who have difficulty getting themselves out their rigid rational, linear thought.  Do you speak in rational, linear thought when you are talking with a friend?  Or do you speak that way with family members?  No, we don’t, do we? Life and relationships aren’t science experiments.  They are interactive and sometimes messy.  So our communication with God: prayer, isn’t always linear either.

But if you do think in this way, Mark Virkler is a perfect tutor to help you overcome any blocks so you can think more easily in both ways.  Virkler says that the four keys to hearing God’s voice (whether in image or word) are:  stillness, vision, spontaneity and journalling.  Stillness means you must quiet yourself so you can hear God’s voice.  Vision is to look for vision as you pray.  This is when I look for impressions and images to draw.  Spontaneity is to recognize God’s voice as spontaneous thoughts that light upon your mind.  Journalling is to write down the flow of thoughts and pictures that light upon your mind.   Journalling also gives you the added depth of returning to your writings later, and discovering deeper truths to what you initially received.  You can also learn to do this all the time, by recognizing God’s voice whatever you’re doing.  It’s all part of the Apostle Paul’s direction to never stop praying.  Other Bible versions call this “praying without ceasing.”  How do we do this?  By being tuned into God’s spontaneous thoughts to you.  This is in keeping your heart and mind open to him always, no matter what you are doing.  We often have ‘arrow prayers’ in the heat of the moment.  When Holy Spirit shares something on the spur of the moment, it’s the reverse. God shoots down an arrow communication to you. It’s for that moment. It is usually a direction, an insight, or a word to be followed up, obeyed and often shared.  We especially rely on insights like these when we are working with township children.

Matteus van der Steen was another well-known Christian leader who taught us at our Harvest School.  He wrote a book called “Dare to Dream,” which was on our recommended reading list. He shares in one chapter about caring for widows, orphans and foreigners.  This is something that his eyes were opened to when he went on short term outreach in Bosnia.  He found appalling conditions.  While he cared for these people, he found it opened his eyes and ears, as well as gave him showers of blessings.  Matteus shares, “I have seen with my own eyes what happens when people commit themselves to serving the poor, the weak, and the outcast. They can suddenly hear and understand the voice of God so much more clearly. Sometimes it’s easy for us to block out the cries of the needy if they are filtered through something our friends tell us about, the internet, or media like television and newspapers. But the more we ignore what God is calling us to do, the less we will be able to form or maintain a relationship with Him. We can also convert this warning into a promise: whoever heeds the cry of the poor will be heard and helped by God when they cry out for help.”

When we do not help these people, through sins of negligence, or deliberate selfishness, God doesn’t hear our prayers.  Perhaps this is due to the fact that people in this position have hardened their hearts so much that they continue to walk away from God. They also don’t know God’s heart of mercy for the broken. Ezekiel 16 shares that Sodom was not cursed due to its great sins, but rather for not helping the poor and the needy.  Both the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy mention that caring for the asylum seekers is part of the law – either through a partial tithe, or through harvest gleanings.  When we open our hearts and follow these principles, we hear God’s voice more clearly.  We also share in his heart, because he has compassion on these people, and loves them as much as he loves us. We are part of his solution.  So when we are in the townships, or with a person who needs the love of God, don’t be surprised if you hear direction, feel compassion and are given inspiration to do something.

Remember, the Holy Spirit speaks to you in your secret place. This is your prayer closet, which is also internalized in your heart to take with you everywhere you go. All you need to do is to find a quiet spot, still yourself and focus on Jesus.  You can do soaking prayer with music, you can journal with a pen and paper, or on your computer.  Sometimes pen and paper is better, so you don’t get distracted by social media.  Remember, hearing God’s voice is by invitation.  He is always speaking, and always inviting us.  Stop, and say yes. That’s how it starts.  Often the first way of hearing God is through reading scripture. Once you memorize and let scripture transform you, those words are now IN you.  They are flowers in the garden of your heart. Holy Spirit will remind you of specific words at specific times. This too is a part of learning how to hear God’s voice.

During our next broadcast, we will journey through steps of the different ways to hear God’s voice:  impressions, pictures, words, whispers, inner knowing and seeing his imprint over things and people.  This is a skill to develop in, but also a gift that blesses us as we grow in our relationship with God.

Lord, I ask you to help us to hear and recognize your voice.  Some people may hear you but not know that you’re speaking to them.  They may think it’s strange, and yet they don’t understand how inspiration works.  Give them the gift of getting beyond analytical thinking.  To the creatives, give the ability to discern which voice is your voice.  You are the ultimate creator, and we want to hear what is genuine, what is true.  Thank you that your words to us are life – in scripture, and spoken word to our hearts.  Help us to grow in it.  In Jesus’ name. Amen.

I’m also continuing to have follow up cancer treatments here in South Africa.  We tried to return to Canada to resume treatment, but two sets of flights were cancelled, and we were forced into severe lockdown. We couldn’t even move from our home as expected, but we are safe.  I may need to have surgery in South Africa, rather than what was planned in Canada. If you feel led to learn about L-A’s story and/or to pitch in, you can visit our medical campaign page.  You can also send whatever amount you’d like to sow to our Paypal:  https://www.paypal.me/WaystogrowinGod

If you’d like to hear this article in audio format read by Laurie-Ann, visit our podcast page and scroll down to #53.

Enjoy!  Please let me know if this blessed you!

Blessings, Laurie-Ann

Growing in Gratitude and positivity: Giving up negativity for the new year

Happy New Year!  In our last article, we journeyed through divine appointments that we’re given during the Christmas holidays.  Often people are more open to receiving help at Christmas, and this opens them up to the real meaning of Christmas – about Jesus.  The gift is Jesus, not physical presents, as good as they can be sometimes.  This year Tony and I had two Christmases – a South African one with our friends Andre and Janey, and one with some of our Iris Western Cape family, Maggie, Kaysha and Kaysha’s fiancée, Alex. They are to be married on January 19th. We greatly look forward to that event and blessing their union.   We had a Christmas feast with them of hard to find turkey, honey glazed ham, stuffing, veggies, and two puddings – syllabub and Christmas pudding.  We’ve not had turkey since Canadian Thanksgiving 2017, so this was a big treat for us.  Life is a time of feasts and fasts. Tony and I have an Anglican background, so we’re familiar with the concept of both feasts and fasts.  Fasts aren’t just for lent, or when you are praying for miracle breakthroughs in healing or the mission field.  Deeper fasts involve allowing God to change US, which is a good thing.  So for the beginning of 2019, we’ll step into a refiner’s fire for something better.  I’ve heard quite a few prophetic words that 2019 will be a breakthrough year and a new season for many.  I trust that will also be the case for you and for us.  But when you step from one season to another, there is change and transition.  I’ve spoken on transition before, and how we need to keep a thankful attitude during times like this.  It opens our hearts to the wonderful surprises that we might miss if we are in complaint mode. I’m not talking about a one-off rant.  Sometimes we need that – I’m talking about stopping a lifestyle of complaining that just drags us down.

While many others are considering the New Year’s resolutions of losing weight – which is something I’ve already been doing for a months – we’re going to offer a different challenge.  How about a fast from negativity?  We can do this in small steps.  But how do we fast at all?

Some people do fasts during Lent – the season between epiphany and Easter.  It’s a devotional time to remember Jesus’s earthly ministry and his suffering.  It’s an intentional time of discipleship.  My Anglican priest John, tells us to not just give something up, but also to take something on.  So perhaps what you might take up is more devotional time – more dates with Jesus. Or maybe volunteering in a soup kitchen. Some give up coffee, tea, chocolate or sweets.  One year I gave up television, and another credit cards.  Some give up Facebook and other social media. And then in 2015, I took on a negativity fast for Lent, although sadly I didn’t continue it through the year.  In 2015, I had just finished my third Ways to Grow talk on thankfulness and gratitude.  Originally, I had planned to write only one post on being thankful.  But there was so much more on the topic than I realized – and out came four talks.  It was the same when I wrote on honour, which resulted in three talks.

I believe one major barrier to thankfulness and gratitude is a complaining attitude.  You may remember that in-gratitude, grumbling and complaining kept the Hebrews in limbo land.  Their fear and complaining kept them stuck between Egypt and Canaan, their promised land.  This attitude can also keep us stuck in the quicksand of nagging, doubts and complaints.  If it feels like we are being pulled down by this bog,  we are! This situation can even be life threatening!  Endless complaining and nagging steals the joy and life out of you, even if you try those methods to motivate, they often back fire. Husband and wives of nagging spouses can relate to this phenomenon.

Back in 2015, I was drawn to learn more about the ‘joy of the Lord.’  This is something that is called our strength in Nehemiah chapter 8:10.  He shared a message of encouragement to the disappointed Jewish refugees, after they arrived to see Jerusalem in ruins.  Nehemiah told them to “go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!”  That was to be not only a feast of food, but a feast of trusting God.  The joy he describes is more of a deep contentment and trust in God. It’s not always actual laughter, but it can include this as well.  Sometimes this is like being so filled with the Holy Spirit that you can’t help laughing.  But usually, it’s an unshakeable knowing that God is faithful. You believe you will be okay despite difficult circumstances.

This is a joy that comes even in suffering, and is far deeper than the optimist’s ‘half-full’ glass.  It is more like the cup of thankfulness that runs over that King David mentions in Psalm 23:5, which depicts a feast in the midst of a difficult time.   David prayed, “You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.  You honour me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.”  This cup of joy or blessing sustains you even in the deepest, darkest suffering. It is not diminished in persecution or difficult times. The cup sustains us because of the One who gives us the cup. When you drink this cup of joy, your eyes are completely focused on Him.

I thirsted to journey with and for more of that joy.  I took a stand on negativity and complaining in my own life, and took this stand again when Heidi Baker asked us to go on a negativity fast at Harvest School.  It was more difficult in Mozambique, since I was already in an intense refining season that was necessary for people to see Jesus in me without my own worries getting in the way.  But I did try, as I will again.   Before Harvest School, my Kingdom Culture pastor, Shawn Gabie prophesied over me and told me that I would go through a difficult refining season, but I was to not quit.  During this time, as joy and trust were worked deeper into my heart, I remembered encouragement from Heidi Baker to not quit, and that if you don’t quit, you win.  The other encouragement was from Pastor Shawn, who told me to “fix my focus forward on what the Father had for me that season.”   I need to remember these same encouragements in my current weightloss journey, which has had me lose 5 kilos, or 11 pounds so far. Slow but sure, just like our faith.

So back in February 2015, I took a stand on negativity and complaining in my life for the first time.  I declared with Shawn Gabie that “if I have a problem, there is a solution.” And if I get impatient, I will leave the struggle in God’s hands.   I then entered negativity fast.  I had some challenges along the way, and some days I completely fell off the wagon, due to disappointments, pauses and challenges.  Confusion and restlessness became my response to delays of hoped-for advances.  Yet, it’s necessary to spend time in the pause, to reflect and prepare.  We must not rush this season, as much as we want to do so.

Sometimes, life throws you more difficulties than heavy traffic and a set of red lights on the road when you’re in a hurry.  How many of us get upset in heavy traffic?  How many of us are impatient when you want to ‘do’ something, but that time is ‘not yet?’  And what about those who deal with other things that hold them back in their daily lives? It may be time for a “re-frame!”  What’s a “re-frame?”

I learned the art of “re-framing” in one of my counselling classes at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto, Canada. To re-frame is to look at a ‘bad’ situation in your life through a new perspective.   In order to do this, you must take how you perceive as a difficult situation and choose see it through a new ‘frame’ of mind. Sometimes it requires a higher perspective – that of the Holy Spirit.  A friend can also give you a different view of how they see you in your current circumstance.

When you view a difficult situation in a negative way, it seems even more menacing.   It begins to “look” like you’re facing an impossible obstacle.  What do I mean by this? Think of how you may feel if you’re having a ‘crummy’ day. You may believe the ‘crummi-ness’ will last all week.  You may feel as if a rain cloud is continually over your head, despite the weather. You might feel that negativity encompassing all of your life, when in reality, that difficulty is a very small part of your life!  So along comes a friend or counsellor who has the art of re-framing. They see possibilities in your difficulty.  They see a positive challenge that offers growth and reward on the other side.

I recently drew a prophetic drawing while having a soaking and drawing session with our girls that we minister with through My Father’s House in Avian Park.  We listened to a series of beautiful soaking songs, and then all of us drew.  Even Tony drew.  The girls drew Christian symbols of hope, faithfulness, peace and love, as did Tony.  I drew a girl who raised her umbrella up against the rain.  Although the rain was really an abundance of hearts of God’s love, and the umbrella was limiting the flow of love into her heart and life.  Then I was led to draw Jesus, carrying his cross, and the love that flowed from him to the girl.   The word that came to me with the drawing was “I love you. Don’t put a limit on my love for you. Time to put the umbrella down.  Soak in the rain of my love.”

And so that was the Holy Spirit’s perspective to one friend who limits God’s love in her heart.  Some of you may feel the same way, but don’t see that you are stuck.  So it helps to have a friend who can encourage you in this way.  However, you can also learn to do this yourself!  This doesn’t replace our need for godly friends in our lives. But does help to create a daily discipline of choosing to see every aspect of your life in a positive way. This may be a challenge, but the Holy Spirit can help us. He is the ultimate  ‘re-frame’ counsellor in our lives.  God never puts us down; he never condemns us.  He convicts us of sin, yes. But he cleanses us when we come to him and say we are sorry.  He also shows us possibilities.  He is the God of Hope.

Have you considered taking up a negativity fast? Some people may wait until Lent, but I believe the beginning of the year is even better.  The longer you practice this discipline, the more it will become a daily practice. Leaders Steve and Wendy Backland of Igniting Hope Ministries encourage this kind of fast for at least forty days.

Christian neuro-scientist Caroline Leaf also works on the same principle in a 21 day period. She concentrates on eradicating one negative thought pattern rather than many.  But if you target one negative thought or self-talk per three week period, by the end of the year, you will be free of old lies that you have believed.  You will be a much happier person!

A negativity fast also includes feasting on and thinking positive thoughts, like Philippians 4:8 encourages us to do: Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Consider yourself a pilgrim in the land of the positive. I wish you well on your journey as we walk along together with thanks and gratitude.  May you have a blessed 2019, full of breakthrough and joy.

Let me pray over you:  Lord, thank you that you have plans for our future that are to prosper and not harm us.  Help us as we journey to see the joys in life that you give us.  Open our eyes to the lies we tell ourselves, and the complaints that fall from our lips. We don’t even realize it.  Set us free by renewing our minds one thought at a time.   Help us day by day as we walk out of the storm into the light.  In Jesus’ name. Amen.

If you would like to hear an audio version of this article, please visit our podcast page, on the Copples’ missionary site – Coppleswesterncape.ca, and scroll down to #43.

Ways to Grow in God podcast page

This article will be broadcast as the devotional segment on January 3, 2018 on CWCP’s The Worcester Reports.

Blessings and love,
Laurie-Ann Copple



Growing in God through time with God

During my last article, we discovered the power of blessing others.  We bless others intentionally by smiles, hugs, kindness, prophetic words, and sowing blessings into each other.  This is an intentional act that you can cultivate as a lifestyle.  Just as Tony and I choose to stop for the divine opportunities God brings our way, we also choose to bless. Sometimes this is done in practical ways, since love looks like something.  However, other times it’s simpler in forms of touching, hugging, listening as wells as speaking hope and positive encouragement for their future.  All of these ways of blessing and validating others involves time.  It’s important to spend good relational time with people. It’s a two way blessing.

Before we spend this valuable time with other people, we need to spend time with God even more so.  When Tony and I attended the Iris Global Harvest School, we learned from many local and international speakers.  Rolland Baker was among my favourites. He would amaze us with incredible wisdom, and yet sometimes he would simply want to touch downcast hearts with deep joy.  I came to love Rolland when I first saw him at a September 2014 conference in in Richmond, Virginia. God has gifted him with a sense of knowing when someone is secretly depressed.  During the conference, he followed me around during ministry time; and he did not let up.  I was secretly sad and grieving because no job was open to me at the time. I still didn’t have a paying job until two years later, shortly after Tony and I returned from our ministry in Mozambique, South Africa and Botswana.  Rolland imparted to me a deep trust-joy in my heart through the Holy Spirit. This deep trust laid a foundation so I could spend more time waiting before God.

When I spent time with God, I wasn’t as restless before him as I was. I already practiced soaking prayer; which is a devotional time of silently listening to God with your spiritual ears, while also listening to soft worship music with your physical ears.  This is a form of contemplation.  But now was a time to go even deeper.   Heidi Baker says, there is always more, and it’s true. She always cries out for more, and God responds.  Do we cry out for more time with God?  I believe that God wants to spend more time with us. He’s very patient for us to come invite him.  Hollman Hunt created a series of paintings of Jesus standing at a door knocking.  There were a lot of overgrown weeds around the door, and there was no handle on the door. The door could only be opened from the inside – by the person who owns the house.  But think, we are the house.  The house represents our lives, and Jesus won’t come in, unless we open the door. It’s amazing how patient Jesus is! This surely shows his mercy and kindness.

Heidi also shared with the All Nations Church in Arizona after a women’s conference. I attended this conference in an earlier year. At that time, I had the pleasure of Heidi ministering to me in a special way. Heidi was led to walk towards me with a bouquet of roses.  She approached me with the flowers, a hug and a kiss, before she continued on her way to her seat at the front of the church. Basically, she was stopping for the one – and I was the one that she stopped for! It was an incredibly humbling experience – where I felt I was being loved on by Jesus himself. I was!  She spends so much time daily with the Lord, despite being incredibly busy.  This is her secret.  She is so filled with the love of Jesus, that she really does pour out his love.  Before she approached me, I stood worshipping in the back row of the church. The only thing that caused me to open my eyes was that I sensed the strong presence of Jesus beside me.  It was like Jesus himself was standing right beside me.  So I opened my eyes, and there was Heidi!   This wasn’t the only time that I could clearly and powerfully see Jesus in another person.  It happened before with Dennis Bennett, the man who led me to Jesus in 1988.  Then it happened again through two of my professors in Tyndale Seminary.  Every once and a while, I again get a similar experience.

Could we be filled with Jesus’ love that? Could we touch others with the love of God? Perhaps so deeply that you can see the difference it makes?  The answer is simple.  We can.  Spend time with God.  We desperately need him, not just for ministry – but for our own needs too. Both Heidi and Rolland speak at length about this essential need.  We need God. We really do.

Jesus was asked by a religious law expert on what was the most important commandment of the Torah.  His reply cut to the heart of the matter.  Jesus said, “you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’[a 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’[b] 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

The first commandment is absolutely crucial.  You need to spend time loving him, and letting him love you.  Loving God with your heart could involve worship and realizing that God is our treasure.  He is the pearl of great price.  Loving God with your soul would be acts of service just for him in obedience, humility and integrity.  Loving God with your mind could involve reading scripture while praying, and actively meditating on him.  My Afrikaaner pastor Pieter-Louis says to love God in this way is to actively cultivate your ‘dianoia.’  This is your active imagination – it is part of how you think.  When you give this to God, you allow Holy Spirit to speak to you through pictures, impressions and words.  You can also imagine him right with you, which of course, he actually is.  Through this practice, your eyes can actually open to see him more and more.

The version of the story I shared is in Matthew 22, but in the Gospels of Mark and Luke, Jesus is also quoted as including loving God with all your strength.  Jesus was actually quoting Deuteronomy 6:5.  What does it look like to love God with all your strength?   To love the Lord with all our strength is to love him with reckless abandon out of simple devotion.  Heidi and Rolland have a daily devotional book called Reckless Devotion. It captures a taste of being completely wrecked by the love of God, in a way that you become love-sick for him.   Here’s another example – the woman who broke open an alabaster jar of expensive perfume over Jesus’ feet. It’s likely she had this jar as a treasure for her wedding night – but instead, she recklessly shared it with Jesus – her spiritual bridegroom.   So this greatest commandment is definitely not one we should skip.  However, too often, that is exactly what happens. Some of this distraction is by little things that come up in our day, which rob us from our time with God.  The most sad distraction is one that has the best of intentions!

Rolland Baker shared with us at Harvest School that even many missionaries skip the first commandment to get to the second commandment.  They move too quickly through their devotions because they see the great need of those around them.  YES, we need to reach out.  But if you reach out without the love, power and leading of God, you have nothing to give them but human sympathy.  Human love runs out quickly, and you get exhausted.  It’s far better to take the time, before you go out to the people.  While I’m not a morning person, morning is probably the best time, unless you’re working and ministering at night.  Without loving God with all of you, you will have no energy to do the commandment of loving your neighbour.

So we need to pursue God with reckless pursuit, and he will fill us with all we need to do life.  This is life in ministry, the workplace, family, studies and everything else you can think of.  I can honestly say that I was helped by God to excel in university, seminary and radio school.  I didn’t do as well in art school, before I knew Jesus.

So we need to give God our time – our calendar, and all that is in it.  We need to schedule dates with God that can’t easily be moved. One of my Afrikaaner pastors and his wife have a date with God every night at 9.  You can see the life and love of God in their lives.  They shine for Jesus like bright lamps in the darkness.   So let’s think back of Heidi speaking in that Arizona church.  I watched on a webcast and could not tear my eyes away.  She was speaking on the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25: 1-13, and she began singing her prophetic wisdom from Holy Spirit.

So I’ve done some searching on this story. Five of the virgins were prepared and had enough oil while they waited for the bridegroom overnight. Five weren’t prepared and didn’t have enough oil – they couldn’t borrow oil from the others, and had to go buy some. The five wise virgins couldn’t even transfer some of their oil.  The others had to go get their own.  There is a deeper meaning of this story other than the suddenness of the bridegroom’s arrival.  What is the oil?  The Holy Spirit?  Yes.  But wait, there’s more.  Yes, the Holy Spirit is often symbolized by oil, fire, water and wind.  But there’s more.   Perhaps grace?  Yes, grace is a gift of God but there’s more.  Perhaps the oil is gained through obedient Christian living?  Yes, but there’s still more.

So what’s the more?  The very thing that God sees as our precious gift we give to him.  It’s TIME.  How do you get the oil?  By your TIME spent with God.  God takes the gift we’ve given by our lived out space in our calendars – to become the very oil that we need.  Not just the anointing oil of the Holy Spirit, but something deep within, so that we shine from the inside.  We become like a lamp.

I think I’d like to stay and think on this revelation. I’m thankful that Heidi obeyed Holy Spirit when she shared it.  So please, do not hesitate to give God your time.  It may not be the hours that Heidi spends – but your own date with God.  You can worship, ask questions, read the Bible, and so much more. This is a date journey with God, and he’s inviting you right now.

I’d like to pray with you.  Sorry Lord, that we’ve been neglecting you – Christians and non-Christians alike.  Thank you for dying for us.  We give you our calendars, and our lives.  Cleanse us from all we have done wrong, and the tendency to go our own way.  Please fill us with your Holy Spirit.  Help us to respond to your invitation to spend time with us.  Bless my friends who are reading this article. Touch their lives, as they take time for you. In Jesus name.

If you’d like to hear audio podcasts of Ways to Grow in God, they are available on our missions/radio website coppleswesterncape.ca  Here is the direct link to the Ways to Grow in God podcast page:   WTGIG Podcasts

You can also hear them Thursdays on CWCP via Galcom audio streamer  on Thursdays 8 pm SAST, or on the CWCP podcast page as full radio shows.


Laurie-Ann Copple
Worcester, South Africa


Growing in God through hunger and thirst





I’ve been thinking a lot about what draws the presence of God in a tangible way. It’s to hunger and thirst for him.  Psalm 42:2 says, “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God?”  We are urged by James that if we draw near to God, he will draw near to us (James 4:8). This principle is true, even during desert experiences, and hard times.

Right now Tony and I are living in South Africa, at a time of serious drought.  Many have been praying for rain, and we will gather with Angus Buchan for a massive corporate gathering to pray for rain and spiritual rain of awareness of God, turning away from our sin and cravings for evil, and being deeply satisfied in him within our beings.  The reservoirs in the region are very low, and while the city and environs of Cape Town are by the south Atlantic Ocean, there is virtually no desalinisation, although two short term plants are under construction.  Residents of the region are urged to use no more than 50 litres of water per person per day.  Think of how little that is, including showers, cooking, washing clothes, flushing toilets, and hydrating during a very hot summer. Then there’s agricultural and industrial use.  Water is something we absolutely need for everyday life.   This draught not only affects South Africa, but other southern Africa countries as well.  I was also in northern Kenya during a drought, and they were afraid for their cattle.

Hunger is similar – we need food as well – spiritual and physical.  Tony and I were in Mozambique for the Iris Global Harvest School from June – August 2016.  We saw the hungry people with our own eyes. Since they were that hungry, they would eat large amounts of scrawny chicken, beans, rice, bony fish if it was available to them simply to feel full again.  I can’t imagine what it’s like to be that far in deficit for food and water, but they were.

We learned from the Mozambicans on Monday mornings for our cross-cultural class.  We sat on the floor with the mamas and connected with the Makua pastors.  On our last Monday, Heidi Baker had some of the pastors share what the extreme hunger did to their families.  Pastor Pedro shared that some of his family members died of hunger and extreme want (during the colonial period of persecution before 1976).  Pedro became very hungry for justice on the earth, and through his prayers, God has raised five people from the dead (as of July 2016).  Hunger caused him to break through so many difficulties – spiritual and otherwise.  Tragedy made him not bitter, but better.  It made him hungry for justice – God’s justice; God’s righteousness.  The beatitudes scripture about righteousness surely applies to such a man:  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled (Matthew 5:6 NIV).”

Pedro and these other Mozambican pastors may be physically hungry now, but their spiritual hunger has been so intense that this has brought them so many answers to prayer from God.

Fasting from food was of use in this context.  It can make you hungry for righteousness and justice in ministry and needs.  Pedro fasted for six days, with prayer for someone who just died, and that person came back to life. Then Pedro became even more hungry.   Every week he fasts for two days.  He was healed of the painful family memories and turned their hunger into his own supernatural hunger.  He no longer feels the pain from the past, but has extreme trust in God for the future.  This invites us to trust and believe to press in for more hunger for God.

Hunger is a gift. While I have often thought I was hungry for God, it hasn’t been as deep as these Mozambican pastors. Their hunger and gratitude are a shining example for us to follow.  I want some of that.

Heidi then asked for the Mozambican pastors to pray over all the international Harvest School students, Tony and myself included. TWO pastors laid hands on me and did not stop for some time.  I felt like huge electric shocks ran down my body, and in my mind’s eye, I could see a picture of myself.  I was not the plus-sized lady that I see when I look in the mirror.  I was like one of the latch-key children in Africa.  I was standing beside an empty well, with no water and no food.  I was pitifully thin and no longer felt hungry, since I had learned to “just get by” with my own resources.  Even though I love the Lord, I am still learning complete dependence on him.  It’s a life-long process.  When I saw the empty cistern and the thin child, I was reminded of Jeremiah 2:13: “For my people have done two evil things: They have abandoned me – the fountain of living water.  And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all.”

While I’m not saying that drought is necessarily caused by sin, there is an element of leaning on God, and being responsible for what he gives. So that day, I was filled upon filled with a new level of electricity… which needs to be refilled daily, of course.  I sense that’s only the start of a journey learning about hunger and thirst for God.  Jesus’ own 40 day fast in the desert is also telling.  When he is tempted by the bread, he rebukes Satan by telling him, “But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”   Jesus was quoting Deuteronomy 8:3.

“He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.

The Israelites’ time in the desert was a time of utter dependence.  Not all of them learned that lesson, so some died in the wastelands, and the next generation was finally able to cross the Jordan river.

They did not act on their spiritual hunger and seek God, but instead had an attitude of complaint and entitlement.  They did not use their time of want into an intentional fast as a sacrifice to the Lord. Their time was wasted.

I remember going on a Power Weight Loss seminar with Patricia King.  She encouraged a lot of common sense, temperance and once a week fasting (sometimes more).  The fasts weren’t necessarily fore-going specific foods, but rather eating specific soup that would target cleansing of the lymphatic system and other areas of the body, along with additional time of prayer. She said that when we fast, we flip the basic needs pyramid (Mazlo’s hierarchy of needs) so that the spiritual needs are the most important, and food slides to the lesser need. For some reason, this activates something in us in our prayer life.  Normally when one goes without food, the metabolism decides to hibernate. This is certainly the case with my very slow thyroid. It makes fasting a challenge.  However, if this is done properly, it can kick-start a breakthrough of a journey.  Yet it’s a daily and weekly discipline, as is our daily hunger for God.

I found a devotional blog by Francine Winslow that shares about the magnet of spiritual hunger for God’s presence. Spiritual hunger is a gift, that God then honours and fans into flame. God is looking for hearts that are open to him, in order to stir up a hunger that leads to a deep romance of the soul. The Holy Spirit draws us. (Luke 24:32)  We need to follow that burning sensation in our hearts – to read the Bible, ask questions, be with other Christians who are loving God, and spend time with him in worship and prayer.  It’s simple and yet hard.  We need time with him.

Act on that hunger, or it will fade. That hunger is an invitation to God’s banqueting table (Song of Songs 2:4) and to what will satisfy your heart (Isaiah 55:2).  If you feed that hunger, it will grow.  If you ignore it, it will fade and you’ll be left with eating crumbs, when you could have had the richest of foods. Francine urges us that we must RSVP to that invitation.

Hunger increases more hunger.  This is just like the example of Pastor Pedro. As he fasted, he became more hungry for justice and righteousness.  He became more hungry for God. Just like our physical appetites for certain foods can easily become larger as we develop, so it is the same with spiritual appetites.  Don’t settle for crumbs, when you can have so much more! Francine says, “the more you get, the more you will continue to have.  The more you taste, the more you want.  It’s a cycle of spiritual life and growth!”  If we decline our spiritual hunger, we can dangerously fall into apathy and lose our joy.  That’s not the way to go. Instead, turn to God daily, and ask for more hunger.  Be thankful always in the process and he will bless you even more for what you really need. I’m not talking about riches, I’m talking about joy, refreshment, and deep satisfaction that comes from eating and drinking what the Lord gives us daily.

In John 4, Jesus invited the woman at the well to taste the living water.  When his disciples offered him food, he told his disciples that he had eaten a different kind of food and he was satisfied. Jesus explained: “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work  (John 4:34).  Again, this is spiritual food.

So I invite you to join me at the banqueting table, where the banner over us is love.  May we come to the living river, where those who have no money can still buy what we need (Isaiah 55). Listen to the words of Revelation 22:17.  It’s an invitation to you and to me.

“The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.”  Let the one who hears, say “Come.”  And let the one who wishes to take the water of life without cost.”

Even so, come Lord Jesus.  Bring us your rain in Cape Town.  Bring us your spiritual rain, and fill our hunger for you.  Amen.

Blessings to you all,
Laurie-Ann Copple


To listen to Ways to Grow in God podcasts (from CWCP-Copples Western Cape Radio) – click here  

If you are led to donate to Tony and Laurie-Ann Copple’s ministry work in South Africa, you can donate via Canada Helps Iris Ministries Canada portal – click the link and scroll down to South Africa-Tony and Laurie-Ann Copple on the fund drop down box.  Thank you and bless you!

Stopping for the one at Christmas time






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


Unpacking our journey in the Rainbow Nation


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.


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.


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



Sharing to St Paul’s and beyond


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


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