Tag Archives: joy

Growing in God through Humour and Positivity

L-A laughing while visiting family in Las Vegas, 2012

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 article, we learned about growing through ‘But God’ moments.  These are times where our circumstances were dire, and then God intervened.  We journeyed through the Bible, looking at Joseph’s transition from the pit to prison to the palace in Egypt. We learned of Paul’s experience on the Damascus road, where he was transformed in a moment from a murderer of Christians to a strong one himself.  Jesus death and resurrection was a huge ‘But God.’  Our faith is based on this ultimate intervention.  I shared the personal ‘But Gods,’ from Teresa’s in a Texas mission, where their extreme dependence on God is rewarded through many ‘But God’ turn-arounds. Finally we shared our own ‘But Gods’ – partly on the financial provision for my cancer treatments, but also in our lives generally, as a disabled missionary married to a senior citizen missionary.  Often ministry is done through vessels that the world does not consider important or powerful.  Paul shared in 1 Corinthians 1:2627.  “Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. 27 BUT, GOD chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.” 

Sometimes the contexts of these But God moments are dire and difficult.  Yet while we wait for God’s intervention, he gives us secret weapons.  Some of these are mentioned in the fruit of the Spirit list, in Galatians 5:22-23.   “The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control.” Note that joy has a prominent place on this list, right after love.  Joy has many forms.  Tony and I are often reminded of the Joy of the Lord, which is the fifth core value of Iris Global.  The Joy of the Lord is NOT optional.  This is the same joy of the Lord that Nehemiah encouraged his people with in Nehemiah 8:10. This verse is in the midst of a feast. He says, “Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!”

Joy is not necessarily laughter, but it can include it.  This joy is a deep trust in God that cannot be shaken despite circumstances. The book of Philippians was written while Paul was in prison, and yet, this book is nicknamed “The book of joy.”   Paul had an unshakable faith, and drew joy from gratitude that God is in control. He also drew joy from the Philippian Christians, who saw to his needs and shone with love and faith.  Joy can also be a weapon in that it shows you are standing in extreme dependence on God.

Other forms of positivity come as humour. Ecclesiates 3:4 reminds of that there is “a time to cry and a time to laugh; A time to grieve and a time to dance.”   

It feels good to laugh, and to let go of stressors.  The Mayo Clinic and others confirm that laughter is good for body and soul.  They share that “a good sense of humour can’t cure all ailments, but data is mounting about the positive things laughter can do.”   It stimulates many organs, including: your lungs as you breathe, your heart, and the endorphins released in your brain. It even brings down your blood pressure and soothes tension by stimulating your blood circulation and relaxing your muscles. Long term effects of laughter improve your immune system.  Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that add stress and decrease your immune system. “By contrast, positive thoughts can actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more serious illnesses.”  Laughter may also ease pain by causing our bodies to produce its own natural painkillers.  Laughter helps you cope, by increasing personal satisfaction, and it helps you connect with other people as you laugh WITH others.  Laughter bonds you to them and helps relationships, as you share stories with each other.  Laughter improves your mood, even if you are struggling with chronic illness. [Mayo Clinic Staff, “Stress relief from laughter: It’s no joke.” https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044456]

How can you develop or improve your sense of humour?  Humour is learned.  Some people and cultures have very different views of humour.  They laugh about different things.  Just ask a stand-up comedian.  What one “room” as they call it may find hilarious, another would see the comic as an offense, and get angry.  Or they would have no reaction at all.   But personally, we all have something we find funny.  Often it’s something that we share with family; or an experience with friends.  And we laugh best, when we learn and grow from our own experiences. Try growing by increasing positives in your life.  The Mayo Clinic folk suggest that you put humour on your horizon by finding photos, greeting cards and comics that make you chuckle. Hang them on your home or office wall.  Keep funny movies, videos, books and magazines nearby when you need a boost.  Visit a comedy club or look at joke websites. [Mayo Clinic Staff, “Stress relief from laughter: It’s no joke.” https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044456]  I’ve found the Alpha Course jokes shared by the leader after the meal and before the presentation to be a time of bonding with the other attendees.  There are websites devoted to Alpha jokes, and Tony and I have our own arsenal of jokes, whether from Nicky Gumbel or other clean jokes we’ve picked up along the way.

Laugh and the world laughs WITH you.  The world isn’t laughing AT you, except for mean bullies that are insecure in their own hearts.  Find a way to laugh about your own situations, as you look at them from a different perspective.  One of my favourite counselling expressions is “call this a crazy thought, but have you considering looking at your situation THIS way…”  Often we get stuck in one line of our personal story that seems like it’s perpetually under a raincloud and we’re stuck in a groove like a needle on an old, scratchy record.  When you find a way to laugh about your own situation, watch your stress begin to fade away.  See Jesus in the circumstance with you. Where is he?  What is he saying to you in your situation?  He is there.  And sometimes, you can remind yourself that this story may seem funny in a few years.   

Intentionally make time to see friends who make you laugh.  Return the favour by sharing your own funny stories with those around you.  You just may brighten them up and make their whole day.   Check out joke and humour books in your local library.  But it’s important to know what isn’t funny.   Don’t laugh at the expense of others.  It’s not appropriate.  These include racial and gender jokes.  Use your best judgement to discern a good joke from a hurtful one.  Ask the Holy Spirit.  Does it lift up or does it tear down?  Does it build confidence, or batter the other in pain and hurt?  Good humour is to lift up, as is good faith.  So try laughter.  We can even ask God to show us and bring us things that are funny to lighten our day.  What is best is when we ask him to lighten our situation in our own hearts.  It is to be reminded that Jesus does not leave us.  Sometimes he even gives us a little prophetic glimpse of something that is to come.  A child that we may struggle with at the moment, may bring exasperation and even anger. But God can transform that child to become loving, joyful and strong in the Lord.  We are given hope as we are shown what can be.  And we laugh because we know that this is in God’s hands, NOT ours.

Laughter and positivity in general also help me battle breast cancer, as it did for HS.  If you have a chronic illness, it is essential to de-stress and keep positive.  This speaks life to your good cells, so they have a chance to fight the cancer.  Negativity feeds the cancer, as it increases the chemical reactions that cancer cells like.  Bitterness and unforgiveness can contribute to cancer, as well as other unchecked baggage that poison the soul, and so the body as well.  Jean Wise takes the Mayo Clinic staff’s view of laughter even further. While she agrees with all the physical and emotional benefits, she also believes it is a spiritual gift, and a way to stimulate creativity.  [Jean Wise, “The Spiritual gift of laughter” (healthspirituality.org) April 1, 2014 https://healthyspirituality.org/spiritual-gift-laughter/]  She believes that the joy found in laughter comes from God. It helps you recharge your focus, and renews your spirit to find courage to face a tough situation. Listen to Zephaniah 3:17: “For the Lord your God is living among you.  He is a mighty savior. 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.”

In some countries, people use the morning of April 1st as April Fool’s Day.  Sometimes those jokes are funny, but often some childhood pranks are not funny.  They create baggage.  Why not let these go by giving up that memory to God, and instead laugh back at the bully.  This is exactly what a radio host with a background of being bullied would do.  Radio hosts are encouraged to use humour to build comradery with their listeners.  As they laugh, they tell their friends, who join in on a later broadcast. Radio people are people of story. But when we think about it, we all are story-tellers.  Even the character of the Doctor  in the British show Doctor Who, especially the Eleventh Doctor, said, “we’re all stories in the end.  Just make it a good one, eh?” [Big Bang, 2010, season five]. 

The need for laughter is shared by many writers, philosophers, poets and Bible writers.  Ecclesiastes: 8:15, says “I commend mirth.”   Here is part of Jean Wise’s list. E.E Cummings wrote, “The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.”  Children’s author Dr. Suess shared that “laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face. From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere.”   Reinhold Niebuhr wrote that “humour is a prelude to faith, and laughter is the beginning of prayer.”  Comedian Milton Berle said that “laughter is an instant vacation.”  Bob Newhart wrote that “laughter gives us distance. It allows us to step back from an event, deal with it and then move on.”  Newhart’s remark reminds me of the counsellor re-frame of seeing your situation a new way and letting you re-write the situation with you as the victorious, laughing overcomer.

Canadian author Mary S Edgar chose the way of laughter when she shared this message: “I will follow the upward road today; I will keep my face to the light.  I will think high thoughts as I go my way; I will do what I know is right.  I will look for the flowers by the side of the road; I will laugh and love and be strong.  I will try and lighten another’s load this day as I fare along.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson pondered on success in life.  Laughter is an important ingredient.  This is what he said: “to laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty and to find the best in others.  [We must also] leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition.  [This is also] to know even one life has breathed easier because YOU have lived.  THIS is to have succeeded.  Emerson’s success list is like a breath of fresh air that lifts our eyes from ourselves to others.   And finally, Jean Wise’s list ends with Tom Nansbury, who said “an optimist laughs to forget. A pessimist forgets to laugh.”  And so, we should not forget, but must make it a daily habit. [Jean Wise, “The Spiritual gift of laughter” (healthspirituality.org) April 1, 2014 https://healthyspirituality.org/spiritual-gift-laughter/

Even Jesus had and has a sense of humour.  Think of the way he used metaphors against the Pharisees to get them to wake up, or to explain things.  Eliazar Gonzalez shares that when you read through Jesus’ teachings, “you’ll find a great wit, a masterful command of the language, a profound gift for irony and word plays, and impeccable timing. These are the hallmarks of someone with a great sense of humour.” [Eliazar Gonzalez, “Did Jesus have a Sense of Humour” (Christian Living) https://vision.org.au/topics/christian-living/did-jesus-have-a-sense-of-humour/ ]

Then there was considerable debate among early Church fathers on laughter in the Christian faith.  Jesus was hard on the Pharisees for their attitude and unbending ways, but in the Beatitudes he turns the tables. Terry Lindvall of the CS Lewis Institute shares that Jesus promises laughter to those who suffer now.   Laughter in itself is not a vice to be condemned; it is a reward for those who would follow Jesus.  The significance of laughter is that it must know it’s time and place. Laughter is a reward of humility and utter dependence upon God.  It descends like rain upon a parched heart.”  [Terry Lindvall, CS Lewis Institute, “The role of laughter in the Christian Life” http://www.cslewisinstitute.org/The_Role_of_Laughter_in_the_Christian_Life_FullArticle]

In Philippians 4, Paul commands, “rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice.  “He calls forth the heart to sing out with gratitude and laughter.  GK Chesterton explained to CS Lewis how the laughter of joy is necessary.  He said, “life is serous all the time, but living cannot be.  You may have all the solemnity you wish in choosing your neckties, but in anything important such as death, sex, and religion, you must have mirth or you will have madness.”  [Terry Lindvall, CS Lewis Institute, “The role of laughter in the Christian Life” http://www.cslewisinstitute.org/The_Role_of_Laughter_in_the_Christian_Life_FullArticle]

While some Christians now and in the past see laughter and joy on people’s faces as sinful, particularly while in church, they are not seeing that laughter is a gift.  Joy is a gift.  The enemy of our souls seeks to take life and laughter from us – the abundance of life from us.  Sometimes fun and laughter is tainted by sin, since we are born into sin.  It’s all around us.  But laughter and fun are gifts from God.  And joy, especially the deep joy of the Lord, is something to be treasured.  The joy of the Lord is not optional for Iris missionaries like us.  It’s part of what keeps you going.  That deep intimacy with Jesus, and the laughter you share in the midst of difficulties. Garrison Keillor once said, “some people think it’s difficult to be a Christian and to laugh, but I think it’s the other way around.  God writes a lot of comedy – it’s just that He has so many bad actors.  But it is in being truly serious about our miserable condition and about the hope of salvation that introduces an unexpected surprise – comedy.  … The incarnation [of Jesus Christ] strikes a staggering blow at the Pharisees, the Gnostics, and anyone who denies the value of the physical world or those to try to be more spiritual than God.  It is significant that for Augustine, the devil and bad angels are without bodies. For the Christian, the comic spirit is one of new life, feasting, banqueting, eating, drinking and playing.  This paradise is regained where heaven is described to be like a wedding feast or a sumptuous banquet.”  [Terry Lindvall, CS Lewis Institute, “The role of laughter in the Christian Life” http://www.cslewisinstitute.org/The_Role_of_Laughter_in_the_Christian_Life_FullArticle]

Even Israel was established on laughter.  Remember when Sarah laughed when it was announced by the angelic visitors that she would have a baby in a year?  This was a lady who had long given up, and yet the promise came.

And then there is the laughter of true joy.  Terry Lindvall shares that “joy is the laughter of heaven, the secret of the Christian life.  [It is] woven out of sorrow and woe. From the crucibles of suffering, absence and separation, comes the deep, abiding laughter of joy, without tears, promising health, wholeness, and reunion.  The desire of joy haunted Lewis, until he found its source in God.  Lewis confessed that he didn’t go to the Christian faith to be made happy.”  [Terry Lindvall, CS Lewis Institute, “The role of laughter in the Christian Life” http://www.cslewisinstitute.org/The_Role_of_Laughter_in_the_Christian_Life_FullArticle]

Yet laughter, like music, percolates as thanksgiving and praise.  Our enjoyment bubbles up and overflows with gratitude.  Or praise is [like] verbal laughter.”  The ultimate laughter of joy is in the reunion.  In the Narnia chronicles, whenever the children return, there are hugs and kisses and laughter all around, celebrating reunion.”   And then there is fun, the laughter of the earth, of our bodies.  It is play in a great sense.  We need to choose life and enjoy it.  One thing about having cancer in my life is that it forces me to live in the moment and take time to enjoy it as I can.  The Westminster Confession reminds us that our chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.  This includes fun with the Lord.  Eric Liddell said in Chariots of Fire, “I feel God’s pleasure when I run.”  [Terry Lindvall, CS Lewis Institute, “The role of laughter in the Christian Life” http://www.cslewisinstitute.org/The_Role_of_Laughter_in_the_Christian_Life_FullArticle]

So we laugh when we enjoy God, and we know his pleasure.  It’s the same when I’m creating art, especially prophetic drawing.  I feel the Holy Spirit’s pleasure that I’m intent on capturing an idea or message that’s from God’s heart;  or even when I draw a mountain.  God created both, and he helps me to re-create it.  So laughter is good, and it helps us to grow in our relationship with him.

So dear friends, I thank you for journeying with me and I trust that if you have trouble in letting go and laughing, that you will take this to God.  He brings us the big and little things.  Sometimes he even brings things that make us laugh just to get us to stop and breathe.  We’re all just so busy!  Instead of just stopping to smell the roses, stop to breathe, relax and laugh.  As you spend time with each other and Jesus, he brings times of shared laughter in the journey.  Don’t resist it.

Lord, thank you for continuing to be on our journeys and bringing laughter to us. There is indeed a time to laugh as well as a time to be sad.  Help us to choose life in the midst of hardship.  Help us to stop for those life giving moments with you.  We trust that you will continue to give us those and to help us live that abundant life.  We thank you in Jesus’ name.  Amen. 

If you’d like to hear an audio version of this article, please visit the Ways to Grow in God (WTGIG) podcast page on the coppleswesterncape.ca website (under the “Listen” drop-down menu).  Click here:  (https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/wtgig-podcasts.html) and scroll down to #69!  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, 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).  The former in treatment, the latter monitored. It’s not life threatening thank God.

Otherwise, we still owe credit card debt for some of the medical work 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.  At the moment, our passports are still in the hands of Home Affairs, so that we have an extension on our medical visas.  We had hoped to return in September 2021, but this may end up as October or even November. Why the delay?  There have been active covid cases at Home Affairs, which caused a stoppage to the already increasing processing backlog.  The visas that we applied for expire in November.  We trust we will have them in enough time to ramp up our preparations to return with the help of a very capable Cape Town travel agent.  Gone are the days when we would plan our own travel online (apart from booking self-catering places).  Both of us have had our first covid jab, and wait the second one.  (Although it is the right thing for us to have the jab, we don’t impose that on those who refuse it out of conscience). 

After our quarantine, we plan to stay with and care for my frail 92 year old dad.  Part of us longs for Canada, but we still greatly love South Africa.  We are glad that Jesus is carrying us, since we are frail.  Both of us have continuing health issues, including prostate cancer, eye issues (following Tony’s retina re-attachment surgery). We have good news that Tony’s eye surgeon found the equivalent in Toronto, so he will have his eye operation, which will save us the $8 – 9 K we expected to pay in South Africa.  We are also working on care for me concerning a neck/spine issue that is causing considerable pain down my right arm.  It’s become increasingly painful to type, write and draw for periods of time.  So I rest more. 

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 TB, eye surgery, the urologist (who is monitoring the prostate cancer), and I have debt as well. 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 operations. 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 OliveTree Bookshop in Mountain Mill Shopping Centre (near Pick n Pay), Worcester, Western Cape.  You can also buy them at LeRoux and Fourie Wineshop on R60 beside Cape Lime (between Nuy and Robertson) 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 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 Fourie.  After we return to Canada, we plan to republish the devotional colouring books in English landscape format.  Bless you and thank you for your support!

Love, Laurie-Ann

Growing in God: Suffering and Joy


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laurie-Ann Copple

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