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 times of pain and difficulty. We can grow in God through pain; our painful experiences, emotional, spiritual and physical. None of our pain need be wasted, whether it’s secret chronic pain or struggles that have been allowed in public. Some of the pain was in recovery from breast cancer surgery, where my husband nursed me quite well. Through my cancer journey, I drew prophetic drawings, one after another. This was a time that I echoed a sentiment of God’s presence along with worship leader Brian Johnson. He wrote the book, “When God Becomes Real.” The Holy Spirit was incredibly close to me during my journey, and as a survivor all I can remember about that time is the glory and love showered on me. I don’t even remember the pain, unless another cancer survivor or current warrior mentions it. It’s a testimony of God’s grace. Transparency of the pain journey becomes important as a healing tool for others.
When the leaders at Bethel Church in Redding, California go through difficulties, they aren’t hidden. They are used as an opportunity for God to work in their lives as a very real example to others. God’s Holy Spirit is seen most beautifully not just in our successes, but in our pain. People need to know how God is so very real in the midst of their pain. They need to see the very secret that holds together a Christian going through incredible pain, yet they exhibit a positive attitude of joy, trust, peace and gratitude. They are seeing God create a masterpiece right before their eyes. He invites all of us to also have a Holy Spirit make-over from the inside-out. We also don’t need to hide our pain from each other. Jennifer Camp from Gather Ministries shared this gem in an email in September 2021: “Healing and strength come when you’re vulnerable with Jesus and His people.” We need to be willing to show who we really are. God does deeply loves us, but as John Arnott used to say during the Toronto Blessing, “He loves us too much to let us stay that way.”
Tony also told me that it is amazing that I still get up and minister despite chronic pain from osteo-arthritis, and ache from post-cancer treatments/ailments. That’s due to determination to use the pain as long as I focus on what I am doing. I focus beyond the pain, just like Jesus did when he endured the cross. Hebrews 12:2 says, “We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.[a] Because of the joy[b] awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.”
Worship leader Brian Johnson found that his last step to his painful healing was publicly sharing his journey. [Brian Johnson When God becomes Real pg 172] Brian shares that “our culture always teaches us to man up, instead of admitting that we’re hurting or feeling any pain. We were designed to feel the pain, and then bring it to the Father. That’s what Jesus did. He felt the pain and laid it at the Fathers feet.” He explains the action of ignoring the pain or compartmentalising through an analogy of a balloon and that it overfills and eventually pops. Brian says, “there will come a time where you can’t avoid the stress of life or numb the pain anymore. And when your coping mechanisms don’t work anymore, consider it a gift. Consider it a gift when God becomes your only option! Experience the pain and bring it to God.” You will find that God is faithful.
So pain is not something to be avoided. It is the same with having yet another delay – not a ‘pause button’ as I have shared about in other articles, but that of a rest stop on the journey – an oasis place along a journey of transition.
Tony and I attempted to leave South Africa in April 2020, in order to have breast cancer surgery and to re-settle back into Canada. That was interrupted by the first covid-19 wave, so we were stuck under quarantine lockdowns in South Africa for months. I had my surgery and the rest of the cancer treatment in South Africa. In a way, I’m not sorry. We had financial help with the treatments (especially the surgery), and although many aspects of our ministry closed down, others opened up BIG TIME. It was a mini-season that lasted through a move to central Worcester, and another attempt to return to Canada after we had sold or given away nearly everything except what was in our trunks or suitcases. We invested a lot into South Africa, including two published colouring books. I’m not sorry, that was good sowing for the future.
When Tony and I attempted to leave South Africa to care for my frail father (who had then had a series of mini-strokes and was in hospital), we tested positive for covid-19. I had set up a place for us to quarantine in Canada, not in South Africa. We were totally unprepared, with no transport, and no place to stay. We were completely dependent on God. At the moment we discovered our health status, we were sitting in an outdoor table at a restaurant, awaiting our tests, so we could fly to Canada. We needed a negative covid PCR result, but the emails and text rang instead as “covid-19 detected.” Oops! Our host Kevin, and his friend Andrea were incredibly kind. They both offered us refuge! We chose to stay at Kevin’s – a lovely old mountain house in the Brandwacht – Augdenberg foothills, away from Worcester, and not even at a deliverable address. After living in central Worcester for 16 months, this was paradise. It truly became an oasis; especially when our friend left to spend the quarantine 14 days in another location. We had the house to ourselves. Surely it would be a sweet quarantine. Three groups of people brought over the counter medications and groceries. Tony had very few symptoms, while I got hit with the cold from hell. It brought sinus pain, extreme congestion, sore throat, intermittent fever and chills, loss of smell, intense brain fog and vertigo. So my sense of balance was such that I really needed that borrowed walker that I had since my fall in October 2019. After more than two weeks, most of the symptoms disappeared, although some remained; we weren’t sure if it was “long covid” or not. This was especially when some of the same symptoms applied to post cancer treatments. Tony got to catch up on needed writing and website work. I finally got to write, although did not have energy to draw.
Then I prayed, journaled and asked the Lord about this time. Why was it so difficult to get another flight? Even by our professional travel agent? Yes, we knew that some air crews have tested positive, so they’ve had to quarantine themselves. But surely that’s not all flights? It’s like South Africa doesn’t want to let go of us. We were concerned about overstaying our welcome with our friend. We were sleeping in his bed. Some of the girls kept calling Tony on his South African phone, which is something that honestly would not work when we really got back to Canada. They didn’t know that we were still in South Africa, on an “oasis pause.”
So just like we had earlier delays of receiving our second medical visa, God was keeping us in South Africa a little longer just to rest, receive and enjoy the oasis. We weren’t burned out, but we were in recovery. In Tony’s case, he needed rest before going for more treatment, something that he wasn’t looking forward to. In this delay, we had a little pause to breathe and get as well as we could. We can’t live in the oasis forever though. It’s a rest-stop. I had an impression of us travelling with camels. When camels get thirsty, they drink a lot of water, taking a long time. We also need to stop and drink the living water, during these times of oasis.
There is a church that L-A often visited in rural Ottawa. It used to be led by friends of ours. It’s called the Oasis. It’s been a place of receiving new wine (Holy Spirit) and the Father’s love for years now. They call this the “Kinburn blessing.” It’s an oasis in the middle of farmer’s fields and a few important roads. Kevin’s place is like that. It’s filled with: the peace of God, the relative quiet of nature, and the call to rest and receive. One of the scriptures that impacted me in the 90’s was 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…” This is insightful during an oasis pause. The pause is not an accident, or a little circle on your iPad screen telling you that your video is yet STILL buffering. This is intentional. So pause. Consider the heavens, and the God who made heaven and earth.
I would guess that the pause is a way of reflecting on the Sabbath, as Exodus 20:8 commands us to do (to “remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.” There is an intentional pause, and a space set apart to focus on God and his many wonderful character traits. It was a space to focus on relationship with him. We need to do the same, and to stop our frenetic running in circles, even for a moment. Tony and I were forced to do this in times of illness, although I often took time to have soaking prayer. It wasn’t enough.
Even when I had cancer, I slowed down and retired from certain ministry, but was still frenetically drawing. Then we tried again to return to Canada, and were both hit with covid-19. That hit me so hard at first, but during recovery, I became grateful for each day, the graciousness of our host, and a final opening for a flight on January 17th. Even when arrived on January 18th, we were to have an additional quarantine, for a further two weeks. This is actually good, for we acclimatized from summer to winter, across seven time zones and the opposite hemisphere. We began to let go of our favourite South African customs and rediscovered the Canadian ones. All cultures have beautiful aspects that we can champion. To pause and reflect in quarantine is a good thing. To pause and remember is important, as long as you don’t stay in that place. It’s meant as a place to visit, and it’s not a forever home spot, unless you’re called there for a longer season. In Joshua 4:21-22, Joshua spoke over a memorial cairn that honoured the Israelites’ journey through the Jordan into the Promised land. He said “to the children of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, saying “what do these stones mean? You are to tell them, “Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.” This was the second such dry crossing, the first one being the Red Sea. Both were of divine origin. The monument was a call to remember.
I remember my years when I visited Yorkminster Park Baptist Church in Toronto during their Sunday evening services. I loved hearing the wisdom of their head pastor at the time. His name was John Gladstone. I remember many of his teachings, since I took notes, but one sentence struck me and remains in my memory regardless of looking it up or not. He said that “the most used verb in the Old Testament was “zachar”, which means remember.” Since my last name was Zachar, this struck me. It was the beginning of realizing that my name means something very special (that’s another teaching for a different time). To remember, is to pause and reflect on something significant. The psalms often reflect on Israel’s history of escaping Egypt. It’s likely because people can easily forget their origins, heritage and the love of God when they are focused on themselves. When we are reminded, or we remember who God is and what he has done for us, we can choose to linger, and encounter the living God. Some people run in fear, some shake their fist in self-importance. They are given that choice, to love God is something that you willfully do. This is like the “selah” pause that is mentioned again and again in the Psalms. When we pause and reflect on scripture, we absorb the words into our hearts. They can impact us and change us for the better. The Holy Spirit uses the words of scripture to capture our hearts, as he fills us with love. We can only receive when we pause. When we submit, or surrender. Surrender is not a bad thing. Coming to the end of self-effort is a good thing. Our identity is not in what we do, but rather, who we belong to – God. I’m a beloved child of God, and that is enough. It took me long enough to get to that place. I will never forget that journey. But sometimes you need to return and be refreshed, especially when you are between assignments.
Lord, thank you that you are there for us when we are in a transition oasis. You are there when we mourn. You are there, making us rest when we are in stress, and to bring our burdens to you. We lay our burdens down and choose to rest. We choose to receive and learn from this little pause. We won’t do this in sadness, looking back at the past. We are thankful that you were there for us in the past. You are in our present, and you are in our future. You never leave us and are always faithful. Thank you for that. We won’t run away, but rather, run into your arms.
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 here: (https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/wtgig-podcasts.html) and scroll down to #76!
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 (one year ago). I will still have checkups to monitor if there is any resurgence, and a mobility disability (currently with my documents still waiting in triage at a Toronto hospital). My husband Tony is a different story. Tony has skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma) and prostate cancer. He is undergoing tests for Canadian treatment of the tumour in his left lung lining through the University Health Network in Toronto. He passed all the referrals and is being cared for a Toronto General team as well as additional doctors at Etobicoke General Hospital, added when he went to have his lung sac drained. Instead of the simple procedure and rest time overnight (as he had in South Africa), he was given an ECG, blood tests and a requisition for an MRI. The doctor there didn’t think the PET scan, CT scan and other scans were sufficient. We’ll take that and are waiting for the MRI appointment time. But I can say, the PET scan doesn’t look good, so we need your prayers for the best treatment, and that this tumour responds well to care and heals at an accelerated pace as in my own cancer journey.
Thanks for coming alongside in encouragement and prayer. If you feel led to contribute towards medications, this would be most welcome. Not everything is covered under his senior drug plan and OHIP. We don’t have additional insurance; it’s too late to get it now. Giving is not mandatory, 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 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). Colouring sheets are available to children’s ministries for free, please just let us know. Bless you, and thank you for your support!