Tag Archives: stop for the one

Growing in God through God moments at Christmas

Okay, with the above picture, it shows that even if this is our second Christmas in the southern hemisphere, the weight of so many northern hemisphere Christmases is still stronger.  But it’s still Christmas!   Where ever we are – on a skating rink, the mall, the beach, or in church – there are lots of opportunities to stop for the one at Christmas (or what South Africans call ‘the festive season.’)

My name is Laurie-Ann, and I’m a missionary. During my mission travels, I have spent Christmas in Northern Ireland, England, Pakistan, St. Maarten, Canada and South Africa. This time, it’s Christmas in the beautiful Western Cape of South Africa.    In our last article, I shared about learning to thrive in God despite disappointment.  We are to pause, ponder, praise and psalm.  It’s at times like this that we remember God’s faithfulness.  The Psalms often mention “Selah” or pause. A friend of mine just named their little one this precious name.  And what beautiful one wouldn’t cause a parent’s heart to pause and ponder?  So it is the same as we think of the heavenly child, Jesus, who came to earth for us.  We also praise Jesus for every good thing that he’s brought us, including our very lives and salvation. Psalming is a beautiful devotional practice that allows you to voice disappointments to God, choose to lay them at his feet, and then trust him.  If you’re disappointed during this Christmas season, then I recommend you do this.  Your perspective may get deeper, as you realize that God is indeed Emmanuel, God with us.  God is with you – he is closer than you think.

During my last two broadcasts on CWCP Radio, I spoke about depending on God for all our strength when we have none of our own.  Sometimes disabilities sap us of strength and other times, we are brought into weakness when we use up our own strengths.  We can’t run on our strengths and gifts alone. The Apostle Paul shared with us to use our weakness as an opportunity to lean on God.  2 Corinthians 12: 10 says, “That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”   Gideon was transformed from a fearful man to become a great hero.   We can do more in our weakness that we realize.  If you have any form of disability, it does not stop you from doing great things in God. There are many other examples of people that  God worked through their weakness.  I recommend you visit the Ways to Grow in God podcast page on our Coppleswesterncape.ca website to learn more. These are #40 and #41 on the page.   

When I was in the acceptance process to become a long-term Iris missionary, my health was a question that topped the list.  Our base co-founder Johan Fourie, defended me and said, that while I couldn’t do certain things more ‘able-bodied’ missionaries could do, I could do a lot of other things.  These things include our call to love, teach, disciple and befriend vulnerable farm kids and township kids.  It includes our prison ministry, my artwork, bookkeeping, and webwork.  It includes writing, CWCP Radio, and stopping for the one.

Tony and I often talk about stopping for the one, wherever we are.  It’s something that our Iris Global co-founder Heidi Baker says all the time.  When people ask her how she does ministry in a nutshell, she often says “We just stop for the one, it’s not complicated.”    Heidi also says that love looks like something – and it does.  This means that love has different flavours.  This isn’t about chocolate, vanilla and strawberry, but about the many different ways of showing love in practical ways.  To a single-mom, it’s about practical help in fixing things, and being a support to their children, as well as her.  To a lonely senior, it’s in lovingly listening to their stories and encouraging them that they still have purpose.  It’s in relationship.  To a person with various disabilities, it’s in bringing practical help that they need and want, while respecting their dignity.  There are so many examples.

To a love-starved child, it means being like a loving aunt and uncle. Sometimes, well maybe a lot more often than sometimes, this means giving them something good to eat, while listening to them, teaching them, and holding them close to you – that is, once they trust you enough to hug them.

I’m fortunate; some kids have warmed up to me right away, since they see I’m not threatening.  And many kids love Uncle Tony and have wormed their way into Tony’s heart.  Sometimes it’s a ride in Avian Park, one of our townships in Worcester, and other times it’s a ride to church.  We also disciple and love on eight or more teen girls from Avian Park.  They love to come up to our retirement village home, for the wifi, sandwiches, Bible study and the love.   These are often planned times of ministry – usually on Monday and Saturday afternoons.  We have many times of planned ministry, and we give these times to God for opportunities for what God would have us do beyond our planned items.  In other words, our agenda is very loose, so we can allow for what the girls want and we would like to share.   We also have many beautiful God moments with the Brandvlei inmates on Saturday mornings; it is amazing what happens within the space of two hours.  It’s the same when we are teaching at MasterPeace Academy – we are teachers, but in some of those moments, we have God opportunities to bless each child, depending on their needs and the Holy Spirit’s leading.  The most needy child is Mpho, who has ADHD, but learns and receives love by touch.  So I always hug him and touch him gently and appropriately to show him that we love him and are there for him.  Sometimes stopping for Mpho in the context of school is to encourage him that he can still learn despite his disability.  He actually came top of the class in the art exam last term.

Then there are the moments that are in-between planned activities.  They go beyond Tony’s visits in the Hospice, which involve healing, prayer and pastoral care.

These are the moments when we meet people in cafes, grocery stores, on holiday and in need anywhere at all.  Ministry time isn’t just for planned times during the week.  This can be for anyone at all, not just full-time missionaries or pastors.  But the biggest step is to intentionally go beyond your comfort zone and trust the Holy Spirit’s leading.  It’s a little adventure that can be a great blessing.

God often sets up little divine appointments in our lives.  Ask God to set them up for you, and they will be most fulfilling. The person we are to connect with could be anyone at all – male, female, teen or child. The key that I’ve discovered is that you sense a nudge inside you.  Any fear for the unknown becomes overwhelmed by a wave of compassion towards that person.  That is the key.  Then you know that this is the person that you are to speak to.  This person could be a lonely person in a café, and you find you have something in common. Say you’re reading the same book.  Or you feel a nudge to give them a little treat to share with their tea.

Tony finds opportunities like this to find people to interview for the Worcester Reports.  Sometimes we may find a place or a person seemingly by accident, and yet it’s no accident at all.  Tony found the Iris affiliate couple Josh and Rachel Minter of the East London ministry, Global Mercy Missions when I searched out ministries near our Grahamstown B&B.  He found the co-founder of the Rooibos Teahouse in Clanwilliam while we stayed in the Cedarberg just before Christmas. She brought us the rooibos experience, and we even shared our faith together, with wonderful stories on both sides.   Sometimes stopping for the one involves people you don’t expect – including family members.

Stopping for the one at Christmas involves insight into those who are lonely and alone.  Some of these people are seniors, but they also include busy single-moms and caregivers.  Christmas can be a stressful time, and a lonely one for those who are on their own.   One way is to invite someone to Christmas dinner (or another festive meal) and love on them.  Make their Christmas.  Another way may be to help a working poor person with a Christmas purchase.  Say you’re in the queue at a store, and the person in front of you is short a few rand for an important meal purchase, or toy for their child.  If you feel that wave of compassion, then reach out, and help their Christmas.  Or help someone struggling with their grocery bags.  You may see someone in obvious physical pain.  They may need practical help and prayer.  It doesn’t hurt to ask.  People rarely say no, and you can bring a touch of hope into their lives.  You may even be asked why you’re filled with such love and joy.  Or they may remark about the peace that surrounds you.  It’s Jesus!

The key components of stopping for the one during the festive season, as they call it in South Africa, are the same as the other times of the year, with more opportunities.  Most people are actually more open to receive at this time of year. Christmas carols, gift-gifting and special meals don’t always require financial resources.  These are opportunities for giving and showing love.   The components of stopping for the one include: that you need to allow God to love others through you, and to trust the Holy Spirit to guide you.  You don’t need fancy words or a formula.  Be yourself.  Be willing to be humble.  Don’t rush.  Heidi Baker was always telling us at Harvest School to “go low and go slow.”  This means to be humble and to take your time. And if you  work with children, lower yourself down to their level.  Your divine appointments with people are not a project.  They are real people, with real needs.  They also give unique blessings that can blossom into special friendships.

The journey can be a wonderful one, especially if you can allow God to give a special “Kairos” God moment to someone at Christmas.   Pray about the opportunities as God opens doors for you.  You don’t have to go to Bible School, seminary or missions school to stop for the one. Sometimes it’s as simple as bringing your neighbour cupcakes, tea and a loving chat.

Lord Jesus, thank you for the Christmas season.  Open our eyes to see the moments right in front of us.  Let us see you in others, and allow others to see you in us.  Fill us with your compassion, and give us direction to love on specific people at this time.  We give you our calendars to fill with your appointments.  Open our eyes to see them and you, and our ears to hear your loving voice.  Thank you for coming to earth to show the Father’s love that we never could have received without you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Be blessed my friends, and have a lovely Christmas.   May you encounter Jesus today.

Love, Laurie-Ann

If you’d like to hear an audio version of this article, it’s on the CWCP podcast page as #42, and will be broadcast December 27, 2018

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Stopping for the one at Christmas time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love, Laurie-Ann

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Sharing to St Paul’s and beyond

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L-A with Mama Maria. Tony said when this was taken, “Two mamas”

This article is a longer version of a talk I gave at St Paul’s Kanata Anglican Church, October 16, 2016.  We had a ‘Mission Sunday’ that included me giving the sermon, and three friends sharing on their own SchoolBOX outreach in Nicuragua. It was a jam-packed day, which also included a baptism/dedication, and more.

The scriptures for the day were: Jeremiah 31: 27-34, Psalm 119-97-104, 2 Timothy 3:14 – 4:5 and Luke 18: 1-8

Thank you to all who prayed for us for our Africa mission. It was intense, and we grew a lot. We worked through a crazy schedule and cultural differences. We adapted, were blessed, and met people who need hope.  The exiled Jews also needed hope when Jeremiah prophesied to them. They overcame the sins that brought them into exile by returning to the Lord.  They also had culture shock. Babylon was so different from Jerusalem.

The Mozambicans we met are overcoming poverty and civil wars. The Iris base in Pemba is helping bring prosperity through more schools, proper homes, farms, jobs, outreach and entrepreneurship. Churches are exploding! Eleven years ago, the Makua tribe had no Christians.  Now, there are over 16 percent and growing.

We fell in love with South Africa, but the nation is deeply divided.  Poverty and wealth are side by side depending on the neighbourhood or township you visit. Many are scarred by the apartheid years.  Many struggle with fear and isolation, anger and hopelessness. All need to understand the promise that the Lord will be their God, and they shall be his people.  No one in South Africa or Canada should be invisible.

Many people did know Jesus, but we were to deepen that faith by “stopping for the one.” This is to be available to those you meet by a divine appointment, set up by God. This is more than being in the right place at the right time.  It’s when you meet someone and ONLY YOU can minister to them. Not only are you the right one, but you’re filled with overflowing love for that person. Tender compassion filled us when we were in the townships, and people responded. They thanked us for coming, caring, and remembering their needs. This happened so many times in the kid’s club, hospital ministry, and the townships. They were hungry for love.

God created us to love him, and to receive his love. When you know Jesus, he writes his direction on your heart, and he takes away our sinful ways. Healing happens through relationship. The healing and restoration of a whole people and land only happens in relationship with God.   Today’s Psalm says the Lord’s commands give wisdom, understanding and direction. Daily scripture reading keeps you living well. When you know the Bible, scriptures will come to mind as you pray, and encourage others. Scripture is an important way that God guides us, yet God’s more than a cosmic GPS –it’s about relationship. If God is our friend, his words become as sweet as honey.  You no longer read the Bible out of duty.  You want God to guide you through life’s surprises. I had a lot of those in Africa. Here’s one. We left South Africa early to get a new visitor stamp. Otherwise we risked being banned from South Africa for 5 years!  We should have been given a second stamp for our second South African visit after Mozambique, but for some reason, we did not receive one.  So we flew to Botswana, where we ministered to two men. Although we originally went to help the visiting situation, I believe the extra Botswana visit wasn’t an accident.

The Apostle Paul mentored his spiritual son Timothy. Timothy gained wisdom from the scriptures throughout his life. He received direction through knowing scripture and Jesus.  He must be prepared to minister and preach, whether the time was favourable or not.  He was to patiently correct, and encourage his people with good teaching.  Paul reminded him that all scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives.  Scripture gives important guidance. Timothy must be prepared whether the time is favourable or not.  When I was in Pakistan, they decided to schedule a talk on my day off. They forgot to tell me. When we arrived, I was not prepared! Sometimes divine opportunities aren’t convenient.   Tony received an opportunity to teach Johannesburg orphans, when he least expected it – but he rose to the challenge.

How could sharing look in your own life?  Everyone has a story about their own faith, and life.  I shared my own faith story in the Mozambican bush (a rural village). It seemed like it was tailor made for this village.  Before we went to the bush, we watched a movie called “Holy Ghost Reborn.” Every Sunday night we watched missionary movies in the Harvest School village.  This was a fun time to inspire us for outreach.  During this movie, I felt a strong nudge in my heart that I needed to share about how I came to faith when we were to go on the Bush Outreach.  When I was spiritually nudged, we were watching a story of a Mozambican pastor who prayed for a South African witchdoctor.  Witchdoctors are very common in Africa, and many do not realize that this is spiritually dangerous. Others do, but they don’t care what source their help comes from – God or the devil. This lady sure realized the difference between the evil spirits and the Holy Spirit.  But she had to be shown the difference.

So I addressed this difference through my own story – because before I came to faith in Jesus Christ, I was a fortune teller.  I did not know the Bible, so I didn’t know that fortune telling is something that Christians don’t do.  Why seek out spirits to tell you your future, when you have God to direct you?  It’s spiritual adultery.  But I was a seeker and I didn’t yet know the love of God fully.  A conference speaker said to me that you couldn’t be a Christian and a New Ager too.  This caught my attention.  I had to make a deliberate choice, so I did.  This was just what I needed. I came to faith and gave up my occult practices.  I shared my story in Linde, Mozambique, where only a few weeks prior, the village witch doctor came to faith. He abandoned his practices and donated land for their first church. What a surprise to find out that the Makua words for witchdoctor and fortune teller are the same word!

I gave the people of Linde the same challenge that I faced back in April 1988.  I told them that they could not be a witchdoctor and a Christian too – and even not to go to them!  I gave them the choice. The Iris pastoral supervisor preached from my testimony and many more people came to faith that night.  There were miracles in that village during our visit. But to me, these precious people knowing Jesus was a bigger gift.  I was so glad that I was prepared, and that God would use even that dark time in my life to bring people to faith and full of his love.

Our Gospel story is about more than a persistent widow in survival mode.  We met women like this in Mozambique, like Maria.  Her story encourages us to persevere and do not quit trusting God in tough times.  It seems easier in African societies that are slower paced.  But in Canada, many of us scream at the microwave to hurry up.  We get antsy in traffic at red lights and slow drivers. Persistence involves waiting.  Persistence is a faith key we learned about in mission school.  Too many missionaries trained in traditional approaches, quit on the field, even after years in training.  They just can’t handle the stress and cultural difficulties.  They forget why they are there in the heat of disappointments, so they quit.  Iris uses a different approach, including cross-cultural communications that go beyond words. They also learn on the job as we did.  Heidi Baker told us:  Do not quit.  Those who do not quit WIN.  How do we keep going – when we are challenged?  Look at Jesus.  Let him fill you with his love and help you persevere. You can’t do this in your own strength.

We also learned that “Waiting is worship.”  This sounds strange if you don’t know how to wait, or become still in your heart towards God. How can waiting become worship? Anything becomes worship when you focus on God.  He fills you with joy, despite circumstances. Your heart softens, you’re more grateful, and you become closer to God. We also heard that persistent prayer builds your character and intimacy with God.  You become God’s friend, and friendship with God is even deeper than obeying him. Friends give their lives for each other. Bereavement and loss are weathered because you are not alone.  And so during that time, you’re transformed. You’re ready for the answer to prayer on the other side of the challenge.  Do not quit. Remember God carries you. I couldn’t do the mission school or South Africa alone.  There were times I found it difficult – with physically trudging up and down a steep hill in Pemba.  Our South African base was in the mountains, and one of the townships was also on a steep hill.  But we persevered. We were rewarded with amazing experiences, and a love for South Africa so deep that, God willing, we’re returning within a year.

I mentioned Maria, our adopted Mozambican widow.  She made lunch for us in her two room shack. It’s at the bottom of a hill, beside the village latrine.  The walls aren’t sturdy enough to keep out rain, wind or thieves. There were holes in the walls and roof.  When the rains come, the house floods. They cannot sleep lying down. We wanted to help with short term repairs and had her house assessed.  They said the house was so bad, it would be better to start over.  So we’re building her a new house!  It costs thirty two hundred US dollars to build her a proper block house.  We started a fund in Pemba and connected with Iris Ministries Canada to continue the fund.  We thought if we were careful, we might get her a house in a year.  But God turned up the schedule.  Tony met with two friends who wanted personal prayer.  During the visits, he shared about Maria. Both these people took out their chequebooks and suddenly, we had almost enough to build Maria’s new house! God engineered this legacy far more than we did.  Now a whole family can be safely housed during the coming rainy season, and actually sleep lying down. God was faithful – Maria received something she didn’t know was possible. She did not give up her trust in God.  We loved friending people like Maria. Tony and I hope to be spiritual parents in a township, as well as do prison, hospital and radio ministry. We plan to teach and support the Robertson base leaders. Even now, we’re going through a journey of downsizing again.

So to summarize, remember that you are a people with hope.  You have been called to know God, and be his people, as he is our God.  Spend time with him in relationship, and he will write his love and direction in your hearts. He heals us as a family and in our hearts. He is our guide and our friend. Read the Bible daily.  There are so many passages in there that will nourish your soul like honey. Too many of us spiritually starve, even when our bellies are full.  When you know your Bible and your own faith story, it also becomes easier to share your faith when you are asked. That is not just for missionaries, but for all Christians. After all, it says right in our baptism liturgy, “Will you proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ?” and will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbour as yourself?”  This means we can all be missionaries in some way (even Morgan Christina who has been baptized today)!  So learn to be prepared as we have promised.

Don’t quit.  Waiting is worship. Be persistent like the widow, like Maria.  Believe God’s promises to you, even like Jeremiah promised to the Israelites in exile.  We are God’s people, and He is our God.    (Amen)

Note:  I hope you, dear reader have been blessed by this talk.  A lot of people at St Paul’s said they were impacted by this sharing.  I hope you have been too.

Love, Laurie-Ann

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