Laurie-Ann and I wish you and your family a meaningful and merryish Christmas 2017. Our missionary training in Mozambique last year bore fruit - here we are beginning a 3-year mission in Worcester, Western Cape, South Africa. We both just felt a powerful pull to do this, and after my retirement there was no massive reason why not to. After all, look at her, this 13 year old in a township slum here in Worcester. By the way, she is an accomplished simultaneous interpreter (English - Afrikaans). The message screams at you - how could we turn away from it? My life has been smooth sailing so far. I won the lottery by being born a white Anglo-Saxon protestant in UK. I never went hungry in my life. My health is strong. And I am married to my sweetheart Laurie-Ann who loves the Lord - as I do!
Time to give back. Time to give time to people who have nothing but time, and hunger, and little prospect of change. They need hope and they need a friend. Even without speaking their language we can give human touch and show we care for them, each one. And every one is special and deserving. And they want to hear about things we can teach them, and Jesus.
And every couple of weeks, one of their parents gets shot in a gang fight, or killed by a hit man who never met them and had no reason to kill them except he was ordered by the gang leaders, probably in prison at the time, who needed a kill to move up the gang hierarchy.
2017 was the year of planning for this; downsizing (again), finding tenants for our condo, selling cars, selling records after digitizing them and all the other music, digitizing many hundreds of photos, giving talks in hopes of raising support for the mission, passing on responsibilities to others, saying goodbye. L-A had a job for 13 months as social media and administrative assistant to Darren Canning, a prophetic itinerant Christian storyteller. She honed her Internet skills and used them to create our excellent mission web site. I contributed nothing to this, though now I post to our Facebook and Twitter sites. Her health hasn't been too good - still isn't, due to a heavy hitting cold - but that didn't hold her back. She has such courage. Her art has blossomed ever since we went to Africa last year. She likes to draw the places we have stayed and give the result to the owners to bless them. Many end up on Facebook. Her latest project is the Kibbutz El-Shammah, an oasis within the Roodewal township. Will appear on Facebook and the "more art in South Africa" page.
We are spending Christmas with our friends and Afrikaans tutors and if possible, to join the Iris Robertson cluster in feeding the needy. We're not set up yet for that kind of ministry in Worcester, but we can do this kind of outreach next Christmas. Of note that Boxing Day isn't Boxing Day in South Africa - it's the Day of Goodwill. This certainly sounds like an invitation to stop for the one.
To you all: Faith, joy, and prosperity (in that order!)
Love and God Bless
Tony (and Laurie-Ann)
Christmas lights in the central Worcester square
Christmas is coming to the southern hemisphere – somewhat differently than Canada, but still with advent carols, Christmas songs, and preparation for celebration. It only feels like July, and some days are very warm (39-42 C), others windy with variable temperatures. The landscape is incredibly beautiful, and the people are in varying degrees of need in the townships. It truly is first and third world side by side. Other than those who are truly Christian, and are moved to do outreach in the town (we know of some), many are oblivious of the needs of those in the townships, as if they are invisible, or just “doing their own thing.”
But back where we came from in Ottawa, Canada - how many of us think the same of the areas of Ritchie Street in Brittania, or Jasmine Crescent in Gloucester? Those are Ottawa’s “townships.” Most Canadian and American cities have neighbourhoods like this. Laurie-Ann was involved with some outreach to both these neigbhourhoods through Kingdom Culture’s “Holiday Dream” outreach, in 2014, 2015, and 2016. This is the first Christmas where we moved to the South African mission fields, to start another kind of ‘holiday dream’ in a different place. We trust that we will spend Christmas as a reflective time, other than stopping for the one. We’ve been invited to share Christmas with local friends, where we will enjoy a cold lunch on a hot day.
Here’s what we’ve been up to:
Africa is famous for giving lessons in patience. One of L-A’s favourite expressions is TIA – This is Africa. Even if South Africa is a first world country in many ways, it still is a laid-back place – no matter what shade of the rainbow you are with. Farmers are relaxed folk! But then, we aren’t in Cape Town.
We have purchased a used car, and after waiting for the wired funds to arrive, we have the car in our possession – no more rental car. It’s a smart looking 14 year old Mercedes – although we’re now dealing with stone chips that after a repair attempt, have given us a challenge of replacing the windshield. We’ve not even had the car for one week! The A-C also hasn’t been working due to a computer issue, and won’t be looked at for a week, so we’ve no air conditioning on a special overnight trip to Cape Town this weekend. But we will manage. We have wheels, and TIA.
We have been accepted as renters in the Hooggelegen Retirement Village, in the Langerug neighbourhood. It took a detailed application concerning our regular finances, since landlords need extra assurance of reliable tenants. However, we are very thankful to have found a 2-bedroom house that we can live and minister in, with good security. We move from our second guesthouse to our new home with the New Year. We do need to buy simple furnishings, but we are thankful for a safe, lovely little home. What is also exciting is the community is on a hill – and Hooggelegen means “high altitude,” We can’t help thinking that we are moving to a ‘city on a hill’ – like Jesus mentions as an example of being salt and light in the world (Matt 5:14).
Our ministry is turning out differently than we expected. While we may in time have our own kid’s club and radio camp, we need to network and come along side existing ministries. We need to learn from them, partner with them and work side by side. We are successful so far in connecting with various ministries and beginning partnerships. We found the Vice Director of YWAM Worcester base, very helpful in giving us a start of contacts. We hope to be involved in some way with: Father’s House Worcester, MasterPeace Academy, Topsy Turvy Creations and Chip Ross Drop-in Centre (Riverview). We also were led to connect with the local hospice. We have sent application letters there to be volunteers and to Brandvlei prison to also volunteer there.
Tony has met with the Program Director of YWAM Worcester, Daniel Abrams at a perfect time. Through him, Tony connected with a Nigerian pastor who also ministers in Avian Park, and he joined him for a kids’ church evening. After that outreach, Tony got to hold a newborn baby as he stopped for a new mom.
We also connected with the amazing people at a Roodewal township ministry called Kibbutz – El-Shammah. L-A strongly feels led to connect with this community, who was founded in 1993. More than a generation has been impacted by this place, touching the lives of gangsters, drug addicts, children and youth. The first time we visited, we were greeted with smiles (we got lost and kind township people directed us to the ministry, which at present has no sign on their perimeter walls). After a lovely connect time with Irena, we took a picture of a Christian mural on one of the flats’ walls. When Tony did that, there was no sense of danger – people smiled and said hello. I was surprised and was expecting a rough attitude, not a welcome. Perhaps I was “home?”
We followed up that visit in a few days with a group meeting, where we got to know other leaders, than we visited the sewing centre and the screen printing shop. Both were doing amazing outreach, with the training of apprentices, and the beginnings of strong Christian businesses.
Laurie-Ann is currently working on a prophetic drawing of the Kibbutz, after she had an impression of the place being an oasis in the midst of a desert. In the vision, living water was streaming into the Kibbutz as a waterfall, and the place was blooming with greenery. A living stream and another waterfall poured from the place, with children playing by the stream. It’s currently in process and will be added to the art page as soon as it’s done.
We are also most impressed with My Father’s House Worcester, who have a heart to empower locals in ministry. The organization is headed by Jan Buchanan, a lovely Australian woman who is foster mom to a little girl named Joy. Under Jan is a wonderful couple Marco and Rens Ruiters, who live and minister in the coloured township of Avian Park. This is one of the neighbourhoods that we also feel drawn toward. Marco used to be a member of the notorious JCY gang, and served prison time. He and Rens came to faith in a nearby tent meeting, and grew in the local YWAM base, where they took the discipleship training school. Both work with vulnerable teens, outreach to gangs and Marco goes out on the streets ministering the gospel, and prayer for many needs. His group is called “Disciple the Streets.” We really feel led to pray for, love on and work with this couple (we have a bit about them on the #WeHeartWorcester page). We will in time add other Worcester ministries that we've become family with on that page.
There is also another My Fathers House Worcester outreach that involves art, where Laurie-Ann could work with a Brazilian YWAM couple, and Laurie-Ann has offered to help with launching the Father’s House Worcester website.
Tony feels called to teach with MasterPeace Academy (science, music) and L-A is considering helping in art and social studies. We also need to consider outreach with our Iris Western Cape family – even though they are 40 minutes away. While we are the Worcester cluster, we are still family and we look forward to future outreach and time together.
Christmas is coming – in the hot weather
We have been trying to get used to the idea of Christmas in the hot. The closest we’ve come to it was when we were on holiday in the Caribbean over Christmas in 2001, but this is entirely different. Since Christmas is combined with summer holidays, the ‘Christmas rush’ has an entirely different – almost laid-back feel. Winter Christmas songs don’t fit here, but we still hear Christmas songs everywhere – usually the Boney M Christmas songs.
We move from our first Worcester guest house, 19th Hole Golf Villa tomorrow – into our second guest house in the city centre. We’ll enjoy 20 more nights in a self-catering suite, one block over from the church that we will likely choose to be our church family (Worcester Christian Church). We’re thankful. Laurie-Ann decided to bless our first hosts Ruan and Angelique with a drawing of their unusual brick guest house with a thatched roof.
During this time of building a foundation for our South Africa ministry, we’re learning that this is a land of surprises. Life happens differently here, even if there are some first world amenities. Because we are open to all the new, we don’t want to miss the unexpected that comes our way – from stopping from a lady named Amanda in Rawsonville, to holding babies in Avian Park, to encountering both those with smiles and those with sad, empty eyes in Roodewal. God is in control, and helping us meet all the right people, to love on them and learn from them. We hope to write again during Christmas week to share a little more. In the meantime, have a wonderful Advent and preparation to Christmas day.
If you are praying for us, please ask for the Holy Spirit to continue to give us clear direction – we are seeing clear links and Laurie-Ann was given a dream of a tornado travelling past the guest house (with no sense of danger). We believe this is acceleration – but we want to make sure we stay on the right path as we build foundations. If you get any words of knowledge, please share them with us.
Have a blessed Advent.
Love, Laurie-Ann and Tony
#WeHeartWorcester! These are the Worcester neighbourhoods and townships we love on.
Tony and Laurie-Ann Copple (usually Laurie-Ann)
L-A's devotional blog
TONY'S DEVOTIONAL BLOG
Tony's south african journal