by Tony Copple
We know that scripture tells us that we overcome by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony (Rev. 12:11). Both of us have had health challenges on the mission field. This isn’t new to missionaries. Hudson Taylor had health issues in China. Heidi Baker, co-founder of our mission movement IrisGlobal (of which we are under the care of both Canada and Western Cape, South Africa) had debilitating MRSA, which was killing her. She overcame when God healed her miraculously. Then Rolland Baker had cerebral malaria and other issues for a number of years. He almost died. But God restored him through excellent medical treatment and prayer. L-A also is returning to health after overcoming aggressive inflammatory breast cancer. Other Iris missionaries have been healed. Others were only healed in heaven. But we all have overcome. Here is Tony’s testimony through his eye issues while also battling TB (tuberculosis). He is also officially, the oldest Iris missionary. We are proud of him, and his commitment to love children, teens and the vulnerable. His huge heart has been well known for a long time, but as a missionary, he is used as a father (and grandfather) to many.
I also have been promised at least twice through the still small voice of the Holy Spirit that my healing is in South Africa. I clung to this promise for issues like osteo-arthritis and mobility issues. Later I developed HS and inflammatory breast cancer, which also brought lymphedema. However God healed me of cancer and is working on the rest. I know that Tony’s healing is ALSO included in this promise. We have been kept in South Africa for our healing. We have usually been helped so quickly, and with such love, that there is no comparison between public care in Canada and private care in South Africa in a Christian atmosphere. (Laurie-Ann)
Medical history of my eyes
1n 1985 I had a ski-ing accident in Scotland where I lost several teeth. It is possible my left eye also sustained damage, though there were no obvious symptoms.
In December 2020 I had cataract surgery on both eyes. The right eye came through the surgery well, with better vision than before the surgery. The left eye took twice as long for the operation because the surgeon discovered damage (from the 1985 accident?) and had to make adjustments. Following the surgery the vision in the left eye was always blurred despite two prescription lenses being made.
Detached retina of the left eye.
On 5th April 2021 I noticed a dark vertical band on the right field of view of the left eye. Each day the band increased in width,
On 8th April the band covered half my field of view. I called the cataract surgeon, and he was very concerned, but the earliest he could see me was Mon 12 April at 4 pm.
By 12 April the band covered 90% of my field of view, leaving a small area of peripheral vision on the left extremity. I was essentially blind in that eye. The surgeon told me I had a detached retina. He said he would call Tygerberg Hospital and see if it were possible to have it operated on in the public system, since I have no medical insurance. (My travel insurance only ran till Nov 2020 when I would have returned to Canada, if not for Covid). Next day he emailed to say it was not possible to get surgery in the public hospital system. He recommended I contact a retinal surgeon in the Cape Town area.
13 April we made a list of retinal surgeons from the Internet, which included Dr Norman Nieder-Heitmann and Dr Steve Lapere in Claremont.
15 April we had to go to Paarl for physiotherapy for Laurie-Ann, so while she was being treated I drove to the Paarl Eye Centre and spoke to Dr Norman Nieder-Heitman’s secretary. She thought it unlikely he would be available in the near future, but said she would call me.
Fri 16 April – I called Dr Lapere’s office and made an appointment for a consultation on Tue 20 April, with surgery 21 April. I had to go to my GP Dr Eric Van Dijk’s office for a prescription, but when I told him my eye situation he said he wanted me to see another eye surgeon, Dr T Keulder immediately to confirm the diagnosis of a detached retina. I walked to his nearby office and he examined me and confirmed the detached retina. He said it was extremely urgent to have surgery. I told him I had the appointment with Dr Lapere; however he called Dr Norman Nieder-Heitmann and arranged for me to see him on Monday 19 April. He wrote an introductory note. I asked him what time was the appointment, and he said I could turn up any time and he would fit me in. This sounded odd. When I got home I tried to call Dr Lapere’s office to cancel, and Dr Nieder-Heitmann’s office to confirm a time, but both were gone for the weekend.
Mon 19 April. I called Dr Nieder-Heitmann’s office to be told I had been expected at 8 am. They rebooked me for 10 am tomorrow.
Tue 20 April. Dr Nieder-Heitmann saw me and emphasised how important it was to use all available resources to save an eye, and examined me. The retina was still attached over half its area. The bad news was that these operations sometimes must be repeated – several times – for the desired result – so the cost can multiply. He was not too concerned by the 15 days since the detaching started. He explained the mechanics of the operation, saying gas or oil would be pumped into the eye to flatten the retina against the eye wall. He gave me the quote for his services, and his staff found me the numbers of the Cure Day hospital, and the anaesthetist. With this information I was able to estimate the total cost at around $8,697. My son James video-called from Las Vegas and was very keen on going ahead with the operation; offering his help if funding was an issue.
That evening we had our weekly Zoom prayer meeting with good friends from Hillsong in Somerset West (Cape Town) and they heard the whole story. I started by telling them that from a financial and common wisdom perspective I was ready to accept the permanent blindness in one eye in view of the inability to focus the left eye following cataract surgery, the many risks associated with surgery, and the cost. We had begun to ask our supporters for funding and already about $2,500 had come in, which I would return if we didn’t go ahead with the operation. Naomi and her husband Faan led us in some concerted prayer, and were adamant that we proceed with surgery, totally confident that it would be successful and the funds would come in. They had received a verse for me from the Hillsong pastoral team: Jeremiah 30:17 – ‘But I will restore you to health and I will heal your wounds.’ Naomi said I must repeat this verse on a regular basis. These things worked together to change my mind, giving a spiritual perspective rather than just a natural basis for the decision.
Wed 21 April. We went to Paarl for L-A’s physiotherapy and while she was having it I drove to the Paarl Eye Centre and told Dr Nieder-Heitmann’s assistant that I wanted to go ahead with the surgery. She said he would call me as soon as it could be scheduled.
Thurs 22 April. I was walking down the High Street when Dr. Nieder-Heitmann called with a most unusual proposition. He had spoken to Dr James Acton at Cape Eye Hospital in Cape Town and discussed the technical details of my case. Because of the previous eye damage it was not straightforward. Time was of the essence. Dr Acton has 20 years of experience of this surgery and Dr N-H felt his chance of success would be higher. Furthermore, Dr Acton indicated that he would keep the price below Dr N-H’s quotation, enabling me to agree to proceed without qualms. I do not know why an eminent surgeon would take on an emergency and do it for less than his regular price, and Dr N-H has not enlightened me on this in subsequent dialogue (a kindness of God?).
Fri 23 April. We drove to Bellville and I met Dr Acton at 9 am for an examination. I had now been through these eye examinations four times, and I could tell he was expert. He explained about gas or oil filling of the eye to press the retina against the wall, and I sensed he was leaning towards oil for me, but would only be sure once he could see the complete situation. This would require a second operation a few months later to remove the oil. He also read my complete report (the major part of this document) to learn my history. Afterwards, I waited in the car with Laurie-Ann till noon when I presented myself at the eye hospital, very close to his rooms. I went through all the preliminaries including a visit from the anaesthetist and an ECG. At about 3:30 I was wheeled to the theatre, and soon the anaesthetist put a needle in my arm. Next thing I knew was waking up with a bandage and eye patch, and being told all was well, and then being given a cup of tea and sandwiches, my first ‘by mouth’ since 6 am. I relaxed in the reclining passenger seat as Laurie-Ann drove me home, stopping at Spur restaurant in Paarl for excellent senior burgers.
Sat 24 April. We were back in Dr Acton’s rooms so he could take off the bandage. This was the most stressful time for me, calmed down only by Jeremiah 30:17 and Naomi’s faith. But when I looked through my left eye, I could see him. Spontaneously I exclaimed “I can see a man, but he looks like a tree.” But it was absolutely good enough for my peace of mind and felt every bit as a miracle. As I write this a few days later my sight is improving daily, and I am told this will continue over coming months. Then he told me the story of the operation. As soon as he had opened up the eye (thank God for the general anaesthetic) he saw the result of the cataract operation. There was suture residue that he removed, but more significant, he saw that the lens had moved from its ideal seating. He worked to repair that before getting started with the retinal attachment. This may mean that my eye may focus in due course, making the whole process that much more significant for my future vision quality. He did use oil for the retinal surgery to remove the residual stiffness in my retina after the more than 2 weeks since the detachment,
Footnote: The previous Sunday our local pastor Johan Schoonraad had preached about how when challenges have piled up, something even more challenging happens to us that we must find the strength to overcome. As an example he suggested Paul’s being washed up on the Malta shore after shipwreck, only to be bitten by a deadly snake. In the minds of the watching Maltese, when they saw the snake attack they assumed this man must have done something terrible to anger the gods. But when they saw him shake it off, they changed their minds and decided he must be a god. My detached retina was like the snake attack, following my other medical challenges, particularly TB. But we have noticed that when we increase our mission activities in the community, as we have recently, with food provision for the four families, and the OVD Mailbox Club, it angers the devil, and he sends a new challenge that we must fight.
After the final costs of the surgery arrived a few days later, they were $1,201 lower than Dr Nieder-Heitmann’s earlier quotation. It was clear that Dr Acton had reduced his fee for the surgery by about 50%. The hospital facility fee was higher than the estimate from Paarl Eye Centre. We are thankful for my continuing healing, for the care of these eye surgeons and to God for lovingly helping us coordinate care. He is the ultimate healer.
by Laurie-Ann Copple
During all the covid restrictions, I missed the touch of children. The admonishments began a year ago in March 2020. Elbow bumps became the new hugs – if you’re in the same social bubble. Blowing kisses from a distance became the new kiss on the cheek or forehead. During my cancer journey, the intensity of children’s love took a deeper turn in intensity – especially among the children we loved in our Legacy Relay ministry here in Worcester. They were allowed to show their affection, support, prayers and a vulnerability that was a response to what I shared about my cancer journey. God used them to show his love – in the face of a child; in the faces of many children, one by one. I’ve often heard the saying that “there is no junior Holy Spirit.” It’s true. There is no age limit on being used as the hand and feet of Jesus. 1 Timothy 4:12 (Passion Translation) reminds young believers to not “be intimidated by those who are older than you; simply be the example they need to see by being faithful and true in all that you do. Speak the truth and live a life of purity and authentic love as you remain strong in your faith.”
God also wants the seniors to rise up and be counted too. Seniors are not supposed to just sit waiting around to die. Legacy Relay allows seniors from Worcester to pass on legacy skills and knowledge to young learners. We believe in this ministry – not only to benefit the children, but also the seniors. We become another pair of grandparents, aunts and uncles. Who knows what their family is like at home. Our Iris Western Cape supervisor Johan Fourie tells us often that “it’s all about family.” We bring people into family. It’s all about relationship – one by one.
Covid-19 fought the family and friendship bonds everywhere. Some family members are stuck or flung across different areas of the planet. Tony and I are still in South Africa long after our original visas expired (we’re now on medical visas actually). We are physically separated from our families. We never got the highly desired family holiday with Tony’s sisters last April 2020. We never got reunited with my dad and sister in Canada. But through it, we lean even more on Jesus. We connect with my dad via Skype direct to his landline phone. We WhatsApp my sister. We Skype call my friend Diane, and Messenger Video with my friend Mirjana and my stepson James. We Zoom call our Hillsong connect group, and our Harvest Family Network. Is it enough? We crave each other’s touch.
One special heart connect touch is through other ways to communicate, even with social distancing. It’s still an eye ball – to eye ball connection. This past weekend we were part of our weekly Mailbox Club in OVD township. These kids are hungry for connection, and a touch from God. They run to us when we begin singing. They listen to the teen leader Chantelle, with rapt attention as she reads the lesson in Afrikaans. She then translates stories from either or both Tony and myself. She’s a good leader to work with, although she is still learning. Tony and I lead in the worship singing and Chantelle hands out shakers to the kids who would best use them (although they share after each song). So this week, I was led to share about different ways of worshipping the Lord, and I read to them Psalm 150 from the Passion Translation, which reads as follows:
Psalm 150 “The Hallelujah Chorus”
Hallelujah! Praise the Lord! Praise God in his holy sanctuary!
Praise him in his stronghold in the sky!
2 Praise him for his mighty miracles!
Praise him for his magnificent greatness!
3 Praise him with trumpets blasting!
Praise him with piano and guitar!
4–5 Praise him with drums and dancing!
Praise him with loud clashing of cymbals!
Praise him upon the high-sounding cymbals!
6 Let everyone everywhere join in the crescendo
of ecstatic praise to God!
Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!
I had the children dance, since they already sang earlier with us Then I shared that you can also worship the Lord by drawing and colouring. I shared four drawings that I knew would mean a lot to them. One was of Chantelle, another Bella (Bella’s cousin was in the audience). The other two were of Jesus with the kids from Vinkrivier (Chantelle said Robertson, which is the nearest large town), and two of those kids with a warrior angel, modelled by my father. It was an absolutely magical time. We played soaking music, which added to the effect. And during that time, I connected with a little boy. He didn’t know that much English, and I am not great on Afrikaans, but we still communicated. There was a heart connect that was as deep as any hug. I had the same connect with the six children who stayed behind. They were still pondering the drawing of Chantelle, their cousin. When I told them I loved them and blew kisses, they connected and felt loved. Love languages still connect people, although sadly “touch” has to be expressed in another way during this pandemic. But in the meantime, we can still connect. I am very thankful for that, and for the deep joy I felt when there was that deep connection with these children. May we all learn to play with and understand the joy and wonder of children.
by Tony Copple (excerpts from his journal)
Tony celebrated a quiet 80th birthday. In another season, we would have had a party. But during a covid season, when he’s also working through healing of TB, it was a low-key affair, with a nice lunch in a winery restaurant, with lots of ministry. He didn’t even have time to respond to his Facebook birthday greetings! Here’s an excerpt from a day in the life of the new octogenarian, Tony Copple:
“Monday, February 15 – my 80th birthday! This didn’t start as birthdays should. It was also the first day back at school. Bella asked me to drive her brother and grandmother to his school. I set my alarm for 6:45 am, and was a little late at Bella’s due to traffic on this first day of school. J (14) and his grandmother got in the car. She has virtually no English, and J has some understanding but he speaks very little. Luckily he knew the way to the school. Soon, they both got out after I had driven quite a way, but the wrong way down a one-way street. I drove on, and did an 8-point turn on the narrow street. I parked and walked back.
By then, J had gone into the building and his grandmother was waiting outside the gate, and was chatting to a friend. Around 8 am, I suggested that we went, and I got the car and drove to her since she has difficulty walking. I drove her home the long way, via OK Foods to get toasted breakfast sandwiches for her and another girl we mentor, Chantelle. I drove on to Chantelle’s and gave her the sandwich and a banana. Then I brought another girl we mentor, Anthonica, to our home to do the Youth Alpha sessions “Prayer” and “Bible.” She doesn’t start school until Wednesday. She had coffee with us, and then we turned on the Alpha videos. She was very attentive, and had good answers to the periodic discussion questions. Half way through the second session, we stopped for more coffee and (my) birthday cake. After the session, I asked her to read the parable of the Prodigal Son, and then I questioned her about it, ensuring she understands the story within the story. She had another hour in our home, before I took her to “Boland Crafts and Things” store to buy wrapping paper for her school books, which is an annoying and expensive custom that the local schools have foisted on learners.
When I had taken Anthonica home, I went to the pharmacy, and then to Munnik’s jewellery store for a new battery for Bella’s watch (which used to be Laurie-Ann’s watch). I was very happy to have the chance to see Esme again, following her son Charl’s memorial service. I told her that it was good to see that she had found the strength to reopen, and I assured her of our prayers. L-A had asked where I would most like to have my birthday lunch (since she was paying from her “secret stash” (small savings account), and I had suggested Ou Meul restaurant at Du Toitskloof winery in Rawsonville. We had been there before (including with our friend Tanya), and I remembered the ambience there even more than the food.
On this special visit however, it is the food that stays in my memory and taste buds. It is rare for me with TB to actually have an appetite and enjoy food. We started with Load-shed beer, and Du Toitskloof Savignon Blanc respectively. I chose the smoked salmon salad I really enjoyed the salad! The salad dressing made every lettuce leaf special, and the smoked salmon with its own creamy cheesy dressing was outstanding. L-A had a health bowl full of quinoa, avocado, cream cheese made with cashews, spiraled corgette (zucchini) and carrots, with a little added chicken. She declared it was one of the finest salads of her life. We had dessert from the tarts and cheesecakes display. Mine was “millionaire’s shortbread.” All of this was on an outside table with no wind, but a feeling of being the best place in the world right then. The bottom line of dining, even in top notch restaurants here is the price – around 45 – 60 % of the Canadian equivalent!
At 5 pm, after buying cooking oil and washing powder for Lottie, I arrived for my 5:15 appointment with Dr. Marius van Dyk, somewhat nervous. He had read my optometrist’s note, which mentioned the possibility of stitch material that possibly did not dissolve in my left eye after cataract and eye-repair surgery.
While I was in the waiting room, I tested out my left eye, and I found that the focus had actually improved in the last few days since the eye was measured. When I told the surgeon this, he did some vision measurements, mentioning that he almost always never used stitches during these operations. A few minutes later after shining lights into my eye, he saw that he had indeed used stitches, because of the long-term damage he had found in the eye from an accident I had in 1983. He was having difficulty examining my eye, because I have having a very hard time keeping it open, while I was faced with his bright lights!
At one point, the light was so bright, just as if I were being forced to look at the sun for several seconds. So I cried out in pain. This was too much for him. He said that he couldn’t see into my left eye if I couldn’t keep it open, and he absolutely didn’t want to cause pain. I reminded him that I was wearing dark glasses whenever I was out of the house, because light was painful for me. He said he wasn’t sure what to recommend. He thought about it for a while, and then said that he could use laser surgery to remove the residue of the stitches. He asked me to sit at his laser machine. He said that to do this, he would put a contact lens into my eye, but when he tried to do this, I was again overcome with the bright lights and he gave up. I mentioned that part of my problem today was that he had put eye drips in to dilate my pupils, making me more sensitive to light. He then said that I could come back in a few days, and he would use drops to make my pupils smaller, which wouldn’t prevent what he wanted to do. Further, he prescribed eye drops to be taken every few hours for the next few days. We set the appointment for Thursday at 5 pm. I said I would be getting prayer support to help us through, and he enthusiastically endorsed that. On my way home, I delivered the washing powder and oil to a grateful Lottie.
I listened to an SA-FM debate where the host firstly denied South Africa is a predominantly Christian country, and then asked his listeners if it was right that the president should mention God in speeches, such as “God bless South Africa,” because it ‘marginalized atheists.’ Most callers disagreed – I actually felt angry with the host for airing such illogical views – yet views that many Canadians would agree with. In a tolerant society, anyone, and particularly politicians, should be able to be open about their beliefs. Atheists should not be upset if they hear people speaking about God, any more than left-handed people should be upset if most guitars are built right-handed. In the evening, we watched the frightening finale of “The Undoing” (Hugh Grant and Nicole Kidman) on Showmax. It needed something pleasurable to end my birthday.
My sister told me that she missed receiving a music mix I had made five years ago. I arranged for this, and for another batch for her. I still get a kick out of sharing music with other people.
by Laurie-Ann Copple
"The Lord, He is God!" - image #40 in Laurie-Ann Copple's "Colouring with Jesus" colouring book. This book is available to purchase in South Africa via Takealot. If you're interested, please click the link below!
This past year of 2020 was a crazy year for us, as it was for everyone. In our case, it changed our plans to return to Canada for further medical intervention against aggressive inflammatory breast cancer. But God made a new way for us. Thanks to his direction, and provision through kind and generous friends and family, we were able to keep afloat through expensive cancer treatments for me, as well as treatments for Tony (for TB and cataract surgeries).
I am now recovering from the harsh treatments, and while I'm on considerably less medication, what I am on now is still expensive. We plan to be in South Africa until sometime in May if possible. Our original visas have run out, and our application for medical visas (along with our passports) are in the hands of Home Affairs. We trust that their office isn't hit as hard by covid-19, as our town has been this past month. Lockdown level 3 is back, the alcohol ban returned, and indoor gatherings are cancelled. Weddings are postponed, but small funerals are ongoing. There were two funerals of people we know just last week. We are sad about that. Yet we are also hopeful, despite being weary. God is still in control. We have a lot to thank him for. The families of the girls we mentor have been struggling far worse than we have.
We are thankful and we share, trusting the God will continue to supply our own need, and replenish our health as we remember to rest between tasks. Part of that rest is to be thankful. It is for that reason that my requested Christmas gift was for Tony to set music to special lyrics written by me. I was inspired to just sing "thank you" to Jesus for saving my life.
Here is a taste of the lyrics:
Thank you Jesus
by Laurie-Ann Copple
Lord, you are near, not far
You hold all things together
Spinning planets with the stars
It’s a dance you set forever
And even though you hold all things
You noticed I was falling
You promised you would carry me
When the cancer came a calling.
Chorus: Lord, I want to thank you
You brought me back to life
My healing is a foretaste
Under heaven’s loving knife.
You carried me close to your chest
As we went through death’s dark shade
This journey was for my best
In your face, my troubles fade.
Chorus: Lord, I want to thank you
You brought me back to life
My healing is a foretaste
Under heaven’s loving knife.
I trust that I will remain cancer-free, but whatever happens, I know that I am in God's hands. Jesus carried me, like in the Footprints poem. He continues to carry us through this crazy time. Just keep your eyes on Jesus, and your fears and worries will slip away. He is in control. You don't have to live in fear. He's got you.
by Laurie-Ann Copple
This was part of the view of Christmas lights in central Worcester a month after we arrived in 2017. In 2020, there were no lights!
Christmas lights are often a big deal for me. They are like fireworks, but in a usually in a different season. Fireworks in Canada are in the summer, and Christmas lights are in winter. We are about to have our fourth South African Christmas, which is very different than Canada. We are now used to having Christmas (and Advent) during the summer, with different foods than we normally have in Canada. Christmas is the only time of year that you can find frozen turkey for expats like us. These are found in the more upscale supermarkets (but they aren’t varying sizes, they are pretty small turkeys. But it still is a turkey, and it helps us with certain small things that we get homesick for).
South Africans often have a cold meat lunch, with salads such as onion, carrot, jelly, green and other salads. The meats tend to be cold tongue (I’m not fond of this meat), corned beef and ham (which they call gammon here). These meats and cooked and cured by the buyer rather than the butcher, although occasionally you can find a cooked gammon/ham that you can cut up and slow roast with a glaze of honey, cinnamon and hot water. Mmmmm.
Our first South African Christmas was three years ago. It was spent in a guest house, so we could only warm simple meals in a microwave or two-burner hotplate. Our second Christmas was a bigger deal. We found a turkey and cooked gammon, and made a feast for some of our Iris family Canadian style, with colleagues Maggie (from England), Kaysha (from the US) and her Rwandan fiancé Alex. We had a lovely family time. Before that day, I asked the girls we mentor what they do for Christmas. Because this ‘festive season’ tends to be too expensive for township folk, they just try to have a nice meal, and if their family can afford it, some new clothes (usually bought at PEP, a cheap store that sells many clothing and shoe items). There doesn’t seem to be much special about that, but hey, Christmas can get expensive. For those who tend to drink a lot, it’s also a time that binge drinking becomes the order of the day.
Thieves get extra ambitious and steal cellphones from other poor townsfolk (and anyone else for whom they can get access). We are working with two cases of dear friends who are victims of phone theft. One is an elderly blind lady who lives in a smaller township near the centre of town. She was initially helped by a young man who moved a used appliance into her home. He knew she was blind, and saw her phone on her bed, beside her hand. He was brazen enough to steal her phone and sell it for drugs! Tony kept calling the number, and eventually the new owner of the phone answered. He explained to the lady who the phone had belonged to, and that she was old and blind. He asked if he could buy the SIM card so that our friend would at least have her contact numbers. She agreed. Meanwhile, after some searching, he found a simple phone that she could use. She tested it out with Tony, and when she heard Tony’s phone ring, she was so excited! That phone is her lifeline. The cost was only R150, about $12.
The second story is about one of the girls that we mentor. We had already received divine nudges to buy her a laptop for university, since she was to go on a scholarship to a Cape Town university. Her phone was in her back pocket and while she was in a shop, a thief had brazenly stuck his hand down her pocket and grabbed the phone. She felt it but he was so fast that it was no use catching him. This girl needed a phone to be able to care for her grandma (who is the head of their family) and do high school homework. While Holy Spirit spoke to us about giving her a computer, there was no leading for the phone. We decided to have her help us with some apartment cleaning, in exchange for a phone and other things. It was a win-win situation. We showed her my South African-made Mobicel Glo, to see if she could navigate that phone. She liked it. We pray that we can find this excellent value phone in the local shops (Ackermans or PEP).
So we pray for a special Christmas for those we are in relationship with here in Worcester. We still provide many grocery and toiletry items to help them get by. Prices have risen and grants are small.
We are thankful for what we have as well, including a turkey dinner that we plan to have with two of our ‘dependents.’ Last time it was a family of six, but that’s too much in these covid-19 times. Even with these restrictions, we trust that this can be a special Christmas. Christmas isn’t just about food, family or Christmas lights. It’s not even about carols, although we trust we will get those in the new Hillsong Christmas Spectacular that we plan to see at a Ster-Kineor cinema shortly after I have a chemotherapy port flush on December 23rd. Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Even though Jesus probably wasn’t born on December 25th, it’s still a time to stop, think, be thankful and focus on the Christ child who loves us so dearly.
So Christmas for us will be a time of worship, and visiting with dear South African friends to share a meal of cold meats and salads. Boxing Day (Day of Reconciliation) is our Canadian Christmas in name, and when we host a turkey meal. Christmas is for giving, even if you don’t have a lot. But even more, this is a time of giving yourself. May you shine like Christmas lights, and glorify our Father who is in heaven.
Merry Christmas to you! May God bless you.
by Laurie-Ann Copple
I am increasingly convinced that God uses everything. This is part of many people's testimonies of how God turns around times of incredible crushing, persecution, illness and more and turns it into good in some way. I've heard of stories with 9/11 as a backdrop where God has turned things around for individuals. It could have been so much worse. Kindness was shown in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia to the stranded passengers trying to get to the US. I was shown similar kindness in the UK while I was there for three days during that calamity. Likewise, even the covid-19 pandemic that kept us in South Africa during the middle of my inflammatory breast cancer journey, was used to shelter and shield me at a vulnerable time in my life. I had been advised that all or most surgeries were seriously postponed in Ontario, and it may have been very problematic for me to have my mastectomy when I did. I could have had to go through chemotherapy all over again, or worse, the cancer would have caught up with me. But I was protected from all that, and allowed to have medical people helping me that I already knew. I was also protected from an earlier journey when I had less time to work with - when the cancer quickly became so advanced that I needed to begin chemotherapy right away. There was not enough time to return to Canada and start all over again - I could have become stage 4 on the journey home. But I was encouraged to stay and had the peace of God to walk through the chemotherapy journey in South Africa, while continuing ministry with South African children.
I've shared a bit about this story before, and am glad to share again. Testimony is half of how we overcome - our testimony of Jesus working in our lives. I shared a little of my testimony for a podcast by Christina Perara on Charisma Podcast Network. She connected it with a teaching on the crushing of Jesus and the power of communion. My life was nearly crushed, and I am certain that I was spared so that God will use it. You can look for the link to Christina's podcast "The Crushing" below. The testimony is in the last six minutes of the podcast.
Meanwhile, I celebrated a special milestone recently. November 12th brought me to my very last herceptin injection at CapeGate Oncology Centre. I was encouraged to ring the bell, while cheered on by my dear nurse Marianna. From now on, I only have check-ups and chemo-port flushes. I do not need tamoxifen, since the tumour was estrogen-negative. This is a great relief, since we paid a fortune for all these treatments, although we still have lymphedema treatments and compression therapy. Tony is also in treatment for TB, and the two of us await medical visas so that we can recover gently. At the moment, Europe and North America are in hard lockdowns, and travel is difficult (no stopover rests allowed). So it's better to stay.
We have much to be thankful for: South African summer, a centrally located Worcester apartment, a safe place to create more colouring sheets for children (and adults), friends and church family who care for us. Tony and I also have each other.
We are thankful. We also have our salvation in Jesus (the blood of the lamb) and what he is doing through and in us (the word of our testimony). This is from Revelation 12:11: "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death." What are you thankful for? Do you have a story of what Jesus is doing in you? You likely DO. He is making you into something even more beautiful, like the mended Japanese cup filled with pure gold. May you be filled with that pure gold of the Holy Spirit. God bless you.
by Laurie-Ann Copple
We began our time in South Africa as a time of transition and building a new foundation of what we were to do here. We were doing pretty well, despite small health challenges that came our way. We were busy but happy. We felt fulfilled and were prolific in our radio interviews, devotional teachings and working with many kinds of children. My art blossomed in colouring sheet form in 2018 (I've yet to permanently colour in the 101 line drawings to date), and I was part of Worcester's first Christian arts festival (Doxa, in October 2018). We held soaking art workshops and had a good but challenging time with the teens who led children's Bible studies in Avian Park.
Then, something hit Tony health-wise and we worked with specialists to find a cause. He was put on iron for iron-deficiency anemia, anti-inflammatories and other meds. They even found a trace of prostate cancer, which we trust was eliminated through a natural way of targeting this condition. I was hit with hidradenitis superativa, or HS, a condition of boils/rashes, which is caused by many triggers. It's not curable, but it can be controlled in some people. My trigger is cow dairy. Unfortunately many things have cow dairy, so we limit these to butter and the very occasional treat. Otherwise, I became fond of sorbet and veggie cheese made of coconut oil. Goat milk and soy milk are now the dairy drinks of choice for shakes. Then, the inflammatory breast cancer. I've written about that journey elsewhere, so I won't get into the details. I can say that I have grown emotionally and spiritually through the journey that began in July 2019, with diagnosis in mid-August. Since then, I have been given perseverance. This is something that has been a lesson as well as a gift. I've also been gifted with joy in the moment. While the journey of chemotherapy, surgery and radiation have been difficult, I have had the love of Jesus bouy me up with peace and joy throughout.
So I was told the cancer journey would be a year long. Actually, now I'm finding it can be two years. Many cancer patients find that it takes a long time to recover from the blow of the treatments. I agree. I feel like the very strength I had was ripped from me, and I was not super strong before the journey, due to my arthritic knees. Lymphedema also is a condition I apparently already had in my legs (I inherited it but was unaware until being treated for it in my left arm), however, the cancer treatments, especially the surgery and radiation made it worse throughout my body. This lymphatic swelling is something that is life-long, but like the HS, it can be controlled. It comes to be a new normal - something similar to the effect of covid-19 on everyone.
So, again, this is a time of transition, or rebuilding of what will be the new normal. And yet, Tony and I are still in the middle of our 'glorious mission season.' Many of our experiences, strengths, gifts, talents, training, education and anointing has converged into a time when everything has been used - from physical things that we brought with us from Canada, to talents honed. We now need to develop songwriting for our journey, as well as more books (including the colouring book series Colouring with Jesus 1 and 2).
So in this time of transition, we are staying a little longer in South Africa than we expected, although we aren't sorry (apart from missing family). We will have a mini-season in our new lodgings - in central Worcester. No longer are we living in a gated community, but rather in the noisy, bustling centre of town. It's convenient, but it's no longer quiet. We would have difficulty doing recordings for CWCP in this environment. But the place offers something new - an opportunity to pray for the town while being unobserved, right in the centre of town. We see a lot already, other than the long queues for grants at the post office, and the racing cars and motorcycles at every junction, especially on High Street (it is a wider, easier to drive avenue). We trust that we are here longer for good reason.
We also continue to work with one kid's club, reach out to our teen girl leaders (in their own lives), and soon we will return to Legacy Relay in Worcester Primary School. Yet the biggest thing in our lives is allowing God to restore us, for me as a cancer patient (who may not have cancer anymore!) and Tony as a current tuberculosis patient. One thing I know, the Lord is faithful and he has carried me through the journey to this point. He won't stop now. We're short on funds right now, but we trust it won't remain that way. We are growing in strength.
During this time, I've become even more thankful - for not only the big things, but also the small. We are continually being showered in God's kindness in so many ways. So we are thankful. May we always remain that way even when our healing is fully worked out.
Thanks for journeying with us! If you are a praying person, please keep us in prayer for favour for medical visas, finances, health restoration and the right opportunities.
by Laurie-Ann Copple
Tony's off doing important errands, so I, L-A, decided to pop on the blog to share a bit. John Lennon once sang in the song "Beautiful Boy" that life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans." This is often true. The Holy Spirit brings us times where we must 'stop for the one' in sometimes different timing than we expect. There are always, always needs, especially in townships like Avian Park. It's not the only place with need, but the poverty is sometimes downright depressing for those who are trying to escape it.
We were in this township at least twice a week before covid-19 hit in March 2020, and we were supposed to return to Canada for my breast cancer surgery (which I had here in Worcester instead). We also did a lot of ministry elsewhere in the town, including in Worcester Primary School with Legacy Relay, the Alpha Course in Brandvlei Correctional Centre, kids clubs and so much more. Then lockdown hit and we couldn't leave the country. We were fortunate that we could continue to stay in our home, until our recent move September 23rd, 2020. Yet for those on the edge, the already difficult lack was worsened when the lockdown and pandemic shut down many industries and their jobs. For those with SASSA grants, some were able to manage. Yet those who didn't have their jobs, had no recourse other than soup kitchens - which aren't enough.
So the girls that we mentored in the past, along with their families turned to us to help them. And so we attempted to help. However, we sometimes were overwhelmed with so many requests, with multiple trips into Avian Park, that it was too much. Add to that relief work,there were three hospital taxi trips, with emergencies both day and night. The ambulances won't go into the township at night without police support and the police don't want to go. So, at 2 am, Tony went and picked up the mother of one of the girls, and got her to hospital, away from a domestic spat.
Since there is so much need, sometimes it's hard to hear when it is Holy Spirit who is doing the directing. However, there are still times we have heard the nudges. Twice I received word to buy one girl a netbook for scholarship studies. I can't say which girl here, but this was confirmed and we are working out the set-up of a Mobicel laptop. Tony received word to buy another girl a phone for her internet access for studies. He fulfilled this nudge by purchasing a basic South African made Mobicel phone, which is quite adequate.
One of my favourites was a nudge from Holy Spirit where I was drawn towards a photo of a small boy we often meet in Avian Park. He is the nephew of one of the girls we mentor. He was always peeking into our car to say hello without words, and he was so sweet. After I drew this, Tony scanned it, printed a copy and pasted it onto cardboard as a faux-piece of art for the family (his picture is posted above). The family were delighted. While the drawing will be in my second colouring book, this copy is unique. This was a ministry of interruption. It's so lovely when we get those little nudges that direct you to a different kind of ministry. If you're already in a ministry position (such as the priest and Levite were in the parable of the Good Samaritan), then you can miss the interruption opportunity that's right there. In that story, it was a man who was beaten up and lying in the road. Wouldn't you want to pick him up rather than just leave him there? Are you and I in that much of a hurry? Often we are. But the Samaritan stopped. He saw the man and did not ignore him. I pray that we don't ignore the interruptions that come our way. Offer up an arrow prayer to God and confirm that interruption is actually a divine appointment. It's YOUR time to stop for the one.
Here's a photo of Tony at our old home in Hooggelegen Retirement Village just days before we moved into DaVinci apartments in central Worcester. He's preparing food parcels/care packages for the families that we work with.
by Laurie-Ann Copple
Sometimes you just need a break, even if it's a short one. We are at lock-down level two now in South Africa, so short term accommodation is allowed, as well as travel between provinces. We still aren't allowed to leave the country, but we're okay with that now. In fact, we will work to arrange an extension to our visas for another year, although we provisionally hope to stay in Worcester until early May. I arranged for us to stay in a self catering apartment in Mossel Bay for three nights, and the place was a 2 bedroom unit, with two en-suite bathrooms. This meant that we could enjoy our friends' company, but there was also personal privacy for each couple. We were very happy to stay at Nautica Mossel Bay, which is in the de Bakke area. The last time we stayed in Mossel Bay, was in June 2018, where we stayed at a hotel in the Point. We now have been in two special areas.
Even though it's late winter, we found the seaside wasn't too cold, but lovely as we enjoyed the sea air and waves. Our friend Janey originally comes from Margate in KZN province, so she loves and deeply appreciates being by the sea. It was a tonic for me as well, since I'm in the middle of radiation/radiotherapy treatments at CapeGate Oncology Centre. At this point, I have eight more treatments to go. The radiologists are kind, and compassionate on days where either my mobility is an issue, or my sore right wrist gives me problems getting on and off treatment beds.
We also visited with our friends Lize-Mari and Gerroch, at the Merchant coffee shop, which was lovely. We returned the following morning after we checked out of our accommodation, with our friends Andre and Janey. The main barista remembered me and my special non-dairy latte order from the day before, and we found that he and his co-workers were very kind. I almost didn't want to leave, since I'd already finished one drawing there and started on another. But I had radiation appointments to return to, and relief work in Worcester continues. Although lock-down has changed the way we minister here, we continue to reach out as we can. Next month we move from our retirement village home, since the tenant who was to move in April, will now arrive. We found a lovely flat in central Worcester that overlooks High Street and a bit of Adderley St. We will have a gentle thumb on the heart of town. I am thankful that we will move AFTER my radiation treatments. The timing of many of my treatments have been so very well orchestrated. We are thankful. God has helped us very much indeed, including for the funds to have this holiday break. We're still working on the funds for my medical treatments, although radiation itself is covered. If you're interested in reading about my cancer journey (which now is just over a year), please visit the link below.
Blessings and love, Laurie-Ann Copple
by Tony Copple
This article is based on a talk that Tony shared online with a GIG Zoom meeting, on 26 July 2020
1. There’s a problem in Personal Financial Planning industry worldwide. Advisors are well compensated for working with the already rich, while the ones who really need help are the poor. The reason for this is to maximize the income of advisors and the profits of their organizations. But shouldn’t an ethical business be more concerned with providing service to customers than compensating their employees? Sometimes the cost of an hour’s consultancy with a fee-for-service advisor is prohibitive for the poor. This problem helps the rich get richer and the poor stay poor.
2. In South Africa there is a majority of extremely poor citizens without money or skills. In an effort to relieve poverty the government provided free housing in townships and grants for those with no work. While this stopped starvation, it also reduced the need for the poor to solve the problem themselves with small businesses, as is the case in India for example, and today we see able bodied people standing around on street corners rather than looking for jobs or starting businesses. Without work experience it is very hard to keep a job. The exception to this were the criminal elements, natural business leaders. Inevitably gangs were formed to exploit the defenseless with drugs, targeting children with free drugs and leading them into gangs, and sooner or later into prison.
3. What could make a difference to this situation is financial literacy, which is not taught in schools or even universities. You can learn from books, or from financial advisors, or even some government programs. I was an advisor for 25 years and as a Christian I attempted to help people in debt and other troubles as well as advising the middle class and the rich. Coming to SA in 2017 as a missionary to children and prison inmates, I also hoped to offer financial planning advice to the poor. We often gave small amounts of money to children, but when the parents started asking for larger amounts, I would say ‘no’ unless they would take a 1-hour course in simple budgeting and saving. But no-one was interested. Until I met David.
4. David has a whole chapter written about him in Erena van de Venter’s wonderful book ‘From the Guttermost to the Uttermost.’ It describes his life as a gangster, until he did some YWAM courses and has been a strong Christian since those days. Though he never again had money after leaving the gangster life, he has never used illegal methods for earning a living. One day he asked me to lend him some money, as he had before, and my condition was that he would let me have a financial planning session with him and his wife.
5. Not only did they enthusiastically welcome this session, they even let me record it for our Internet radio station, CWCP. It went out on 21 February 2019, and I strongly recommend listening to it in full. Here is a 10 minute segment which illustrates key aspects.
6. Tony plays the audio clip. This story is an edited version of the #50 Worcester Report (which is on the CWCP page). Here is the link to the CWCP page:
Click here for the Zoom presentation:
7. There are some basic financial skills mentioned in this interview. First that when expenses exceed income, that leads to misery. Second, that there are always potential solutions that will help to some extent if you can just find them. Third that advice is necessary because financial tactics are not common sense. Forth that the first discipline to curb expenses is to record all of them. And that’s just in 10 minutes. There are so many other things that our brothers and sisters in the townships should somehow be taught, but no-one is taking the trouble. For example: understand that money is not just for spending, avoid payday loans, start saving a percentage of any income received when you receive it, don’t just look for a job and be at the mercy of an employer, instead become a business owner, don’t start a payment plan that you won’t be able to keep, and remember that those who don’t work don’t eat. The fact that poor people don’t attempt to learn financial planning merely shows they are the same as others all over the world, who haven’t been approached by a financial planner. But once their eyes are opened, they could be ready to attend a micro-business course and start saving. Our YWAM here in Worcester runs such courses, and many other personal development courses, and not just faith-related – though as we know, all you need to run a business is in Deuteronomy!
8. One thing that attracted me to GIG is the free membership route, offering financial literacy. When free satellite wifi arrives, smartphone users will have access to it. There are plenty of smartphones in the townships, many being stolen goods, but Mobicel has one at R399 – the Glo, which is excellent. But users can’t afford data and air time and there are no wifi hubs.
9. In my experience, there are a few individuals in the population, some as young as 14, who have been born blessed with an entrepreneurial spirit. Trevor Noah is an example. This is not a product of school education. If one can seek out and find these people while they are still teenagers, they can lead their families to a better life, even possibly a multgenerational better life. By extension of this phenomenon, God has distributed natural smartness more or less equally throughout the world’s population. Smart people are not only found in affluent communities. The rest of us have to work hard to become smart.
10 So here’s the challenge for you my friends. As you learn basic principles from GiG and other sources, spare a thought for those bright kids in the townships. They could be future business and political leaders for this country. But most of them don’t even know they are smart because no-one ever told them; certainly not their parents. It takes one to know one. Among the township families I have got to know, the children are far more resilient than children in affluent society, and the teenagers are uniformly smarter and more determined than their parents (or parent). Sadly, in the townships the smart ones will get recruited into the gangs, who recognize smart. I have met many of them in the Youth Centre in Brandvlei Correctional Centre, and it is so sad they are locked up when with the skills I see in them they could be building businesses. The attitude of the middle class towards township dwellers in South African towns is never to even think about them. That’s economic Apartheid. And unless it changes, watch out for another revolution. GiG clubs can be run in townships, but not many middle class citizens would go inside homes in formal settlements, let alone informal.
11 Now I’m not making a plea for you to become missionaries to the townships. But as some of you set up GiG clubs, why not make enquiries from social service departments to let them know that you might be interested in having some folk from townships to learn entrepreneurship and financial planning. You may even have to subsidise their membership fees, but it would be worth it. It could turn around not just one individual, but their family, their children, and their grandchildren.
Thank you and blessings!
by Laurie-Ann Copple
"I will give you a new heart" drawn by Laurie-Ann Zachar Copple, in CapeGate Oncology's chemo room. The nurse was Marianna, one of the kind and capable nurses in the centre. L-A was encouraged to keep drawing in the chemo room during treatment.
Last month we were preparing for my life-saving cancer surgery: a full mastectomy in Worcester Mediclinic. Tony brought me in on May 12th, and from then on we weren’t allowed to be together until my hospital release. My only human contact would be medical staff and other patients. It’s a good thing we have a dear friend who heads the ER department at the same hospital. I had a very full backpack full of nightgown, sandals, toiletries, iPad, phone, Bible and paper. I brought my Scottish wool cape, thinking of my last hospital visit, where I was cold in the mornings. However, they kept the temperature comfortable.
I was given a second mask from the hospital upon admission, even though I was sent a message that I needed to bring my own supply. So I had my white mask, which I wore on arrival until the time of my surgery. One of the surgical nurses tucked that mask under my pillow right before surgery, so that the anaesthesia mask could go on my face (it turns out I forgot where that was, and re-found it the morning I was released). The anesthesia man had only one hand/arm to work with to sedate me – since Dr. Arnold S was working on my left side. So he worked on my right. And the place where they put that infernal blood pressure machine? (I hate that machine, it makes my arm hurt.) They attached me above my right foot. That was when my surgeon discovered the nasty mole that he later removed in his office surgery. This was to be a 2 hour surgery, but must have been a few complications, because it was closer to 3 hours. This time increase doubled the estimate for anaesthesia, and increased the ‘rent’ I was to pay for the operating theatre. I found this out when I paid for the anaesthesia from my hospital bed. It’s funny how medical estimates are never as much as the real thing, isn’t it? However, due to the financial miracle that was still happening at that time, we had more than enough for an increased hospital stay, meds, surgery etc. We had hoped for $7,000. We received $17,000! Yay Jesus! This meant that all aftercare, prosthetic, mastectomy supplies and continuing Herceptin treatments would be covered pretty well for the winter. This wouldn’t include radiation treatments, but we’ll face that later when necessary. I may also need further treatments as advised by Dr S's colleague, who filled in for him a few times).
I woke after the surgery in the recovery room. The first face I saw was a blurry nurse, and then my friend Therden, who works in ER. I remember him telling the nurses that I cook Hungarian paprikash really well. LOL. He brought a big smile to my face. As they wheeled me back to my room, I asked for the nurses to call Tony, which they did. I managed to remember his phone number for them to call. He was relieved. Later, I went to go find my white mask, and found that it had been replaced with a blue hospital mask. Ok, I thought, maybe the white one was lost (or so I thought). I had two visitors – my own surgeon, and my friend Therden, who prayed with me behind pulled curtains. I told him that he was like my chaplain. He asked if I wanted anything. I told him I wanted naartjies, which is Afrikaans for little oranges. I’ve always loved mandarins, clementines and little oranges. He brought some later that night, while wearing his PPE from the ER (before he started his shift?). The other visitor was my own doctor. When I asked him if we got a good margin for the cancer, he had a worried look on his face. He said he hoped so, but the chances with this kind of cancer weren’t high. Still, he sent the breast and lymph nodes to the lab, so we would soon see if there was a margin. A margin is an amount of non-cancerous flesh around the edges of the tumour. If you can get a margin, this means that the cancer is contained within the tumour area. He did remove the whole breast up to the chest wall, as well as nine lymph nodes, so he wasn’t taking any chances. I was assigned a physiotherapist, who turned out to be originally from Somerset West, so we chatted about coffee and Hillsong SSW that we like to attend once a month. Then the exercises: which were manageable. I didn’t have to walk out into the hallway – I could do these arm exercises in front of my own hospital locker.
The need for masks was the largest impact of covid-19 on my hospital stay. The other covid-19 moment I had (after discovering that I had tested negative), was the replacement of my original roommates with one who had not yet been confirmed as negative. I saw the looks on the nurse’s faces when they looked at her chart and then mine. They closed the curtain to her section and told me that they were going to move me to another room, where my new roommate was confirmed negative. When the nurse told me that they had tested me and found me negative, I thought she meant the tests of the cancer margins had come through and that I was ‘cancer-free.’ I write cancer-free that way because medical folk always use the term NED – ‘no evidence of disease,’ which is what came up on my PET/CT scans. But no, this was about covid-19. I can tell you that the first thing a cancer patient thinks of about tests is nothing about the ‘other’ pervasive disease. As if I didn’t have enough to concern myself with. So I was moved right after dinner, without a goodbye to my roommate.
After one more day, I asked for an additional night in the hospital, but it turned out that the ‘extra’ afternoon was used to remove one of my drain tubes. I was highly medicated (due to my own pain meds stash - they never give enough pain meds!), so I watched the process of slowly pulling out the front tube, cleaning me with a solution, and re-bandaging me with very, very long bandages. Fortunately, we were given a hospital pack of four such bandages that first Dr. S’s nurse, and then Tony, could use to bandage me up. Meanwhile, I had to be confident that I could get around, with help. I was admonished a few times by nurses by trying to get things on my own. A few were their own error; such as getting the call button when they stashed it away inside the back of the bed, and reaching something on a hospital tray, when it was moved way out of reach. But others, such as putting on socks and shoes, I finally had to call for help. I wasn’t yet ready to dress myself as I prepared to check out. Two nurses took me down to check out and if I wasn’t careful, I would have lost my walker to the hospital. I asked for it, sharing that I had borrowed it, so one of the nurses had to retrieve it while I waited in the lobby for Tony to pick me up.
When I returned home, I missed the hospital bed, but I was more than compensated by Tony’s presence. He could now help me, and we could enjoy life together again. The first thing I noticed in the house, right there on the kitchen counter, was a big bouquet of pink Robyn proteas: twelve of them! How lovely! What a home-coming! Tony also had lunch prepared and we were able to finally share a meal together after being apart for four days. We worked on my progress and I slept, ate and drew – a lot. I returned to Dr. S several times, and it looked like they might take my second drains container out soon. The only thing is, that the daily drainage was never went under the required 50 ml needed for it to be taken out of me. And then, while on a Facebook Messenger video call with my friend Mirjana, the second drains tubes came out. It didn’t happen completely on one accident, but this was gradual over several incidents. After I returned home, I didn’t have the drains tube and bottle as a routine, other than Tony emptying and measuring it each day. Several times I let it drag slightly behind me, before it was scooped up and put in my drains bag. Then one early morning, I again forgot and the bottle lodged under my bedroom dresser, while I was nearby in the bathroom. That hurt my side for a while. The accident that finally dislodged the drain tube occurred during the video call. It happened when I tried to adjust myself in my chair. Big mistake. The next time I visited the bathroom, the tube fell out and when I went to put the bottle in the drains bag, I was no longer attached. Oops! We decided to go to Mediclinic ER to see if they could re-attach it. I was put though forms of questions where I had to explain that I was in the same hospital, but they wanted to know about my history of covid-19 before finding out what was wrong with me. I explained that I was already tested for covid-19, and that it was negative. They wanted to know where I was tested and the date, so it could be verified. Finally I get to the admissions desk, and this took time. Meanwhile, the ER doctor on duty came to see me, since Tony had already called the hospital. She ushered me into another room, since she was concerned about my vulnerability to the virus. I was given a few little plastic things to cover the tube drainage hole. She had told me all they could really do was to bandage me and send me home. They could not re-insert the tube, which would require putting me in the surgery. (However, Dr. S was horrified later that they didn’t call him, since he was on call for Mediclinic duty. He could have fixed it better). But they were concerned about getting me away from infection and for me not to be charged R900 for a bandage operation, when Tony could do it almost as well. Dr. S joked that they were so afraid of coronavirus that they weren’t thinking properly. Perhaps, but it’s hard to make decisions in that environment. After the weekend, I was to go back to Cape Gate Oncology for a prosthetic appointment, consult with my favourite oncologist and a Herceptin injection. By that time, I was already swollen with fluid, as assessed by my prosthetics lady, who is also a manual lymph drainage specialist. So I had my first manual drainage with Dr. S and his nurse a few days after the oncology visit. The answer was not MLD or having a new drainage tube. It was with needles. I’m not afraid of needles, but the doctor was worried when my face went totally grey and I felt faint. So I lay down for a while.
This was the start to a new chapter in after-care: that of navigating my surgery after-care in an increasing covid-19 world. The one bit of good news, no GREAT news was this: there WAS a margin of cancer in the breast. This was rare for inflammatory breast cancer! And then the nine lymph nodes were completely NED (cancer-free). This was extremely rare, since the cancer did touch them back in September). My surgeon was stunned and three times told me that this was a miracle. This wasn’t the only time I had beaten the odds. I did extremely well during the chemotherapy process. I did extremely well during the surgery. Now we just needed to overcome this lymphatic fluid hiccup – within being surrounded by covid-19. But if God had helped us with healing well, surely he will complete the journey. We would navigate being a recovering cancer patient in a covid-19 world together.
Here's how you can give financially:
DIRECT GIVING TO THE COPPLES (For Medical expenses, NO TAX RECEIPT)
Canadians can contribute via our regular Canadian banking account by e-Transfer to firstname.lastname@example.org
South Africans can contribute via Tony's South African account. via EFT to: FNB (First National Bank) Account Number 62757609494, Branch Code 200407 Account holder: Mr Anthony C Copple.
Anyone can contribute via Tony's Paypal via this link: https://www.paypal.me/WaystogrowinGod
by Laurie-Ann Copple
This colouring sheet is called "Reaching for her healing." It is drawn by Laurie-Ann and is inspired by Mark 5: 25-34. L-A is also reaching for her healing, as Jesus carries her through the process.
I’ve been a cancer patient since August 2019, although I first approached my South African GP in late July. He wasn’t available, so I was paired with a wonderful woman doctor. She diagnosed my other condition, Hydradenitis Superativa, which is an inflammatory skin disease that shows up as painful boils and rashes. Her diagnosis was confirmed by Dr. Lizmare Bronn, a dermatologist in Paarl. I was told to go off dairy (cow dairy), and we found that this was the main trigger for the breakouts. My diet shakes and a lot of my diet was dairy, so this disease went into remission (I just need to be as dairy-free as possible). However, under a breakout on my left breast, hid an even sneakier and deadlier disease, inflammatory breast cancer. It masqueraded as mastitis, but when antibiotics didn’t work, the surgeon who was meant to operate on a potential growth instead took core samples and sent them to the lab. I then had a mammogram. Both confirmed the presence of the cancer. The lab work was not cheap, but it was accurate, and the type of tumour was eventually found. This was the kind that would respond to the strongest chemo, then Taxol (paclitaxel), and Herceptin injections. These and the following PET/CT scans at Tygerburg hospital ended up being $31,000 Cdn. We are thankful that the rand to Canadian dollar value was and is in our favour (it wasn’t the case when I had fibroid removal surgery).
Then during this process, the corona virus made it’s way around the world. The flights we booked long ago were cancelled, and we tried again, to find these cancelled as well. South Africa went until level 5 lockdown (the tightest ever) on March 27th, 2020, and we were supposed to leave on April 2nd, to eventually arrive in Canada on April 10th. This wasn’t to happen. Our broken car and the car we borrowed from another missionary are still as we are (we are thankful to Sandy for the use of her car). Our precious things (that we are keeping) cannot be freight forwarded, so we are at present still using them. We weren’t even allowed to move from our rented house, and the next tenant was not allowed to move either. We’re still in the house, possibly until the end of June, but we can’t be sure. So, we put the needed mastectomy that I was to receive at Ottawa General Hospital on hold. It wasn’t actually booked, but the Canadian surgeon said he wanted to assess me before putting me in surgery. He told me to follow the care of my South African oncologist and that he would be there for me once we returned to Ottawa. He told me that most cancer surgery was cancelled or postponed except for emergencies, so I likely would have had to wait. Such as life as a cancer patient. You would think that cancer trumps corona virus, but not necessarily. Cancer patients are actually more at risk of catching covid-19. He thought I would be safer where we were, in a quiet gated retirement community, under lockdown.
Here’s the twist. We had found no trace of the cancer on the PET/CT scans, although there was a black mark that the radiologists thought was a mark on my left rib. We rejoiced with my oncologist and staff at CapeGate Oncology. We rejoiced with friends and family. We praised God. Yet nearly two months later, I discovered hard lumps in my left breast again. The cancer was back. I emailed CapeGate, and they arranged for me to see my original surgeon again. I saw him on the very day I was to see my Canadian surgeon, April 22nd. He agreed that the cancer may have returned, but said he would speak to the oncologist. He was concerned about me catching covid-19, so it was a matter of no delay to get the cancer out and risk the virus, or wait for the virus to pass and pray that the cancer wouldn’t grow too fast. However, inflammatory breast cancer is extremely aggressive – even more so than covid-19! I was phoned the next day by the surgeon, who told me, that I had two choices: have a radical mastectomy done in Worcester (no options as to other forms of mastectomy) or to wait until our return to Canada. He did say that if we chose to wait that we would lose all the gains we had from the chemo and other treatment. I likely would have to go through chemo all over again. I chose to have the surgery in Worcester, and trust Dr. Smith. I completely trust him. He is a kind, caring man, and a very good surgeon.
So we were to brave covid-19 after all, although I was asked to go for the test and fill out very long forms that included a list of any people I had close contact with. There were only three on that list, Dr. Smith, my nurse Mariana and my husband Tony. The first two were wearing masks the whole time (as was I). The test turned out negative as I had expected. Now the hospital staff could breathe easy behind their masks and know that they wouldn’t catch the virus from me. But I was expected to bring a “supply of cloth face masks” with me for my hospital stay. I can’t imagine how I’m going to sleep with mine on, but perhaps it will go on when I’m face to face with medical folk. Tony won’t be allowed to come see me, which is unfortunate, since normally it is helpful for one or two others to help when a patient has a mastectomy. How sad, and more difficult for me. I hope I don’t have to ring the bell for them to simply come fetch something that I can’t pick up. The last time I stayed at the hospital, I tried to manage not ringing the bell unless I had to, and one time I mentioned to Tony that I was still waiting for pain meds, and he telephoned them. The head nurse was really annoyed at this, and told me off. I was just to ring again, and that it’s their job to take care of me. Ok, I get the point. I’m taking my pain meds with me just in case.
I am very thankful though, for several reasons. This cancer surgery will save my life. I may not like having a breast and half my under-arm removed, but it will save my life. I’m going to be given care and good food (I remember very good meals from my stay in early August). I am thankful that I know the surgeon much better. I am thankful for people praying for me all over the world. I am also incredibly thankful to a bunch of people who stepped up and contributed towards not only the basic surgery, anesthesia and hospital stay, but also towards any complications, mastectomy supplies, and meds for after-care. We had around $12,000 Cdn come in within 48 hours! We have enough, and won’t have financial worries over the operation and recovery. We may even have enough for prosthetics, a mastectomy bra or two, the next Herceptin injection and perhaps some PSW care. But we’ll take one step at a time and see where we are led. Thank you Jesus, for showing once again that you are faithful and that you have me every step of the way.
I will share more about the hospital stay, surgery and after care when I am able to write. And I trust I will be able to continue to draw. The table I draw on is higher than my elbows, but I may be able to manage in short bursts.
Thank you for praying. If you are led to contribute towards ongoing medical costs, please see below. I will still be receiving expensive Herceptin injections every three weeks, and in time, I will have radiation therapy, whether in South Africa (where we will need to cover those expenses too) or in Canada (where most would be covered by OHIP). Thanks for journeying with us. There's more to come. I can even send you colouring sheets if you like.
Here's how you can give financially:
DIRECT GIVING TO THE COPPLES (For Medical expenses, NO TAX RECEIPT)
Canadians can contribute via our regular Canadian banking account by e-Transfer to email@example.com
South Africans can contribute via Tony's South African account. via EFT to: FNB (First National Bank) Account Number 62757609494, Branch Code 200407 Account holder: Mr Anthony C Copple.
Anyone can contribute via Tony's Paypal via this link: https://www.paypal.me/WaystogrowinGod
by Laurie-Ann Copple
Happy Easter everyone! He is risen. He is risen indeed. We are thankful that you are reading this message. We weren't able to leave South Africa. Both sets of our flights were cancelled, and lockdown was set upon us before we could quickly rearrange our flights (none available), freight forward and our car is still not fixed. We're still using a borrowed car from a missionary who lives in Somerset West, but is stationed in Botswana. We are thankful for her. We were to fly to the UK on April 2, but lockdown began at 23:59 on March 26th. Even if we made it out of South Africa, we would have had lockdown in the UK, and then lockdown in Canada. We are safer where we are, and with the South African lockdown, the covid stats are much, much lower than they are in Canada. Mind you, the virus was introduced into South Africa much later than it was in Canada, and measures were taken faster, due to realizing how dangerous it would be if/when the virus would hit the townships. To date, the death toll in SA is 25, in Canada 674, in UK 10,602 and in USA 20,659, with a huge proportion in New York City alone.
We are thankful for health workers worldwide, working with covid patients and also with other ailments. L-A has continued to receive herceptin injections at CapeGate Oncology Centre, by the direction of local oncologist Hanlie du Toit and Ottawa surgeon Dr. Pitt. Had we been able to get back to Ottawa (original arrival was Good Friday), L-A's appointment and mastectomy would have been postponed for months, and that was most of the reason why we were returning early. Why leave early now? We were also to resign from Iris Ministries Canada as missionaries as of April 2, but since we are staying in South Africa longer, in the field, our resignation is delayed until we are able to leave. This is good, because although we are locked down, we continue to minister remotely to the teen girls from My Father's House Worcester. We likely still will while we are in Canada.
L-A is continuing to draw while in lockdown, and Tony is gathering movie files that he produced well before coming to South Africa, as well as many that we did here in Worcester. We are thankful for the pause, and the opportunity to spend time in home worship and prayer where we aren't trying to squeeze in time between events and ministry time. We know that God is in control, and that many are crying out to him at this time. We are sad for those who have lost or are losing loved ones. L-A knows how that feels, with having lost her mom in January. May they have encountered Jesus' love just in time. Easter is a time of fresh hope. Jesus is alive. May you encounter him as you seek him. He is there. He is not absent. And he cares for you.
Here is a video from Hillsong South Africa, where we joined in online worship this morning. It features a mix of Cape Town church worship teams, with senior pastors Phil and Lucinda Dooley, and then global pastor Brian Houston, preaching on L-A's favourite scripture passage, Philippians 2:5-11). Happy Easter!
by Laurie-Ann Copple
Hi everyone. We were set to leave on April 2nd initially to the UK for a family-rest stopover, and then to Canada on Good Friday. Unfortunately we have had two flights cancel on us for those dates. We are trying for an earlier date on March 31st. We cannot leave earlier due to multiple complications, such as: a broken car being repaired, a loaned car needing to be returned, arranging L-A's colouring book to be sold by others in our stead, preparing our house for the move, having our furniture picked up, sending items to others as gifts, selling other items, freight-forwarding the items that will be sent to Canada, Everything is on fast forward, but nothing in Africa moves at that pace. We are working on it. If you are a praying person, please do keep us in prayer.
Sadly we are also forced to cancel our long-awaited UK rest stopover that would have allowed us to see Tony's sisters, and allow L-A to rest. While the tumour in L-A's breast has disappeared (yes, DISAPPEARED according to four PET and CT scans!), she remains vulnerable to the virus, and Tony is in the age range that also shows vulnerability.
If we are not able to leave South Africa and travel to Canada, we will see if we can arrange to be isolated in a mountain cottage. We will probably not have wifi but we would be safe. L-A's colouring book is now in Olive Tree bookstore in Worcester's Mountain Mill Shopping Centre. We will deposit more colouring books at LeRoux and Fourie Vignerons wine shop on R60 west of Robertson. We are also working for the colouring book to be available on Take Alot (a South African e-commerce site, and Ingram (an international book site).
Apart from our own unsure situation, we are praying for others - those in the townships, who don't have good access to medical care and they are crammed in like lemmings. We pray for government leaders making tough decisions. We pray for first responders, medical people, and police. We pray for those in the aviation industry, transporting people back to their homes, that they may not contract corona virus or anything else in the meantime. We pray for calm and peace in the airports, and not panic. Let everything run well, despite the virus.
L-A still has further cancer treatments, whether in Canada or South Africa. If it is in Canada, mastectomy is likely, and hopefully herceptin injections can be continued under OHIP coverage. These injections are R9,100 each plus facility fees for nursing in South Africa, so we hope we can get to Canada. But no matter what, we know that Jesus is with us. He has not abandoned us in this time. His presence and love can still be shown through small groups of the church. We don't need buildings. We don't even need hugs, although we still love them. We attended a satellite church meeting recently at our cell group location, which is at our friends' guest house in Worcester. We were loved and loved others in return. We knew we weren't alone, and even L-A's new colouring book was celebrated.
And you aren't alone either. Jesus is standing next to you. You aren't forgotten. Whether there is another person there with you, or whether you are on your own. You aren't alone. Don't be afraid. Lord Jesus, we thank you that you are with us, and we ask that you would touch the hearts of those reading this message right now. You are in control. Please keep a lid on this virus so it doesn't spread further. Please begin to dissipate the virus, and help those who can find a cure. We speak life to those who have the virus that they would survive. We speak peace to those who are living in fear. It's like the fear is worse than the virus. We choose life, Lord, we choose you. In Jesus' name, Amen.
by Laurie-Ann Copple
When L-A sees the words of the title of this blog post, she thinks of the 1986 song “The Final Countdown” by Europe. It’s a song that we would post on the white board at Algonquin College’s radio-broadcasting department at the end of the semester. We have been counting the days to return to Canada, and yet also wanting to stay here in Worcester at the same time. Would that we could have another year in South Africa! We have loved our time in Worcester with the children and teens. We got to know so many wonderful friends and colleagues. We loved on inmates, Hospice patients, and those in Homeless Church.
Laurie-Ann’s art has continued to bloom and blossom, both as an art teacher and an artist. We are excited about the first of many colouring books to come. Since South Africa awoke L-A’s sleeping gift of art (during our extended outreach near Robertson), South Africa is the country that gets the opportunity to see L-A as a published author/artist. While the print run is small (due to us leaving not long after publishing), there is more to come for Colouring with Jesus 2.
During March, we will enjoy our last month, but we are busy! L-A is teaching prophetic art at Worcester Christian Church’s Kinderkerk (February 23, March 8), and a workshop with Avian Park kids on March 25 at 9 am (Avian Park library). We were to have other workshops, but they were never confirmed. Since we’re also active in ministry (prison, hospice, teens, school learners, kids clubs) and media (CWCP, Ways to Grow in God, our website and Facebook pages), as well as arranging our exit (moving, moving again, arranging cars, places to stay and travel), it takes time! More time than you can imagine! L-A continues to heal up from the effects of chemo and peripheral neuropathy. These are still big in her life right now. L-A uses a walker, and in one of her activities, the Touching Hearts course, she has to be helped up two series of steep steps to get into my friend’s house. She is thankful for the help, and have made dear friends that have reached out to love me. She loves them in return.
Our last Iris Western Cape family gathering is March 8th in our South African home. As well as hosting, we've been asked to share some things we've learned along the way. Tony is excited about sharing some wisdom. L-A will let him take the show. We will continue with our Legacy Relay learners until the 17th of March, since the following Tuesday is the autumn break between the summer and fall terms (we might be able to come the 31st but that is when we are cleaning out our newly-emptied South African house for inspection). Our good-bye party with the Riverview kids’ club is on March 18th, when they will colour in a drawing that L-A did of Jesus with many of them. Our last board meeting with My Father’s House Worcester is on March 20th (we’re not sure who is taking the minutes, but it will probably be Laurie-Ann). Our last Monday with the Mailbox Club may be March 30, but since we’re moving that day we will see. Our last Saturday with the teen girls will be March 28th.
Our last Hillsong Sunday will be March 15th, where we will see a few friends that we connected with over two years of monthly visits. We hope to again visit CapeGate Oncology Centre for a last goodbye, as well as bring a few copies of the colouring book to share/sell.
L-A’s colouring book launch will be at Worcester Christian Church on March 22, after the 9:15 am service, although we will also sell the book at our good-bye send-off service on March 29th. We are sad to leave but we’ll always be connected.
We’re sad to be saying goodbye, especially when we don’t know when we will return. When/if we can return, we don’t know if it will be for another long-term season, or a 3 month visit (Likely the visit). We will see how Holy Spirit leads. First we have to re-settle, re-group financially (since the cancer treatments took a LOT out of us, as well as other things), and be re-planted in Ottawa.
We won’t move back into our Ottawa condo immediately. We are being taken in first by friends that we got to know through the Alpha Course. Then we move to a new friend’s farm in Beckwith Township, near Carleton Place, Ontario. We hope to be back in the condo for early Fall. By Christmas 2020, we should be settled in our condo again, with L-A’s old library-office made into a studio as well as an office.
We will continue running this website, even though we won’t be Copples in Western Cape anymore. We’ll be Copples in West Ottawa, but our hearts will remain in the beautiful Western Cape. We fly out April 2nd towards the UK, where we will see Tony’s sisters in Stroud, Gloucestershire. Then we arrive Easter Weekend in Ottawa.
So that’s our “final” countdown. Rather than looking at the ticking clock or the calendar, we are focused on getting things done, one by one. We also have the last of L-A’s cancer treatments, the PET scan on March 11th, the oncologist visit on March 19th. But it’s all good. We will treasure the moments with the friends who have become family.
Tony and Laurie-Ann Copple (usually Laurie-Ann)
L-A's devotional blog
TONY'S DEVOTIONAL BLOG
Tony's south african journal