by Tony Copple
(Continued from the July 2021 post)
I am a poor biblical teacher, and a worse preacher. I am a better thinker and seeker after the logic behind the Christian faith. God either exists or he doesn’t. Whether you believe or not doesn’t affect his existence. It’s not a matter of faith bringing him to existence. No one is coerced into Christianity, but if after the privilege of hearing the evidence you decide not to believe, perhaps because of peer pressure, be aware of the magnitude of that decision. The book of Proverbs has serious criticisms of scoffers. All preachers who enlighten me on any aspect of the faith are bringing me gifts from God. In my very occasional sermons or teaching, or even just praying in a group, as soon as I start to speak I usually sense the guidance of Holy Spirit helping me tell the story, so I am sure that all sincere preachers receive the same help. Without it, preachers would soon give up and enter secular work. What is happening here is the spread of Christianity worldwide. Jesus is still building his church. It is growing fastest in the most dangerous places, such as northern Mozambique. The basic principles and beliefs in Christianity have universal appeal among the poor and rich alike, though unfortunately many of the rich don’t believe they have a need that might be supplied by the faith. Missionaries and pastors can present the Gospel, but the actual decision to follow Christ comes from something happening in the heart. As a long time leader of Alpha courses, my belief is that, at the right time, Holy Spirit comes upon the new believer and suddenly their path ahead seems clear. They decide to jump into the pool. After that they will never be the same. Jesus has become vital to them, even if a few weeks earlier he was an irrelevance. So it is wrong to think badly, as a Christian, of our friends who decline. It is probably negative to harass or pester them. Holy Spirit has it under his control. Our role is to invite people to ‘come and see.’ as Andrew did to Peter. Today in Iran and other countries closed to our faith, Holy Spirit is at work through dreams and visions, and people with no previous Christian knowledge or experience are being drawn to Christianity, despite the personal danger this puts them in. Then, what they need and are desperate for is a copy of the Bible in their language. Using conventional logic, such potential converts really should ignore the call for their own safety, but when offered the keys to the Kingdom which makes all aspects of this life understandable, exposure to danger is an acceptable price to pay.
The Bible invites us (Rom 1:20) to look around us at the wonders of creation if we need proof of the existence of God. I would like to consider just one aspect of creation: water. Water is the only liquid that expands as it freezes. This has huge implications for life on Earth, and elsewhere. It means that as ice forms on water it floats, reducing heat loss from the water under the ice. For this reason, fish and other creatures survive under the ice. Mountains and rocks turn into soil over time because water that seeps into crevices in the rock then expands as it freezes, and the force of the expansion is sufficient to crack the rock. Without soil – no plants. The elegance of the unique design of water in that way is awesome. Most substances can exist as solids, liquids and gases, and they expand as they change state from solid to liquid to gas. To imagine that the water anomaly could have happened by chance, in the face of statistical probability, relatively soon after the cooling of the planets, is an impossible challenge for my brain to imagine. Water came to this planet long before any living thing, yet it contained these special characteristics in preparation for the unique needs of life. This is either an an amount of luck beyond all imaginings, or the minutely detailed pre-planning by a divine mind. Science has revealed thousands of other extra-ordinary and counter-intuitive characteristics that strongly suggest very intelligent design.
Let’s talk about Jesus (with acknowledgement to Johnny Cash). At the age of 30, with no formal education (he taught the teachers), he started his ministry, picking 12 uneducated (but teachable) men to whom he could introduce the notion of a spiritual kingdom that has a presence on earth but also a presence in Heaven. Along the way he introduced a system of morals that simplified the ancient Jewish law, and serves today as the best guide for living this life and the one to come. All of his teaching has remained vital and relevant throughout history and is set to continue so in the future. He knew his identity – the son of God – but was killed for telling the very people who had asked him who he was. To this day millions of smart people can’t accept who he was, because he hasn’t yet ‘knocked on their doors’ (Rev 3:20), while smaller numbers of even smarter and more fortunate people accept his identity without question, as do masses of regular and particularly poor people. He has had more influence on this world than all other influential leaders put together. That’s quite a legacy for three years talking to anyone who would listen. The book about his life is the best selling book in the world, satisfying the huge demand to learn about him. For many of them, particularly in parts of the world where he is only worshipped in secret, he is the object of passionate love. Can you believe that the creator of the universe wants such a personal relationship with those who accept him? YES! Laurie-Ann and I commune with him daily as we navigate life, and we see the results in a calmness in the face of challenges, and in my case a stream of thoughts and nudges, often early in the day with ideas and suggestions for the day ahead. Laurie-Ann seems to have a continual conversation with Holy Spirit, sometimes about her artwork, but really every aspect of her life. Is anyone reading this still doubting that he was who he said he was? That he was not just a man, but the incarnation of God? How can he not be the focus of our lives?
As CS Lewis has famously written, Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important Yet that is exactly the status that nominal Christians give it. How then can any seeker after truth not make it a cornerstone of their lives? Maybe it is peer pressure. Even if we are passionate believers, we may not be accomplished debaters, and arguing against a spiritual unprovable belief is easier than arguing for it. Yet, what value would a belief in God have if his existence was a mathematical certainty? He didn’t want it to be. He wanted faith to be part of the equation, and that we should acknowledge to our detractors that we believe because he invited us to take a giant step that requires courage and the expectation of opposition. Over the years my faith has ripened to the point where there are so many reasons to believe, far outweighing reasons not to.
Miracles permeate the Bible, but they are not an end it itself. They are a sign that there is far more to this world than meets the eye, as Shakespeare famously proclaimed through Hamlet. Jesus predicted that greater miracles would be done by his followers than had been done by him, and so it has proven. Talk to any missionary in the field about miracles in our time, and they will astound you. Miracles abound in our world today, from healings to raisings from the dead to multiplication of food (as in the feeding of the 5,000), even turning water into wine. Why don’t we read about such things in our newspapers or on-line news sources? Editors of secular newspapers would be sacked for printing them, since their typical readers would assume they had lost their critical faculties. This is strange, since journalists are generally searching for what actually happened. On a side issue, western secular radio stations won’t play Christian songs regardless of their quality or popularity. This isn’t the case in South Africa, where Christian songs are often played on all sorts of stations. In Canada, new laws are being enacted intended to curb the freedom of pastors freely to preach the Gospel, or anyone in public life from portraying Christianity as something to be sought after. We ourselves have heard of many convincing miracles and met people who experienced them. In our own missionary journey we have documented ‘kindnesses of God’ that have allowed us to overcome challenges, starting with the receipt of our South African visas within 1 day rather than the regular 2 months. L-A has been completely cured of inflammatory breast cancer after we made a very deliberate decision to trust in the Lord rather than return to Canada immediately as required by the travel insurance company. The money to pay for her treatment arrived spectacularly from more than 100 donors who had been touched by Holy Spirit to do something extraordinary. However, the greatest miracle of all, on which Christianity is dependent for its existence, is the resurrection. Books such as ‘The case for Christ’ and ‘The God Memorandum’ have been written by sceptics intending to prove it a myth, but discovering it to be true. Some have called it one of the best attested facts in ancient history. Once one hoists on board the truth of the resurrection, all challenges to the Gospel fall, like dominoes. If you are of an intellectual persuasion there are many learned studies of the death and resurrection of Christ that explain God’s strategy in planning such an extraordinary event, but the only part of it most people need to know is that they can expect eternal life after death if they repent of sin and acknowledge the Saviour. I for one am fully convinced and ready and eager for the next phase of existence.
John Lennon was strong on truth, even writing a song called ‘Gimme some truth.’ In his day truth was being downplayed as a virtue. Today, being truthful has become naivety, and lying acceptable. It is easy to see this in politics, but more devastating when we discover the lies of someone we know. Some of the best liars I have met are the teenage girls we mentor in South Africa, and they learned it from their parents, so desperate for handouts that they will lie, cheat and steal from friends and family. Jesus called himself ‘the way, the truth and the life.’ The Bible is truth you can depend on, so much so that its credibility extends beyond things that seem reasonable into counter-intuitive phenomena, including the sermon on the mount which turns natural beliefs upside down, like loving enemies. How revolutionary it must have been to the early church, though other world religions pre-dating Christianity also promoted loving your enemy, which from a practical viewpoint is the only way for disputes to dissipate rather than escalate. A holy book so ethical can only come from a belief system based on truth, and it adds to my comfort in believing.
The final reason I believe is learned from Rolland Baker. He has a way of clarifying significant aspects of our faith, and where there was confusion and a lack of clarity, replacing it by what to my my mind is how God would have planned it, and always it is totally clear from the Bible, but I and many others had forsaken what the Bible said for some watered down explanation currently in vogue.
We live in troubled times, faced with Coronavirus, climate change, ISIS and international terrorism, mass shootings, gender-based violence, people living in desperate economic circumstances, rulers whose only rule is to better themselves at the expense of those they rule, the devaluation of truth, and extreme inequality (particularly in South Africa). How can we understand what is going on and how to navigate through it? There is a school of misguided thought that teaches that belief in Christianity can somehow deal with these issues, and life on earth will change for the better. Do not give credence to anyone who tells you this. Jesus said exactly the opposite. His teaching was never how to change the ways of the world. He actually told us that the king of this world is Satan, wreaker of havoc. What he taught was more about the next world. He showed how we should prepare ourselves for the Kingdom of Heaven in Heaven, by being part of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. It is that part that yields answered prayers and other blessings. This life is so short, but our potential lives are forever, if we learn, while here, how to make it so. The focus of Jesus on the afterlife is unmistakable, yet generations of Christians have chosen to interpret his teaching as it applies to our temporal lives in the present. For some, they have dispensed entirely with what happens when we die, replacing the emphasis with the prosperity Gospel, or prayer for our messed up world. I don’t believe this is what he asks us to concentrate on, which is much simpler and on the face of it, more achievable. He said that the most important thing in life was loving God, and the second most important was loving one another. Notice the priority here. We need to learn and try and understand everything that can be known about him, as we build our relationship with him. He needs to be front and centre, the number one focus of our lives, and this can only be possible if we have fallen in love with him. When that happens, we stop worrying about all our temporal concerns, and he is everything. This way of looking at the world and the spiritual world is so elegant, so right, and such an explanation for the way things are that it adds significantly to my reasons to believe.
The Bible says there are four stages for most people in the process of entering into God’s kingdom: Believe; Repent; Baptise; Receive Christ – become reborn. We have discussed the first of these. If you have enough evidence to believe, then pursue the other three. Remember, you cannot prove your belief; you still need to take a step of faith – that’s the way God intended it.
God bless you.
by Laurie-Ann Copple
Anyone who knows me even a little, knows that I love to draw. It’s an expression of creativity that I’ve had for years. It carried over to my devotional life as a Christian when I came to faith in 1988. I put art aside for a while because at the time, art was my identity. Jesus needed to be my identity instead. The highest identity you can ever have is to be a child of God, unearned, as a gift. The art then becomes an extension of my faith and creativity, which is the right perspective for a God-given gift.
My art came back to me in full during Harvest School in Mozambique in 2016. Then I began to draw during worship services in many places. This grew as an expression of love, not a way to heal my heart. At the time, I never thought that I would be producing a colouring book, let alone two! But it makes me incredibly pleased that I’ve achieved it, with help from translators, a proofreader, and others cheering me on.
Both my current devotional colouring books were produced during a long illness during 2019-2021 (inflammatory breast cancer), and when we were working with kids from primary school, townships, farms and church. We have loved them all. I’m so pleased that God has helped me use the gift he has given me as a way to bless kids and draw them closer to God. In the case of Legacy Relay, art, devotions and soaking prayer has been used to help the school kids to strengthen their creativity, spiritual ears and hearts towards hearing Holy Spirit’s still small voice. We even worked on a painting together that included personal symbols from each child.
Back in 2015, a dear lady at Kingdom Culture church gave me a prophetic word that we would be in Africa for three years (it’s nearly four years now, but the original visa was for three years). She also said that Tony and I would publish three books (there may be more, since my biography “Holy Ghost Sommelier” is on hold, and I plan to combine all my “Ways to Grow in God” articles into a book as well). So if those are published (as e-books), that would be at least four books! Let’s hope so.
The two colouring books contain 109 images from colouring sheets we use with the kids (and adults who are young at heart). I’ve also created another six sheets, so that’s 115 images now available to children’s ministries and missionaries in at least 12 countries. It’s an incredible privilege to sow these into these groups as a gift.
So how did I begin the colouring sheets? Well, my prophetic drawings look a bit like colouring book images – whether they are filled in or not. I never thought to make a book out of them, but one day when I was about to colour in an drawing, I heard the still small voice of Holy Spirit telling me to stop and not colour in the drawing just yet. He wanted me to have Tony scan the drawing so that the children could colour it in instead.
Then I had the first two line drawings ready for the kids to colour. We tried them first on the rough and tumble farm kids. They didn’t want to do anything that we offered them, but I was able to share with them about the drawings, and to tell them that the drawings were created when I was worshipping God. The drawings have an anointing. When people colour them in, they are also entering into worship – especially with the prophetic images. When the farm kids saw the drawings, and began to colour, there was a holy hush in the room and these normally loud, boisterous kids, were quiet, intent and worshipful. We were amazed. Were we on to something?
Then we tried out the colouring with other groups of kids: from Avian Park, from our school MasterPeace Academy, our local church, and then Legacy Relay at Worcester Primary School. Kids in Canada loved them as well, including my own niece, who especially loved the drawing of herself as a princess, looking at her image in a dresser mirror. We initially put the first 21 images on a USB along with 57 audio podcasts of Ways to Grow in God, which sold well in Ontario. But there needed to be a book, with devotional stories about the drawings first in English and Afrikaans.
I worked tirelessly on images (and stories) for Colouring with Jesus, which was first published in March 2020, before we were stranded in lockdown. I was encouraged to draw in the chemo room at Cape Gate Oncology in Brackenfell, Cape Town. I was there often from September 2019 – November 2020 to receive chemotherapy, oncology consults, Herceptin injections and later, radiation therapy. Since the chemo infusion took a long time, the nurses encouraged me to draw. This was a perfect thing to keep my mind occupied, and I drew either by impression, or by drawing people in the room. The first drawing I attempted in the chemo room was “I will give you a new heart.” I had an overlapping impression over sister Marianna. I saw angel wings on her back, and that she had a heart in her hands for the other patient. Marianna (and all the other nurses) loved the drawing. She even bought her own copy of the first book after it was published, as did one of the oncologists.
Most of the images were drawn during the chemotherapy period. The second book, Colouring with Jesus 2, contains 58 images, drawn from February 2020 – January 2021. This spans from chemotherapy, mastectomy, radiation to the monthly Herceptin injections. In February 2021, I was declared chemically cancer-free. Drawing these images and making these books was a needed creative outlet to help me heal. At the same time, many images were impressions or based on prophetic words that I was given. Others, were me trying to capture the amazing scenery or children in this beautiful area of South Africa. Still others were reminders of other places that mean a lot to me. Will there be a Colouring with Jesus 3? Absolutely! Although it won’t be published in South Africa. It may be published in Canada though!
I am thankful to call myself an author as well as an artist. Add to that devotional writer, audio producer, and admin person. I will always be a missionary, although after we return to Canada (which is now looking like October 2021), it won’t be under Iris Ministries Canada. We’ll be retired from that assignment. But we will have an assignment with family in Toronto, before our return to Ottawa in 2022. Then we can start Legacy Relay Canada as a weekly ministry to kids.
We plan to launch an art website after our return, that may include other ways to buy my art, colouring books and art commissions. At this time, people can connect with me for art commissions (for digital versions of commissioned line drawings). Anyone can print a line drawing jpg from a printer, so you don’t have to be local for that.
Thanks for reading. God bless you.
by Tony Copple
Tony sharing a testimony at a Catch the Fire Ottawa event to Pastor Steve Long
I was brought up in a nominally Christian protestant family and attended a primary school where I learned about the Trinity, heaven, hell and Satan at the age of 5. It all made a big impression. Sadly the impression had faded by the time I went up to university and in my first year there I lost my faith (such as it was) completely. Looking back, what I lost was any belief in a spiritual world. If I couldn’t see or touch it, it didn’t exist. Up till that point I hadn’t read or heard any of the Bible other than sermons in chapel services. To my mind, my new atheism was logical and fitted my world view. I wasn’t an atheist evangelist; I seldom thought about religion, or met anyone who did. I believed I knew all there was to know about Christianity, just by my own thought experiments, conducted without any form of evidence.
Around age 35, a number of Christians and Christian experiences started influencing me. My (then) wife was Christian and went to church regularly, and I joined her at Christmas and Easter. Then for some reason I started going to a local church and was asked to run a Sunday school group for teenagers, which was very stressful because they really weren’t interested and I wasn’t a good teacher. The fact that I was asked to do this shows only that the pastor didn’t vet me, assuming that because I was reasonably articulate and attended church, I was qualified. Because I was going to church, even I believed I was a Christian.
Occasionally I saw or met people for whom their Christian faith was extremely important to them, but I saw them as fanatics, to be avoided. When I went to a Billy Graham crusade in Norwich in January 1984 and he invited people wanting to know more to come forward onto the pitch, I didn’t go, believing I was mature in my faith and certainly not a fanatic (I was unknowingly religious but not yet a Christian). I started seeing adverts in London for Luis Palau, but they didn’t say anything about him – just created curiosity. Then I saw a TV show where he appeared, and I liked him – not a fanatic at all. I decided to attend one of his events in London. That evening - 19 June 1984 - changed my life forever.
37 years later, I know what happened, since I know vastly more about the faith than I did then. It was Jesus through the Holy Spirit wanting to come into my life, and I said yes. I actually said ‘Yes, yes please.’ I wanted fellowship with others in the same boat, so I called the Luis Palau HQ and asked them what I should do next. They said I should join a home group, and gave me an address. That was the start of what has been a thrilling journey of faith. In 1999, I married Laurie-Ann, for 11 years a convinced Christian, and she has since then been a wonderful mentor; having earned an Mdiv degree, (as well as a BA in religious studies and sociology) qualifying her to pastor a church, at least in pastoral care and outreach. We have been trained in numbers of aspects of Christianity, and taken some leadership roles, notably with the Alpha course (and later with Iris Global's missionary Harvest School).
Over the years I have developed my understanding of what Christianity is. It is common today – and I concur- to say that Christianity is not a religion, but a relationship with Christ, who said that he was the solution for our lives, but should we place anything or anyone above him in importance we could not enter his kingdom. This wasn’t a threat; it is the truth. 35 years ago when I began studying the Bible it seemed to be a collection of history and sociology, and the biography of an amazing individual. Today I see it more as a living organism, with every verse being like a collection of molecules in DNA, so that the whole describes a very complex collection of information about God’s purpose and thoughts in designing us – an extraordinary experiment – and how well it is working out in the face of continual opposition. In this article I am attempting to list some key aspects of Christianity which seem undeniable to me and might help others speed up their own exploration of spiritual matters.
So in this treatise on why I believe, let me start with the Bible. This will alienate some readers, who don’t believe in the Bible and it has no authority for them. But a study of the Bible shows it to be a book like no other; in fact much more than a book. I have re-read very few books in my life. The Bible is different. Almost every verse has the potential for multiple sermons to be preached about the depth of its meaning. Every Sunday world-wide, thousands of preachers are doing just that as they expound on the meaning.
The stories and statements (particularly by Jesus) are extraordinary, and counter-intuitive, and often cannot be understood without significant study. Muslims often quote such stories in attempts to discredit Christianity. The Bible is like the myriad of functionalities within the human brain, all interconnected and communicating so that the whole brain, if healthy, can control the body and program the mind. On the nuances between verses in the Bible hang concepts on which a civilization can depend. Verses I have read and thought about multiple times will be shown to have yet another meaning or focus by a preacher who has received a revelation about it, and from that moment I, and others will see this new significance. Verses I know well will all of a sudden seem to show new meanings and significance to me. The final verse in the book of Judges, “In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes” is the explanation for all the godless people living in history, right up to terrorism today. It makes the point that atrocious behaviour by some was not seen by them to be atrocious, but necessary and justifiable. Without ethical leadership, the people decide what is right. The Bible laid down the standards of right and wrong in the 10 commandments which have shaped the constitutions of countries and judiciaries ever since. By the time of Solomon, the experiences of multiple generations in applying these principles gave rise to hundreds of best practices which Solomon collated in to the book of Proverbs. To this day, we don’t quarrel with the wisdom in Proverbs. In the previous generation, Solomon’s father King David, who had a powerful relationship with God, had described that relationship in music and lyrics in the book of Psalms, which are sung today and form the material for many contemporary Christian songs.
The Bible is not squeamish. In its earnestness to articulate the awfulness of sin, it pulls no punches in describing the heinous acts by whole generations of people without moral leadership, some of who had known the guidance of a faith in God handed down from the patriarchs. If we think such things are hard to read about, imagine the heartbreak suffered by our creator God. No wonder he rebooted the whole experiment with the flood, and destroyed nations that stood in the way of his plans for his Kingdom on earth, as it is in Heaven, nations whose people rejected the one true God. In Leviticus and other early books, he laid down the laws of what was clean to eat and what punishments were appropriate for evil doers. These rules were necessary in those days, but many were dispensed with by Jesus. Sadly, ignorance of God’s plans and their realization has promoted a whole movement of anti-Christians who point to Old Testament beliefs and customs as reasons to reject the whole Bible, Jesus, and his teachings. Is it possible that such a book could have been the brainchild of 40 men and women independently recording memories and ideas? Or is it not more likely that they shared the same source of inspiration enabling them to record with high accuracy the details of events from their pasts, often decades before?
Just as one good miracle is worth months of good teaching for an evangelist in converting people to the faith, so it is with prophecy. The Bible is full of predictions of the future, particularly statements from the Old Testament referring to the Messiah in the New Testament. It was these hundreds of fulfilled prophecies that first opened my eyes to the divine inspiration behind the whole Bible. How else could these be explained? Some, such as Isaiah 53 are so explicit, they appear as if written after the events they describe, rather than 700 years before.
Today I see the Bible as a collection of precious information, handed down to us though the endeavours of forgotten monks who devoted their lives to hand-copying it for posterity. No other holy book covers history from creation to the future to come. The writing and the preservation of the Gospels by men with no significant education, cast out by the Jewish establishment, is a miracle of accurate memory over decades. That we have Paul’s letters verbatim is a vast treasure, and the timeless wisdom contained in them is miraculous/Holy Spirit at work. No system of thought is as wise as the Bible. It is God's download showing us how to live in a world of challenges, relevant to this day and for the future. Some of it, eg Proverbs, brings us the best of ancient experience. But the most powerful parts of the Bible are the words of Jesus and the statements of those who knew him.
To be continued…
by Laurie-Ann Copple
Tony and I have had a special time pouring our love, Bible study, mentoring and spiritual parenting into the girls. Just recently, we were gifted with a highlight of our entire time in South Africa; this was when Anthonica was finally baptized. This happened on our wedding anniversary. To add to the favour and celebration, we even had an indoor heated pool with steps that made the journey to the water easier.
Quite a few months back, Nieka asked us to have her baptized. We were led to use the Alpha Course as a preparation to baptism, and to strengthen her faith in Jesus. She is a sure Christian, and she is growing wiser beyond her teenage years (in spiritual things). Then we had several barriers to the baptism. An Avian Park pastor was willing when the weather was still warm, but the pump in his pool stopped working. Then it didn’t work out for timing in other venues. Finally, Tony asked YWAM base leader Arno Pienaar for advice on where to go that has a warm pool. The answer was a health spa, that permits baptisms after hours in the colder months. We were overjoyed. Tony read up on how to baptize, since this was new to him, although we have seen it done by others. We enjoyed a time of sharing Bible verses about baptism being more than a profession of faith done by obedience, but also a strong symbol that you are willing to die to sin and self-interest and be alive to Jesus Christ. We spoke with her about this. When she originally said she wanted to be baptized, she said that she wanted to be closer to God and not do bad things. She inherently felt the pull towards doing wrong that we all feel – but she also knew the cure – Jesus himself. Paul had said in Romans 7:23-25: “For in my inner being, I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! “ And we shared with Anthonica another passage in Romans 6 where we become buried in baptism with Jesus Christ. This is an act where you identify with him, and he begins a process in you where you can become more selfless and alive to God. This is exactly what Anthonica wanted. It’s what God is still working in us – in all of us to remember our baptismal vows (thinking of the Anglican liturgy). A baptism into Christ is a calling as God’s child.
Anthonica had three attempts to ‘get dunked’ and finally was immersed, to the joy of Tony, her mother, me and Jan, the founder of My Father’s House. Jan had known Anthonica for years, and was full of joy in this special day. We also had an opportunity to pray over Anthonica, give her encouragement and love through prayer and specific scriptures. These were: a) Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge God and he will direct your paths” and b) Jeremiah 29:11. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Afterwards, we had tea and cake, and we witnessed a mother and daughter full of joy and love for each other. Then I shared that it was our 22nd wedding anniversary and they were surprised that I didn’t share this before. My reason was simple. I didn’t want our anniversary to overshadow Anthonica’s baptism. That afternoon was all Nieka’s, not ours. We were glad to share it. The evening would be ours, which was a quiet evening enjoying one of Tony’s favourite meals at home. But the highlight was truly Anthonica. It made us proud to have this as a highlight of our time in South Africa. Here is one of our spiritual daughters, and she truly will go far if she sticks to the path laid out for her. She’s not alone, Jesus is with her. Always.
by Tony Copple
"Can you see me now?" by Laurie-Ann Zachar Copple, 2020 (c)
Tony has been thinking about the causes of the poverty that we are knee deep in - not ourselves, but for some of the teen leaders and their families, and the kids that we mentor and work with. Township poverty is different from the poverty we saw in Mozambique. But it is grinding poverty - the kind that when you just about have your head above water, someone, or some gang member pushes you under. - Laurie-Ann
We came here to love and help people in poverty; particularly children. I am not sure what we expected it would look like. After three years plus, we now know what it looks like, and thank God that he has given us the means and the desire to help a few people in their great needs, with the help of some of you reading this.
There are many people with a better understanding of these things than I, and I ask their forgiveness should they read this and disagree with my conclusions. It’s just what I see.
Apartheid ended in 1994. During its time laws were passed which benefited the whites at the expense of the poor, including restricting their access to education. The purpose of that was not to save money; it was to attempt to make it very hard for the black and coloured races to elevate themselves above poverty, then or in the future. It succeeded so well that a further post-1994 generation has missed out on learning above the absolute basics. The uneducated parents are not well equipped to bring up children. Since 1994, this specific problem has been addressed to some extent by placing schools in the townships, and allowing township children access to all schools in their area. We know many teenagers who have benefited from these schools, and are way better prepared for life than their parents. In the present lock down however, there is one glaring problem: wifi. On-line learning has become an essential part of the teaching method, and the schools provide comprehensive materials usually via WhatsApp to allow the children to study from home. But township children almost never have access to wifi, and must therefore buy data. They have no money for data, or anything else, so most of them have missed the on-line learning. This is in effect a return to the Apartheid system of privilege mostly for white kids. This is why, from the beginning of lock down, we have provided free air time and data (and power) to the five families we work with. We can do this from our own computer using an app called Powertime. We also have them to our house frequently to make use of our unlimited wifi so they can do school work and share lunch with us. The solution would have been for the municipal government to have funded free wifi hotspots throughout the townships, but I have never seen or heard this mentioned in any policy statement.
Sadly, there are many drop-outs from the schools, even though the children know it is their one chance for a better life. A girl we once included in our training sessions stole from our house. Not because she was desperate, but because all her life she had been taught by parents to take any opportunity to steal, as a matter of necessity to put bread on their table. She dropped out of school at 15. Her mother was attacked on two occasions by her live-in boyfriend, who was in and out of jail, and often threatened the girl. We worked quite closely with her and Child Welfare to arrange that she stay with an aunt rather than in her own dangerous family, but sadly she continued with a life of petty crime, stealing from her aunt. Like many poor South Africans she continually made decisions that worsened her already bad situation. Today, she is a drug addict and prostitute on the streets of Worcester, fending for herself. Her mother also still sees the man who abuses her, and like many in her situation never took the obvious action of a restraining order on him.
Stealing seems to be endemic in Worcester townships. Within families, brothers will steal from sisters and both will steal from mothers. One family we know well, headed by a grandmother, used to buy bulk food and sell it to neighbours – a helpful income stream. One day, I drove them home from a supermarket with my trunk full of bags of staple foods. Within 24 hours, the boyfriend of one of the daughters had forced entry to their house and stolen all the food, and sold it for drugs. By this act he destroyed their immediate livelihood and the means to keep their business going in the future. They have never recovered. Cell phones are very common even among those who have almost no other possessions. There is a cell phone repair shop on almost every street in the town. There is a network of dealers who will buy stolen phones for a fraction of their value and pass them on for resale through the shadier cell phone repair shops. This offers a source of income to every young boy with no conscience. We had bought a cheap smart phone for one of the girls we mentor. A week later her brother took it right off the charger, and probably sold it for a pittance. Without the phone she is dependent on borrowing a phone from anyone she is with, the most common reason being to tell us she hasn’t eaten for two days; please will we bring her food. This girl is resourceful, energetic, and started a Bible study group for children in her community which has run for the last three months. Both her parents live locally and are working, but earn so little that she lives with an aunt.
The government pays disability grants and child grants. Some girls from the age of about 15 will have babies in order to receive the child grant, not realizing that babies cost more than the grants. The fathers are seldom involved with their offspring after conception and this is somehow viewed as normal. One sees the young mothers in the street with their baby on their back. A proportion of these babies get taken in by grandmothers. Not only the very disadvantaged have babies. We know an 18 year-old with a place at university and a very bright future who became pregnant. She now faces a life of dependency. Rape is frightfully common. One of the girls we mentor was raped recently, and this was the second time in her life. The perpetrator wore a balaclava so she cannot identify him, but believes he was a gang member, possibly carrying out an act to advance his standing in a gang. A family of six we help includes four children/teens abandoned by their natural parents, and only two of the four came with child grants. (This is the family which had their bulk food stolen). The other adult in addition to the grandmother is a nineteen year old orphan with a scholarship to a Cape Town university. She tried hard to get a temporary job prior to starting at college later this year, with no success, even though she is highly capable. We are very concerned that when she does start at university, her grandmother will insist she comes home to continue helping run the family. We are planning to assist her and the family financially after we have gone, as we have been doing since the start of lock down, to prevent her losing her university education. With this in mind, we have recently switched the support we give her from buying and delivering much of the family food, to a cash amount every two weeks. This is only possible because two generous Canadian supporters agreed to sponsor her and have provided all of the money she will need until we leave. We are praying for more supporters for the other girls we mentor.
I mentioned above that babies cost more than the grants. One factor in this is that disposable diapers are used for almost all children, however poor, costing half as much as the parent’s food budget. We bought cloth nappies for one mother, which are very difficult to find in Worcester stores. Yet now she has used them ever since, saving significant expense. She has nothing to do all day, so washing nappies is not a problem. I cannot fathom why disposable diapers are so much used in this community, other than that everyone else uses them.
One associates most illegal drug addiction with the poor, after they have been targeted by gangs and hooked. But there are more serious addictions in these times of lock down, when there is so little money around that would-be addicts have no cash for the dealers. An example is sugar. Parents here introduce their children to tea and coffee taken with three or four teaspoons of sugar, since that’s the way they have always taken it. We have been supplying staple foods that we buy in bulk to our families for the last six months. The one item which they always ask for is sugar, more than vegetables, spaghetti or potatoes. We have seen it in our own house when they visit. Some cannot stand coffee with only three sugars; they need more. I gave up sugar in tea and coffee over a three week period 30 years ago (having similarly been introduced to it by my well-meaning parents), resulting is my being able to eat as much sweet treats as I like, which is plenty, so I gently try to encourage the children to cut down, so far with no success, even with the bright ones. Sugar is the most powerful poison in the world, killing more than any other substance through obesity, diabetes and other conditions. In South Africa, more than 50% of women are obese and diabetes is very common. The amount of money poor families spend on sugar contributes to their poverty. Another addiction is cigarettes, where South Africa is a world leader. As soon as a young man or woman is earning even a little money, many of them will start smoking. The cost to their lifetime cash flow and to their future health is massive, yet they see role models, politicians and businessmen smoking, and want to follow.
There is one bad habit that seems almost universal. When people make tea or coffee, they fill the kettle to the top, even if they only want one cup. Having never learned physics, they don’t know that halving the volume of water boiled halves the cost of electricity used to boil it. Since heating water is a substantial proportion if what they use power for, cutting the cost by half (on average) saves a lot of power. By the way, the habit of over-filling kettles is almost as prevalent in western households. On a worldwide scale, the waste is astronomical. In South Africa, a serious dent could be made in load shedding if this one action were taken, but I have never heard it recommended by Eskom, the only power company, or any politician.
Some of the subjects mentioned above are normally categorized under home economics, or financial planning, subjects unheard of among the poor in the townships. When they receive grant money, their natural action is to spend it all on food. They never learned to keep back a proportion for emergencies, and the idea of saving for future needs is totally unknown. As we started providing food, I used to think that by giving them the basic staples, like potatoes and rice, they would then have enough of their own money to meet their less common needs, like soap, toothpaste, air time and sanitary pads. But a day or two after the grant comes in, and they have repaid loans and bought food, they have nothing, not in their bank and not at home. There’s nowhere to keep money at home where it won’t be stolen. Further, when we give them enough food for several days, they will gorge on it and have nothing left after the first day, because they are always so hungry. So we tend not to give them large amounts of anything. We have only occasionally given cash, in case it would be spent on bad things, which has meant that we have always done the shopping and delivery until very recently. With one family, which we have grown to trust more, we have just begun giving them cash instead of buying and delivering food, because shopping trips were taking too much of our time. Also, there is now a U-Save food and convenience store located in Avian Park, which was an initiative of private individuals, not the municipality. It remains to be seen if the experiment of providing cash will work. As an ex-professional financial planner, I have attempted to teach some of these principles. See http://web.ncf.ca/dq579/audio/cwcp_50_podcast.mp3 and https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/coppleblog/archives/07-2020. Unfortunately little interest has been shown in these teachings, or in personal financial planning.
Cashflow is always a problem in the townships. Government grants can be paid into bank accounts, and more have bank accounts than you would expect for this reason. Many don’t, and they can be seen in long line-ups on grant days. Receipt of the grant is seen as an entitlement, just as the original allocation of their free houses was soon seen as entitlement. When we give food we seldom hear a thank-you; it too is something they feel entitled to. Once the grant money has arrived the first slice goes to some lucky people who have lent money and should be repaid, if only to encourage them to lend again. Less lucky donors will have to wait. Then it’s off to the supermarkets and stores for food and clothing for schoolchildren; school uniforms are compulsory. Schools continually ask for money from the children for events or outings. Usually the complete amount of the grant is exhausted within two days. We have been trying to encourage our families not to spend the full amount of the grant but to keep some back for emergencies, such as taxi fares if someone has to go to hospital and the ambulance hasn’t come, or money for air time for emergency calls. In the present situation without emergency funds, every rand is always spent. Young children ask every adult they meet for R1, enough for a pack of cheese NikNaks. So our girls will give us a shopping list of 15 items including very cheap ones, because there is literally no money (and no food) left in the house.
If you were one of the people who lent money, there is a brief window therefore when you might recover your loan before it’s too late, and you are told to wait another month. Prior to lock down there was another problem; a significant slice of the grant would be spent on alcohol at one of the many liquor and wine stores in Worcester. Drunkenness on pay days has reduced considerably during lock down, helped by bans on alcohol sales at the higher lock down levels. If you are a less important donor, there will be innumerable excuses why the loan cannot be repaid. After weeks or months of waiting, some donors, who are usually extended family members, will resort to threats of violence and actual violence to get their money. The violence could be breaking windows, or physical attacks with broken bottles, or anything else produced by anger. We have personally seen these results. Until recently we never lent cash, but the insistent demands finally persuaded us to do so in a few desperate cases. We never lent more than we could afford to lose, and almost never recovered the money. One lady who did return R200, then asked immediately for another loan of the same amount for another month. We had to disappoint her.
In such an environment of unemployment, young men join gangs and sell drugs. Rival gangs make war on each other for territory. Innocent residents are caught up in the territory wars and fear to cross certain streets. Shootings are common and though most victims are gang members, stray bullets fly and innocent people are killed. The police fear to come into the townships at night and ambulances won’t come in without a police escort. We have a number of times taken the victims of gender-based violence to hospital during the night. Our car is well known in Avian Park and so far we have not been attacked.
Although the townships were a product of Apartheid to keep whites separate from coloureds and blacks, the end of Apartheid has not alleviated the township scourge. Although there is no longer any enforced separation, economic factors have brought about a status quo that resembles Apartheid. The whites try and ignore them and certainly don’t offer any helping hands. Help such as it comes more from foreign missionaries. It seems that little will change in the near future. It may have been thought that townships adjacent to residential areas would benefit from employment opportunities and the charity of the more well-off. But as many cities have found, as they prosper and prices rise, the poor get poorer, unable to afford the higher standard of living. There are five or six dealerships on Worcester High Street selling BMW, Ford Rangers, and a host of very expensive SUVs. Mercedes Benz are common – much more than in Canada. There is no shortage of money here on the right side of the tracks.
Within the township populations are a proportion of naturally self-motivated and gifted individuals. Many of them have skills and talents that will not be recognized by their parents. But a few gifted kids will shine and flourish, encouraged by a loving mother. Trevor Noah has shown what is possible. Scholarships to universities are available to coloureds and blacks, and the schools are producing candidates. These are the hope for South Africa, because qualified candidates for business, professions and politics are scarce. Because of this scarcity, unqualified crooks are able to obtain positions of power. The result of this is the corruption that this country has become known for.
At present, the schools are still allowed to included Christian culture in their syllabus, and children grow up knowing the elements of Christian morality, even if they don't practise it. We see this in the children’s ministries we are involved in. There are 40 churches in the Avian Park township alone, though only 4 with a church building. Christianity is not laughed at; it is still something to aspire to. Western countries, in their mad rush towards removing religion from the public forum, may yet experience problems they never could have anticipated before their laws began being passed by atheists. President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa never finishes a speech without asking God to bless his country. God has a plan for South Africa. It is a brave work in progress, and much has been achieved since 1994. Free speech really is free here, and there are plenty of good brains in all races seeking to make things work better, and they are being heard. Over time they will succeed. Maybe, just maybe, the poor will not always be with us to the extent they are today.
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!
Tony and Laurie-Ann Copple (usually Laurie-Ann)
L-A's devotional blog
TONY'S DEVOTIONAL BLOG
Tony's south african journal