God moments on our holiday
by Laurie-Ann Copple
We’ve found that God has been so faithful during our time in South Africa. In fact, it didn’t just start here. Yet, since we are Iris Ministries Canada long term and full-time missionaries working for God, we are carried in so many ways in our work and even our play. Before I share about our ‘playtime,’ I should share about our work with Iris in the Western Cape.
Our work involves so many other ministries as well as our own. We partner and work with My Father’s House Worcester on Mondays, for their Monday afternoon Kid’s Club alongside YWAMer Soraya Volkwyn. This club is located in central Avian Park at the library, since MFHW doesn’t have a building yet, other than a ‘wendy house.’ We are part-time teachers at MasterPeace Academy, run by principal Dr. Mella Davis. Tony teaches science in the mornings, and music on Wednesdays after lunch. I teach art on Tuesdays, as well as bring family lunch of sandwiches and juice.
We are part of two of kids clubs on Wednesdays (and we hope one of these will be moved to another day). One is in Riverview township, which has been held outdoors. It’s led by Mella Davis. We share worship music, teaching, learning the recorder and food. The second is an Iris Western Cape kids club for the children of farm workers, not far from the Rooiberg winery off Route 60, outside of Robertson. They meet in a small farm library where we sing, dance, draw pictures, and play games. And when they will listen, we share Bible stories and more.
We also train some Avian Park teens to become children’s Bible study leaders for the Mailbox Club in our home on Saturday afternoons. This is also part of My Father's House Worcester. Saturday morning we are in Brandvlei prison holding Prison Alpha, which is something we have waited for, but it’s well worth the wait. We also lead a soaking prayer and evangelism group called “Soaking Prayer in Action” in and for Worcester Christian Church once a month. These are some of the ministries that ministries that we work with on a regular basis (not counting Folla’s child ministry in Avian Park, or the Boland hospice).
I also help ChangeMaker’s Worcester with their accounting (books), which is something new, since I’ve not done this sort of thing for a number of years. However, I have confidence that in time we will have a system in place.
Our own ministry includes our internet radio station, Copples Western Cape Radio (CWCP). We broadcast through Galcom International in Canada, but stream from Worcester, Western Cape. We re-broadcast a CFRA show called “Good News in the Morning” (with permission from CFRA) on Wednesday nights. Our own show “The Worcester Reports” is aired Thursdays at 8 pm SAST (2 pm EDT/1 pm EST). Tony interviews interesting local people from different ministries, and we have music and news, and sometimes sound clips from the kids we work with. We also feature devotional teachings that I record called “Ways to Grow in God.” I’ve been working on “Ways” for my waystogrowingod.org devotional site since March 2013, but adding audio podcasts has significantly accelerated how often I write and produce teachings. Some topics are re-written from earlier articles. Others are brand new from the mission field, from our lives, from scripture and from different books that I’m reading.
So that is our working world, which is pretty full. Then you add Afrikaans lessons, and just plain life (like shopping). We also worship at Worcester Christian Church, are involved in a connect (cell) group, Soaking Prayer in Action group, men’s prayer group and we like to visit Hillsong in Somerset West about once a month. When we can, we also ‘do family’ with our Iris Western Cape mama, papa and colleagues. We’re spread out between two towns and a farm, so it’s a challenge.
Now on to our late June-early July ‘winter’ holiday! Here come the blessings and God moments. We were concerned about our garage door that we could not open properly for months. Finally, just two days before we were to leave, the repairman strolls in on a Saturday afternoon. It’s now fixed.
After we loaded up our car, we prayed that we would have many God moments in the midst of our holiday – whether we were at work (still doing our online work for our websites, as well as writing), or play. Love looks like something no matter where you are. Tony began this by stopping for a lady on Route 60, just outside of Ashton. Her name was Margaret, it was her birthday, and she needed a ride. We dropped her off in Swellendam, where we tried to look for the spot where we had a picnic and latte two years ago with our Western Cape outreach team.
Then we found the spot, on the N2, past Swellendam. I shared with Tony that this was the very spot that I shared our prophetic dreams about South Africa with Johan and Marie Fourie, our base leaders. They were able to confirm our calling here. So this spot was special to us. This time, we brought our home sandwiches and cake and ate them with latte bought from the café onsite.
While Tony was off buying some water, I was approached by a worried looking Xhosa man from East London. His name was Earnest, and he was driving from East London to Cape Town. He had run out of gas, and out of money, so he could not buy any more. He had managed to push his car just outside of the BP station that was beside our coffee shop. Since I only had about R40 on me, I knew that wouldn’t get him very far, so I suggested he wait for Tony to rejoin me. I introduced Tony to him and shared his story. Tony was concerned on whether he was telling the truth, although I believed him. He just looked too worried to be lying. Besides, I knew we were to give him something. So Tony went to get change, and gave him R100 to get him further down the road. We prayed over him, and he then was able to get help and a push from six men to get him over to the gas pump. He wasn’t lying at all. Later I remembered that I had a banana and an apple in our lunch bag. Earnest was probably hungry, but I honestly didn’t think about offering him the food, so I began to feel guilty. However, I later discovered that it was okay because I would need the banana!
Later that day we arrived to a lovely and funky suite hotel in the Point Village area of Mossel Bay, right by the Indian Ocean. I love ocean waves and the smell of sea air, so this was a needed respite. They had an elevator and secure indoor parking, so we didn’t need to cart luggage up the stairs. We also found friendly staff, who recommended the Kingfisher seafood restaurant that was steps from the hotel.
When we arrived at the Kingfisher restaurant, which we had no reservations for, they were going to put us upstairs by the sushi buffet. Then the owner sees my walking stick and talks the employees into giving us a much better spot (that is, if we weren’t going upstairs for sushi). This table gave us a near front row seat to the ocean, and we were able to enjoy rosé wine from Franschoek, and a wonderful angelfish dinner. Before our fish arrived, up comes Lize-Mari Bester, who we met and bonded with during our time at Pomegranite (Western Cape outreach 24) two years ago! She moved from Nelspruit to Mossel Bay and was having dinner with her mother at the same restaurant! That was an amazing and wonderful God moment. She still has Nelspruit as her address on Facebook, so we had no idea she was in the Western Cape, let alone the very town we were visiting.
The next morning when we found out that breakfast is quite a walk away in a restaurant, where we have been given breakfast vouchers. Remember the banana that I could have given Earnest? This is what I needed. The banana was a life-saver, since I can’t walk without my strong arthritis meds, and they cannot be taken on an empty stomach. I really did feel badly that I didn’t offer the fruit to Earnest the day before. We helped him with gas, but he was probably hungry too! However, the presence of the fruit the next morning, was just what we both needed to take meds before the breakfast walk.
Another surprise was in Tony finding a bottle of Amaretto DiSaronno in a large liquor store in Mossel Bay. We couldn’t find any in Worcester at Christmas (it’s a Christmas taste for us). This is not something that we would drink regularly. We also found DiSaranno later in a Jeffrey’s Bay café when we were having our last taste of the Indian Ocean seashore. So Tony had carrot cake and I had a thimble of Amaretto for dessert. We’re such foodies for certain tastes. I’m so glad this was part of our holiday. Even though that liqueur is from Italy, it felt like a taste of home.
Then we drove through a beautiful part of South Africa – the Garden Route along the Indian Ocean. Unfortunately I didn’t get photos, since we were travelling along the N2 and could not stop. But it was very green, with lakes on one side of the highway, and ocean vistas on the other. We did stop in Knysna for lunch and got to drive around their lagoon. But since we still had a long drive to Port Elizabeth, we couldn’t stay that long. Finally we got to the border of the Eastern Cape – which was high up in the Tsitskamma mountain range. We crossed the famous Bloukrans bridge at the border and Tony decided to go see where the bungee jumpers jump from, as well as take a photo of the bridge. There were no jumpers to watch at that time, so we just enjoyed the view and the driving break.
Our guest house hostess called us several times from Port Elizabeth, first in Knysna, then at the bridge. Since we were arriving ‘late,’ she gave us her mobile number to call so we could be let in the security gate. We didn’t get to have supper, but since we had such a good lunch, we were fine with tea and fruitcake that we brought with us. We were able to enjoy a nice long table and electrical outlets without requiring the long extension cables we used in Mossel Bay (they didn’t have a desk there, so we improvised using two bedside tables and Tony’s lap). Now we could compute (and I could post my then-most recent blog post on child hunger). We also got to watch English Christian TV, which isn’t available on our ‘free’ Open view channels that we have in Worcester (with the exception of the Brian HoustonTV show on Sunday mornings). Even the heater worked, and they had real milk beside the kettle!
We also had a lovely surprise when we visited Port Elizabeth’s Walmer Park Mall the following morning. While I still can’t find an English-Afrikaans Bible (other than the Gideons-published New Testament and Psalms that you can find in hotels), we did find the latest Willie en die Wenspan CD! We find Willie’s music perfect to learn and sing with the children we love on. We also hoped to find a copy of “I can only Imagine,” since it’s on iTunes, but we can’t access my account since we still don’t have the replacement of my Visa card that expired three months ago.
At the same time, we had a confirmation from an Iris affiliate that I really wanted to visit in East London. They are Josh and Rachael Minter, who run Global Mercy Missions, in a former garden refuse dump. They have a really exiting ministry. They offered us a bed for our visit, which we actually don’t need, since our B+B was not refundable. I was hoping we can return in December and spend more time with them, but Rachael might be in the US with family. However, our time with them a day later was incredibly special. We connected with them quickly and I was feeding the Xhosa residents bread to go with their stew. Later, Tony got to interview the Minters for an upcoming Worcester Reports radio show.
We also found out just how artsy our next guest house location was. I wanted to go to Grahamstown for its history. Officially, Grahamstown has been renamed Makhanda, but most references are still to Grahamstown. I read about the 1820s settlers from England and wanted to see this “frontier country.” However, it’s a university town, and also home to many artists. They had just started their arts festival and we caught the opening night of a visual art show while we had a lovely dinner of artichoke and pea pasta in Haricots restaurant. I was especially impressed by the artist Nicola Byers, who painted several exquisite portraits on the walls. My favourite is here. This girl reminds me of several that we work with, and she’s holding proteas, one of my now favourite flowers (South Africa’s national flower).
We also made a new friend at our Grahamstown guesthouse named George. He was very helpful, as was Celeste, who also worked there. When Celeste saw my walking stick, she looked up at the room (above the garage) that we were to stay in. It had a long set of outdoor stairs. While I could manage the stairs (there was a railing), they decided to move us to an indoor room that was near the breakfast room. We were quite happy there, apart from the lack of lighting, but this was a very old house, with unique qualities. I was thankful and these were pretty surroundings.
I also had shared with George about what we would do in East London. He was so interested that he began to tear up. I think he had expected us to take part in the art festival activities (which would have been good had we the time), but then he heard that we are missionaries. After we returned from East London, and a Nando’s chicken dinner in King Williamstown, we found George sitting by the very old wood stove. He lit us a lovely fire, and gave us a glass of rosé wine. We prayed with him (he knelt before us) and shared ginger marzipan cookies. When we left the following morning, we got to hug George when we said our goodbyes. He said it was a blessing to meet us, since he could see that we are real Christians – and the love that is in our hearts shows widely for all to see. Aww, George, that is beautiful. We love you too!
It was also in Grahamstown that I found a different kind of South African protea flower. These were white! I saw them in the HomeGrounds coffee shop that we really liked. I went and took a photo of them – and they seemed to be real, not dried, like the pink, orange and yellow ones that we later bought in a Montagu shop. The pink and orange proteas below are fresh, but the dried ones are quite similar. Perhaps I'll see a King Protea closer to my birthday.
We had a lovely drive to Jeffrey’s Bay, which is west of Port Elizabeth. I suggested that we stop there for lunch and our last view of the Indian Ocean. I knew that our GPS would be taking us inland earlier than expected to get to our next guesthouse near Oudtshoorn, South Africa’s ostrich capital. We enjoyed fish, lovely coffee, ocean waves, and while Tony had carrot cake, I had a thimble of the almond taste of Amaretto.
Then we headed back to the road, and soon took the start of Route 62 (a road that meanders through the Langskloof Valley and the Little Karoo. It ends in Ashton, near Robertson). We were to drive that entire road. This is a two lane road with no shoulder, but it’s generally quiet. Storm clouds began to form over the valley and it rained. The rain was badly needed, although it made it more difficult to drive – especially when it got dark. Our battery began acting strangely and our GPS kept shutting off. It was off when Tony made a wrong turn, instead of staying on Route 62, he turned the wrong way. Since I have a good sense of direction and had studied the maps, I asked Tony to return to the right road, which he did. I prayed him through the rest of the drive to Oudtshoorn, on a dark, rainy, windy road, where we couldn’t see that well. I just had a look at the road we would have travelled through if I didn’t ask Tony to turn around – it was the Outeniqua pass leading to George! I hear that’s a beautiful pass – but I don’t like driving passes at night unless I have a choice. And in the rain! I kept praying throughout the entire journey, and every once and a while, Tony got off the road, so that vehicles could pass and we would follow their red lights instead. I’ve never liked being the first car on a dark mountain road.
When we safely got to Oudtshoorn, it was just 9 more kilometres to our farm guesthouse – although there was a minivan behind us with bright lights, so it disoriented me. We stopped to regain our bearings, when the driver of the minivan tapped on our window. He greeted us, welcomed us from Worcester (our car plates say CW, the code for Worcester and Touws River), and offered to drive in front of us to our guesthouse). The man was a blessing, since it was hard to see in the dark. We arrived safely, and after settling in, Tony talked me into having dinner at the guesthouse restaurant – which was even better than Worcester’s best restaurant, Fowlers Grill, where we had celebrated our anniversary less than a month ago. Tony ordered Karoo lamb and had tap water, which they added fruit to flavour our beverage. I ordered excellent sweet potato soup, and braai’ed ostrich with vegetables. Oh, my goodness, was this meal excellent, and the meat tender. This was a one-off, since these meals were the equivalent of $40 Canadian, but it was oh, so good with a glass of velvety Cabernet Savignon.
The next morning, Tony was still concerned about the car – in addition to the battery problem of the GPS shutting down, the temperature of the oil gauge went very low. You would think it would be high on such a long drive from Jeffrey’s Bay, let alone from Grahamstown. Tony found the closest Mercedes mechanic was in George – so he used my iPad to Skype call his garage. There was no answer. We decided that we would still brave the drive over the famous Swartsberg Pass – and trust this was just a minor mechanical fault. We filled up with diesel in Oudtshoorn where the attendant volunteered that the low oil temperature may well just have been due to the low temperature the night before.
We had a lovely coffee and scone at a children’s animal farm where they have camel rides and zip lines, and then we drove the Pass. The climb was gentle on the south side, so we got to the top fairly quickly. The other side was another story. We passed by the signpost to the road for Die Hel (Gamaskloof), a remote place that requires a 4x4 vehicle. The pass we were on was challenging enough. Tony did an amazing job in navigating all the hairpin turns and surprisingly, I did NOT get the vertigo that I had on either the DuToitskloof or Bains Kloof passes. This was far higher – but the rocks were stunning in the same weird and wacky colours as the Cogman’s Kloof pass between Ashton and Montagu. After we navigated the pass, we drove along a highway at the edge of the Great Karoo to the next road that navigated the mountains – the much easier Meiringspoort (along a river). There was even a waterfall, that had a waterflow due to the heavy rain the night before. Later, we discovered that the pass may not have been open the day before, and it was to rain the day we left, so we had perfect timing. And the car? The temperature gauge was normal!
We also discovered that we received the rest of the insurance funds from my operation in March! Every bit helps. Now we wait for reimbursement for Tony’s stitch up (from his fall in April) and his back issues in June, which he hasn’t yet claimed since the treatment is ongoing. We also found that Tony’s UK pension has not come in since December, but he thinks that they probably thought he was not still alive (they send our emails periodically to make sure the recipient is still this side of the turf. He thinks it’s an easy fix, and we can catch up. That just makes me marvel all the more, that we’ve been able to manage financially for six months without that pension! We live simply, so that helps, but we haven’t been starving ourselves either. God must have been stretching our funds to supply what we need. Perhaps we can use that pension catchup to further whack down any debt we have (like the mandatory window replacement that’s coming in our Ottawa condo)! We also FINALLY received my Visa credit card from Canada - after five tries. Most of the cards ended up in an Ottawa area branch that we have no connection to - but this time, it came by courier just today!
After we had a lovely breakfast in our guesthouse, we found a surprise gift for our friend Andre. It was something that he’s really wanted, that we only heard about shortly before our journey east. He wanted ostrich biltong, and sure enough it was in the gift shop at our guesthouse. I also picked up a toy ostrich for my niece, which I will take in my suitcase to her next year (on our home visit to Canada). It doesn’t make sense to send it in the mail; it can wait.
We continued on in our journey to our next stop – the port capital of South Africa – Klein Karoo’s Calitzdorp. We had a very high wind and also didn’t have a complete GPS coordinate for De Krans, the port winery bistro we had chosen for our morning coffee. Somehow we skirted the town and headed the wrong way. When we began our return, we were “attacked” by a giant tumbleweed that seemed to pounce on our car, rather than blow away from it, like all other tumbleweeds we’ve encountered. The car is okay! When we got to De Krans, we pulled the thorns that the tumbleweed had left around our car hood. At least it wasn’t a tree or an animal!
Our journey continued through to Ladismith, where we stopped for a Karoo buffet lunch that was heavy on meat and potatoes. There was still sun, but we had long, strange clouds that filled the sky. They pointed west exactly where we were going. By the time we reached Barrydale, it was raining very heavily and there were no coffee shops open. We continued on into Montagu in bad weather. We had to wait for the reception to open for us – we were the only guests, and the whole town had shut down. It was only 4 pm. While we could have forfeited the night and continued home, it was better to stay. They did not have our specially booked ground floor room for me, despite confirmation that I would remain on the ground floor. The receptionist made up the room for us, and gave us extra tea and cookies. It was a good thing, since there were no restaurants open (other than the expensive Avalon hotel, which we were recommended to try). We had tea, cookies, and crisps from the local grocery store. It was fine. It was warm, we had the World Cup on DSTV (something we don’t have at home), and the bed was very comfortable. We had a good, comfortable rest.
The next morning, we headed to the Montagu dried fruit factory store (where we bought dried fruit and nuts for baking, as well as dried proteas for me). I knew this store would be closed had we visited the day before, so this was one of the reasons why I decided to stay the extra night in Montagu. That and the weather was awful. It was raining in Montagu but snowing in Worcester and even Cape Town! Once we drove through the Kogman Kloof pass, we saw snow on the Langerug mountains in Ashton, Robertson and beyond. Our own Brandwachts and other mountains around Worcester were snow covered as well. My friend Janey was excited, since she’d never seen so much snow on the mountains. I think I was spoiled by the snow in the Kootenays – having lived in a mountain resort, where they ski often. Still, it was beautiful.
While we were still in Montagu, we tried connecting with our Harvest School friend Matthys. He had contacted me on Instagram (we don’t use it much!) between Oudtshoorn and Montagu. He was staying in Montagu. It could have been a God connection, but he didn’t check his phone to see our phone calls and messages. So close, since we were in the same town at the same time at least.
Once we drove through Robertson, Tony stopped for a lady who was waiting for a ride. There’s a certain spot that hitchhikers stand as Voortrekker Road becomes R-60 again. This lady was on her way to Bellville in Cape Town, although she initially told us she was going to Worcester. We dropped her off at a spot on the N1 in Worcester so she could get another ride. She offered us money, but we told her, no, keep it, the ride is a gift. She was amazed, and we blessed her further by praying she get a good and safe ride home.
We came back to sunshine in Worcester, and felt joy in seeing the snow on our mountains. Tony had told our friend Janey that we would bring the sunshine back to Worcester – after being cold and rainy for a few days. The rivers are still running, but it is nice to have sunshine between the rains. After all, flooding can be an issue too in the catch up of filling all the reservoirs.
The next day, Tony had the car looked at. The Mercedes repair man suggested that we go to Battery World. It may be a simple fix after all. They found a connector on the battery was loose and fixed it properly. There was no charge to fix it!
Tony then got to pray for a lady in the Worcester ‘Chinese-run’ shop. He stopped to buy me a vase for my proteas (just R18). There was a lady named Portia, who was holding her head in pain. Tony was able to reach out and pray with her. It made a special end to the holiday as we began to settle back into ministry life here in Worcester. The thing about being a missionary is that it’s not something you take a break from. Love looks like something – everywhere. Not just in the town or base where you work.
God was also faithful in continuing to heal Tony for his driving and hiking through the Swartberg Pass. Just two weeks before, he could barely get in and out of bed without my help. Tony even wheeled suitcases around and managed to lift suitcases. He was nudged to discover ways to do life without hurting his back. This includes simple tasks of getting in and out of bed, lifting suitcases, etc. He has a follow-up appointment soon. We did manage kids club with the farm kids (the most challenging group), by Tony leading worship while sitting down and having no heavy lifting. Sometimes you just have to be wise when you’re 77. God will continue in being faithful – we just wanted to share just how much he carried us on our journey. He always finishes what he promises. Thank you Lord, for all your care for us in so many ways.
I am very sure you have wonderful God moments yourselves. I would love to hear your stories. I may write on Ways to Grow in God via God Moments. Usually they are small things, but sometimes they are quite big and major answers to prayer. May our eyes be opened to God working in our lives every day!
“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” (Philippians 1:6 NLT)
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Tony and Laurie-Ann Copple (usually Laurie-Ann)
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