by Laurie-Ann Copple
I had the great privilege to share in Christ Church Ashton, one of the parish points connected with my parish of St Paul's Anglican Church, Kanata. Tony and I have a history here with our friends Jennifer Bulman and Henry Troup. We were part of their part-time worship team "Kenosis" - which played many venues, Cursillo and Alpha events from 2000 - 2005. It was good to be back. We were warmly welcomed by the attenders, and given coffee and goodies afterwards. Here is what I shared with them:
In 1 Peter 3:15, we find Peter giving the following command: "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear."
I thought and prayed on this verse for a while, and I then came up with this deep explanation: Think on and worship God in your heart always. Give OPPORTUNITY to share the reason for your hope within that worship attitude. Meekness equals humility. This fear is not the fear of man, but rather of reverence and obedience to God. It’s also sensitivity to what the Holy Spirit might want to bless another person with.
Some Christian leaders turn this sharing into a major theological thing. The reasons for our hope don’t have to be complicated. They should be personal – and what’s more personal than your own story? What you have to give are your own gifts, your own story of how God is faithful to you.
Some people’s idea of sharing their faith is to say that Jesus is/was a real person; and that he is real, as God. Others share that the New Testament was a real historical document, with many early copies. It wasn’t made up as a novel. Others talk about the resurrection, and the evidence of the empty tomb. If you know the details of these things, that is helpful. It’s great to know truth – but if you’re having coffee with your friend over the kitchen table, that’s likely not what they will ask. You need to do something as simple as what Bishop Malcolm Harding says. That is to “gossip the gospel.” You can do this through your own story. Think of the Samaritan woman at the well. When she told her town about Jesus, she was also sharing her story; that and the invitation to “come and see.”
The Apostle Peter talks about hope. What is hope? Hope is more than simply wishing. When we hope in the Lord, we are given strength. The Psalms talks about hope 23 times, usually when King David is remembering his hope in the Lord during extreme difficulties. Isaiah 40 shares that when we hope in the Lord we rise up on eagles wings – we are carried by Him. We will walk and not be faint. We will run and not grow tired. This speaks of perseverance. Hope is also like a life preserver that keeps you afloat in hard times. I’ve written a few devotionals on hope and I’ve found that hope is powerful.
The church needs to remember the hope we have. The world around us needs hope desperately. We need to look to Jesus and let Holy Spirit fill us with that hope to pass on to others. This isn’t about religion. It’s about life. It’s about relationship.
Tony and I pass on this same hope to kids in South African ghetto slums – they call these townships. These townships aren’t like the rural municipalities we have in Eastern Ontario. These are separate neighbourhoods that are big enough to be towns or cities in their own right. And these area are set up in a ring outside of the town – out of sight from the town centre.
The townships are enmeshed in desperate poverty, gang violence, alcoholism and drugs. Most families are headed by single moms. The moms can’t cope well so when they get their government family allowance, they spend a lot of it on cheap wine. The kids go hungry. So our girls call us for food, a quiet place to do homework, a ride and sometimes just to talk. We have become not only aunt and uncle, but like second parents. In us, they see a healthy, loving couple who loves Jesus. We model God’s hope for them and treat them like our own family. We do the same for our pupils in our small South African school. They hug and kiss me, since they know they are loved, and they are safe. When I teach them art; they draw line drawings of real things one week, and things of their dreams the next.
I’m creating a colouring book filled with drawings of love, hope and faith. I was inspired by Holy Spirit to also make colouring books out of our learner’s drawings. This was very challenging, but they were so excited to see their drawings in a similar format to their own. I was showing them that they are worthy to do this, and they can have hope of drawing better and better. Hope includes confidence in the future, but some of that future is right now.
Jesus is our hope, and he is coming back, sometime sooner than we think. Even though the world is getting darker, He wants his church – US – to get lighter and lighter. Why? He does say that a city on a hill cannot be hidden. And that a light shouldn’t be hidden under a bowl. We are that city. We are that light. So how easy is it to share your faith to someone? It’s easier in South Africa in some ways – but there ARE ways here in Canada. They’re called divine appointments. Heidi Baker, the co-founder of the Iris movement, of which we are part, calls this “stopping for the one.”
This is the way I personally share. You don’t have to be Billy Graham. Even with political correctness muzzling our mouths, there are still ways to reach out, especially to those in need. Pray every day and ask God to set these times up at just the right time. It could be as simple as helping someone out who needs it like helping someone carry their grocery bags. Or seeing someone who is struggling physically who needs prayer. In some churches, people see my cane and approach me for prayer. I’m always happy to receive it. Many people are lonely and no longer know how to reach out. But there are opportunities to just start new friendships.
Back in 2001, Tony and I took Cursillo. They share a motto that I’ll always remember – “Make a friend, be a friend, bring a friend to Jesus.” This takes time – just like when we are teaching, leading, guiding and feeding the teens every week, this takes time. They are eager for more and more of it, as well as food and prayer.
People just want love. And love looks like something – friendship, time, food, and other needs. Sometimes sharing your faith is as simple as sharing relationship with them. And then they ask, “Why are you doing this? Are you being paid?” Tony’s friend Moses asked him this after he has helped him for over a year. Moses is often in our local hospice, where he was cared for after he was hit by a truck. Moses was amazed that we aren’t paid to go visit, pray and love people. Even though he knows and loves the Lord, he didn’t realize that God’s love is deeper than ever imagined, and he sends people to them to experience his love. It’s not about money. It’s about love and sharing our hope.
Or others would be shocked because they’ve put the needy out of sight and mind. One of the insurance men that Tony met early in our mission was amazed why were in Worcester. He couldn’t fathom why someone would help township people, rather than let them help themselves. We gave him a reason for our hope and why we are called to these people – especially the neglected children.
The townships are outside the towns on purpose – so they aren’t visible to the tourist who stays in certain areas, but they are there. It’s the same where we are – the hidden needy are around us. Sometimes the needy look just like us. But they are forgotten.
The core of showing love and hope in practical ways is the core of our ministry. Some practical ways include teaching art, music and science, visiting hospice, prison ministry, singing and loving kids in kids clubs, drawing with kids, bookkeeping for a major Worcester ministry, helping lead another. And it’s about training up these children and teens to impact lives for others, as we continue to pour into them.
Lord Jesus, please open our eyes to the people you want to touch through us. Let us be open vessels for you. In your name, Amen.
Have you tried to share your story? If you did, how was it?
Have you experienced ‘divine appointments’?
Have you ever had the love of God well up in you, and you just had to do something? (This is what often precedes a divine appointment)
Do you have any questions about what we do in South Africa?
Tony and Laurie-Ann Copple (usually Laurie-Ann)
L-A's devotional blog
TONY'S DEVOTIONAL BLOG
Tony's south african journal