September 2020 Tony & Laurie-Ann Copple Update
We Copple’s continue to nurture and encourage children and teens from two townships as much as we can. Covid-19 restrictions hit us hard in South Africa, beginning March 21st. As a result we are still under lockdown, if somewhat eased, more than four months later. We cannot return to Canada until lockdown levels are down to level 1, and Canadian High Commission in Pretoria recommended that we sit tight. There were repatriation flights, but they left at very short notice, being designed for tourists, and were very expensive. The main reason why we needed to return was for breast cancer surgery for L-A. It turned out that this could not wait for our return, so she was strongly advised to have a full mastectomy and removal of nine lymph nodes. There was an excellent margin for the cancer, as well as no evidence of cancer in the removed lymph nodes. The surgeon was praising God, calling this a miracle. The oncologist is also pleased, although urged for radiation in her particular situation, which occurred in August in Cape Town. Concurrently, Laurie-Ann is also in treatment for lymphedema (swelling of lymphatic system) through Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD), exercises and compression therapy. The chemotherapy and surgery had aggravated what was an undiagnosed case of lymphedema manifesting particularly in L-A’s legs, and now under her left arm. Had the condition under her arm not occurred, the condition of her legs would not have been diagnosed by her MLD specialist, Este Mellet. It had been undiagnosed for more than 5 years. The discovery of this condition was God’s kindness. By the time we leave South Africa, L-A will physically be a new woman.
Does this cancer journey stop us ministering and stopping for the one? By no means. It just gives us different opportunities. L-A shares her story and ministers to her surgeon, MLD therapist, prosthetist, chemo nurses and radiologist. Devotionals and drawings that they can colour in (or their children can colour) have deepened quite a few of these medical professionals. So God is working not only L-A’s healing, but also deepening the faith of those professionals. We continue in the ministries below, to the extent permissible under covid-19 restrictions.
Relief work with four – six Avian Park families, and by extension, two grandmothers.
While L-A was in Med Clinic Worcester hospital for a mastectomy, our police friend Wilna brought Tony boxes of groceries and vegetables that was meant for us. There was more than enough for us, so we shared with three families we work with. This was the start of Tony going into Avian Park Township as needed to help four families, and a blind grandmother in OVD Township. While Tony socially distanced, they didn’t always.
[Bella before and after her dentures!]
One of our girls is in her final year of high school (which reopened for her grade). She will go to a Cape Town university on scholarship in January. But there is one thing that shadowed her joy in Jesus. That was her teeth. Township dentists are free, but usually only do basic dentistry, possibly fillings, and definitely extractions. She needed more. One church and a friend graciously donated the exact amount needed for B’s dentures. Now she smiles, and she is very grateful.
When her ouma C saw B smile, she laughed and cried tears of joy. This reaction is very rare in Avian Park. Ouma C is also the same size as L-A, so we downsized lots of clothes . We know and love this family, and pray that they will be untouched by covid-19.
J is a girl who is sweet, but has orphan spirit issues. However, she knows and loves us. She feels safe around us. Her family are often needy and we have helped as we have been enabled through food relief, taking her to the hospital, and pastoral care.
[Anthonica with phone.]
Tony judges A to be the neediest of the girls. She is handicapped by her mother T, 36, who is good at persuading people to lend her money (zero interest payday loans), and not paying them back. T has a live-in boyfriend, H, who seldom works yet shares in any food that is going. When lockdown came T ran out of people willing to lend, and her job had disappeared. A is quite smart, and somehow survives in the home without getting depressed. She has a ready smile. She would call us on her mother’s phone and ask for various kinds of help, but what she really needed was a smartphone to be able to continue some schoolwork during lockdown. She even identified the phone she wanted, a Mobicel ‘Glo'. Tony checked the price; only R399 (about $33) and obtained the specification from Mobicel, a South African manufacturer. On paper it offered all she needed. We told her we would pay half, but her mother either couldn’t or wouldn’t pay the rest. One day Tony decided (push from the Holy Spirit?) we should get one for her and ordered it. Delivery took a few weeks, during which time the battery on Laurie-Ann’s phone deteriorated seriously. When it did arrive, it was even better than we could ever have expected at the price. When Tony had set it up with the software she needed, he ordered a second one for L-A. It isn’t as good as her Blackberry Priv, but it is about 4% of the price! The day before he delivered it to A - see above picture – T’s phone was stolen right out of her house by a nephew of H’s, so without the new phone the family would have had no communications. In the next few days, communications proved critical for them, as for example someone unknown through a rock through their front window one stormy night. They called Tony and he fixed it with masking tape and cardboard. None of the families seem to any capability for mending things, and no understanding of the concept of risk, or preparing for potential future problems. In the last 6 weeks we have given more food to this family than any other, since they have no income and most jobs have vanished. We have also given them around R50 of airtime, data and power.
[Chantelle wearing her very green mask!]
C is a girl who is full of joy and loves to dance to the Lord when in church, and to pop music when the girls used to visit us on Saturdays. She often sends messages that she misses us and wishes she could visit. On our last Saturday afternoon with the girls, C told us that she didn’t have a bed to sleep on. She slept on the cold floor, and colder weather was coming. We gave her a lovely blanket, but continued to pray about how to do more. We already helped generously with food, airtime, electrical power and sometimes rides. Tony also gave pastoral care to the family when C’s sister was apprehended smashing their windows yet again; before going to the glass shop to replace them. And then, L-A spotted a lovely roll-up bed made by the ministry run by a colleague of ours. Tony ordered the bed for C’s size, and she loved it. Finally, a place to sleep, which even rolls up to make room; something that she can take with her on overnight visits to her blind ouma, who we also help.
Ouma L is gracious, positive, lady who is C’s grandma. L is blind, so C comes and helps when she is able. Tony comes with relief food, power and airtime when needed, and he is able to share kindness on the phone and in person. L is always grateful, and says she prays for L-A’s health.
[Laurie-Ann on her birthday.]
Birthday cake story: In February we celebrated Tony’s birthday with an entire Avian Park Mailbox Club in our home, where they enjoyed sandwiches, fruit, juice, ice cream and cake. Most of the teen leaders couldn’t make it, except for B. We had to buy a second cake to slice up for the teen girls and their families. This seems to be a custom to celebrate your birthday with others, and they get the cake. So when it came to L-A’s birthday Tony took L-A out to a nice restaurant, the first time since lockdown in March. The cake however, was for the teen leaders, and a few other teens who have either worked with us, or have known us through the girls. The cake seemed to stretch enough to bless everyone that we needed to bless. They just wanted to be included, during a time when we are still not allowed to get close to them.
[Tony sharing his heart.]
Tony’s involvement in GIG: Through his connection with Jasper Cloete, the founder of Generational Inheritance Group, GIG, Tony was asked to speak on a GIG Zoom training on 26 July 2020. The subject was ‘Financial Planning for the Poor'. As a previous professional financial advisor Tony developed expertise in helping people without money and with debt, in contrast with the preferred client profile of the industry; the wealthy. In this talk he illustrates what could be done, but sadly isn’t being done, for huge numbers of township dwellers in the economic apartheid that characterises South Africa today. The relationship with Jasper had broadened after Tony produced the audio version of Jasper’s ground-breaking book, Legacy. Jasper was attracted to Tony’s voice on CWCP Radio. You can find this teaching here: https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/coppleblog/financial-planning-in-the-townships.
CWCP Radio: After broadcasting 100 programs, all of which will remain available through podcasts, we decided to do our small bit for the locked down around the world by broadcasting 24/7, beginning May 7. We felt there is a need for music programming in all genres including Christian, and every so often, Christian spoken word. All the music came from our extensive collection, and the playlists remain stored for future use for our private enjoyment and possible future broadcasting.
[Riverview club - colouring in L-A’s drawing of them.]
[L-A’s colouring book launch before the lockdown.]
L-A continues new drawings for children to colour: L-A published her first colouring book, Coloring with Jesus in mid-March 2020. This book has 51 images, with stories and scriptures. Unfortunately, lockdown hit the following week, but we managed to place books in a local independent Christian bookstore, as well as the wine shop run by our Iris Western Cape supervisors. The book is only available in South Africa, either in person, at these shops, or online via Takealot.com (https://www.takealot.com/colouring-with-jesus/PLID68586424). L-A is working on a sequel, Colouring with Jesus 2, which will have 60 images, and Holy Spirit filled devotionals/scriptures. We need a good French translator for the Canadian version, but meanwhile our Afrikaans translators are very willing to help with the next book. L-A continues to sow the basic colouring sheets for free to different bases and children’s ministries.
Legacy Relay: This ministry is something that we will gladly resume, if and when we are allowed to go back into Worcester Primary School. This may be a much smaller group, but the principles will be the same. Meanwhile, we had a special last day right before the lockdown on March 21st. While we said goodbye to the current grade ones, there was a group of the current grade twos who came to say hello and goodbye. This was bittersweet for L-A, but also special. We also enjoyed a visit from the family of one boy, L, who particularly bonded with us the previous year. His whole family were special! Both parents were police officers, who have been helpful to us subsequently when advice was needed. L-A gifted them with children’s art supplies that L could use. Meanwhile, our Legacy Relay supervisors asked us to produce two videos (see above) to the children that they could watch with their parents. We wanted to reach out to these dear ones and let them know that they aren’t forgotten. Here is L-A’s video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uGJvBHDIS9w and Tony’s video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqsJeN8zzrA.
Other ministry: Prison: We are not able to go into the prison yet, since it has been shut down since March. However, since Tony found a successor missionary to run Prison Alpha in Brandvlei Correctional Centre’s youth wing, Tony and L-A could potentially return to the men in medium facility, where we ran Alpha in 2018, depending on lockdown.
Our Mercedes car – praise report: While the car isn’t a ministry in itself, it feels like one because all other ministry is dependent on it. We had some miracles with transportation. We were loaned a Toyota RunX by another missionary for as long as we needed, it due to major issues with the Mercedes. At first it seemed we couldn’t afford a major hydraulic brake pump that cost a lot of money. Months before we had been quoted R40K, but now in lockdown the price had risen to R52K, and would likely have to be brought from Germany. The car also had an acceleration problem for months. Tony was growing depressed that he would have to sell this beloved car for scrap, and be left only with a borrowed car that would have to be returned. Then Holy Spirit touched the heart of a friend, just at the crucial moment, which wasn’t on our newsletter list, but prayed for us generally. He sent the third largest donation we had ever had, and made it viable for Tony to buy the part. We both felt that we were led to put this donation towards the car. Tony contacted the main Mercedes service centre in Cape Town and after a series of communications became convinced that they actually had the part number we needed, (though not the same as we had in the car). At this point Tony asked for a discount, based on our strained circumstances, and our dream not to see the car scrapped, and was told, “sorry, we don’t do that”. But the parts manager, Eugene, and his wife were Christians, and Tony informed him that we are missionaries, living partially by faith donations. The following day, Tony went to buy the part, and found that he had dropped the price dropped to just over R36k! We took the part to our local mechanic to install, still not knowing if it would work – but it did! The car was now drivable safely, but still not sell-able due to the acceleration problem. Our local mechanic had previously tried and failed to resolve the issue. On July 20th, Tony took the car to Mercedes in Paarl, 45 minutes away, and they diagnosed the fault. It needed a part from Johannesburg – a recirculation valve. On July 31st, he went to Paarl again, and they cured this problem which we had lived with many months, making the car worth much more to a future buyer, and saving its life! We can now do our work unhindered and return the borrowed car, with many thanks.
-Not being able to touch and hug the girls and children
-Being limited in our Worcester church, but enjoying the short English language services
-L-A’s health and climbing out of the cancer journey
-Having to move from our South African home into other accommodation by September 30 or earlier. We do however live with a community of beetles in our home , soon to be fumigated. We won’t miss them!
-Concerns about L-A’s dad. L-A’s mom died in January, while L-A was still in chemo treatments and could not travel, let alone be around people. Now L-A’s dad lives alone and is frail, at 91. We are concerned for his health, life and salvation. We reach out to him via his landline, when he is able to get to the phone. Thankfully, we at least leave love messages on the machine (that greets everyone in Tony’s voice).
-L-A had prayed to the Lord for a fourth year in South Africa, and this could come to pass. Our visas need to be renewed in November. We are hopeful about this, since Home Affairs South Africa announced that visas would be extended to expats and visitors who were stuck, due to covid-19 restrictions. We pray that this may allow us to stay until late April or early May. Basically, we would arrive back in Canada 13 months later than planned. We trust that each challenge will bring new opportunity. While we have to minister differently, we still minister.
Throughout our nearly three years in South Africa, we are given constant TKOGs – that’s the “Kindness of God” times. Paul Manwaring would call these ‘Kisses from a Good God'. While we haven’t had the dramatic miracles surrounding Heidi and Rolland Baker, we have had so many smaller miracles, favour, opportunities, waves of compassion, financial gifts at just the right time, and Laurie-Ann’s continued healing. We fully believe that L-A will return to Canada better than she was than when she left. Holy Spirit directly told her back in 2018 that South Africa would be the place of her healing. Since then, hidden mystery illnesses were discovered and dealt with from allergies, menopausal fibroids, to HS, to inflammatory breast cancer and primary lymphedema. These were cured, gone into remission or controlled. At the same time, Tony has had some other medical issues, some of which have surprisingly disappeared after prayer, and others are under control for now. During the process, we have learned to depend on God and be more content in all circumstances. This is a gift.
Thank you for your prayers, interest and encouragement. Some of you have sacrificially given. Thank you. We continue to love and pour out through each ministry, whether it’s CWCP Radio, Ways to grow in God devotionals, GIG financial teaching/coaching, My Father’s House Worcester ministry, Iris Western Cape sharing/teaching, Legacy Relay when the schoolopens for grade one, or Prison Alpha, when we can return to Brandvlei Correctional Centre.
You can track our progress on http://www.coppleswesterncape.ca. Tony’s ‘SA Daily Journal’ is accessible via the ‘Coppleblog'. We are on Facebook as Copples in Western Cape, and also post to Twitter and Instagram.