Thursday, September 4, 2008
A Thankful Heart
2 Corinthians 1:4 "He comforts us whenever we suffer. That is why whenever others suffer, we are able to comfort them by using the same comfort that we have received from God.”
Today I would like to share with you an amazing ministry. I am truly thankful for Lisa Copen, the founder and executive director of Rest Ministries, Inc., an organization for people who live with chronic illness or pain.
In 1993, at the age of 24, Lisa was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. After searching for a book, an organization, or a support group that addressed chronic illness from a Christian perspective, and finding none, she felt God calling her to His purpose for her life, to begin a ministry for people who live with chronic illness or pain.
In 1997, she began writing a newsletter; .And He Will Give You Rest, and people quickly responded. In 1998 Rest Ministries, Inc. became a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization and began to reach out not only to individuals, but churches, providing tools, education and resources, so that they can more effectively meet the needs of the chronically ill in their church and community. (http://www.restministries.org). In 2004 they began hopekeepers Magazine and in 2008 Hope Endures Radio Podcast.
Over 300 hopekeepers groups exist. Rest Ministries is founder and sponsor of National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week - September 8 - 14, 2008, exposing their ministry to hundreds of thousands. They are also affiliate of the organization, Joni and Friends.
Each day is painful for Lisa, despite various medications, accompanied by a multitude of side effects; she has never experienced remission or even slight relief. Lisa says, “My body seems to have aged 50 years in the last five. Each day is a challenge. Yet, I do not complain of this, for I have found joy beyond anything I could have ever discovered without my illness. I have learned an appreciation for life, an intensified joy of family and loved ones, a compassion for those who are hurting, and the ability to offer sincere understanding to those who feel devastated.”
The doctors say that soon they will begin to remove some of the bones in her feet so that she can continue to walk. Both shoulders and both knees need the joints replaced and her hands continue to function less each day. New medications give some hope, but the damage that has been done will never be able to heal. Despite the challenges, Lisa cannot imagine not continuing to give everything she has to the ministry God has given her.
Lisa Copen said, “Each day I am reminded that it is only through God's strength that I am able to pull myself up out of bed, get to my computer and reach out to others, encouraging them to keep reaching out Jesus Christ. By answering a simple email, sorting a bulk mail, or writing the newsletter, I have found a peace in my pain that passes my understanding knowing that I am making a difference in someone's life that feels alone and isolated in his or her physical pain. One in three people in the United States live with a chronic condition, so if it is not you, it's someone you care about. There are too many people hurting who are looking for healing in New Age remedies, such as hypnosis, "psychological cleansings," and places other than the healing that can be found in Jesus Christ. Healing comes in many forms and whether one is physically healed or not, one can find joy, peace and grace in our Lord and nothing can replace this.”
Lisa said, “I hope that as I continue this journey of living with a chronic illness I will be able to reach out to others and, through Jesus' love, help them become wounded healers, able to minister within their pain, to others who are hurting and bruised by life's detours. Each of us has our "thorn," but it is up to us what we decide to do with it to bring God the glory. Be open to what God has planned for your life. It may come in gift wrap that you don't like! But it will be the perfect gift He has hand-selected just for you!”
I came to know Lisa and the Rest Ministries soon after they started in 1997. Their daily devotionals ministered to me when no one else could. The encouragement and prayers from others who are suffering and are part of the many different support groups through Rest Ministries have kept me going through the past decade.
If you, or someone you know suffers from chronic illness or pain, or you are a care giver, I whole heartedly recommend Rest Ministries. www.restministries.org
I ask that you lift Lisa Copen up in your prayers every day, but especially this month as she prepares for this coming Invisible Illness Week, Sept. 8 -14, 2008. I ask that you would pray for the 20 plus guest tele-conference speakers (including myself); that you would ask for God's divine power, wisdom and strength be upon each of us as we prepare and give our seminars. Many of us are suffer with chronic illnesses ourselves. Pray for me as my topic is: Illness and Faith - Does Faith Really Matter? (Friday, Sept. 12th, @ 12:00 P.M. Pacific Time). Pray that I will be able to speak the truth in love and those who do not know Christ as their personal Savior will come to know Him that week. For more information on the conference, speakers, and events go to : http://www.restministries.org/invisibleillness/invisibleillnesshome.htm
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