Iron Sharpens Iron
This month I had the opportunity to interview case manager Joan Copeland. Joan started volunteering with Good News at Noon in October 2021 and joined the staff in September of 2022.
Joan grew up in the Hall County area and first heard about Good News at Noon as a young adult. Her first employers dad would frequently volunteer at Good News at Noon, and she became very familiar with the name. So, the seed was planted, but there was still a long winding road ahead before Joan would land at our Ministry’s doors.
Like many of us, Joan once felt that she had to be perfect. While there is surely something to be said about wanting to be the best version of ourselves that we can be. It is another thing to think that every wrong move we make could send us to hell. This can put quite a strain on our mental health, especially as a young person. As humans, we are imperfect and despite striving to live a life in God’s image, we will inevitably fall short.
Joan recalled how her fear of imperfection and being the youngest of four siblings made her feel like a ‘black sheep’ in the family. This was compounded by the fact that her siblings all possessed innate musical talent, and these talents, she did not possess. This would all set the stage for some life changing, inspiring realizations later on in life.
Joan discovered that doing things her way had proven to be detrimental to her and to those around her. Some choices that she and others had made, brought her to the end of her rope. She then chose to enter Abba House. Abba house is a residential ministry that aids women of varying backgrounds and life controlling issues to discover themselves and their purpose.
At Abba House Joan was introduced to meditative journaling. Through meditative journaling, she discovered the ability to hear the still small voice within and to follow the guidance that it provided. From that moment forward her life was changed. It was this realization that led Joan to surrender.
Not surrendering in the sense of giving up, but instead the idea of surrendering yourself to God and his will. So often, God opens a door for us and we are hesitant to step through it. At the same time, God closes a door and instead of surrendering to God’s will, we attempt to smash it open with a battering ram rather than see what else God might have in store for us. This surrendering is something that must be practiced constantly. It is easy to get fixated on a certain route and when those opportunities fade, it is easy to become discouraged and lose our way. She illustrated this idea with personal examples of a time in her life that she herself could have forced her way through closed doors, but instead surrendered to God’s will and ended up right where she needed to be.
One day, as all can relate, Joan had mapped out her day. First get the car washed, then do this, then this, then this, etc. She woke up the next morning to find another cold snap had occurred and it was freezing outside. While she could have continued to the car wash and pushed her way through that door, she had a sense that God might be steering her in another direction. After running some errands, she was sitting in a church parking lot catching up on some texts when a young woman walked by her car. She didn’t think much of it until the young woman came back by and struck up a conversation. Something caught her eye, and something had told her to go back and speak with Joan.
She would later find out that the young woman she met that day was on her way to end her life. Had she not reconsidered going to the car wash that morning, she would have never ended up in that parking lot at that time. This has stuck with Joan to this day. While we might not all have life and death situations presented to us, it is safe to say, we have no idea the lives we could improve or the difference we could make if we surrendered to the will of God.
After a few months at Abba House Joan was offered the position as intake coordinator. She gained valuable experience working with people of all backgrounds. She enrolled in CADC classes to gain a greater understanding and ability to help those she encountered. While she enjoyed learning the material and working with people, she was starting to have doubts about wanting to work in the field. It was then that another door was shut. Just as she was about to take her exams and get certified, the COVID pandemic began. It halted the exam and certification process overnight. Shortly thereafter, Abba House, Dawson campus, closed. Joan then started working as somewhat of a freelancer, continuing to help individuals whom she had started to help at Abba house.
It was during this time she thought of Good News at Noon for the first time since her youth. After a quick google search, she submitted a volunteer form, and the rest is history!
While Joan has always described herself as someone who had a heart for the homeless, she said she is not sure if she would have been as prepared for this work earlier in life as she is now. “...I think back then I would have taken it too personally [when someone said something mean or surly]. Now I realize that it’s nothing personal, that’s just where they are on their journey... and within each person there is a beautiful soul wanting to be seen and heard, a light wanting to emerge."
As fate would have it, the friend whose dad planted the seed in Joan’s head about Good News all those years ago, is Dr. Jane White. Her and her husband Joe Amerling are big supporters of our ministry and for a time, Joan worked alongside her as they provide shower trucks for our neighbors to stay in good hygiene.
Joan has been a great addition to our team here at Good News at Noon and we are very grateful to have her! If you haven’t met her by now, be sure to stop by and say hi. If you’re a writer interested in meditation, be sure to ask her about meditative journaling!
- Nick Price, Public Relations Coordinator
"Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving." Colossians 4:2
Prov. 14:23 All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. I think most people in America would immediately connect this verse with financially compensated work, material wealth & material poverty. It certainly applies in many cases. But what does it mean to work hard spiritually & become spiritually rich? If “iron sharpens iron” as the scriptures say, it seems to indicate intentional & downright uncomfortable contact with other people. The greatest benefit of working with our homeless neighbors in Gainesville for the past 4 years has been looking through God’s eyes at their brokenness & clearly seeing my own brokenness in their reflection.
It was shocking at first because my life had become wrapped so tightly in God’s goodness & blessings that I was insulated from my own need & the needs of those around me for restoration. But now as I listen to my homeless brothers I expect to hear Jesus say, “Now you get it - I’ve been trying to show you that for a long time!”. Relationship, structure & accountability are the 3 restoration principles that guide our transitional resident program. Spiritual growth & restoration is hard work & as the scripture says, returns great (joyful, eternal) profit. Anything else is an empty pursuit of worthless things that may lead to wealth & comfort, but at the cost of spiritual poverty.
- Ken Gossage, Executive Director
"As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another." Proverbs 27:17
Stories From The Shelter: Who of us Wishes to be Dull?
I am instructed by my 12 year old grandson that a dull fish hook is not likely to catch a fish. He informed me that years ago when he was a beginner fisherman he tried using a piece of wire to no avail.
Those of us that can remember manual pencil sharpeners in the classroom remember the grating noise to get just the right point (even if we were using the task as an excuse to leave our desk). Ecclesiastes 10:10 teaches us that a dull ax takes more energy to complete the job than a finely honed one. What do fish hooks, pencil points, axes and people have in common? It sounds like a joke, but I don’t have a punchline. I do, however, have the common trait. All need to be sharp or sharpened regularly to be effective. People? Proverbs 27:17 reminds us that “iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another”. Oh. We usually defend ourselves against this, but why? Do we wish to be dull?
In our GN@N community, we regularly tell each other (residents, volunteers and staff) that we are all the same, even if our issues are different. In a community of faith we need each other to mature, to be challenged and to be changed. God, in His providence, designed us to be interdependent with each other and dependent on Him. Let’s not run from Him or each other in our desire to be independent. The wounds of a friend (who sharpens out of love and concern) are faithful (Proverbs 27:6).
- Denise Johnson, Program Coordinator