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Meet Lisa Copen, Founder of Rest Ministries, Inc.

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Updated: September 7, 2006

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Lisa Copen
(c)2006 Lisa Copen
licensed to About.com

Part of the "People Who Are Making a Difference" series

Lisa Copen is a wife, a mother, a Christian, a rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and fibromyalgia (FM) patient, a writer, an encourager, and a dedicated advocate for people with chronic illnesses. She is also the founder of Rest Ministries, Inc., a nonprofit Christian organization that ministers to people with chronic illnesses. Copen lives in San Diego, Calif. with her husband and three-and-a-half year old son.

Before Rest Ministries

Copen, who received her BA in sociology from the University of Oregon, has always had a heart for nonprofits. Even before her health problems developed, she volunteered at crisis centers, abuse shelters and other service organizations. Her career goal was to do marketing and fund development for a nonprofit. After being diagnosed with RA, she chose to do her internship as a volunteer with the Arthritis Foundation.

Unfortunately, it seemed as if Copen’s career dreams would end before they began. When she tried to go for job interviews, she had difficulty standing up when the interview was over. Once after an interview, she wasn’t able to leave the interviewers office because she couldn’t grasp the doorknob tight enough to turn it. As her physical condition deteriorated, it became apparent she would not be able to work full-time and follow the career path she had planned.

At one point Copen was physically in such bad shape that she had to spend the better part of a year on the couch. Determined not to let her illnesses keep her down, Copen began praying for a way to do what she loved while working at home. She went to the library and checked out books on writing, nonprofits and fundraising, then began to study.

Seeing the Need

As she talked to others with chronic illnesses, Copen said “I saw the needs of people with all kinds of different illnesses who all struggled with the same issues, who all had those ‘You don’t understand’ feelings.” She also noticed that most people with chronic illnesses were looking for answers –– and often they looked to God for those answers. When a search of several Christian bookstores failed to turn up a single book about chronic illness, Copen clearly saw a need that wasn’t being met.

How Rest Ministries Began

Copen knew quite a few chronically ill people across the country who shared the need for Christian support and encouragement but weren’t able to get together, so she put together a newsletter that was copied and mailed to them. Soon checks from newsletter recipients began arriving to help cover the cost. As requests for the newsletter grew, the copying and mailing tasks became more cumbersome and time-consuming.

Copen then decided it was time to utilize the Internet to reach more people. So she invested in a computer and learned web design to set up a simple website. Today 50,000 people a month visit the Rest Ministries website, 12,000 receive monthly e-mails and 5,000 get a daily devotional via e-mail.

About Rest Ministries

Rest Ministries, Inc., founded in 1997, is an all-volunteer nonprofit serving people living with chronic illness or pain and their families by providing spiritual, emotional, relational and practical support. They are also working to bring awareness to churches and teach them effective tools for ministering to the chronically ill population. Rest Ministries’ services include:
  • Website – www.restministries.org,
  • HopeKeepers – quarterly full-color magazine
  • HopeKeeper Groups – Bible study/support groups
Recently, Rest Ministries was invited to become an affiliate of Joni and Friends, a well-known and highly respected international ministry founded by Joni Eareckson Tada.

Lisa Copen, Author

In addition to her work on the website, the magazine and with the HopeKeepers groups, Copen has also managed to write several books, including:
  • Mosaic Moments: Devotionals for the Chronically Ill
  • Beyond Casseroles: 505 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend
  • Why Can’t I Make People Understand? Discovering the Validation Those With Chronic Illness Seek and Why
Copen’s books, as well as books by a number of other authors, can be purchased on the Rest Ministries’ website.

Lisa’s Advice

When asked what was the best advice she could give to someone with fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome, Copen replied, “Seek out ways to find your passions despite your illness because they are there. Be open to them coming in different shapes than you imagined. Connect with one other person –– someone you can encourage and be encouraged by –– your lifeline.”

National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week, sponsored by Rest Ministries, Inc.

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