“The Storm,” taken six months after Kimberly’s dad passed. She’s standing in a storm. You can see more of Kimberly’s work on her website.
A personal tribute from a daughter about her selfless father, a man of unwavering faith who cared deeply for his family and ingrained a ministry of caring for others in his children.
I grew up in Triangle, VA, with my two sisters, Emily and Olivia, and my brother, Gregory. Every night we would have dinner as a family. Afterward, my father would read the Bible. To motivate us to listen he’d put pudding cups, yogurts and sometimes even money in the middle of the table. If you answer the questions right, you win. Out of all my memories, my most precious memory of my childhood is when my father would get up early in the morning and walk around the house and praying. One by one we’d wake up and trickle into the living room. I’d find him kneeling there, and I’d kneel beside him. By the time he was done praying the whole family would have made their way into the living room and be on their knees.
My parents made us volunteer at homeless shelters, food banks, and nursing homes. They had a heart for people and made sure that we did too. My father was always bringing strangers home he had met on the street to live with us. It became second nature for my siblings and me to dig into own closet and find clothes for them to wear. Sometimes we would even give up our beds. We celebrated birthdays, weddings, and mourned losses together. My father would employ the men and teach them his trade. While my mother would drive others around town and help them find stable jobs and file paperwork. Those two were truly a dynamic duo. I cannot count how many people have come to our house, but I thank God for all of them.
Kimberly Coopwood’s family.
At one point our house became too small, so my father built an addition doubling our house size. The community kids would call the house mini-mansion. Our dining room was massive. We had one table that fit 20 people and another table that fit six. During the holidays, my father would invite everyone that he knew who didn’t have families over and mom would cook. Both tables would be filled with additional chairs added. It was a sight to behold.
The thing I loved most about my father is that through all of this he never forgot about his children. He was still at our football games, basketball games, he would come to the track and help us train for meets. The official unofficial coach. Anything and everything we wanted to do, my parents were always right there.
About My Challenges and Dreams
Growing up, I was considered illiterate and took special education classes until the seventh grade. I was bullied and beat up by my classmates. My father, “God bless him” would sit at the kitchen table with me until my homework was complete. There were nights I’d be in tears crying over my papers, but my father never gave up on me. I remember the times were I felt meaningless and wanted to take my life but, “God loves me and Daddy loves.” I promise those words have saved my life many times.
Growing up I was a shy child. Being with my father and helping people gave me confidence but when I was alone, I’d lock myself in my room. In my safe place, I began to talk to God and write.
I could not read what I was writing, but I filled journals. Soon I started having dreams and ideas. I found myself dismantling my electric toys and playing with their engines and batteries. I’d dismantle cereal boxes and design playgrounds and pools with the material. The most lavished thing I ever made was a two-story house completed with a bathroom, living room, dining room, a winding staircase, and an upstairs bedroom all by hand. In the corner of my room doing math equation on a whiteboard became my thing. My teachers would get so upset. I’d never write out my equation because I did the math in my head. Seventh grade marked the end of special education for me, but it also marked the beginning of advanced mathematics.
In middle school, I decided I was going to become an engineer. I went to my guidance counselor and researched all of the schools in the nearby cities, and decided to attend Woodbridge Senior High because of their engineering program. From there, I went to North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and studied Civil Engineering.
My father was also an engineer, and he and I would bounce ideas and concepts off of each other. We had developed a filtration system that I was pushing my university to sponsor. We wanted to implement it in Tanzania.
In 2014, my father passed. I remember on the day of my father’s wake there was a snowstorm and almost everybody he helped came back, and if they couldn’t come they called. My siblings and I just stared at all of the faces my father had touched; we were overwhelmed. They were coming in waves; had they all came at the same time it would have filled the church three times over. After my father’s passing, I could no longer stomach an engineering class. Neither could my mother afford it for we had lost our house and the money sharks were after us.
Film and Photography
One day while my mother was cleaning up the rest of my father’s things, she gifted me all 11 of my father’s cameras. I prayed and asked God to teach me about them. I rented books from the library, watched online seminars, YouTube videos, and at the time Harvard had put their entire digital media course on Alison.com, and I studied until my body shut down. Then two days later I would be right back at it. During this time my mother was very concerned because she could not understand how I could stay locked in a room for so long. Until one night during a snowstorm, I came to her and said, “I have an idea, and I need your help.” In her PJ’s she grabbed her coat and snow boots, and we ventured out into the cold. I set up my camera, posed on a light pole, and she took my picture. This photo describes everything we had been through, a frozen hell surrounded by waves of grief and tragedy. Whenever I look at this picture, I see the storm, but I also see my father’s Queen my mother weathering the season it with me.
A year in a half later my older sister Emily took her inheritance and paid off my old University bills so that I could attend Liberty University. The University blessed with nine scholarships and grants. When I first came to Liberty I did not like it, I tried doing engineering again and ended up with a 1.4 GPA. For the first time in my life, I was placed on academic probation. In my ear, I kept hearing in my ear “film, photography.” So I made a wager with God. “God I’ve worked my whole life to be an engineer, I will try cinematic arts for one semester and if I make straight A’s this is where I’m supposed to be.” I switched my major to cinematic arts the following semester and made straight A’s. I fell in love with the staff, the students, and the environment. They have truly enriched my life. Since attending Liberty, I have worked on seven short films, one actively running commercial and one feature film.
Even though my father’s death was tragic, it incubated something inside of me and gave birth to a gift I never knew I had. So with this gift, I would like to open a production studio that embodies both filmmaking and commercial photography. If companies can do it all in one place, why not…! But most importantly I want my work and work atmosphere to be a medium to win souls. To give hope and provoke a curiosity that would lead someone to a life-changing conversation about Jesus. Like father like daughter. The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.
My Last word to my Father: It is an honor to be your daughter in every way. Even though you will not be able to walk me down the aisle, I am so grateful that God chose you to be my Daddy. I am also thankful that he gave me your eyebrows. I love the fact that I carry a piece of you everywhere I go.
For many, the past two years of the Trump presidency have felt like twenty. Tensions surrounding every issue, from police brutality and immigration regulation to our education system have seemed to be on a constant, and sometimes spiking incline. However, despite the increased feelings of distress and actions of contempt among Americans, there are still people working to combat this country’s general state. Citizens of all ages understand now more than ever the power of their voices, especially the youth. Whether it’s organizing and speaking out at rallies for gun reformation, marching for black visibility, or educating their peers on the vitality of voting, young people are increasingly aware of their power to change the future.
Hundreds of faith-based social justice organizations across the country are working for the betterment of all people, battling systemic racism, sexism, classism, or an intersection of the three. The missions are all the same at their core — to make a difference with the time we’re given by leaving the world better than we found it, keeping faith at the center.
If you’re ready to get active and involved, consider volunteering for one of the organizations listed below that speaks to your own personal values or seek one out with a similar mission in your area. We’re just getting started on this list and will continue to build it out on UrbanFaith.com. If you have one in mind that we should add, please email us at [email protected].
Mission: To “inform and bring people of faith and congregations together…to intentionally and decisively transform society toward greater social justice at the intersection of racism and poverty.” They affect this refinement of perspective and policy through engagement within their communities, holding policymakers accountable, and helping the public understand that their income is not a restriction on their right to be fully participating members of society.
Mission: Founded in 1997 by the Very Reverend James Parks Morton, this organization has been working to mend the gaps between the various faith communities in New York in order to create beneficial programs for its citizens. In the 21 years they’ve been active, they’ve developed education programs for students, teachers, social workers, and young parolees. Through faith-based retreats, local partnerships, and the recognition of outstanding team members, this amalgam of belief systems, from Christian to Buddhist to Shinto, are able to fulfill ICNY’s mission to “overcome prejudice, violence, and misunderstanding by activating the power of the city’s grassroots religious and civic leaders and their communities.”
Mission: Sponsored by the Morningside Presbyterian Church out of Atlanta, this group is dedicated to “engaging communities of faith in stewardship of Creation…as a religious response to global climate change, resource depletion, environmental injustice, pollution, and other disruptions in Creation.” Since its founding in 2003 by Reverend Woody and Carol Bartlett, GIPL has supplied bodies of faith across Georgia with the tools necessary to combat humanity’s affliction on the planet. By standing on their principles of faith including Justice, Community of Life, and Stewardship, they have been able to decrease the energy consumption and cost of their 500+ partners, while also providing them with new earth-friendly initiatives.
WATER is an education center “committed to theological, ethical, and ritual development by and for women.” Their mission is “to use feminist religious values to create social change.” Their work of the past thirty years has included ensuring women’s right to exercise their humanity and spirituality. WATER has implemented a variety of programs, such as WATERtalks, which is a monthly free and open to the public presentation featuring female scholars and religious leaders who create a dialogue with the audience through sharing their experiences in a specific field as a woman. WATER also hosts various collaborations, such as Women Crossing Worlds (WCW), which is an engagement with women from Spain to Mexico through reciprocal visits and teachings intended on strengthening their study of effective enactments of theology.
MOSES is a community organizing nonprofit that works to help everyday people, particularly in marginalized communities, get the skills they need to effectively address what concerns them most. The organization is “guided by faith-based principles of social justice and fellowship” and believes in developing grassroots leaders. They do this through training leaders in places of worship, showing them how to explain their shared values in the public arena and work together with area residents.
Finally, Los Angeles is home to California Faith for Equality (CFE), spreading the message of loving they neighbor by helping to bridge the gap between communities of faith and nonreligious LGBTQ+ groups, both on a local and national level. Started in 2005, CFE is a growing network that builds upon other organizations and efforts in order to serve their mission of “educating, supporting, and mobilizing California’s communities of faith for LGBTQ+ people and to safeguard religious freedom.” They are an influential factor is California’s growingly diverse community, serving the members of their community through and for faith.
Most likely you’ve viewed numerous commercials advising the need to start retirement planning as early as possible so that you can live comfortably or to care for your needs in the golden years. It’s an attractive prospect for aging millennials. No more long commutes to work. No more hassles dealing with uncooperative people or someone else telling you what to do all the time. No more reminding subordinates of approaching deadlines. It means you can finally do nothing but kick back and enjoy life and live it up. However, there’s something the advertisers don’t tell you — God designed you to work before sin entered the world and to find meaning in work throughout eternity. And, contrary to what some believe, work is not a curse but a gift to us. Granted most, if not all of us, will lose vitality as we age in this fallen world or lose our health altogether. But if God designed us for work before the fall, he must have wanted us to find meaning in it. So, what should my attitude be regarding career and retirement?
Spiritual Attitude Regarding Work & Retirement
Authors Jinkook Lee and James P. Smith (2009) address the subject of retirement in an article entitled Work, Retirement, and Depression. Their research indicates that retirement is not always what it appears. In some instances, retirees experience a sense of depression because they no longer interact with their former peers in the workplace. And because employers look for younger employees with newer skills and smaller salaries, it often becomes challenging for these older workers to maintain a presence in the workforce. This is, however, in contrast to older workers who find satisfaction in a hobby or alternate line of work suitable for their age. Some continue working in a company beyond retirement years due to the nature of the job, such as being an insurance salesman or educator.
Elizabeth White, author of “55, Underemployed, and Faking Normal: Your Guide to a Better Life”
Now you may be thinking, “Okay! That’s well and good. But what does that have to do with me? I’m putting away for retirement. What else is there?” I’m glad you asked. As a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, we know that because we are made in God’s image our lives have meaning and purpose when we walk in His will. Scripture says, “For in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). My question is have you and I considered work plans that involve being fully engaged in some form of work beyond retirement? In other words, are you developing a Christo-centric mindset that allows you to develop the right spiritual attitude to make satisfying and essential career transitions?
Why is this significant? A few things come to mind. You may have noticed the world continues to change at a torrid pace, which means those skills you acquired through all of your hard work is at risk of becoming obsolete very fast. And so your journey to retirement may be significantly challenged due to resource drain from acquiring new skills. This, in turn, may require you to work longer than expected and most likely have to adapt to newer and more expensive realities. It appears that the challenge facing a new generation of Christians is can they maintain an eternal perspective regarding work, adapt to a changing society, and develop adequate retirement funds without hoarding.
Doing Lifelong Purposeful Work
I grew up in a struggling African American neighborhood in Little Rock, AR, watching men and women of color working as janitors, cooks, handymen, and bus drivers. No one talked to me about my career aspirations in a significant way. I don’t know where I got the idea, but I just knew I wanted to be an artist or a photographer. It was nothing for me to lose myself for hours in a drawing project; however, I could never muster up enough money to pursue the photography dream.
When I became a Christian, my dreams and pursuits took a detour as I yearned to find a purpose in what I was doing. I took up engineering and architectural drafting in high school and then a year in college. I was surprised when I landed a job with a small architectural and engineering firm. The experience was rewarding, but it didn’t fulfill my drive for meaning and purpose. After a year-long battle with cancer, my mother went home to be with the Lord.
I left the firm and decided to attend Calvary Bible College in Kansas City, MO in hopes of finding answers to what God wanted me to do. For five years, I trained as a pastor and radio broadcaster. My “purpose” didn’t reveal itself until I was appointed news director of a small radio station in Atlanta for Moody Radio. The station was part of a larger network of several around the U.S., and I discovered my love for urban outreach. It was the purpose I had been searching for. Through years of trials and challenges, I earned an MBA and a Doctor of Business Administration.
Looking back on my life and calling in Christ, I feel this deep sense of loss and regret that I discovered a deeper purpose later in life. I sense that growing up in a single parent household without the exposure to academic mentors and professionals prevented me from awakening from pursuing amazing opportunities and reaching my God-given potential earlier. Yet, all along the way, I have maintained an embedded desire to do something significant and purposeful. In a very real sense, the Lord has graciously granted me my childhood dream by transforming me into an artist and photographer with a different kind of canvas in which I utilize graphics, communication, and business research/analysis to illustrate the path to a better way of life for others.
Spiritual & Psychological Impact of Working Purposefully
In my estimation, God is the supreme master craftsman who has designed and wired humanity to live with purpose. A team of educational psychology researchers at the University of Louisville, KY — Kosine, Steger, and Duncan — seem to have a pretty good handle on the subject from a scientific perspective. In their research, The Purpose-Centered Career Development: A Strengths-Based Approach to Finding Meaning in Careers, the authors found that people who view work as meaningful are more satisfied and more committed employees. Their findings seem to dovetail what the Word of God talks about regarding the principle of living with purpose.
Essentially, developing a God-shaped mind to work with purpose is usually a work in progress that takes effort and intentionality. It means we become followers of Christ who creatively exercise our minds to filter career and life plans through our relationship with Christ. It means we need to take into account our natural bent and allow the Lord to shape and mold what we’ve come to know and understand about ourselves. It’s not easy letting go and letting Him rearrange things in our lives. Developing a God-shaped mind to work with purpose means we adopt principles of design thinking, which is simply making sure our career passions and goals align with all that He is and all that we are in Him. Even though you may feel a sense of regret for missed opportunities like I sometimes do, I’ve come to realize that so many are insignificant and I am what I am today because of the Lord was busy shaping and molding me through my circumstances.
Kosine, N. R., PhD., Steger, M. F., PhD., & Duncan, S., Ph.D. (2008). Purpose-centered career development: A strengths-based approach to finding meaning and purpose in careers. Professional School Counseling, 12(2), 133-136. Retrieved from http://journals.sagepub.com/home/pcx
Lee, J., & Smith, J. P. (2009). Work, retirement, and depression. Journal of Population Ageing, 2(1-2), 57-71. doi:10.1007/s12062-010-9018-0