Tuesday, August 25, 2009

My dear friend Lisa Copen

I'm happy to once again introduce you to my dear friend Lisa Copen, a great personal encourager to me for many years. She is also the founder of National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week. This year NICIAW is September 14-20, 2009. Lisa is on a blog tour to help increase awareness of the week and its 5-day free virtual conference (where I'll be on of 20 radio guest talking with her throughout that week). There are lots of ways to get involved and since Lisa has so much great information to share with us, we will be spreading out these Q&As over the next few days.

Hi, Lisa. Thanks for connecting with us here today at Hope Harvesters™.
LC: Thank you for the honor of being here. I read a lot of blogs, but recently I've visited more than ever before and I'm amazed at how the quality and quantity of blogs on health and illness matters have grown over the last couple of years. Both the readers and writers of blogs have changed how people perceive different illnesses, because they reveal not just the symptoms of illness, but the daily lives of the people who live with them.

It is wonderful to see the growth in both volume and quality of awareness and support! :) Speaking of awareness, tell us about National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week. That's quite a description.
LC: Yes. Often I refer to it as just Invisible Illness Week or NICIAW. Our mission is to have a designated time, worldwide, in which people who live with chronic illness, those who love them, and organizations are encouraged to educate the general public, churches, health care professionals and government officials about the affects of living with a disease that is not visually apparent. Through programs and resources, we seek to recognize the daily challenges of more than 100 million adults and children who live with invisible illness.

It's also a great chance for people with any illness to be involved in a national event to increase the understanding of their own particular disease. They can use our event to blog about the emotions of living with their illness, for example, how they often may look perfectly fine but are in deep pain.

Why do you feel God has given you such a passion to advocate for the chronically ill, especially those of us with invisible illnesses?
LC: Honestly, I wish I knew. I never would have “chosen” chronic illness ministry—it chose me! And no matter how tired I get or overwhelmed with the business side of the ministry, I know this will be a passion of mine until the day I die. I just see so many people hurting who just want one person to talk to who understands. They just want one pastor to say, “I’m worried about you. How can we help? REALLY?” I see so many who are left by their spouse, abandoned by their children, misunderstood by their dearest friends. It’s so disheartening. The Christian community has a huge opportunity to minister to these people and include chronic illness ministry and outreach into their church alongside divorce recovery or widow ministries, etc. I don’t understand why it’s so hard to break down the resistance except for the fact that no one wants to acknowledge that illness isn’t always healed here on earth.

Explain the idea of a "virtual conference" to us. What's that?
LC: A wonderful opportunity to "attend a conference" without every having to get dressed! The main part of the Invisible Illness Week is our 5-day virtual conference--which is completely free--September 14-18. There are 20 speakers who are experts in their area and with chronic illness they will be giving a 40-minute presentation and then taking live calls. The seminars are M-F, 4 times a day on a variety of topics: going to college, marriage, applying for disability assistance, cleaning, finding the right job, faith, preparing for surgery and many more. All are free, listened to live or later, and even downloaded from itunes to your ipod or purchased on a CD.

That's a great idea! So are last years programs available too?
LC: They are. We used a chat room originally so we had written transcripts, but one can hear 2008's programs can be heard from a computer, itunes, or even purchased on a CD.

I know a lot of us would love to attend a 5-day conference on how to better cope with chronic illness, but because of our illness, traveling, finances, sitting for so long, and other factors, it just isn't possible, so this is perfect.
LC: Isn't it? It's kind of ironic that we began virtual conferences years ago, but now many organizations and companies are making this a trend because of the economy and costs of a real conference.

I'm looking forward to talking with you more tomorrow about exactly what is involved in a "virtual conference" and learning more about your personal story and your heart for all of us facing the daily struggle of invisible and chronic illnesses!

1 comment:

Maureen Hayes said...

I am so excited that you will be one of the speakers this year at IIAW. I became a blogger last year as a direct result of one of the conferences and can say first hand this whole week will be a blessing for all involved. Thanks for passing the word about it to others so they can reap the benefits. I look forward to hearing you speak!