Janis Cox is a trailblazing retiree and artist who is living out her calling to advocate for the world’s most vulnerable. In this interview, Janis shares how she is using her art and writing to make a difference through Bold In The Cold.
1) Tell us a bit about yourself, whatever you feel like sharing.
Janis: I’m a grandma. I have three married children and seven grandchildren. We live in Haliburton, Ontario but we winter in Arizona, which is so funny because you’re running Bold in the Cold and I’m thinking, “I’m warm, this is not right.” It’s beautiful here.
I was a public school teacher for grades 1 to grade 5. I did that for a couple of years and then had my first child and did not want to go back to work because we didn’t have any work sharing back in those days. We had only three months and then you had to be back at work and I said, “no way.” I stayed home for 13 years having kids. I probably would’ve continued to stay but my husband had this urge to start his own business so we started a business. I had to go back to teaching in order to keep us having some money. We did that for a number of years and then I quit teaching again and went back into the business full time because our business had grown. We sold it in 2001 and moved up to Haliburton. We retired quite young and we didn’t know what we were going to do but that’s when my faith journey started.
2) How did you get into art and writing?
Janis: I went on quite a journey of writing in a journal and then I went to conferences from the Word Guild which is a Christian Canadian writers group across Canada. I learned about writing, about publishing and all that sort of stuff. I published my first book in 2012 which is a book called “Tadeo Turtle” and when I went to publish it, I didn’t know how I could find a person to illustrate it because I had my pictures in my mind. So I ended up painting it myself and I really had never had that much experience in watercolour, but I had a great teacher here in Arizona so I boldly did that. I did my second book in 2016, “The Kingdom of Thrim,” and wrote and illustrated that one too. Now I’m trying to find myself again. Finding whether I really want to do anymore children’s books because now I’m more in the women’s ministry but it’s also men - men are in my Facebook group – “Artists and Writers Grow Through God’s Word”. It’s basically anyone who wants to know more about how to read their bible and that’s where I’ve been focusing. That started three years ago.
3) Tell us about your personal justice journey.
Janis: I read an article in The Star 3 years ago about slavery. That’s the one I shared on a post in Medium and I was wowed away by the fact that I just couldn’t believe this was happening in Canada, in Toronto. Sure it happens in those countries like Mexico or Africa or any of those countries - anywhere but not here. My heart went on fire for this and I met somebody from Ratanak International. So I fundraised for Ratanak that year and then the next year we had a group in one of the churches in our community called Dunamis in Ecuador that was helping girls get off the streets and finding work to make money and they were building a shelter and I said, “Okay fine, I will do it for you.” That was two years ago. Last year I did nothing because nothing came forth. When I was doing “Dress for Dunamis”, I found Street Hope from Tennessee that had a PDF of 31 scriptures about human trafficking. So in my group we studied those while we were fundraising for “Dress for Dunamis”.
We studied those each day and I did Bible journal art for each of those scriptures so that was what got me going more in my art.
4) What are you doing to fight injustice?
Janis: This year, I met Marianne Jones through my Facebook group. I don’t know what got our conversation going but something did and she went, “Oh, I’ve worked with International Justice Mission in Canada” and I went, “Really? There’s an International Justice Mission in Canada?” And I said, “What do they do?” and she told me how she had raised funds for IJM Canada and I said, “Well that sounds just perfect.” I felt that in my group, I wanted to study human dignity in November so the 31 scriptures are about human dignity and for humanity, and against human trafficking.
Then while I was thinking of yellow, and Bold in the Cold I thought, “I can’t do Bold in the Cold. I’m not cold.” So I did some thinking of bold, and wearing yellow - Be Bold, Wear Yellow. And I started to use that instead of Bold in the Cold because it makes no sense showing my t-shirt and my capris, which I took a picture of and saying, “I’m not Bold in the Cold but I am going to be bold for humanity.”
So that’s where I basically am at this moment and I said I like to draw and these are going to be quick sketches. They aren’t going to be ones that take a long time but they’re something that will just get it out there. And it will have some gold or yellow.
Somebody said to me today, “I don’t wear yellow, is gold okay?” I said, “yes, any of those tones will do - orange, we don’t care! Just get the word about abuse out there.” We’re not going to be picky enough we say you have to do this. Some people are praying, some people are drawing, some people are reading scriptures and some people are doing Bible art and some are fundraising. We got four on our team – Chain Breakers now. We’re getting there.
5) How does advocating for IJM align with your desire to see justice in the world?
Janis: I think we have to get people to wake up and just see that this is absolutely ridiculous - what we’re allowing to happen around us. Is it because we’re not protecting our children? Is it because our children are being pulled in by the internet and chatrooms and pornography? Everything that is out there is so gross. How can we protect our children from getting there and finding themselves on the street with nowhere else to go? I don’t know if you remember back in the 90s, in Burlington, two girls were captured by Paul Bernardo. Their names were Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy, and that just got me, I was really upset that, that such a thing could happen in my town. Because I lived in Burlington at that time - it was one of those things that wake you up and say, “this is real!”
6) Can art transform the world?
Janis: I believe it can. Maybe not the world because that’s kind of a big place but one person at a time. If a picture influences someone - even a meme, that makes a difference. When you think of art it doesn’t have to be a watercolour or acrylic or anything. If it hits you and a few words are said, that might start something in your head rolling around, “What can I do?”
I used art called “33 Dots” for a number of months. I would just put 33 dots on a page, connect them and try to see a picture in them. I did my picture and then I would ask God, “What on earth does this mean?” I have no idea but what He showed me is He can speak through pictures. So in my mind, I can hear that; I can hear what He’s saying to me. If I can hear what He’s saying to me, I know other people can hear through art.
They see it, they’ll feel it, they’ll know it.
So yes, art can transform anything, and the more we bring artists and writers and musicians and all of us together, with creativity and to change in the world, the better.
7) How do we engage with others to create transformative movements?
Janis: I think the most important thing that I’ve found out through writing and art is that it’s togetherness. It’s having a group. It’s being connected. It’s knowing other people. It’s them cheering you on. It’s being encouraged.
That’s what I’m trying to do in my group too. I’m trying to encourage them in what they’re doing so that they can do whatever needs to be done and a lot of writers and artists - any creative person procrastinates for many reasons. “I’m not good enough.” “I fear showing myself.” “I’ve got too many ideas, I don’t know where to start.” All of these things hold us back from actually just doing it.
So my thing is, just do it. I was not ready to do this fundraising for a month, honestly. I was ready to do it in December, that was my real plan, was to do something for human trafficking in December like I’ve always done. I just landed here with IJM Canada.
I wasn’t ready one day after I landed here in Arizona (our summer residence) to start this thing going again. But, if I didn’t then I wouldn’t feel right because I know that this is what I’m supposed to be doing. So it’s just the power of “do it”.
To engage with others I would make a group on Facebook and I would bring all the people that are doing this together so that I know who else is on the team. We can share what we’re doing and we can learn from others.
We can hear other’s stories and then share their stories.
Because I don’t have many stories from injustice other than what I read. It’s not a personal thing to me. It’s a global thing that has hit me. Groups do pull people together. I think we can transform each other and we can share each other’s memes, we can share what we’re doing. Instagram can transform if we keep blasting the yellow across the page.
The more yellow they see, the more they wonder.
8) If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, from any time period, who would it be?
Janis: I want to meet Jesus because I have met Him once very strongly where He knocked me to the floor but I would like to meet Him face to face. I really would like to know, “What started all of this?” “How did you do this?” There’s just so many great questions, I would have a great dinner with Him. And then of course I was thinking of Oswald Chambers and all the old writers, composers, and then I thought of William Wilberforce who ended slavery. I would love to just sit with him because you know he went through terrible stuff to get through what he needed to get through.
It’s all about justice and what’s right.
9) Who had the biggest impact on the person you have become?
Janis: I think it has to be my friend Penny who I met while living in Burlington. She’s the one who actually set me on fire for God and His purpose in my life. She’s the one who suggested journalling; the one that taught me about the Holy Spirit. I get shivers when I think about it - what God was doing through her - she’s led many people to Jesus. I would say she was my mentor in my Christian walk because she’s just a very kind lady. She is on fire for Jesus - you can tell. And that just made all the difference in the world in my life. God led me so well. To be able to teach me the right things and Penny made the biggest impact on who I am now.
Look how God led me to IJM Canada. I wasn’t even looking. You just have to be aware. The best thing we can do is be aware and watch out what’s around us, watch God working. Watch what He does, we don’t have to do anything if we watch what God is doing.
10) Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers?
Janis: This is something that has been bugging me for the last three years. I think I’ve found the right niche. One, to be working with a group in Canada because before I couldn’t give any money anywhere; and two, to know that there’s a group of us – working with each participant. That we can actually learn from each other. I am really passionate now to do more after meeting those of you who work with IJM Canada. I think it’s important to know that we can small, big, whatever - we can do it with God’s help.
This article is part of a series featuring the amazing individuals who offer their time and talents to fundraise for us.
Inspired? Get started with your fundraiser at IJM.ca/fundraise.