This is my web diary. It will hopefully be updated regularly. The facilities (e.g. comments etc) of this blog will hopefully increase when I get some time to work on it - but who knows when that will be.
As you can tell, I'm really good at keeping this blog up to date. The problem is that by the time I get to bed each night, I'm so tired that I can't be bothered to write anything and leave it til the next day. Then the next day is so busy that I don't get a chance to write until bedtime again, when the whole cycle starts again!!! But enough of my complaining - its now Saturday afternoon and I'm sat at the youth pastor's house. He's asleep on the sofa and I'm watching a bit o' Bully (thats Bullseye for all you uncultured folk). You can't beat a bit o' Bully!
The mission is being truly blessed. After each evening we've seen young people come forward to chat about the talk and other stuff. And we've seen a good number (about 10) actually give their loves to Jesus - which is awesome! We've had an interview with an ex-terrorist from Northern Ireland, who came to know Jesus personally whilst serving time in prison. He told us some great stories about how God had saved him. And last night we had a Christian illusionist who performed Houdini's Metamorphosis - which is an immense trick!
Roger has been boldly proclaiming Christ to the young people of Bangor and it's great to see the Christiain youngsters encouraged and getting excited that their friends are being saved. Its a great blessing to get to know some of the young lads and try and encourage them in their faith. So please keep praying for the mission, that we'd see God move more and more in the lives of young people in Bangor.
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Once again, I find myself in Northern Ireland on a mission with Roger Carswell. He is speaking at a Youth Mission in Bangor (north-east Northern Ireland) at Hamilton Road Baptist Church (Roger's son, Jonaathan, is the youth pastor here). The mission runs Wednesday to Sunday with a usual set of events. The main meetings are each evening at 7.30pm where we have a live interview with someone who is a Christian followed by a talk on the gospel from Roger. These are interspersed with music, videos etc. It seems to be a great formula which draws the crowds. I think with the British culture of TV real life documentaries, we love to hear the stories of peoples' lives.
Tonight the guest was Debbie Flood - Olympic Silver Medalist and 3 times World Champion in Womens Quad Skulls Rowing. She is currently in training for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. She is currently training three times a day, which made me all the more aware of my lack of fitness, and actually quite challenged me about the discipline of keeping fit. This has quite an interesting parallel in the Christian world, I thought. As non-believers look to Christians, they see our lives - lives that have been changed and are being changed by the Holy Spirit. If this is truly our state, then the "light" in us will be visible to those non-believers. And just as Debbie was disciplined in her training to produce her great fitness and challenge my fitness, so I should too be as disciplined in my walk with Christ, so that those who are "spiritually unfit" would be challenged by their lack of fitness and come to the ultimate Coach - sorry for the cheesy line).
We saw two young men trust the Lord tonight. I got the great priviledge of praying with one of the lads, about 12 years old I think. He had heard the gospel before but realised he needed to stop doing certain things in his life and live with Jesus as his Lord. Hallelujah! The other guy was about 17, but I have no other details. Two other girls were counselled but didn't give their lives to Jesus, as they had further issues which needed sorting through. Please pray for all four of these guys - that they may truly come to savour Jesus as their Lord and Saviour.
But for now, I'm off to bed as I got up at 5am this morning and its not heading for midnight. Ouch - but its all for the gospel ;-)
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A nice relaxed day today. I spent the day preparing some bible studies and writing some letters. I had lunch with my hosts who were great to chat to (Andy and Carol Upton - I had met Andy during my time at Warwick University). The evening's meeting was interesting indeed. We heard the testimony a man who became a Christian when he was in prison in Northern Ireland after being a part of several para-military terrorist groups. It was great to see how God's forgiveness stretches so far. Jesus has truly paid for all our rebellion against him. And yet its crazy that in the face of this free offer of forgiveness - so many people reject it. If you think about it for any length of time - it is absolutely mental to reject it. If you can't tell, sometimes I don't understand unbelief.
The biggest blessing of the evening was talking to a man from Nepal called Kris. He came over to England to train as a nursing assistant. When he went for his interview at the college, he was told that his English wasn't good enough and so is now studying English. He is from a Hindu background but when he came over to England he was introduced to Jesus and read the bible and saw a Jesus who was much more than just a prophet or a great moral teacher but is the actual Son of God. He now cannot wait to return to Nepal so he can tell his 5 and 7 year old sons about Jesus. How awesome is that!!!
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Well, its day one for me, but this mission has been running since Sunday night. Both Paul and Roger are sharing the speaking load. The mission here is Leicester is organised by 5 local evangelical churches in the southern most part of the city outskirts. There are only evening events, so these will no doubt be the focus of this weeks blogs. I apologies for not keeping this blog upto date when I'm not on the road - I constantly forget - and theres plenty to be telling you about of shenanigans in Drighlington ;-)
The theme of the week is "Life: Find the real answers" - and tonight Roger spoke on "Is Jesus the only way?" There was also an interview with Nick Howard (who also happens to be a member of the Association of Evangelists). It was great to hear how Nick had grown up in a Jewish family and was raised a Jew, having his barmitzvah at 13. Then while at Eton (fancy, I know) he heard a talk about Jesus Christ and how he came into the world to restore our relationship with God by dying in our place to pay the price for our rebellion against God. Nick came to realise that Jesus was the promised Messiah that the Jews are waiting for and put his trust in Him. He found that in Jesus, life had a purpose, whereas before Nick was questioning the point in life - seeing it as all meaningless if all we do is live and then die.
There was a good crowd tonight, but with 5 churches running this mission together, I'm not sure how many non-believers were there. So do pray that many non-believers would come through the doors and that we would see God save some souls this very week. The rest of the week will carry on in a similar vain - with an evening meeting. Tomorrow daytime, I will be heading off to my bible ministry training in Lancashire - some 2 1/2 hour drive from here :-(. Then Friday and Saturday daytime, I have nothing planned yet, but Andy Upton, the minister of one of the churches may find me something to do. I'm staying at Andy's house, well actually I'm staying alone in his annexe, which is very fancy - and the bed I have is very firm - I am going to sleep well tonight...
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Techincally, I'm writing this on the morning of day four but I was so tired last night that I couldn't write anything. Yesterday was an amazing day. The early morning prayer meetings really knock it out of us but it is great to meet and lift up prayers with brothers and sisters here. Roger gave a great assembly in the morning which was encouraging to see a guy of his years (ooo, cheeky) relating well to a hall full of young people.
There was another coffee morning run by one of the ladies at the Castlecaulfield church. This, in contrast to the day before was very well attended. Many people on the fringe of the church came along and a couple of others. Roger gave a simple yet powerful gospel talk about how all we have to say to God is Sorry, Thank you, and Please.
In the afternoon, Roger went to rest and I headed over to Morph which is a youth drop in centre here run by Youth for Christ (YFC). This place gets 300 kids through regularly and runs gospel courses regularly. Its a great work but quite challenging. The place was full of teen anxst and loud angry music (there are guitars etc for them to play on). I'll be back there on Thursday so pray I'd be able to make an impact on the kids - this would be quite hard as it takes a while to build up any relationships.
The evening's Real Lives event was very well attended. There were 300+ people and we had to put a load more chairs out which is always good. The evenings interview was with the professor emeritus of genetics from Queens University, Belfast. It was great to hear how this man of science also has a real faith in God and rejoices in the creation with its beautiful design from the great Designer.
Well that was yesterday - lots of people - but we are yet to see anyone saved. Please pray for a break through of the Holy Spirit into the lives of so many people. Especially pray for a raising up of men for the churches here, who are committed to Christ and who will lead the church here and be great role models in the community. Lift it up!!!
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It's late, so I'll be brief. Today has been good fun. It started at 07:30 with a prayer meeting - which was early but a blessing to start the day in such a way. The morning then consisted of a coffee morning starting at 10ish. Sadly noone turned up to it - but it was still a good time. It was at the minister's house, so it was good to get to know him and his wife more. There are other coffee mornings throughout the week - please pray that God would urge people to come. These are mainly aimed at the retired folks.
After lunch, Roger and I headed back to our cottage. While we drove, we saw several of the South American minority walking around the town, so we went and invited them to the weeks events - as these people work awquard shifts to be able to come to church on a Sunday morning. I don't many of them understand our Yorkshire English but please pray that God would bring them along to hear about him. Back at the cottage there was some time to relax - so I looked ay talk for the coming Sunday which will be John 11 - looking at Jesus' power over death.
We then went out for tea at the house of one of the ladies on the methodist circuit called Ella. We were also joined by Ronnie, Mita and the lovely Ethel. We had a hoot of a time and I don't think I've ever eaten so much food in my life - thats a lie - I often stuff my face with food. YUM! The roulard was to die for!
The evening saw the first of the week's "Real Lives" meetings. Roger interviewed the ex Sky News reporter David Blevin. It was great to hear how this man had been brought to faith as a teenager and went into the media industry meeting the Queen, and two US Presidents. It was great to hear how God still made an impact in his life today. He just left Sky to go to Bible College to train for full time ministry. His testimony of God's call was cracking! Then Roger spoke on how God's invitation to us is, "You are the Weakest Link...WELCOME!" as he challenged people to make a response to the gospel. There were good numbers there tonight. Pray that God would make a big impact on this community this week. Many people in the church are bringing along non-believing relatives, such as husbands and children. Pray that the things they have heard several times before would be made new to them; that God would soften hearts and reap a harvest.
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Well, its the end of a long day and I'm glad to be headed to bed. But first, I want to be disciplined and write my diary. This trip all started at 03:30 on Saturday morning. I woke up after about 3 hours sleep and proceeded to get ready to leave at 04:30 when the taxi arrived. I got on a train at Leeds to Machester Airport where I was to fly at 08:10. I made it to Belfast City Airport by 09:10 but sadly - my luggage didn't. It eventually arrived this (Sunday) afternoon so when I just got in, I spent about 10 minutes brushing my teeth - I don't think I've ever enjoyed doing that so much in my entire life. I now have minty fresh breath once again!!!
Yesterday (Saturday), Roger and I spent the day with his son, Jonathan who was speaking at a youth event in Bangor, NI. It was great to worship God with complete strangers, yet who are brothers and sisters in our Lord Jesus - what a great blessing this wide family is. I also got to see Jonathan's book company (www.10ofthose.com). ITs a great way to buy Christian books, both in bulk and individually at great prices - so get on the website and they can get almost any book for discounted prices. Its well worth it!
Then after the youth event, Roger and I headed for the airport to pick up my lost bag. The baggage people were meant to leave it with security so I could pick it up - but when I arrived, security hadn't been given any bags. So I was told to ring at 06:30 when they opened. We then headed to our home for the week, which is a wee cottage just outside Dungannon (where the mission is this week). It is owned by a couple from one of the methodist churches on the circuit who are farmers (David & Beth Gallagher). Its in the middle of the Northern Irish countryside - its very nice and peaceful. We didn't arrive til after midnight and so I didn't get to sleep til about 01:00 - a nice 21 1/2 hours after I got up.
My alarm proceeded to awake me at 06:30 which was when I was told that the airport would open again so I could ring for my baggage to be delivered. However, it didn't actually open til 08:00 - contrary to what security said. So I went to bed for another hour in a tired stupour. When I awoke, I left a message for the baggage people as I couldn't get through. They eventually rang back and I told them to deliver it to the David's house. David's son is a similar size to me, so I was able to borrow one of shirts to preach in, along with the jeans and underwear I had travelled in - NICE! But I managed to make myself look presentable - I think...
My two talks today went well. I unfolded the story of the blind man who was healed in John 9 - looking at the reactions of the different people in the story to Jesus. Both churches I spoke at (the services were at 11:30 and 16:00) were quite small with only about 20 people in each. But I proceeded to preach my evangelistic message anyway . Only God knows whether the people there were already saved - and it never hurts to preach the gospel. The second church was mainly more senior ladies who were very encouraging and welcoming. They seemed to like having a young man around - I think I have about 20 nans for the week ahead who are going to feed me - BRILLIANT!
Roger spoke again this evening looking at the calling of disciples in John 1 - about the different ways people come to Christ and challenging everyone to "Come, and see" who Jesus is. Its such a great priviledge to be able to learn from Roger's experience. I then went to help out at the youth group afterwards where I was introduced to my new favourite game called "My Chair" great fun. I was also interviewed so they could get to know who I was and I could encourage them as young Christians to keep going with Jesus.
So its now almost 22:30 and I'm cream crackered (knackered) so I'm going to head to bed. No doubt I will sleep like a log! I look forward to some clean underwear in the morning...
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Its Sunday afternoon and I'm sat in the house of Bertie & Ella Coffey. We're in the lull between two fo Vinny's preaching engagements at the Coffey's church in Newcastle, NI and we've just about to eat a delightful chicken casserole - YUM!
We arrived in Belfast late Thursday night to the house of Wesley & Irene Moreland (Irene and Ella are sisters - we're sticking in the family) where we found a houseful of people, Their church had been running a week long mission and staying around their house was a menagerie of people from Kilkenee, Cork and one girl from Florida who were there to help with this mission. These all left early Friday morning so things were a bit of a fluster - but both Wesley and Irene held out - and even put up with Vinny and I for another 48 hours. I'm sure they're resting delightfully now though.
Wesley, Irene & Vinny
During Friday, I got a personal tour of Belfast from Irene while Vinny was thinking thorugh his 6(!!!) talks for the weekend. She showed me the city centre and then proceeded to show me the Protestant and Catholic areas of town. Now I had heard about the sectarianism between these two groups, and we can thank God that the violence between them has almost ended but the seperation is still very obvious. We drove up the main Protestant street (called Shankhill) which was with union flag bunting and many flags hanging from the building. In one of the estates just off Shankhill were many colourful murals on the side of houses depicting their views along with graffiti warning off any rival folk. And running parallel to the Shankhill road was the Fowles (I think thats how its spelt) Road. Now this road is the catholic road and the red, white and blue union flags turn into the green, white and gold of the Irish flag. Again there were many murals, one even with an interesting charicature of Geogre W. Bush. The news channels barely paint a picture of this. Even though there is "peace" now with the weapons armistice but the hatred is still evident even just from a drive around the road. This is why it is hard to reach out to the staunch Catholics as they are against leaving catholicism for what seems to be a protestant faith. However, even though these groups seperate themselves under the mantras of catholics and protestants, there seems to be little to do with faith on either side of this conflict. So do pray for the born-again believers in both Northern and Southern Ireland that they may be able to proclaim Christ and that the gospel would break down such barriers.
We've just eaten lunch - and as expected the casserole was delish - and it was followed by Roulard. If this is the life of the itinerant then bring it on ;-)
On Friday evening the UBM (United Beach Missions) team reunion began. I was a bit out on the expected numbers for Ireland. I had heard the England & Wales reunion can get about 700-800 but the Irish branch is about a quarter of the size - since its a smaller country. But it was great to see these people who had battled together over the summer months for the gospel come together to share stories of victory and to praise our Commander in Chief. I had never really had much dealings with UBM but this weekend of reunion was a great insight into it, and its sister organisation called Young Life (YL). YL seeks to build true disciples out of young people and to reach out to the young people and to build them into leaders - all things which I am passionate about. Some high leaders in the evangelical church have come through the YL ranks which shows that it has worked well - and I hope to get more involved in these organisations in the near future. I particularly look forward to being involved in a UBM somewhere next summer - possibly even back here in Nor'n Ire!
Bertie & Ella
After the end of the reunion on Saturday night we said our farewells to Wesley and Irene and were taken by Bertie and Ella to their house. Ella made us some late night bacon butties - FANTASTIC! and then we headed to bed about 1am. We had a fun church service this morning at Newcastle Baptist Church where Bertie was leading the service. He even dragged me up the front to help do the actions to the kids song we were sang - I must have that look of a kid who loves kid action songs - and I do! We'll be back there tonight for Vinny to do talk 6 of 6. He's unsurprisingly shattered and is crashed out asleep on the sofa downstairs.
Tomorrow morning we start the long journey back home. We're being driven to Belfast by Ella, where we will be picked up by my old friend Drew (old compared to everyone else this weekend - I've known him for over 72 hours) who will drive us back to Dublin where we will then get a train to Dun Leery and get the ferry back to Holyhead. And I'll hopefully arrive back in Sheffield at about 11. But who knows hey!
God has been already teaching me so much and challenging me in several areas. It's been great to be able to chat about things with Vinny and he has been a great encouragement. I look forward to spending the rest of my year under the other evangelists who are much finer men of God than I. I think the biggest thing that has struck me this weekend is the necessity of the Word of God. We have such a blessing to have the bible and the entire thing is inspired of God and is profitable and God has given all that to us! WOW! The theme of the reunion was making an impact and Vinny's main push was that if we want to make an impact, we need to get into the bible. He quoted someone (I can't remember who) who said, "If you want to double your impact for God, then double up on your quiet times." (most likely paraphrased by myself). Hopefully both scripture study and memory will be a big part of my year and my life to come.
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Well, its day one of my year with the evangelists and I'm sat with Vinny Commons in a lovely couples house in Dublin - but more on that later...
I have been travelling all day and I'm not finished yet - still a two hour drive to Belfast. And I have been struck today how great it is to be part of the body of Christ. I set off from Sheffield train station at 9.42am and I arrived at Chester train station just after midday where I was picked up by Vinny. We headed from there to Llandundo, Wales, where we stopped at the UBM (United Beach Mission) House to eat our lunch and to pick up a fella called Drew. UBM run outreach missions on beaches across the British isles thorughout the summer months. It was great to join the team in Llandundo and I became very aware that they were part of the same work as I'm involved in - we're all involved in our Father's work. It was great to see brothers and sisters from across Great Britain who I had never met before, who were giving up their time to introduce people to Jesus. BRILLIANT!!!
Now with Drew in the car, we continued on our journey to the UBM Irish Reunion. We drove from Llandundo to Holyhead where we crossed the Irish Sea on a lovely ferry to Don Leery (this is the phonetic spelling) where we then got another train to Landsdowne Road where we were met by Drew's dad (Glen) who drove us to his house. And when we arrived at his house, Drew's step mum (Isabel) had dinner prepared for us - lovely stuff! We had a lovely evening of fellowship. It was great to be welcomed into a house of someone we had never met before who gave us food and a cracking cup of tea! Again, this showed me how wide my Father's family is.
Glen & Isabel
(Drew's dad and step mum)
And now we're on the road again! I'm sat in the back of Drew's car and we are doing the two hour drive from Dublin to Belfast where we will be staying at another couple's house who I have never met before! So today has been a great day. I've got to travel, meet new people (including Vinny) and go to a new country (I've never been to Ireland before) - 3 of my favourite things. If the rest of the year continues like this - I think I'm going be having some fun :-D
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