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The Alarm went off around 4:15am. I was preaching twice today from Joel and needed to do some preparation. I joined Sam the Pastor and his wife for breakfast at around 9:00am. It was bacon sandwiches and hot mugs of tea. Fantastic! I was loving Northern Ireland. No offence, but basic honest to goodness food and honest to goodness people go together exceptionally well.
Randallstown is not in Belfast. I would be preaching there tonight at a church which sounded like ‘Penicillin’ and was minutes from those seemingly infamous names of ‘The Falls Road’ ‘The Shanklin Road’ and the Ardoyne. Indeed, Pastor Sam had been an open ear preacher on the Shanklin road whilst his wife had worked in a sweetie shop.
It took us about twenty minutes to get to Elim in Randallstown, a small church restart across the road from a well to do Presbyterian Church. I used to be an Elim minister in training and I remember that it took me a week to fill in the application form as the doctrinal questions were in depth and thorough. I had seen Pastor Sam’s library that morning of hundreds of books which would have graced any shelf of a thorough Calvinistic reformed minister. Northern Ireland took the Bible seriously, especially its ministers.
Sam has got two kids. His oldest girl had been framed out to his mother in law so that I might have the opportunity of sleeping in her room. Sam has a full time night shift job at the Shorts aircraft family and a full time job in the church. Indeed he was preaching that night and I know for a fact that he had already spent eight hours in study just to pull that one together. There is no such thing as a part time Pastor and a Pastor involved in a restart is working all the hours God gives him.
The congregation was small but very friendly, and they listened to what I had said with great interest. I think they were encouraged. Sam was a little disappointed that his congregation did not bring a few more folk along and that no one seemed to get saved. Like I said, Sam is all heart and passion. This event was a big step of faith for that wee church and the spread that was put on after. Oh my goodness! It was magnificent and delicious. I had a great time at Randallstown Elim, God bless them.
I left Sam and his delightful wife still labouring away at the church. They would get home, get a cup of tea and then almost immediately get ready for the evening service. It seems in Northern Ireland that the evening church service was not dead at all but rather was still very well attended. Luv it!
I drove in too Belfast and drove around the city. It was a grey afternoon and to be honest I just wanted to be at home, on my own couch with my own wife. I was really missing Bridget, when I found het later that day I found out that the lights had fused in the early evening and as she could not find the torch ( I had it in the back of the car) so lighting a candle and standing on some unsteady steps, she had removed the large wooden fuse box cover in the hallway. It was one of these magnetically held ones which she did not realise and it came crashing down the edge of which caught her above the eye. There was so much lot of blood she thought she would have to go to the hospital. Bless her. She was a bit fed up. I had been on the road now for a full month.
So anyway, I park the car and then head for the centre of Belfast. I was looking for a Nero’s and just up from there was the historic First Presbyterian Church, part of the OC or the Old Congregation of Presbyterian churches and sat outside in the drizzle was a Roman Catholic lecturer from Queens University. A Roman Catholic from Belfast showing people around a Protestant church? Amazing.
The outside of the building is a little drab but the inside is absolutely beautiful. Wesley of course preached in this place to a packed house of over 600 folk. He would have preached a second time on a second day on there as well, save that someone had stolen a silver cover off the pulpit Bible and they didn’t want any more thieving. The church pews were full of the printed names of famous people who had sat in them, Thomas McCabe being the guy that stopped the Slave trade running from Belfast by pronouncing a public curse on those folks who dare sign up for it. “May God wither the hand of anyone who dares put his name to this document.” Brilliant.
The historic church still had maybe twenty people left in this congregation in the City centre and a full time Pastor as well but why was this Roman Catholic guide showing people around a Presbyterian church and being so enthusiastic with it? One of the reasons was this church believed in the ‘Market Place of Religion’ so much so that over the centuries whilst not at all agreeing with the Mass had contributed heavily to the building of two Roman Catholic churches. He was a free thinker and advocate of free thinking where everyone could proclaim what they believed and so let the truth rise to the surface. I believe exactly the same. One thing this church did not do was provide Hot Chocolate on a wet Sunday afternoon, so it was time to go and get topped up at Nero’s.
I had picked up some emails on the Free Wi Fi and then at around 4pm had left to go back to the car and then drive to Mitch McConnels for 4:30pm. I have never met Mitch only face booked him sometime in May to see if he could hook me up with some Belfast connections. He had arranged for me to speak in Penicillin tonight from the book of and tomorrow night at a men’s group from the book of Amos in the city of Lisburn. Mitch is one of the Co Founders of ‘Crown Jesus Ministries’ and had also just retired from the fire service. He seemed to have more energy in his little finger than I had in my whole body!
I was greeted my Mitch and his two kids, his lovely wife and his old dog. My room was lovely and we were having Chicken Casserole with carrots tatties and cabbage for tea. C’mon! I was in Northern Ireland and my Dunlop belly was fully inflated!
We left around 6 to drive up the Shanklin road and past the current flashpoint area in the Ardoyne. Everyone told me that in the last ten years the change was astonishing, affecting even the Skyline of the city with New Buildings going up and even double decker buses now driving the streets. A church had been opened up on the dividing line of Catholics and Protestants and things were moving ahead. I was struck by the thankfulness and positiveness of the people around me, certainly, hope and thankfulness were in abundance.
It was raining when we arrived and the church building was fantastic. Modern, welcoming and warm. The prayer meeting started at 6:30pl and the actual meeting started at 7:00pm. They expected around 80 folks that night, and they got them. Upstairs the Pastors wife and her kitchen buddies (it was a great restaurant kitchen facility which opened daily as a café) had already been cooking Curry and Irish Stew, together with other assorted goodies for some time. People work hard in churches, especially on the day of rest!
This is a working class congregation. Older men with significant tattoos playing in the worship band. All around me were people with stories, people with pasts, all redeemed and moving on with God. It was an utterly wonderful place to be.
I preached on Joel and the message was greatly received.
I spent some time later speaking to a young man and woman who God had been speaking to greatly. Please pray for them both. They were just delightful.
Upstairs, the Curry and Stew Night continued and people insisted that I try both. Who was I to offend these good folk? My Dunlop tyre is about to explode!
Mitch drove me back and insisted I get to bed. He’s a great bloke. So by 10pm, I was flat out up in bed, me, and a wet grey Belfast all tucked under the duvet and going to sleep. Tomorrow I would be at the office with Mitch, speaking to his fellow colleagues, taking interviews and generally catching up on my typing.
After reading an article by my mate Dave Wright some years ago, I made decision some not to misuse the word awesome. People seem to use it to describe all kinds of things from food to free-kicks. So tonight I want to use it in its right context… Victor Robert Farrell was awesome tonight as he shared in Ballysillan Elim. This is day 29 of his 66 city tour, make sure you catch him in your City. Tomorrow night Robert will be in the city of Lisburn at Kingdom life church for a special men’s event. If you’re free I challenge you to turn up.
Bless him! I will tell you more about this awesome ministry later http://www.crownjesus.org/
Meanwhile…here is another great Pastor
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