Introducing a ministry hub in the heart of Galway that is transforming the lives of young people.
By Chris McCune
(From the April - June 2017 issue of VOX.)
Galway is a beautiful city and not just visually. The diversity in personalities and nationalities mixed with a strong Irish identity make it more than a little bit special. It’s a city that searches for many things: freedom, hope, happiness, fame and authenticity. Some mornings you can feel the city breathe, hear its heart beat.
An Tobar Nua sits on the banks of a canal in the West End of Galway, as diverse and alive as the city it calls home. Its heart beats for the city, but in reality, this is selling it short; the heart of An Tobar Nua beats for Ireland.
Built on a foundation and passion to see lives changed and to see God move, An Tobar Nua strives to be a light and safe place in the city. Walk into the café and if you are not greeted by an exuberant, helpful, friendly member of staff, you have quite possibly walked into the wrong place. This isn’t just a café; this is a place to grow, to learn, to hope and to share.
An Tobar Nua is built on relationships; we care for our regulars, and we know that a kind word can be the difference between a good day and a bad day. Our focus is Jesus Christ and this is what drives us.
The café itself is only a small glimpse of what An Tobar Nua is all about: we have a large youth ministry and run school retreats most days of the week; we have a counselling department, a Scripture school, a bookstore, a reflective Bible Study, an interns programme, a Saturday youth group, summer camps and street outreach. We are busy and we love every minute of it.
God has been expanding our vision in amazing ways. Galway is the start, and it is our vision and prayer to see the Gospel making an impact in more schools and in the lives of more young people.
This ministry started almost 20 years ago when a family from America felt God call them to Ireland to serve Him. So the Currys packed up and came. Over those early years, the vision grew and changed; the building developed from a run-down hostel to a busy ministry hub within the city! In essence, something abandoned was being transformed into a place of beauty and hope - a symbol for the ministry itself.
As relationships grew and developed and changed, God was doing something. Organically, this Christian ministry involved people from a range of different church backgrounds and traditions, intent on sharing the Gospel of Jesus in any way we could. A massive part of our youth ministry is creating a safe space not only to enjoy cookies and food at lunchtime but in creating and nurturing relationships with the many students who come in. This takes many different forms, from playing board games and hosting murder mysteries to Free Ice Cream Fridays.
Last year, we shared the Gospel with almost 3000 secondary school students in and around County Galway. How does this look? We have developed a programme that incorporates games, personal stories, interactive presentations (this year’s was Social Media), a Gospel presentation and prayer experience. We love to encourage young people to explore their faith and to ask questions in a safe and relaxed atmosphere.
The café has facilities to run retreats and to host about 30 students at a time. We also travel to any school that wants us! It is our passion and prayer that in the next few years, we will reach so many more young people, not just in Galway but all over Ireland.
On our busy days, you could be forgiven for thinking we have been invaded by hundreds of young people. We feel like we have at times and it is brilliant. The café is usually crazy-mental busy in term time, especially at lunch. We have a lot of students who come in every day for their chicken rolls, chips, one-euro pizza, homemade cookies and brownies. God has done amazing things through this little café, and we are excited by what God wants to do.
So if you ever find yourself wandering through this diversely wonderful city of Galway, make sure to duck into the yellow building sitting beside the canal. Grab a cup of coffee, tease the barista about the weather if it’s nice, and slip some homemade chocolate chip cookies into your pocket.
As you walk out the door and enter the flow and bustle of everyday life, as you take in the cries of the sea gulls and the hum of traffic, know that we walk the very same streets every day. Know that we dream big dreams for our city. Know that our hearts travel the footpaths and cobblestones that characterise Galway, always looking ahead to transform the city and her people into those who are driven by hope… hope in Jesus Christ.
Find out more about An Tobar Nua at www.antobarnua.com.
Chris McCune has worked with CEF Ireland in youth and children’s ministry for over 10 years. He is also a trained barista and slightly snobbish about coffee. Nine months ago, he joined the staff of An Tobar Nua and is excited about what God is doing in Galway. Chris loves Jesus, blogging, coffee, preaching, movies and music.