Tuesday 19 May: Buncrana, Co Donegal to Rostrevor, Co Down
VOX editor Ruth Garvey-Williams and her husband Andrew are travelling around Ireland asking, "What is God doing in Ireland today?" Along the way, they meet inspirational people who are living out their faith in real life. This blog brings a round up of each day's journey and a taste of these stories! Check out Facebook for more stories and videos.
We set out from hime in Buncrana, Co Donegal at 8am with a sense of anticipation. This is the third year of the "finding faith tour" and each one has opened our eyes to the amazing things God is doing all over this island.
Cornerstone City Church
First stop was the city of Derry / Londonderry where we met Pastor Brian Somerville and his team. Cornerstone City Church has just taken over a former nightclub building. While they are transforming the building into a home for the church, they are even more passionate about seeing transformation within their city.
"We don't want to focus on a building but on what this building can achieve," Brian shared as we sat in the new board room (the very first meeting in that room) overlooking a stunning view of the city. "Right now we are preparing for "I Heart Derry" - our annual festival of faith where we come together and work in communities across the city to show the love of God. This year we are planning a cross community football tournament, we will have mobile medics (doctors and nurses on the streets doing free health checks), we will have on-street prayer and five holiday Bible clubs in different areas and we're working with traders in a nearby street to transform their shop fronts in an environmental improvement project."
From Derry, we head south east to the city of Belfast where we visit the office of Embrace NI - a group of Christians from different denominations, working together to promote a positive response to asylum seekers, refugees migrant workers and people from minority ethnic backgrounds in Northern Ireland. Aneta, a Development Worker with Embrace, came to Northern Ireland from Poland 11 years ago. She remembers the experience of feeling like a "fish out of water" as she adapted to a new culture and struggled with English.
"When I came here, church was really the place where I found security and safety. The church has great potential. There is amazing work going on and we are seeing so many churches opening their doors and welcoming people." Check out www.embraceni.org.
Next stop was Carrickfergus and Whitehead, where we spent an emotional two hours with Dawn, who has launched Hope House - to provide rest and respite free of charge for people suffering from cancer and for their families and carers. Stepping into the beautiful apartment, with its stunning view over Whitehead bay, was like taking a deep breath. It is a place of peace, which has been lovingly decorated with so many beautiful symbols of hope.
Dawn's powerful story of God's leading is made all the more poignant by the fact that she is currently undergoing chemotherapy after being diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer in February. "I was really uptight at even the suggestion of pre-cancerous tissue. But then when they found four lumps and I knew by their faces it was serious, I remember a wave coming over me. I lifted up my hands and prayed, 'Holy Lord God Almighty... ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven... in everything I will give you praise.' I realised that I need to let people know that God is real even in the midst of the storm. There are treasures in the darkness." (Don't miss more of Dawn's inspiring story in the next edition of VOX magazine!)
Jonny Hanson had a much needed cup of tea waiting and a gracious welcome for us when we arrived (half an hour late) to Ballylagan Organic Farm. It seemed appropriate to be in such lovely surroundings to hear more of Jonny's heart for God's creation. "We would like to set up a Creation Care charity in Northern Ireland with a community farm that is an example that inspires change. This is about sustainable food and farming - good food for all forever - not something for a rich elite."
Our final journey of the day (through some pretty rough rush hour traffic in Belfast - albeit brightened by a lovely double rainbow) was to the YWAM base in Rostrevor, Co Down.
Here we had the privilege to re-connect with the international students from the Arts and Media Discipleship Training School. While equipping people for missions, the team in Rostrevor are also finding innovative ways of connecting and reaching out within their local community.
Enjoy photos from Day One on our VOX Magazine Facebook page.
And so to bed...