Wednesday 20 May: Rostrevor, Co Down to Dungarvan, Co Waterford
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.
What a difference a day makes? After torrential rain, snow and even hail on Tuesday, Wednesday morning dawn bright and sunny! After a quick breakfast and goodbyes (thanks to the wonderful hospitality of the YWAM team in Rostrevor) we headed south over the border and down through Co Louth and Co Meath to Trim.
With time to spare we stopped for a few "photo breaks" - enjoying the stunning yellow fields of rapeseed and the unexpected discovery of the Donaghmor Church and Round Tower just outside Navan, the site of a 5th century monastery reputedly founded by St Patrick and still home to a well-preserved 11th /12th century Round Tower and the remains of a church.
In Trim, Co Meath, we were returning to the home of Ciaran and June Loughran who we met during the first Finding Faith Tour in 2013. We spent a morning around the kitchen table with soon-refilled mugs of coffee as we listened to the Loughrans shared their heart, discussed great resources for children's work (see the next VOX for more!) and heard stories from two members of the local church.
We don't serve a finger-wagging God
Stephen and his wife Valarie are new arrivals to Ireland from Florida, working with mission agency Serge (formerly World Harvest). Stephen explains, "Serge is a sewing term that refers to how frayed edges of fabric are made smooth - the gospel does that in our lives!" In his own life, Stephen shared that he had struggled for a long time feeling inadequate and seeking to gain people's approval. "Jesus has really helped me to see that by God's grace, I already have His approval. We don't serve a finger-wagging God. He is actually smiling and He is FOR me in every part of of my life!"
Diving into fresh water
Jana from the Czech Republic came to Ireland with her husband in 2007. Hearing of Ireland's reputation as a "religious" country, she was hoping to find answers for her own spiritual search. "I didn't understand what it meant to have a relationship with God," she said. After meeting Ciaran and June, Jana was curious but critical. "I have a degree in theology but I had no knowledge of the Bible! I always felt there was something missing; something I didn't understand. It took over a year, but finally the coin dropped! Now I'm in the process of getting to know Jesus. It is like diving into fresh water!"
Into the marketplace
Next stop was Wexford town, a marathon drive south which took longer than expected through busy traffic. We finally made it to the home of Jonathan Reid in time for a much-needed cup of tea and a chat about what God is doing in Co Wexford. The church is connecting with their community through a weekly book stall in the Bull Ring market - selling Christian books and cheap second hand books. The stall has given them opportunities to build relationships with other market traders. Many even attended the church's Carol Service at Christmas!
Hungry to know God
Back up to Enniscorthy, we relax with Andrew and Lorna Burt, originally from Scotland, who admit they came almost reluctantly to Enniscorthy 12 years ago.
"We are not really the 'missionary' type!" Andrew shares. Yet in the last 10 years they have seen the development of Enniscorthy Christian Fellowship into a friendly, family church with over 50 members. Running regular clubs and summer camps for kids, they were amazed last year when a young woman walked into the Sunday service, hungry to know God. Years before, she had attended one of the children's clubs and it had made a huge impact in her life! We were grateful to share a wonderful meal with this lovely family before heading into Enniscorthy town to meet folks from Alive Church.
Located right in the centre of town, in a building that became available and affordable thanks to the recession!, this thriving church is home to a diverse "family" eager to share their stories with us! Sadly, we can't include them all here (but watch out for more in the magazine and on Facebook). For now, here's a wee taster:
Hezekiah from Nigeria smiles as he says, "As human beings we all have problems, but if you have Jesus in your life, even when you face ups and downs, you have stability."
Thomas admits, "When I accepted the Lord as my Saviour I had a terrible tongue! He changed my life and cleaned up my language! That's how I knew that something was different."
Family-man Paul left school without being able to read and write. "Jesus transformed my life," he says. "I've always struggled with the reading but Jesus got me picking up my Bible every morning. I have a new awareness of His great love and His out-reached arms!"
Pastor Enda and his wife Angela are passionate about their home town. One remarkable project has been their annual Kids Camp which last year attracted 370 children for a week of sports, games, Bible stories and songs.
Tired but grateful we drove on to our B&B just west of Dungarvan, arriving in time to see the sunset and enjoy the stunning sea view. Enjoy some of the photos from Day Two on the VOX magazine Facebook page.