Friday 6 May: Carlow to Limerick (via Castledermot, Portlaois and Coalbrook).
For the fourth year running, VOX magazine editor Ruth Garvey-Williams has climbed behind the wheel to travel around Ireland looking for stories of faith, life and reality... here's just a taste of what she has found...
I was grateful for the slower start this morning and a chance to wander around Carlow Town and capture a few scenes. My first appointment was with camera-shy David, a lovely local believer in his 80s who shared his story with me.
A highlight of his story took place a few years ago when he was suddenly rushed into hospital with severe but unexplained kidney failure. David was in hospital and on kidney dialysis for a number of weeks.
He shared, "One day I reached to take the Gideon's Bible from beside my hospital bed. It fell open and my eyes saw one verse, 'Stand up, take up your mat and go home, because you are healed.' Soon afterwards I recovered as unexpectedly as I had become ill and I've never had any problem since!"
After a lovely chat with David, I headed across the border into Kildare to the town of Castledermot. I had lunch with Sean Copeland in the "Mad Hatter Cafe" and we chatted about blogging and Bible teaching. Sean revealed that he loves to visit High Crosses and old monastic sites and he had planned to visit the High Crosses in this little town.
As I share the same interest, we took a few minutes to visit the 9th Century site established by St. Diarmuid's father and then walked across to the ruins of Franciscan Abbey (founded in 1302).
Heading north to Portlaois (at last I get to visit County Laois on my fourth Finding Faith Tour), I meet up with James Krechnyak the founding pastor of Life Church. James (from the USA) and his Irish wife Rachel established the church 12 years ago and have seen it grow from a handful of people to a congregation of around 200 people. Now they are in the process of stepping down and handing over the leadership of the church. After hearing a little bit about the last 12 years and chatting about what the future holds, I ask James about his own relationship with Jesus.
“I think I’m realising that I need Jesus more. I feel weaker now than I did when I started the church and a deeper hunger for the simplicity of my relationship with Him. Too often in ministry, we can do so many things but Jesus can be left on the side. I really want to hear his voice. I think I’m more hungry but also more simplistic. I feel more childlike in my faith and I’m ok with that. I care less about what people think about me. I’m learning to think, ‘What does the Father think about me?’ I value peace and joy and His love more than anything else.”
My fourth stop of the day is the Remar Recovery Home in Coalbrook, South Tipperary where I meet Sandra and Antonio Ribeiro from Portugal (along with their seven children). The couple work alongside Vaun from London to provide support and help for 14 men, many of whom are recovering addicts, in the beautiful and restful setting of a working farm that was once home to the Irish Bible School!
Sandra shows me around the farm which supplies many of the needs of this little community (along with donations from Food Cloud - thanks to this innovative Irish charity, food that would otherwise be thrown out by supermarkets is redirected to help charities). Many of the men enjoy helping out growing vegetables or caring for the animals.
The work has not been easy, Sandra admits and there can be as many "failures" as there are successes. But she admits, "It is the little things that happen, that give us the boost we need to continue. Seeing the changes in people, not just physically but also in the way they talk and act, is very moving. God helps us every day." You will be able to read much more of the Remar story in the next issue of VOX magazine!
From Coalbrook, it is an hour and a half drive to Limerick where I'm to stay for the night as I have an early appointment in Limerick county. The Travelodge provides a reasonably-priced bed for the night and I discover it is possible to eat a rather tasty portion of Singapore noodles without cutlery (two wooden coffee stirrers serve as effective chopsticks)!! However the less-than-perfect wifi means the blog has been slow going! Shame I don't have more of those coffee stirrers to prop open my eyelids :)
Missed yesterday's blog? Read it here.