Monday 6 May
From 1 - 8 May, VOX magazine editor Ruth Garvey-Williams is travelling all over Ireland, hunting down stories of faith, life and reality. As she zig-zags her way across the country, her daily blogs will capture a few highlights with stories of the inspirational people she meets and some of her adventures along the way. During this epic road trip, Ruth is counting the number of election posters she passes (highlighting plastic waste) - and VOX magazine is running a competition to see who can guess the number (post your guess on the VOX social media pages or email firstname.lastname@example.org for your chance to win the prize!)
It’s a clear bright morning and I’m feeling relieved as I set out. The only tyre centre in the entire area that is open for the Bank Holiday turns out to be the closest - just 10 minutes drive away on the outskirts of Carlow.
At Carlow Tyre Centre, the two assistants shake their heads over my shredded tyre. They soon discover that the left hand rear tyre is also split. Had I continued on my journey, I could easily have suffered a second blow out! With two new tyres on the car, I feel so grateful. I’ve been kept safe every step of the way and even my schedule (no appointments last night and this morning) ensured I could get the problem fixed without any further risk. God is faithful! Driving on to Dublin, there is time for a tasty lunch (you know you are in Dublin when poached egg and avocado toast is on the menu!!) before my first appointment.
It’s been bad enough elsewhere but the number of election posters in the city is completely insane! The total poster count went sky high today. Don’t forget to let us know your “guesstimate”! If we run a competition next year, I think I need to choose something less taxing (like spot the red squirrel perhaps?)!
Churchtown, Dublin 14
Stephen Mawhinney invited me to visit because he has just published a book about his story and he wanted to share some of that with me. Margaret, Stephen’s wife, has just been through hip replacement surgery, so they had a pretty tough time over recent weeks, but this lovely couple made me feel so welcome in their home.
A pastor’s son, Stephen walked away from his faith as a teenager. Eventually getting a job as a prison officer in Mountjoy prison, he was earning big money but spending more and more on drink - “I’d eat dry cornflakes sometimes - I needed money for alcohol and cigarettes so food was last on the list,” he said.
I had everything and yet I had nothing. My life was a shambles and I was empty inside.
Someone told Stephen, “Jesus still loves you. He can still forgive you and He will take you back.” It took several weeks and a lot of struggle, but eventually Stephen got down on his knees and prayed, “I’m ashamed. I’ve made a mess of my life. There are too many sins to mention. Please forgive me.” For a split second, he felt nothing and he began to panic, then suddenly he was hit by an amazing sense of peace. A weight had been lifted off his shoulders. Stephen’s book - “From darkness to light” is available in Dublin Christian bookstores and will shortly be available on Amazon.
We chat some more about recent years - this lovely couple have worked with addicts providing a safe place for them after rehab and have also been involved in church leadership (Stephen is currently on the leadership team at Tallaght Family Church with exciting dreams for the future) - but it is soon time to leave for my next appointment.
Peniel Church, Glasnevin
I was delighted to receive an invitation to visit “Peniel” a new Romanian/English church in Glasnevin but what I found there blew me away! In a few short months, a derelict warehouse on an industrial estate has been transformed into a modern sanctuary, meeting rooms and offices. But the vision behind this new church (officially opened in January 2019) and the people involved are even more remarkable than the building!
Debbie explains how many second generation Romanians living in Ireland have struggled because they are caught between two cultures - they have grown up in Irish school but also have Romanian parents so they feel they don’t entirely fit into either world. This is also true of church as many churches are either 100% Irish or 100% Romanian (in language, style and traditions). Recognising the problem, a group of young leaders, set out to launch “Peniel” with the full support, blessing and encouragement from three church elders,
“I’m incredibly grateful that the elders realised the problem. They realised that we needed to do things a little bit different. A lot of people are afraid of the unknown but our leaders are okay to walk in faith. They are just supporting us,” Debbie explained.
The group of enthusiastic, faith-filled young leaders along with John (one of the elders) spend time chatting with me about the growing ministry (most Sundays the seats are all full and at times there has been standing room only!)
“God is truly amazing. He works in people’s lives separately and then puts them together and it just becomes a big masterpiece, “ shares Rebecca. “It is taking shape now with all of us coming into Peniel and working together for God.”
“We are a bunch of broken people but we are making it work.” Debbie says
“In some churches, it seems as if one leader is supporting the whole structure - this leads to burn out for the leader. Here it is more like scaffolding. We are all supporting each other. Even if one part is broken, the others can be a support,” explained Sammy.
One exciting project coming up is the “God’s Not Dead” youth event on Saturday 11 May. Over 100 young people are booked in for the one-day event which aims to encourage teenagers in their faith.
We chat for some time as each person talks about what Jesus means in their own life. I leave with a great sense of hope and expectation. Here at Peniel the older generations are releasing and supporting young leaders, who in turn, are loving and caring for the teenagers. It is a beautiful example of the body of Christ in action!
As day six draws to a close I’m once again full of gratitude - for this one week of the year, I really do have the best job in the world!