The fields of the west of Ireland are green for a reason. Clouds roll in most days from the Atlantic and if you leave the house without an umbrella, you usually regret it. Yet spiritually this region has been a desert for 150 years, with religious culture hindering people from finding a living faith in Jesus.
This makes talking to Irish people about Jesus very confusing. Most people are comfortable with religious, even biblical, language, and the Bible can often be taught freely in schools. However, if the subject turns to the free offer of grace, there is often suspicion (nothing comes for free). And once the challenge of Jesus becomes clear, there is a strong resistance to change comfortable lifestyles. It wasn’t always this way: there are wonderful accounts of mission work in the 19th century that resulted in hundreds coming to know Jesus and to love his Word. Unfortunately, this mini-revival proved to be short-lived, and ever since, gospel-centred churches have been almost non-existent.
God has heard your prayers for the West of Ireland and is at work. But please don’t stop watering this growth with your prayers
Yet there are encouraging signs that the gospel seed is starting to take root and grow. The past few years have seen wonderful growth in the work of Calvary Mission, a network of evangelical Christians working to plant Bible-centred churches. UFM supporters will already be familiar with Calvary Mission via the involvement of James and Julia McMaster, who have served here for over 10 years and in 2012 the UFM connection strengthened further as we too joined Calvary Mission. Nikki and I both grew up in the West of Ireland and, after more than a decade in Dublin and the UK, we moved back west to lead a church-planting team in Castlebar. This town of 12,000 people is the county town of Co. Mayo, and a major regional centre for health, education, and of course shopping! Castlebar is about 20 minutes’ drive from Westport, location of Calvary Mission’s first church.
The shell of the Westport building will soon be complete and God has been providing in wonderful ways through his people across the world. However, there is still around 100,000 euro required to finish the project and provide a base for the Westport church and other mission activities. We are praying that other Christians and churches will send us gifts which will enable us to finish the work.
September 2013 also saw the beginning of Calvary Church Castlebar. After a year of outreach and preparation, we started Sunday meetings, working alongside 3 missionary couples from the USA. We are astonished by what God has done. As we learn from his Word each week, we are seeing him change us and draw us together. At our carol service before Christmas, we were encouraged to see our meeting room filled with visitors who had the opportunity to hear the gospel. God is clearly at work. Whenever we attend UFM events, we discover a warm interest in the work here and a commitment to pray regularly for it. Be encouraged: God has heard your prayers for the West of Ireland and is at work. But please don’t stop watering this growth with your prayers: despite these encouragements, the work here remains hard. Progress is slow, with apparent interest in the gospel often hiding deep resistance. The devil is at work, seeking to create disunity and disillusionment in these fragile new churches. Perhaps most disappointing of all is when those who have professed faith turn away from Jesus, which happens far too often. There are many temptations, especially for young people who usually have no Christian friends their own age. We long to see them, and people of all ages, firmly rooted in God’s Word and secure in the knowledge that Jesus has done it all on the cross.
– Stephen Childs
We long to see people of all ages, firmly rooted in God’s Word and secure in the knowledge that Jesus has done it all on the cross.