It is so easy to focus on what we can no longer do in this period of pandemic, and not what we can do, both in ministry and other areas of life.
There is of course, an appropriate time for that – the scriptures teach us the importance of lamenting losses as well as rejoicing in the Lord’s blessings. But as we reflect on our first 18 months or so of ministry here in Ireland, more than half of which has been during the challenges of COVID-19, we have also found it helpful to reflect on what the Lord has been doing and how the spread of his goodness is subject to no restrictions!
Energy and adaptability in building community
In Alison’s work with Christian Unions Ireland, we’ve marvelled at the energy and adaptability of staff and students in maintaining and building communities of Christian students and continuing to reach out. In Galway, committee members met up with any new students who made contact with the CU online, to go for walks and show them around. Waterford students met with their staff worker for online baking and games nights, while in Limerick a student set up a reading group for non-Christian international students to discuss Rebecca McLaughlin’s Confronting Christianity. This group is continuing to meet many months after they finished reading that book!
In Dublin one student decided to make the most of the extra time in lockdown and messaged 10 of his non-Christian friends to see if they would like to read the Bible with him. All 10 agreed to do so via a video call! He met one-to-one with each and read different passages. While only a couple decided to carry on meeting to read a Gospel, he was so encouraged by the opportunity to explain the message of Jesus to them all.
Overflowing in love for one another
In the church here in Greystones it has been wonderful to see good numbers of the congregation engaging with Bible reading projects together during the lockdowns. They have met online to share what they have learnt and been blessed by.
These long months have highlighted to us again the truth of that conviction we have held for a long time now. The ministry of nurturing healthy, Christ-shaped relationships is central to the work of missions and discipleship.
Just as the self-giving love of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit overflows and reaches out to us in the gospel, so we long to see the Lord’s people overflowing in love for one another in care and encouragement, as well as reaching out to those around them with the good news of Jesus.
…creativity and enthusiasm of a people committed to each other in the self-giving love of God, as the Spirit enables us, fixing our eyes on Christ Jesus himself
It is with very good reason that the New Testament describes the church as the body of Christ. We are connected to each other in profound relationships as we live in relationship with Christ Jesus himself, the head. So while we are grateful for the technology which has kept us connected in times which would have been very lonely without it, we have all discovered that it is not the same as meeting together in person, taking communion together, and so on.
And that is why much of our ministry has been given to encouraging the Lord’s people to continue in fellowship – as best we can – in these times. This requires the creativity and enthusiasm of a people committed to each other in the self-giving love of God, as the Spirit enables us, fixing our eyes on Christ Jesus himself.
We are very grateful to live and work where we do. The East coast of Ireland is a beautiful part of the world, and the ministries we have been given have been warmly welcoming and encouraging. Our children have settled in well and made friends.
At the same time we are reminded of how much need there is of gospel witness in this, the least-reached English-speaking country in the world. Please join us in praying for the glory of Christ Jesus in the country of Ireland. ‘Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’ (Matthew 6 v10)