Archive | March, 2008

Nantes Go Team 2008

26 Mar
Sorry for the delay in getting this post up. For a brief moment I feared the Messenger report would be out first! My computer is deadly slow at uploading pictures so more will be added in the future, consider this a working in progress.
A few years ago I visited Nantes with my family during our summer holidays and expecting similar 30 degree heat I boldly packed my flowery shorts for the week of the Go Team this Easter. Despite really enjoying the week the weather failed to provide an oppertunity for an Easter tan so that is the last time I will choose a Go Team for the climate!

We all arrived in Nantes on Saturday 15th March despite Alistiar Rolleston’s problems getting through security at Belfast International due to the hairdryer in his hand luggage, understandable I suppose that a guy with short hair carrying a hairdryer would raise suspicions. We flew via Standsted and arrived on schedule around Saturday tea time and upon arrival Erin excitedly informed the other team members that on the flight to Nantes she had been chatting with “A magician… he plays the harp for a living”.

Mark, Belfast International Aeroport- Awake, Alive, Alert, Enthuasiastic

On Sabbath we worshipped with the fellowship in Nantes and enjoyed a meal with the congregation during which we made conversation through a combination of French, English and charades. During the afternoon our team leader Andy McKelvey (aka P10) lead our first Bible Study of the week, each one was based upon a different Bible character. There was also great laughter at the news of a marriage proposal to one of the team members by someone from the fellowship, we’ll refer to him as “James McC” to hide his identity.

Our work began in earnest on Monday morning as we started our principal task of distributing “Reflexions”, a leaflet containing the gospel message, to as many homes as possible. The part I found to be the greatest challenge was not the miles of walking but my stumbling attempts to convince people that they wanted to open the front door of their apartment blocks to allow me to put Reflexions “dans des boites au lettres” however by the end of the week we had succeeded in distributing a colossal 28,000 leaflets, making the area of Nantes which we covered over10 times the size of Dromore. Noticing all the different names on each of the thousands of letterboxes I was struck by how important this work is and how we need to pray that God will change the lives of those people who would open their letterbox to find this leaflet. Pray that people will respond to these leaflets and that God will grant Malcom wisdom as he deals with responses.

Beaucoup des Reflexions

Mark in Action

Andy Tackles An Apartment

On Tuesday evening we organised the “Soiree”, an evening’s entertainment for the people of the fellowship to invite their friends to, we held a table quiz with a musical interlude (starring Andy, Charlotte and Catherine Ball), an epilogue by Malcom Ball and refreshments afterwards. The evening was quite successful and there many non-Christians present, pray that God will use the message to bring them to a saving faith in Christ Jesus.

Malcom warms up the crowd with a rendition of Robbie William’s “Angels”

As leaflet distribution continued I was given a different task on Wednesday afternoon, mentally exhausting rather than physically, leaving Mark to walk the streets of Nantes alone. Malcom had arranged for me to spend the afternoon with a fourteen-year old french boy named Julian with whom Malcom has been helping with occassional English classes. I found the afternoon very rewarding and thoroughly enjoyed it as we talked about school, holidays, music etc. Pray that God will use this simple, practical help and expression of Christian love to break into Julian’s life and that he may be saved.

We also spent an evening with a few teenagers connected to the fellowship and Andrew McKelvey impressively succeeded in explaining “Ah-Saw-Ohh” in French. We played games together, had supper and then they asked us questions about our faith and what it was like to be a young Christian in Northern Ireland.

On our afternoon off we ventured into the centre of Nantes with Denise Ball as our tour guide. We saw the sights of Nantes including: a theater, a strange elephant, a fountain, a cathedral and a castle. My favourite sight however was the delicious crepes which enjoyed for tea! I definately preferred the crepes to the snails which we tried for a starter on the second on Sunday of our team.

Apparently quite a similar design to the new Cullybackey building

Nantes Go Team Eat Snails

We returned to Northern Ireland on Monday 24th after 9 days abroad. I was quite relieved to be able to understand what people around me were saying and being able to read some English again. I really enjoyed the week in Nantes and it has helped me as we remember the mission work in prayer to see the difficulties facing our missionaries. Nantes is a team which involves a lot of practical work so french isn’t essential and I think every young preson should take the oppertunity to go to Nantes at least once to encourage the people there and to help you to pray more specifically for the work. If you are any good at French I would go further and say it is your duty to use your gift at languages to help the church in Nantes. Remember to water the seed sown during this week of outreach through your prayers as God’s blessing is essential, we are entirely dependant upon him.

“Unless the LORD builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain”
Psalm 127v1a

March Quote of the Month

24 Mar

Well folks, just in case your wondering, I resisted the temptation to completely change the face of the blog while James was away in Nantes, you know, change colour scheme, remove all his controversial posts and change the blog password so he can’t get on any more…….but then realising you would all be left with my dulcid tones, ratings might drop so James will be back leaving his “Pearls of Wisdom” again after he returns.

Any way, back to this months quote, it comes from John Newton himself, if you ever get past the first verse of his hymn “Amazing Grace” you’ll find these verses:

“‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace those fears releieved;
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believed!

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace has bought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home”

Apparently Newton wrote this hymn for a particular sermon of his from 1 Chronicles 17 vs. 16-17 that was preached on New Years Morning in 1773 and it really inspired me reading this. What an encouraging message for a New Years Morning, “and grace will lead me home”, i’m sure the people of the congrecation left the church feeling truely uplifted and praising God for His Amazing Grace towards them.
And I think its time we started to realise the same grace that is there for us and we should thank God at all possible moments for it, praising Him in thought, word and action.

A close second in Marches Quote of the Month was a remark by England cricket legend Geoff Boycott after England 2nd Test match against N.Zealand,

“They could’ve batted better with a stick of rhubarb.”
Geoff Boycott on England’s poor batting on day one in Napier.


Prepare For Worry

8 Mar

Perhaps you can feel it creeping up too. The long-dreaded exams are slowly approaching kind of like the shark in Jaws or a Dentist wielding a drill. Perhaps you don’t have exams to worry about soon but we all face circumstances which cause us to worry. In Matthew 6:23 Christ has commanded us “Do not worry” and therefore worry is a sin. Worry is much more than concern, it is when our sinful nature mutates righteous concern into a destructive force which chokes us and often feels like it is ripping us apart. But how can we avoid worrying? We can’t excuse it by “It’s just my personality” because of Jesus’ command and is something we must consider as it is a sin many of us struggle with. As Christians we battle continually with our sin and as in any battle the key is preparation, to defeat worry we must be ready.

To be victorious in this battle worry we must look beyond the individual causes of our worry to the root problem. All worry is caused by our pride. We worry because we cannot control the future and cannot determine whether our preferable version of events will occur. This is undeniably sinful pride raising its head because when we worry we are saying to God “I know what should happen and I know better than you”. The only way we can deal with worry is to put our pride to death. When writing about humility Paul points us to Christ’s example who “made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians ch2:7-8) When we humble ourselves our worries fade away as we realise we cannot control everything but leave the future safely in God’s hands, relying on the promises he has given us.

“”For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”” Jeremiah 29:11

Ulster or God?

4 Mar
Rev. Ian Paisely the First Minister of Northern Ireland and the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party today announced that he is stepping down from both these roles in May. There already has been much reaction to the 81 year old’s decision, the leader of the Alliance Party, David Ford, said “History will judge whether Ian Paisley will be remembered for 40 years of saying no or one year of saying probably.” Personally I will remember him for his dramatic U-turn from “Never, Never, Never” to “Possibly, Ok, How you doing Martin?”.
In the interview with BBC Newsline he identified the two main pillars behind all of his decisions, including the decision to form a government with Sinn Fein, as his Christian faith and the people’s best interests. This is where I strongly disagree with Paisley. Surely these are not two seperate cornerstones rather what God says is what is best for the people of Northern Ireland. Deuteronomy 16:20 reads “Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” Paisley did not follow the path of justice when he went into government with unrepentant terrorists such as Deputy First Minister McGuiness. He chose the path of power and to placed what he believed to be the best interests of Northern Ireland over God’s command. Being a politician involves tough decisions but in this instance “Big Ian” made the wrong one. Even if God’s way seems harder we must follow it and trust him for the consequnces. Christ must be acknowledged as King in the daily situations we face and the governing of Northern Ireland. Pray that as in times past our country may be ruled in accordance to God’s word.

The man who loved Ulster more than God?

Loose Slings

3 Mar

“It is not good to brand things with the name of error till we have proved them to be so… Loose slings will do no good… Oh! then, that in this age we would practice this: Be less in passion and more in arguement. That we would condemn things by reasoning rather than miscalling.”

Thomas Manton, The Epistle of James

This month’s quote comes from Puritan writer Thomas Manton and is one I personally find very challenging especially when dealing with the issues of abortion and the Kingship of Christ. As Christian we have a duty to speak out on such emotive topics and can easily find our anger justly roused over the state of our nation yet such anger is destructive towards our arguement. Equally we can find ourselves involved in over-heated debates regarding minor theological points with other Christians where sinful pride and presumption can easily creep in. Manton is not saying don’t speak out rather to “condemn things by reasoning rather than miscalling”.