In order for someone to understand the situation here in Sligo, I should explain a few things: When I first came to Sligo, God led me to an particular church. This was the only evangelical church in the area – the closest was an hour away. The then pastor was a guy whose heart for the area of the West of Ireland was similar to my own. For various reasons and through no fault of his own, he had to stop leading the church and slowly I began to realise that the church was no longer going in the direction I was feeling we should. there seemed to be no connection with God’s heart for the community or for pastoral care.
From that church there were a couple of house groups meeting, one of which I attended. When a few of us left the church, nearly a year ago, the members of the house group felt to carry on meeting. This group has been going from strength to strength over this time and on a regular basis, people from the town bring their prayer requests, and on occasion their sick relatives for us to pray for. There is a rumour around the town that “when the ‘born agains’ pray, stuff happens”. Out of this group came the youth group and kids club I am running.
In January, when I returned from England, a few of us met with the former pastor, (who has been recruited by the Methodist church to “bring it into the 21st Century”). We had been attending one of the churches he is responsible for on Sunday evenings but had struggled because it was a good distance out of town and because although great steps were being taken, Sligo is the place we are called to. We also felt that the type of people that were attending our meetings would not be able to attend this church due to distance and tradition. Out of this discussion we agreed that we would meet on a Sunday morning in my home and would pray for our community, for the pastor’s ministry and for God’s guidance. We have struggled greatly with the problem that we have all these people attending our house group and our youth groups, but no church to feed them into.
On meeting to pray on a Sunday morning, we have been blown away by the way God has been moving. There are only 4 of us on a Sunday morning but thankfully God doesn’t limit Himself to large numbers.
In Sligo there is a population of roughly 20,000. In Irish terms, it is a big town and has been designated a City. It is surrounded by natural beauty – on 3 sides mountains and a Lough and on the 4th side the Atlantic Ocean. Although Sligo is physically beautiful, on closer inspection, the town has become a very dark place. There is an estate in the centre of town, where our prayers have been particularly focussed. On this small estate, in the last 3 years, there have been 4 brutal murders. The drug scene is increasing at a frightening rate and, as with the rest of Ireland, alcohol abuse and suicides are on the increase. There are people who live in this estate who literally terrorise the young people in the town and who seem to have a frightening hold over a large number of people. So much so, that the police do nothing about these people and problems and the vicious circle continues. There are many people in Sligo who are living in fear.
As far as ‘faith’ is concerned, the West of Ireland is the least evangelised part of Europe. It is 98% Roman Catholic and only 0.02% of the population is known to be Evangelical Christian. People are wrapped up in religious ritual, superstition, angel worship and many other things. They are obsessed with death and yet incredibly fearful of it. To sum up the area I would say that the West of Ireland is currently a place with no hope.
When God called me here, he planted a number of visions on my heart. First and foremost it is my passion to see Ireland once again become a missionary sending country. My heart is to achieve this by bringing people in (teams and individuals, short-term and long-term) to share the hope of the Gospel and to enthuse the Irish people to go out into the world.
I also have a vision for setting up and alcohol free bar for under 18’s in the town. This would act also as a community centre, where young people could come for homework clubs, parenting classes, counselling and various other services. Some of the people in our house group have caught this vision and are currently in the process of looking at possible premises.
I am also in the process of setting up a Gap Year Scheme, where people can come and work with us in Ireland for 6 months-1 year. There also is an option for them to link up with a Bible College in England to study theology whilst on placement here in Sligo.
As a small group of people, our passion, vision and motivation is big! Our continued prayers are that God would provide people to come and work alongside us here, for people to hold us and the people of Sligo in prayer, and to support us financially so we can press on with what we have been called to do.
As far as I myself am concerned, I went to Orlando in March. I met with Missionary Ventures and we discussed the above. I left the meeting feeling excited and also slightly overwhelmed by what God is doing. I also came to realise as the week went on, that we are not alone here in our heart for this place – God has put it on the hearts of many in Orlando.
One of the things we greatly miss here is a church fellowship like we once knew. Although it’s something we do not have as such. I do believe God is building that in the few of us that are meeting together and I also believe that as we continue to seek His will and to offer our hearts, lives and resources to Him, anything is possible!
I am now certain God is prompting me to acknowledge that He has me on the mission field and that I should be considering myself as such. I believe that I should not pursue this calling without the backing and accountability of an established organisation and feel He has led me to Missionary Ventures for this reason.