Sunday, November 23, 2008

A new found hero...

We all have our heroes in life - people who inspire us by the things they do or say. Let me introduce you to one of my new found heroes. I have never met this guy before but I heard a lot about him recently so I thought I would have to go and read his book and watch him on the TV to find out a bit more.

Edward Michael "Bear" Grylls (born 7 June 1974) is a British adventurer and writer currently best known for his popular television series Born Survivor (Man vs. Wild in the US). He was christened Eddie, that became Teddy, and that became Bear! In 1998, Grylls achieved a Guinness World Record as the youngest Briton, at 23, to summit Mount Everest. In 2000, Grylls was among the first team to circumnavigate the UK on a jet ski, to raise money for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI). Three years later, he led a team of five British men on the first unassisted crossing of the north Atlantic Arctic Ocean, in an open rigid inflatable boat. The team battled giant waves, icebergs and storms. Indeed he has went on to break several other world records including the record for the highest ever open-air dinner party at 25,000 ft in a hot air balloon in full formal clothing!

For those of you who haven’t seen the Born Survivor or Man vs Wild show it documents survival techniques in some of the harshest conditions of the world from the Arctic to the jungle to the swamplands. Bear will show how to keep warm, how to make a shelter and how to eat pretty much anything at anytime. If you haven’t seen it then here is a short clip that documents some of his meals. If you are squeamish then don't bother!


It really is a fantastic show (Sunday's 5.45pm CH4) that has become the number one cable show in America. If you still don't think this guy is amazing then let me share with you some more of his story. After leaving school, Grylls joined the British Army's Special Forces reserve, serving for three years as a Specialist Combat Survival Instructor and Patrol Medic with the 21 SAS regiment. His service ended following a parachuting accident in 1996 during a training exercise in Kenya. His canopy ripped at 16,000 feet (4500 m), partially opening, causing him to fall and land on his parachute pack on his back, which broke three vertebrae, and left him struggling to feel his legs and unsure if he would ever walk again. Grylls spent the next 18 months in rehabilitation and with his military service over, directed his efforts into trying to get well enough to fulfill his childhood dream of climbing Mount Everest.

This journey from the hospital bed to the top of the world is documented in his book ‘Facing Up’ which went into the UK top 10 best-seller list. The book details the climb, from his first reconnaissance climb on which he fell in a crevasse and was knocked unconscious, regaining consciousness to find himself swinging on the end of a rope, to the gruelling ascent that took him over ninety days of extreme weather, sleep deprivation and almost running out of oxygen inside the death zone. If you have ever thought of climbing Everest then the book is a sure fire way of putting you off! What an amazing guy to be one of only 2300 people ever to have climbed the tallest mountain in the world!

However, what sold it for me and put Bear Grylls into the rank of a hero of mine is his honesty that he does not do these things alone. This is a quote from his book about climbing Everest:

'But I knew that I had to stretch myself further, and reach beyond my grasp. I felt this burning urge to go higher and I longed to witness the summit. The beauty of the places on the way was unquestioned – what I had seen so far had stunned me in its sheer scale and beauty, but I felt there was more. My eyes and heart were for the summit, and my dream was to reach it with the Person who had created it. I wanted this to be my journey.’
Can you see in these words that Bear understands there is a God who has created the mountains and even at the top of the highest mountain of the world he knows that God is there with him. This reminds me of the words of Psalm 139:
7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, [a] you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
Throughout the book Bear talks very openly about his faith:
  • ‘The more time I stay here the more I believe the only way to survive is to stay close to Jesus.’
  • He carries a shell with him all the way to the summit and back with words of his favourite quote inscribed on the inside from Matthew 28:20 ‘Be sure of this, that I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.’ Words of great comfort whenever he felt very much at the end of the world.
  • At another time when he fell sick and it looked like he wasn’t going to be able to complete the climb he was at his lowest and turned his anger toward God. It was then he remembered the dying words of his great uncle ‘Remember this if you remember nothing else. When God goes, everything goes. Never let your faith leave you. Promise me.’ He didn’t lose faith on that mountain and of course he did go on to reach the summit.
Bear Grylls did not find God on the mountain. None of us have to climb a mountain to find God. Bear became a Christian when he was a sixteen year old lad struggling with normal stuff. God became his friend and they have been friends ever since! Bear Grylls when asked the question ‘How is your Christian faith important to you?’ answered as follows:
'Faith gives me a strong backbone and when we find that within ourselves we can then live more exciting, effective, kind, passionate and giving lives. Life has a meaning again. It doesn’t though make life easier in any way, and I still battle with my fair share of struggles and doubt and often great self-doubt, but that is just the product of trying to stretch beyond the norm and to live life fully.'
So why is Bear Grylls a hero of mine? Because he is adventurous, he climbs mountains and he can survive in the jungle and kill and eat an alligator AND he is a Christian and acknowledges that he does it all with the help of God. Often, being a Christian for young people can be incredibly difficult because it is often seen as not cool, boring and a bit sissy! That idea is blown out of the water by Bear Grylls who is so cool that any young man would aspire to be like him – and he’s a Christian! So if you are a Christian then I hope you are encouraged that a life with Jesus is incredibly exciting and fulfilling in every way when you take time to develop a friendship with the God who will never leave you as we are told in Psalm 139.

Maybe you don’t know who your creator is? The one who in the words of Psalm 139 says ‘you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother's womb.’ Maybe you have never known the peace and promise of God in Matthew 28 when he says ‘Be sure of this, that I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.’ Bear Grylls along with model Kim Johnson and footballer Linvoy Primus produced a promotional video for the popular Christian Alpha course 3 years ago. Check it out below.



Is there more to life than this? Bear Grylls said ‘when I was a kid I never looked before I leaped. Now I know better, but I still leap!’ Maybe you are someone who has thought about God for a long time but has never taken that leap of faith. Is there more to life than this? It is my hope and prayer that you will search for the answer to that question and that you also will find out as Bear Grylls found and many others including myself have found, that life in all its fullness is only found in a leap of faith with Jesus.


P.S. I prepared this for a BB Enrollment service recently so thought I would share.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

I can go to London baby...















So I was in London on Wednesday for a wee day trip. We arrived about 9.30am in Liverpool St Station and purchased a day pass on the for the tube. As we waited on the Underground platform for our first tube of the day thoughts cannot fail to enter your mind of the London Bombings in July 2005. With this slightly unnerving thought fresh in our heads we heard our train approaching in the distance and began to shuffle towards the platform edge surrounded by scores of other commuters. It was at this point i noticed an official London Underground staff member running towards the platform which i thought was a little strange but i definitely wasn't prepared for what happened next! With panic and urgency in his voice he yelled 'CAN ALL PASSENGERS LEAVE THE PLATFORM NOW!' Panic immediately entered everyone and we ran to the nearest escalator with thoughts of an imminent terrorist attack. No longer were people leisurely allowing the machine to defy gravity and carry them upwards, on the contrary people were bounding 2 steps at a time as quickly as they could and overtaking anyone who wasn't quite as agile! After quickly ascending 2 levels we slowed down as the panic around us had subsided. This was slightly comforting as it became obvious that staff were not asking travellers to exit all lines. It was a few minutes later that we discovered the reason for the swift evacuation was due to a passenger falling/jumping in front of a train further up the line. It seems the staff had reason to believe that the passenger may be trapped under the train that was approaching the platform we were on and hence the need to clear the public quickly.
It took a good half hour for my nerves to settle again and to feel relaxed with underground travel given that my life had just flashed before my eyes! A dramatic reminder though that we really don't ever know what lies around the next corner. Every day is a gift from God.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Kenya Info Evening...so how did it go...

So last Thursday night we had our long-awaited Kenya Info Evening. The prep for this was hard work as i wasn't sure how much the guys were going to do live on the night and we weren't certain if people would actually turn up! Both fears were unqualified as 4 of the guys agreed to be interviewed live on the night and we had an overwhelming attendance of almost 150 people! My hope for the evening was that people would get a flavour of what the experience involved through hearing stories told by the team. We worked hard to make the evening as relaxed as possible by creating a chat show type feel with interviews taking place on the couch and video footage interwoven throughout. The informality of the evening was topped off with a supper of 'pizza & puddings' which seemed to be well received. All in all, feedback from the night has been very positive so it looks like all the hard work paid off!

I found it quite an emotional evening at times as happy memories were recalled and the thought of this being the final chapter of the Kenya Team experience. I take comfort in the knowledge that the shared experience of the trip can never be taken away from any of us and will continue to form part of our regular conversations with each other. And of course there will be many reunions!

If you couldn't make it along on the night then here are the videos to give you a flavour of the experience!

First Impressions of Kenya...



The Building Project...



The Highlights...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Harvest Thanksgiving...a challenge for all.

It was our Harvest Services today in Waringstown Presbyterian which is always one of my favourite services in the year as we are reminded of God's goodness to us. The sermon this morning was given by a South African minister who is currently ministering in a church in Belfast. He set out to challenge us in the reality that whilst we are very blessed, others in the world are not. I have heard many sermons from people who are very passionate about poverty and injustice in the world but i have never been so challenged as i was this morning.

He shared first hand experience of living in a country were he was privileged to be 'white' whilst his 'black' neighbours lived in poverty. He shared a story of the stark contrast between two sons born around the same time. One was his own son and the other was the child of the gardener he employed. M&S clothing vs 'hand-me-downs', disposable nappies vs linen nappies, private health care vs NO health care, healthy vs HIV, life vs death. All because of the colour of skin. He explained that African funerals are massive occassions for the whole community. At the funeral, everyone attending will say something. They will start with the youngest and finish with the oldest and therefore wisest person there who will be no older than 40. However the funerals of babies and children are much simpler. At the funeral of the gardener's son there were only a few people present and the occassion was much less tragic. Why is this? Simply because there is a much greater expectation that children will die beacuse it happens so regularly. We live in a society were it is a tragedy when a child dies because we believe it is our right to a long and full life. The poor people of South Africa, and many other countries of the world, have never been conscious of this 'right' and so their reality is very different.

With anger in his voice he reminded me that only a few years ago the goverments of the Western world were informed that it would take $300 billion to wipe out world poverty and they concluded that they could not find that amount of money - yet recently, when financial crisis hits the world, the US government seems to have found $700 billion without much difficulty.

He concluded with the following powerful video from The Miniature Earth Project. You may have seen it before but if you haven't, you need to watch it as it cleverly breaks the injustice of the world into figures that are easier to get you head around.


Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Kenya Info Evening...

Here is a wee video i made with a few highlights of the Kenya Team in July. I am using it as an opportunity to promote an evening where people can come and hear more stories and experiences on Thursday 23rd October @ 8pm in Waringstown Presbyterian Craig Hall.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

gLo Waringstown...

gLo Waringstown happened last week with great success. It is hard to explain how fantastic the week was in words on a blog and so i hope the attached video gives you a taste of the highlights. Some of the figures might help you to understand the scale of the programme that could not have went unnoticed in our small village:
45 gLo'ers involved in the programme;
20 'mini' gLo'ers helped during the week;
30 young people involved in the Football tournament;
30 girls involved in dance workshops;
30+ children came to 'play time' in Murraywood;
30+ children came to 'play time' in Churchill Place;
32 individuals had odd jobs completed at their homes, and;
200+ people attended our Family Fun Night at the church!
Many prayers were answered during the week and we have many things to be thankful for:
Dry weather!
People were helped and they greatly appreciated it;
People with no church background have benefited;
The profile of the local churches has been raised positively;
The local churches have been brouht together at youth level' and;
The young people involved have been challenged about mission in their own community.
Without a doubt we have birthed a movement in Waringstown that cannot be expressed in 5 days each summer. The challenge for us as leaders is what is the next step for this group of young people who have caught something about what it means to serve people in their own community.



So i have survived to the end of probably the busiest summer of my life!
At times i really wasn't sure if i was going to make it or not! Summer Madness, Kenya, Romania and now gLo have all been amazing experiences where i have seen God work in my life and the lives of others in an amazing way! It makes me happy to say that i am taking the next week off work to rest, although at this moment in time, a week really doesn't seem long enough to re-charge the batteries!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Romania...

I got back from Romania on Friday night. No access to the internet for the fortnight so unfortunately i couldn't blog but let me fill you in on the highlights! During the first week we were working with a rural church in a small village called Selag Seg. We were being hosted by the Pastor of the church (Andras) and his wife Ella. Our team of 19 people was split into two groups and one group ran and kids club for Hungarian children in the morning and the other group did the same for Romanian children in the afternoon. We had approximately 50 children across the 2 groups and they had a fantastic time each day. The programme included an illustrated Bible story, games, singing and craft and the children loved it all. When we weren't involved in the children's work we were helping practically at a alcohol rehabilitation centre they were building. This involved painting or cement carrying. Alcoholism is a huge problem in Romania and has destroyed many families. Andras and Ella have a dream that this centre will offer hope to those seeking to beat their addiction. Sadly the government will provide no support for the centre and so they build when they receive donations which explains why the building has been under construction for 10 years now. God has shown me something about patience, perseverance and faith through this encounter. He has reminded me that He works on an entirely different time scale than I do and that slow isn't always a bad thing because it allows more people to come on board and be a part of a project and catch the vision.

We were completely blessed in Selag Seg with the hospitality of Andras & Ella who embraced us as family a
s we invaded their home for a week. The area was very rural and at times it felt like we had stepped back in time by 50 years as all the agricultural work in the fields was done by hand with horses and carts being common place.

For the second week we moved to a youth camp n
ear to the Ukraine border. The camp was set in a beautiful location in forested hills and was hosting 250 young Christians aged 12-18 for a week of spiritual growth. Our role within the camp was to help washing dishes after mealtimes and to input into their evening church programme with singing and testimonies. During the week half of our team was also involved in running a kids programme in a small village in the morning and a gypsy community in the afternoon. This week started with difficulties as there were miscommunications around our role in the camp which left us feeling under utilised at times. Thankfully the situation improved and our time there finished very positively with our team making many new friends amongst the campers! It was an amazing privilege to listen to the young Christians of Romania worship Jesus with such passion and volume from the depths of their hearts. It truely was another 'thin place' where the gap between heaven and earth seemed very small.

Probably the biggest highlight of this experience was the impact it had on us as a team. When you share life with another 18 people for 2 weeks you undoubtedly get to know each other better - more than you ever could in a whole year of normal ministry. I have no doubts that each team member, including myself, has been changed through this experience for the better. We have grown in our faith as our view of God has been expanded and people's confidence has grown through leading devotions and children's work. People have also realised that they have an important story of their own to tell of God's grace and redemptive power in their lives. Thanks for all of your prayers and support for this team!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Post Tuum blues...pre Romania excitement!

This week has been hard because i have felt pretty tired. I usually wake up feeling ok but by lunchtime I'm wrecked again! To make matters worse i had booked my minibus driving test for yesterday! I spent the whole morning from 8am having lessons with an instructor (which were vital!) and then completed the test at 12.30pm. I passed which was a huge relief but felt totally drained afterwards! Today is the first day that i have felt energetic all day! Just as well as i am off to Romania for in the morning on a team of 19 young people from the church. We will be away for 2 weeks doing a mixture of children's and youth camps and some practical work. Please pray for us all and especially Richard & Kate as they lead the team. They have done an excellent job in leading and organising things so far so pray that they will have wisdom to make the right decisions whilst away and strength to keep going when they are feeling weary. The team is made up of a fantastic group of young people who have a range of unique gifts and abilities. They are a group who would not all naturally gel with each other and yet it has been great to see new friendships develop as the group has spent time together. I'm excited to see how they all get on in Romania!

My heart still yearns for Tuum. Each morning when i wake there is a part of me that wishes i was there! Don't get me wrong, i love home and don't think i would want to live anywhere else right now but i could easily have spent some more time in Tuum. I like that i didn't need to wear a watch there. I like that the people there were so accepting and welcoming and they smile a lot more than people in N.Ireland! I miss spending time with Stephen and Angelina and hearing their wealth of stories and wisdom gleaned from 20+ years of serving God in Tuum. I missed church 'Tuum-style' on Sunday as the worshipers there sang like they really knew Jesus. I miss being there and seeing our team of young guys start to come alive as they joined in Kingdom building work.

Stephen has a fantastic strap-line he used several times to describe the ministry in Tuum:
'less church, more Jesus.'
I saw reality of that in practice in Tuum. It was messy at times but it was working and it was beautiful.

I will try to update this whilst in Romania. Thanks for your prayers.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Tuum Builders Part 5...the finale!

Just arrived home, a day later than planned - it's a long story but if you read on you will find out! Let me pick up where i left off. Day 12 started a little later than expected due to essential maintenance required on one of the Land Rovers which did not arrive back until midnight the previous evening. As such, Stephen was up from 4.30am working on it and his team of garage workers all weighed in at 6am to get it ready for our departure. When we finally left at 9.15am, many of our new friends from the town had come to bid us farewell which was very nice for us all. The planned 10 hour journey started well and we made very good time until the universal joint broke in one of the vehicles. By the grace of God we had a spare and so started the 2 hour process of fixing the vehicle at the side of the road under torchlight. Nothing ever seems to phase Stephen - he just gets on with it! We got on the road again and when we were only a few miles away from the safari lodge the clutch of the same vehicle gave up after giving trouble all day. We ended up having to tow it to the lodge and arrived at 12.30am - 15 hours of travelling! The staff were expecting our late arrival and couldn't have been more helpful with our bags. We didn't expect a meal at that time but they had woken up the chef to prepare a meal for us that was gratefully received. The rooms were fantastic and i don't think it took anyone too long to fall asleep with exhaustion.

Our morning safari on day 13 was postponed as we needed to get the vehicle fixed first. Stephen, Mundia (the other driver), Colin and Watsy set about stripping the clutch and gearbox down to its component parts in the car park of the lodge! The problem amounted to a broken washer and Mundia was sent off to source a replacement from a nearby town. Let's not forget this is Africa and so it was a 2 hour drive each way! In the meantime the rest of us chilled out around the swimming pool enjoying some well earned rest. The spare part did not arrive until 6pm which meant we did not get any safari on day 13. The plan was to get the vehicle fixed that evening and go on an early morning safari drive before departing for Nairobi. Stephen, Mundia and Colin worked tirelessly putting the gearbox back together and did not finish until 1am!

On day 14 everyone was up for safari at 6am! The early morning cool of the day is the best time to see animals and we were not disappointed! We seen many giraffes and elephants and at one point a lion walked directly towards us on the road. We were on the roof of the vehicle at the time and it was only about 40 feet away so we had a great (if a little unsafe) view! Another highlight was seeing five cheetahs walk right past our vehicle. They were only 15-20ft away and were amazing! We also saw 2 gazelles locking antlers and having a bit of a battle at the side of the road! Seeing animals in their natural habitat, roaming wild, is an experience that i will never forget. I think it was definitely a highlight for everyone! Following breakfast at the lodge, we hit the road for our final 8 hour journey to Nairobi. Both jeeps suffered no further problems and we made good time. We made a short stop at the equator for lunch and got the opportunity to pick up a few souvenirs and gifts for friends and families - the bartering was good craic! We arrived in Nairobi and had a quick change before heading to the Carnivore restaurant for our final meal together. This place is a major tourist attraction in the city as you get to sample all sorts of exotic meats cooked on a spit! You pay a set price and the waiters will keep bringing all types of meat to your table until you give up eating! As well as chicken, beef pork and lamb we sampled ostrich meatballs and crocodile! A funny highlight was when we set Colin up by informing one of the waiters it was his birthday (which it wasn't). About 8 of the staff appeared with a cake decorated with a sparkler and sang and danced around the table - it was hilarious!

Day 15 was an early start as the bus departed for the airport at 5.30am with everyone looking forward to getting home to see family and friends. A delay in our flight by 90mins meant that we would probably miss our connection in Amsterdam and so we were unsure what would be the outcome. 30mins before touchdown in Amsterdam we were informed that passengers with an onward connection to Dublin should make their way as quickly as possible to gate E2 where their flight would be waiting. This was great news for us all and we ran through the airport as quickly as we could. When we arrived at the gate, the plane was still there but the gate had closed and we were informed that we were too late to get onboard. Devastated and exhausted we made our way to the desk to find that the best we could be offered was a flight the following lunchtime. So, at the expense of the airline we faced the reality of a night in a hotel in Amsterdam with 7 teenage lads! I'm sure you can imagine the obvious concerns and stresses we were feeling at this prospect but the good news was that the hotel was not in the city centre but close to the airport. The reality was that there was very little dissapointment in the group when we informed them we wouldn't be leaving the hotel! Tiredness played a major factor and everyone was tucked up in their rooms by 10.30pm!

Today started slowly with a later breakfast than we have been used to. We made our way back to the airport around 11am and the flight home to Dublin was only delayed a little. With spirits high as we arrived in familiar territory we once again faced the reality of lost luggage - not one of our bags appeared! They never made it onto the flight in Amsterdam and so we can only assume they are still there somewhere! Hopefully they will turn up in Dublin tomorrow and get delivered. It isn't as big a concern as it was on the outward journey but many of us have gifts in our bags that we wouldn't want to lose so please pray for their safe return.

So there you have it. The Kenya team that has monopolised my working life now for the past 6 months is over. I'm sitting in the comfort of my own home as i write this and i know that in the days and weeks ahead i have much to reflect upon and ponder of this life changing experience. It has been amazing for every single person on the team as well as relationships within the team - socially, physically, emotionally and spiritually. It has been the biggest leadership challenge of my life with highs and lows, celebrations and mistakes. Would i do it again? Absolutely!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Tuum Builders part 4...

Day 10 got off to a leisurely start with a late breakfast at 9am. It is difficult to sleep in here though because the roosters start cock-a-doodle-dooing from 6am. This chorus is added to by the local dogs and donkeys to diffuse the need for any alarm clock! The far guesthouse awoke to a crisis with the whole kitchen flooded as they had left their water tap to their tank turned on the previous evening when there had been no water. Sometime in the early morning the water began to flow again and when it filled the tank it started to fill the kitchen floor! Ah well, at least it got them out of their beds in good time for church! We made it to the church around 10.20am. There were already over 100 people there as the singers were practicing songs. I could sense the Spirit of God in the room as people sang words of praise to Jesus - i knew we were in for a treat! The service began at 10.30 with a time of worship and then we were formally welcomed to the service. I had to get up and introduce the team and took the opportunity to say a few words of thanks to the community for making us feel so welcome. More worship followed and then Stephen preached from Psalm 91 about the safety of God in the shadow of his wings - very relevant for a community feeling much insecurity in recent times. Yet more singing and dancing followed, some of which was led by the choir of the local girls secondary school where we had been building. The only instrument present was a drum and voices and yet the volume was amazing! The songs were very simple and repetitive songs that were sung by even the youngest worshippers there. I didn't understand one word of the songs and yet i came away 2 1/2 hours later, sure that i had worshipped the King of Kings. What a privilege it was to be there.
In the afternoon we had been challenged to a football match by the local team! We had 7 willing players that was made up to 11 by 4 locals. We made our way down to the local stadium (!) that was nothing more than a clearing of dirt with football posts at either end. It was far from level with pot holes and bumps abounding! Thankfully the sun was not shining and with a 60 minute match ahead we did not have a great deal of confidence! We got off to a great start with Stoddart making a break and scoring the first goal for the Tuum Builders after 3 minutes! There must have been at least a couple of hundred locals from the village down to watch the Big Match Live which i think gave us the motivation to go on and win 2-1! We were all in need of a lung transplant by the end of the game but delighted none the less! We had lined up a traditional Kenyan 'goat roast' for the evening which meant that 3 goats were on borrowed time. Some of our team were very keen to be involved in the killing process - needless to say i was not up for it! Indeed i wasn't too sure if, when it came to the crunch, any of the boys could go through with it - but i was wrong! Watsy, Gareth and Jamie did not chicken out on what was a very nauseous act to witness. It made me very grateful for Tescos just around the corner at home! The fire for the roast was started in the traditional way with too sticks and before long the meat was cooking on a metal grill placed over an open fire. My conclusion on roast goat is that it is very tasty when cooked well. The first taste i had was a little on the rare side for me! A fantastic experience for everyone though and a community occasion that was attended by over one hundred of the locals!
Some great conversations with the guys have developed following the evening spent hearing the stories of Stephen and Angelina. The guys have been challenged about eternity and faith but seem to struggle with accepting that God's grace is sufficient to cover all the mistakes we make - past, present and future. Please keep on praying.
Today was day 11 and Stephen and Angelina had arranged a guide to take us up the nearby Mt Nero. Tuum lies 4500ft above sea level and the summit of Nero is 9000ft. Not all of the team felt able for the challenge but there were 6 of us who made it to the top! It was a bleary eyed 7am start in the cool of the day on a climb that we were told would take us 2 hours to the top! 4 hours later (!) we finally reached the top on what was the most challenging climb of any of our lives! We were all exhausted but the views over the valley were spectacular! We eat a pack lunch and then took a walk along the ridge of the mountain for another hour before starting the hairy descent via another path. This was extremely steep with loose footing and so it took us another 3 hours to reach Tuum again - an 8 hour expedition in all. Surely that must be at least a Silver Duke of Edinburgh! I am currently in a lot of pain but it was definitely worth it and despite much moaning along the way i believe the guys all felt they had achieved something today!
Tonight is our last night in Tuum. We will depart at 5am to make an 10 hour journey to a National Park where we will take a safari trip on Wednesday. My hope is that i will see elephants and lions - that would make me happy! Pray for us as we travel as the roads can be treacherous!
By the way, i am posting by e-mail at present and so will be unable to publish any comments until i get home on Friday evening!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Tuum Builders part 3...

Day 8 started with a team meeting to try to resolve yesterdays crisis for good.  I wanted the guys to know that our forgiveness was not dependent on someone owning up and taking responsibility.  I shared the parable of the unmerciful servant from Matthew 18 and made the point that because i have been forgiven much by God i will forgive others.  Conflict, whilst never pleasant at the time, is always a great learning experience and was inevitable at some stage on this trip.  Through several discussions to resolve this one issue we have had the opportunity to talk about team-work, loving each other, the value of honesty and trust in relationships and the consequences of actions.  It is unlikely now that anyone will come forward and own up for damaging the chair and so we have fined everyone 500 Kenyan Shillings (£4).  As leaders, we have agreed to also pay the fine to reinforce the value of 'team' - if one hurts then we all hurt.  This penalty has been accepted by everyone and the money will go directly to Stephen and Angelina as a gift!  We have told all the guys that we want that to be the end of the issue and we do not want this to fester and effect the unity of the team.  The rest of the day was spent working hard down at the school.  The building work is progressing very well and we are on schedule to complete our target by tomorrow.  I got to spend most of the afternoon building a gable wall by myself which was very rewarding.  I think because manual work is so different from my norm i am enjoying it all the more!  The temperature has been very warm the last couple of days, at one stage reaching 35oC.  There is a Kenyan builder called Zach who overheard Mapper singing 'I wanna dance with somebody' by Whitney Houston the other day and has now been singing that song regularly ever since!  After dinner we invited Stephen and Angelina to share their story with us of how they have ended up in Tuum and managed to live here now for 23 years.  This was a fascinating time together with many of the guys interested in asking questions and probing them further.  The conversation explored issues of God's will, love, grace, forgiveness, acceptance, death, heaven, spiritual warfare and church.  I have had much time to sit and talk and listen to Stephen and Angelina and have found them to be among the most godly, wise and humble people i have ever met.  I have been abundantly blessed in my own faith through these conversations.
 
Day 9 got off to a slow start as we arose to heavy rainfall - first time it has rained here in over 3 months!  Within an hour it had eased off and so we headed down to the building site to finish off the work.  I finished my wall with the help of some other team members and within 2 hours we had completed our goal of ring-beam level.  This was a great encouragement for all the team and morale was very high!  The local builders were delighted with the rapid progress we made with the brickwork only taking 4 days!  I can't wait to get a few pictures stuck up here when i get home.  Not one of us left the site with our t-shirts as we gave them away to our new friends!  In the afternoon we got to have a short camel ride!  This was hilarious but very uncomfortable!  Evenings are great here as we sit around outside and drink Milo (hot chocolate) and chat - no Coach or Banville or TV or music and the boys are all happy!  I'm looking forward to church Kenyan style tomorrow!  I'm not sure if the boys really know what they are in for but they are intrigued enough to want to be there for at least an hour - sometime it can last up to 3 hours!  Please keep up with the prayers!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Kenya part 2...

Day 5 began with our first trip down to the girls secondary school that we will be building at.  We are working on the building of a new dormitory for students.  Our task whilst here will be to try and get the building up to ring beam level - that means little or nothing to my non-manual labour CV but I'm sure some of you more educated folk with rougher hands will know what i mean!  I'm learning fast though from many of the other guys in the team who work in construction trades.  The brick we are using are produced in a machine so that they inter-lock which removes the need for cement.  This means that even guys like me can build a wall - its just like giant lego!  We are working alongside a team of apprximately 15 Kenyan labourers and 2 Kenyan builders.  Our work rate would appear to be a lot higher than the Kenyan and at times it was frustrating as everything was happening at a very slow pace but as the day progressed things improved.  Again the evening was spent chatting and playing this game called Mafia that has become an instant hit!  Team morale has been great!
 
Day 6 involved more building at the school - a hard days work but excellent progress made.  The team all worked very hard and the Kenyan builders have been very impressed with our work.  More excellent meals courtesy of Angelina who is starting to wonder if she can ever produce too much food for 10 hungry men!  After work, Nathan and i headed up the street to get a Coke from the local shop which was closed.  The owners live just behind the shop and it turned out to be one of the guys on Stephen's leadership team called Maldia.  He invited us into his small plot of land that housed 10 people.  We shared a Coke and were introduced to his 4 children who sang 'Mr Noah built an arc' for us!  Nothing can quite replace the experience of being invited into someones home and saring food or drink with their family.  A cultural experience that you just can't buy in a travel agents!  They welcomed us so warmly and answered many of my questions about their lives here in Tuum.  Yet more Mafia in the evening.
 
Day 7 started with crisis!  The guys had stayed up after we had went to bed.  No major disruptions took place but a seat did get damaged in the process.  Not a major crisis i guess but the fact that no-one would own up and take responsibility for it was incredibly dissapointing and frustrating for us as leaders.  We tried several tactics and created te opportunity for the person to confess confidentially - but this proved fruitless.  This has caused a tension in the team and frustrations have bubbled to the surface all day long,  We are reluctant to just let it slide as we see great opportunity for learning to take place and yet we don't want to sacrifice team realtions either.  Please pray for wisdom for us as leaders and pray for each of the guys - that they will understand why we are taking action.  This has been a difficult day for us all - thank-you for your prayers.
 
More updates will follow again soon... 

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

This is Africa...

This is my frst oportunty to write a blog update since we departed from Waringstown on Friday morning.  We arrived at Aldergrove in good time and got checked in.  A combination of breakfast, smoke breaks, shopping, and baggage control delays meant that we ended up running to the gate with the words 'could passengers, watson, harrison, simmons and thompson please make their way to gate 27 - this is your final call'!  By the time i got on the plane i think i was about ready for a smoke myself!  The rest of the flights all went very smoothly and we touched down in Nairobi about 7.30pm local time (+2 GMT).  When i say everything went smoothly for us - our bags did not make it through the short transfer in Amsterdam and we had no guarantees of getting them before we were due to depart for Tuum!  This was a bit of a shock for all of us and probably not the best introduuction to Africa but we tried to keep the spirits up of the younger lads and prayed much!  People would keep telling us 'This is Africa'!  We met Stephen Cowan, our host at the airport and he transported us to our guesthouse for the night.  There we arrived to a nice meal and comfortable rooms.  End of Day 1!
 
The next morning i had to make my way back to the airport at 6.30am to see if our bags had arrived on the next flight.  Hopes were raised as i hunted through a pile of bags just sitting in the middle of the arrivals terminal (this is Africa after all!) - i found one, then two and so on until all 1 bags were located - praise God!  The team were delighted and after a bit of lunch and some shopping in Nairobi we departed on our first leg of the journey to Tuum which was due to take 4-5 hours.  Due to wet weather and difficult roads it ended up taking 6 hours.  We arrived at approx 8pm at another guesthouse for the evening.  End of Day 2.
 
Day 3 started early at 5am to complete the last 14 hours of driving to Tuum in 2 Landrovers.  It had been many miles since we last enjoyed the grace of tar-mac and had learned to cope with the dirt-track 'main' roads that head north from Nairobi.  Unfortunately this connection will not allow me to post any pictures so you will have to wait until i get home for those!  For this day of travelling we were accompanied by another 10 young African leadership students from Stephen's team.  Indeed for the final 8 hours of the journey we had 14 people in one Landrover and 11 in the other.  Both were loaded inside and on the roof with luggage and supplies and both were towing trailers filled with diesel and a water tank.  These are items that are unavailable in Tuum or more economically purchased in Nairobi.  It was a very tight squeeze and incredibly uncomfortable at times - a huge challenge for our team as you can imagine.  There were moments were tensions were high and tempers frayed but as they say 'this is Africa!'  On the journey we made a couple of stops to help other vehicles that were stuck in the muddy roads.  At other times we all had to get out and push our own vehicles over slippy terrain - these were all challenges that helped us all to realise just how different this country is.  The views at times were spectacular of valleys and plains and mountains that stretched for as far as you could see.  We seen Zebra, Girraffe, Babboons, a hyena, gazelles and many others at the side of the road - every hill or corner presented another WOW factor of God's creative glory.  All of the team were incredibly stretched and yet blown away on the journey.  It was 11pm and 4 punctures later that we finally drew into Tuum under the greatest display of stars any of us has ever seen!  We were greated incredibly warmly by Angelina who at the mention of food being ready, was instantly loved by us all!  If any of the team had any worries regarding catering on the trip they were quickly put to bed with a beautiful home made curry - and plenty of it!  We were shown to our rooms which were also more than adequate and could be likened to small thatched cottages.  Everyone was exhausted with the days travel and relieved to find rest in a comfortable bed.  It wasn't long before anyone dropped off to sleep to the noise of dogs howling in the distance.  Day 3 completed.
 
Day 4 had a lazy start with everyone sleeping in to around 9am and a leisurely breakfast that was more than adequate - yet more points for Angelina.  It was at this point that we finally got to meet Carragh (aged 10), Jason (8) and Annissa (4) - Stephen and Angelina's children who were delighted to have a few new people to meet and play with.  They took us on a tour of the village accompanied by a local African called Joseph.  We quickly were brought to a small nursery school with about 40 little black faces laughing and waving at us.  They came out and played with us for a little while and were very excited and playful - just hanging off our arms and shoulders and constantly smiling!  The village has a few little shops that are basically tin huts no bigger than 100sq ft.  The people were very warm and welcoming and all shook our hands and greeted us.  The village backdropped by a large mountain which dramatises the already beautiful scenery all around us.  The temerature in the middle of the day would be around 25oC - pleasant enough to get a bit of a sun tan!  We got to work in the afternoon with the task of raising the height of a water tower.  The local African workers were amazed at the speed and efficiency with which we were able to move and throw bricks around.  We were told later that what we completed in 30 minutes would have taken them a week!  It was great for all the team to get stuck in and feel like they were doing something - working together is great for team-work.  After another beautiful meal in the evening we spent some time on the veranda playing a few games of Mafia which was new to most of the guys but they loved it!
 
A large part of our hopes for this experience is the impact this could have on the 7 young men who are part of the team.  Already i have seen a great openess in conversation with them and we have had some great discussions about God and faith.  On the first night in Tuum one of the young guys asked me to pray for those in our room before we went to sleep - this was very encouraging for us and has now become a night-time tradition!  Please keep praying for us all!  I will try to update the blog again in a few days time - don't forget - 'this is Africa'!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Let the adventure begin...

On Friday morning at 4.15am i will be embarking on a journey unlike anything i have ever experienced before. I will be involved (along with 2 other leaders) in leading a team of 7 young men aged 17-19 to Tuum in Kenya. We will fly to Nairobi (via Amsterdam) arriving at 7pm Friday evening. We will spend the following morning in Nairobi before departing for Tuum in 2 Landrovers. Tuum is 1000km north of Nairobi. The roads are very poor and so it will be an 18 hour drive. We will stop over at a guesthouse during this and arrive in Tuum on Sunday morning. Whilst there we will be involved in building the walls of a staff house at a local secondary school.

Please pray for us on this trip:
  • Traveling safety both there and back.
  • Leaders - wisdom for decision making, patience with the lads & strength when others feeling discouraged.
  • Lads - that they would make the most of the trip and learn more about themselves and others through it.
  • That everyone on the team would see God differently as we learn to rely on Him more than ever.

I will try to keep updating the blog during the trip but communications are not as reliable in Tuum so i will not know until i get there!

Below is a photo of the team:
Back row from left: Adam, Mark, Gareth, Kyle, Reuben
Front row from left: Jamie, Neil, Colin, Nathan, Matthew

Friday, June 06, 2008

A relaxing break...maybe...

Updated Post.

I’m on my holidays this week. I decided it would be good for me to get a week away from work before the busy summer ahead. It has been a hectic term of work since Christmas and I feel pretty tired so this is my week to re-charge!
I left on Tuesday afternoon and flew to Glasgow to stay with my sister and her husband Richard for a few days. It’s been good fun to hang out with my nephew Daniel (left). We went out on the bikes on Wednesday and to the play rooms on Thursday. Today the four of us went to the Aquarium at Loch Lomond and seen the sharks which was very exciting! I’m currently in the airport about to fly to Birmingham to go and stay with Stefan, Melody & Caden until Monday which should be good fun! I’ve realised that toddlers are hard work though and I am beginning to wonder if I really thought this through when I was thinking of a relaxing week away! Children get up very early in the morning!

Update...
...I've had a great couple of days with Stefan down in Bicester, near Oxford. It's a beautiful part of the UK and the weather has been sunny!
It has also been fantastic to get some quality time getting to know Melody and Caden. He is another incredibly cute toddler and so i just had to put up a picture to prove it! I think he has bonded with his 'uncle' Neil over the last couple days as we have sung inumerable verses of 'Baa, Baa Black Sheep' and 'Round and round the garden'!

I travel back home tomorrow and so it's back to work on Tuesday! Time flies when you are on your hols!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Champions...

Just thought i would put this little video together as a memento of the great achievement of last Wednesday night!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Charity Dinner & Auction...

It's the morning after the auction and despite being exhausted i'm wide awake at 7am! Last night we had our charity dinner and auction for the team of young men from the community heading to Tuum in Kenya this summer. It was a fantastic evening at Edenmore Golf and Country Club attended by 140 people many of whom were family and friends of the team members. During the evening we introduced the team using the video shown below and outlined something of the work we will be doing whilst in Tuum. Following this we had our main auction for which we had many fantastic gifts donated including paintings, designer sunglasses, designer clothing, holiday homes for a short break, Ulster & Ireland Rugby gear, car valet and David Humphreys rugby boots. People were incredibly generous and by the end of the evening we managed to raise almost £6000! I must express a HUGE thank-you to all who contributed to the evening including our auctioneer, those who donated the auction items, and those who decorated the room etc.

We have now reached and exceeded our fundraising target for this team which initially had seemed insurmountable! All of the surplus will go directly to the work of Stephen & Angelina Cowan in Tuum. Thank-you for all of your support! Please keep praying for this team as we prepare for what will be a unique and life-changing experience for all of us!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Updates...

I was away with our Kenya Team for an overnight stay in Portballintrae on Saturday. The purpose was really team bonding and we had such a laugh, helped along by fantastic weather! On Saturday we had a BBQ and then headed to Barry's in Portrush. I went on the ride by the door called 'The Experience' and it reminded me why i don't like rides like that!

We spent the rest of the evening on Whiterocks beach and saw the most beautiful sunset and sat around and chatted. Sunday was a beautiful day and we went back to the beach to find it busy with surfers! A few ice-creams later and we headed home! The guys were very well behaved and we all got along fantastically. I came home even more excited that in 10 weeks time we will all be in Kenya together. I have every confidence now that each member of the team is completely committed to going and will have an amazing experience that will impact their lives forever!














We have our Charity Dinner and Auction approaching in 2 weeks time. Lots to do in a short space of time but it promises to be a fantastic night. We still have to raise in the region of £3,000 so please pray that this evening will go a long way to do that!

Our Exodus Romania team were bag-packing in Tesco in Portadown on Saturday and managed to raise an amazing £817! All of that will go directly to the projects in Romania we will visit in July. It was hard work for the team but very encouraging that people were so kind and generous!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The sense of a goose...

I spoke at our family service on Sunday and shared the following lessons from geese! It was something i stumbled across in my reading but the more i explored geese further the more fascinating it got! Thought i would share it here and widen the blessing!

Lessons From Geese

FACT 1: Do you know why geese fly in a "V" formation? Because the aerodynamics of the "V" formation enable the geese to fly over 70% further than if they fly alone. As each bird flaps its wings, it creates an updraft for the bird behind it.
LESSON 1: Do you see the analogy here? They can go a lot further if they work together and help each other out. What a beautiful picture of the synergy of God’s creation – the sum of the whole being much greater than the sum of the individual parts. Christians who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are travelling on the thrust and uplift of one another. God made us not for independence but for interdependence. That is the means by which his church, the bride will be most effective in the building of His kingdom.

Romans 12:4-6 (Message) In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we're talking about is Christ's body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn't amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ's body, let's just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren't.

FACT 2: When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front of it.
LESSON 2: If we have as much sense as a goose we stay in formation with those headed where we want to go. We are willing to accept their help and give our help to others. ‘as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn't amount to much, would we?’

FACT 3:
When the lead goose tires (he's working the hardest), it rotates back into formation and another goose flies to the lead position.
LESSON 3: It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership. As with geese, people are interdependent on each other's skills, capabilities and unique arrangements of gifts, talents or resources. This reminds me of that OT story of Moses.

Exodus 17:8-13 (New International Version)
The Amalekites Defeated 8 The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. 9 Moses said to Joshua, "Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands." 10 So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. 11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. 12 When Moses' hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. 13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.

Team work is required in the work of God’s Kingdom.


FACT 4:
The geese flying in formation honk to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.
LESSON 4: We need to make sure our honking is encouraging. In groups where there is encouragement, the production is much greater. The power of encouragement (to stand by one's heart or core values and encourage the heart and core of others) is the quality of honking we seek. What do you ‘honk’ from behind?

1 Thessalonians 5:9-11 (The Message)
9-11God didn't set us up for an angry rejection but for salvation by our Master, Jesus Christ. He died for us, a death that triggered life. Whether we're awake with the living or asleep with the dead, we're alive with him! So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you'll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you're already doing this; just keep on doing it.


Sadly we live in a culture that thrives on ‘put downs’. I see this a lot when working with groups of young people where the words used are always negative and nick-names are often hurtful. In such an environment it is unheard off to hear a young person praising another, congratulating them or saying ‘you are really good at that.’
What do your words do? Do they build others up? Or do they destroy and cause division?

FACT 5:
When a goose gets sick, wounded or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it to help and protect it. They stay with it until it dies or is able to fly again. Then, they launch out with another formation or catch up with the flock.
LESSON 5: If we have as much sense as geese, we will stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we are strong. If people knew we would stand by them like that in the church, they would push down the walls to get in.

Romans 12:9-13 (The Message)
9-10Love from the center of who you are; don't fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. 11-13Don't burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don't quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.

Are you someone who is willing to come alongside others in their time of difficulty? Are you someone who is honest enough to share your struggles and allow others to carry you for a while through the troubles of life? That is a picture of community within the Kingdom of God that we are all a vital part of.


You see God himself is community, Father, Son and Holy Spirit and so he created us to live in community. That is why God said it wasn’t good for man to be alone, and created Eve.
Philip Yancey provides a useful illustration of this. How do I know when I place my hand on a hob it is hot? God created us with built in safety mechanisms to protect us from harm. Yancey then turns to think about loneliness and describes it as God’s indicator to drive us toward relationships.

Jesus was not a lone ranger in his time on earth. He had the disciples around him, crowds followed him, people who ministered to his needs. He also drew aside to take time with His Father. Jesus thought community was important. Jesus died for community when he died for the world. Indeed what we experience now in this community is only a foretaste and shadow of what God is doing in the world. It all began with God in perfect community with man and will finish one day in heaven in perfect communion with God if you have given your life to Christ.


So don’t search for community in the mason’s or the golf club. Come to the one who is community and created that desire within each of us. Come to Christ and join in the Kingdom work he is doing right here in the community of the local church.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Snowboarding in Italy...
































Just got back early on Monday morning from a weeks snowboarding in Andalo in Italy with church. About 140 of us descended upon this small resort in N. Italy for a week of fun in the snow. The conditions where fantastic with good snow and sunny weather as you can see from the pics. The first picture shows Lake Garda in the distance.

I managed to come home relatively unscathed apart from a few bruises and a sore thumb that i thought i had broken on day one after i was assaulted by a tree root!

I also managed to turn 28 whilst away, although i didn't come through that quite so unscathed! Thanks to some of my lovely 'friends' there were a series of embarrassing childhood pictures on display over breakfast. The funniest thing about this was that one family assumed the pictures where Italy's version of 'Sponsor a Child'! Things got worse in the evening with an extremely embarrassing video of 'This is Your Life' featuring interviews with some of my friends, neighbours and work colleagues. I doubt if my face has ever been so red!!!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Winter Retreat 2008...

Edited post: Link to all the weekends videos has been added to the end of this post!

I slept until 11.55am on Monday morning -
13.5 hours in total which can only mean one thing - I'm just back from our 20:20 Winter Retreat. I generally find there is a correlation between tiredness and how good the weekend was so my big sleep is an indication of a fantastic weekend!

We had 50 people attending this year's retreat at Castlewellan Castle aged from 15-21 and a few leaders in the 25-30+ bracket! I remember writing a blog last year about the winter retreat and calling it the best ever so the standards where definitely high approaching this year! However, i can easily say that the retreat this year was of an equally high standard - if not even better!

The theme for the sessions this year (voted by the young people) was 'God's Will - Hear the Call'. Session 1 explored 'How does God Speak?' and for this we engaged the young people in a couple of experiential spiritual exercises that they loved. I'm pretty sure that some young people understood how God can speak for the first time. Session 2 looked at 'What are my gifts?'. In advance of this the young people had completed a heart's desire survey and gifts survey from the Prepared to Serve Course. You may be familiar with similar courses such as Network or SHAPE. This session was very practical and discussion based for the young people and very enjoyable. In Session 3 i attempted to tie the 2 together by encouraging young people to consider where they thought they could best use their gifts to serve God. I also reminded them that gifts used without love are useless (1 Cor 13).

The worship throughout the weekend was fantastically led by the young people themselves and really helped everyone to focus and reflect on who God is, what He was saying, and what response He was calling for.

The entire weekend was made so much more enjoyable by the fantastic range of games and activities organised by the rest of the leaders. We had 'The Price is Right' on Friday night, 'The Crystal Maze' on Saturday afternoon and 'Play Your Card's Right' on Saturday night! I had no organisation responsibilities for any of this which was a great help for me. On top of that the video production and drama team put together some of the finest quality amateur videos i have ever seen - hilariously funny! I will put a link up to the videos once they get put online! The video below is just some footage of the Crystal Maze activities that was quickly put together! So that's it over for another year as they say! I just hope that this time next year i can testify to another weekend of God's rich blessing!

Click here to link to all the videos of the weekend!


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Car wash & Coffee morning!


As you are already aware, we are taking a team of 10 to Kenya this summer to build a school in the rural village of Tuum. As a team we must raise £7,000 to finance the trip.

One of our fundraisers is happening this Saturday 1st March - a car wash and coffee morning at Waringstown Presbyterian Church.

Myself and the rest of the team would appreciate your support so i hope you can make it along!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

New arrivals...

Updated Post with pictures! First is James and Anna in the pink!

So my family has grown again! Yesterday my sister Claire gave birth to her first children - twins! Baby James Thomas Grogan (4lb 6) and baby Anna Claire Grogan (3lb 5) were born yesterday about midday in Dublin! They were a few weeks early which we had expected but all are happy and healthy, including mum! No pictures yet but i'll stick one up as soon as i get to see them which will probably not be until they move out of the ICU.

I know many of you have been praying for the safe arrival of James & Anna so thank-you for that - God is good. My role as an uncle is steadily growing!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

ATL Rock School...

It's a bit short notice for this but ATL Rock School final is being televised tonight at 8pm on BBC2. Three of the young people from our youth fellowship have made it in to the final as a band called 'Wednesday Adams'. Tom McConnell, Rhea Lyttle and Kris Platt formed the band a year ago and have been writing music together and playing gigs ever since. Watch the link above to see a short video of the band and listen to a studio recording!

The programme was recorded in November but i am not going to tell you who the winner is - watch and see! Also look out for an interview with me in Cafe Rigmarole Waringstown about the band's history!!!