Strengthening old in the strength that God supplies . Snapshot from Simon Donohoe Alumni Apprentice
Starbucks had recently established its Dundrum beachhead, the iPhone was not far behind, ‘recession’ was not yet in our vocabulary and I was working out how to return to Ireland. I had spent the previous two years studying on the Cornhill training course in London, and was now realising the lack of open doors for gospel workers seeking to serve in Ireland. Being committed to raising up Irish gospel workers for Ireland, ICM opened the door and took me on as apprentice.
A year later, after my time at ICM, I was crossing the Irish Sea again to spend four years at Oak Hill theological college in London. The plan: straight back to Ireland afterwards. But the Lord, in His wise providence, mucked up my plans. Exploring Anglican ordination and a certain English lady (with an Irish granny!), meant I’d stay a little longer. After Oak Hill I worked as associate minister in a couple of churches in the North West of England. I was ordained in the Church of England and moved to Cheadle as curate. Our eldest daughter joined us after my first day on the job, and our second a couple of years later (as I write this my phone is constantly on standby as our third is due any time now). In 2017 I was appointed minister of the Swanlinbar group of churches, four Church of Ireland churches that span the border between Co. Cavan and Co. Fermanagh (Brexit is making things fun for us!).
My year with ICM embedded vital tools and convictions into my life and ministry. These have followed me through an eclectic variety of contexts: from a Winsford council estate to a Manchester suburb, and now to small town Ireland.
God’s word does God’s work. The God who in the beginning brought light out of darkness by His word, continues to shine light into dark hearts through his gospel Word, transforming and growing men and women towards maturity in Christ. Whether it’s opening Genesis round a chaotic family breakfast table, reading a Psalm with a man who’s just lost his Dad, training small group leaders, or standing in the pulpit on a Sunday morning, our confidence must be in the life-giving, light-giving Word of God.
People are more important than programmes. I am so glad that at ICM I was repeatedly urged to invest my time in people, and making sure that any programmes we ran or started were there to grow people as disciples. My impressively organised programmes won’t last into eternity, but people will. Since ICM I have been helpfully badgered by the question: am I investing in the eternal good of those God has placed around me?
2 Timothy 2:2 is not optional. Faithful gospel ministry must always be replicating itself. My time training students in evangelism and Bible handling at ICM stoked into flame a passion for equipping others to join in this harvest field work: from training men to disciple their children on a council estate, to equipping secondary school students to give Bible talks in their CU, to training busy small group leaders in discipling those under their care.
As a family we continue to grapple through the challenges and encouragements, pains and joys of life and ministry together. Ministry has a way of never letting us forget our weakness. Therefore, remembering the power of God’s Word is liberating. I don’t need to be strong. I simply need to keep on holding out the Word of life.