We read that there was a time in the life of Abraham when God told him to go out but God did not give Abraham all the specific directions as where exactly to go to. I felt a little like Abraham at this point in my journey with Christ, he had definitely answered my prayer, not as I thought he would but in a much better way for me. I was now out of employment but did not have a clue at this point in my life where or who the people were who God wanted me to work with. It can be quite scary when you are going in a direction that you do not know and have no real idea what may lie ahead.
In 1991 I had been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, I was studying for my health and safety exam and it was during this time that I was almost killed in the terrorist ambush coming home from work. I cannot say for sure if it was the stress associated with these two events going on in my life at the same time but I began to feel very unwell and had to have a number of tests before being diagnosed with I.B.S. I had almost convinced myself that there was something more seriously wrong with me due to the effects of the condition.
After a few months of praying and waiting for God to show me the way ahead I found myself becoming anxious and a little stressed about the uncertainty of my future. My arm was still far from being healed and I was very restricted in any work that I would like to have undertaken. I can remember getting particularly down when my fishing friends were heading down to Mullingar for a few days Carp fishing and I could not go because I could still not hold a rod. The feelings of sickness first thing in the morning were starting to emerge again and I was afraid that the Irritable bowel syndrome was coming back.
I prayed more earnestly and also shed many tears in my need for directions and God answered again in his own way and time. For no apparent reason that I can think of I felt the urge or need to find out how to become a trained counsellor. I made some inquiries and found out that there was a Christian counselling centre in the same street that I was born in, the famous Union Street where many famous and educated persons were born. The last statement was a gross exaggeration, my conscience made me correct it. It is true to say though that the street had many interesting characters. There was at least one man who was sort of famous, he was well known in the cycling world for the racing bicycles that he handmade. As a young boy I had the privilege of watching him make many of them.
I made an appointment and met a couple of very helpful ladies who worked in the counselling centre. They gave me advice on where to start studying for counselling qualifications and I took their advice and concluded my studies by receiving my counselling certificate from Queens University. Studying for the Queens certificate was very challenging to me, the only real studies I had undertaken prior to this was in 1991. I found the class room particularly intimidating for a couple of reasons, firstly because I was the only male in a class of around twelve and secondly because the ladies all seemed to come from professional back grounds. Believe it or not I was still quite shy around women.
On completion of my certificate the Christian counselling centre very kindly allowed me to work with them as a volunteer Christian counsellor. I gained a lot of experience and insight during my time with them and I am sincerely grateful to them for helping me to develop counselling skills which are very valuable to me still today. It was during my time of studies that the second door of direction opened up to me.
My Pastor and his family were going to America for their holidays and he asked me to drop them off at Dublin Airport. On my return to Lurgan I needed to go to the bank but it was not open so I spent some time walking around the town. I walked down a little entry into a small court yard where I knew there was a pet shop but it was closed as well. As I turned to walk back onto the main street a woman called my name, when I turned to see who it was there was a lady standing outside a door into a shop that I had not realised was there.
The lady worked in the counselling centre that I also worked in and I had met her on a course that the centre had run. When I approached her and greeted her she invited me into the shop. It was a charity shop that helped support humanitarian aid and other projects in the Ukraine. She then proceeded to ask me the following question, “What are you doing”? My response was, “I am waiting for the bank to open”. She responded by saying, “I don’t mean what you are doing right now but what are you doing with your life”?
The directness of her question took me completely by surprise and I stumbled for the right answer. I believed that counselling was part of God’s plan for me at that time but beyond that I had absolutely no idea. I told her how I had arrived at that junction in my life and then she asked me if I had any spare time would I like to volunteer to work in the charity shop. To be honest I was hesitant, I knew absolutely nothing about working in a shop and was not sure if I really would like to. She said that she would like me to meet the mission director who was in charge of the shop and all of the humanitarian work.
As I sat and waited for the mission director to arrive people started to come and go in the shop and I began to wonder if this was part of Gods plan for me to meet and work with people. The director arrived and introduced himself and the vision for the work of the mission; he was so passionate for the people of Ukraine and the desperate situation that many found themselves in. Before very long his passion for the people began to take hold of me also and I volunteered to work in the shop. What I did not know was that in a few months time I would be the manager of the shop and through this work God would take me to a place that he showed me in a vision when I was sixteen.
A new chapter in my life was about to begin and during the next three and a half years God would teach me more about faith and trust in him than I had learned in the previous twenty five years of my Christian life. Anyone who has worked as a volunteer will know that it doesn’t pay well, monetarily speaking. I had no income now and we had upgraded the ageing heating system in the house and my settlement payment was being quickly depleted. It was Christmas time and for the first time that I can remember our cupboards were quite bare.
A knock came to the door and I was confronted by the mission director and his wife. I was surprised to see them and they had with them a couple of large brown boxes, the boxes contained groceries and other house hold items. They said that the Lord had put it on their hearts to give the stuff to us, we had told no one of our situation but God was again beginning to show us new things concerning how Jehovah Jireh works. (Jehovah Jireh=The Lord will provide) On another occasion one the Mission trustees gave the director £50 to pass on to me, I found this strange because I had never met the man and he wanted to give me money. I was entering into a season of revelation and development that seemed previously hidden to me and it was exciting to see God at work in new dynamic ways.