As the weeks went by more and more people seemed to become aware of the centre and what we were about. Soon we had people who would visit regularly and the centre perhaps became a sort of life line for them. Those people who lived alone seemed to particularly value a place where they were made to feel welcome and could choose to sit quietly or perhaps share what was on their minds usually over a cup of tea or coffee.
The building had a great purpose built coffee bar and with the soft seats as well as tables and chairs it made a comfortable environment where people could relax in a safe loving atmosphere. Someone suggested that we should start a bible study as there were a number of Christians who popped in quite regularly so we did. Alongside the bible study we provided a simple meal for whoever attended the study. New comers were made very welcome and were presented with a free study bible. I am not sure how many bibles we gave out free but there were a good number.
During the three years that the centre was open a couple of Christian business men contacted us concerning helping those who we had come into contact with. One gave finances to use where we felt the greatest need was. Another gave us gift vouchers for food as well as paying for heating oil for those who were struggling financially. Others would pop in from time to time and give a donation towards the work. The first person who came into the centre and later gave his life to the Lord was a great help looking after the food for Thursdays. It amazes me as I look back over those three years to see how God brought people together to work for him who had no idea that we would one day meet and become close friends and co- workers for the Lord.
I don’t know how many lives were impacted for the Lord during the three years in the centre, eternity will tell but there are a few people in particular who whenever I see them my heart leaps for joy because of how God has wonderfully transformed their lives. Working in the centre taught me many things about people, life, and how God can work all things out if we will come to him and allow him to do what only he can do. The centre was God’s Idea, not mine or anyone else’s and because it was his idea he was bound to look after it and those he called to help with the work in it.
Someone has said that all good things must come to an end. I don’t really agree with that statement. God’s goodness, God’s unconditional love, God’s faithfulness and many other things concerning God will never come to an end. Having said that there are some good things that come to an end and working in the centre for me was coming to an end. The Pastor who gave me the keys to his building once said to me that he could not do the work that I did in the centre. My reply to him was that I could not do it either except the Lord had called me and equipped me to do it.
I sensed in my heart that The lord was telling me to move on but once again there was no immediate direction as to where. I shared what I was feeling with those closest to me both at home and those who I worked alongside in the centre. There were mixed feelings as to why God would move me on whenever the centre was going well and the Lord was blessing people through it. I did not have the answer to that but I was not going to do anything until the Lord had made it clear to me what his will was. As I prayed and sought God for guidance I believe he directed me to a verse in Daniel 1:5. The second half of the verse said, “They were to be trained for three years and after that they were to enter the Kings service”.
I believed that this was God confirming to me that my training in the centre had been completed and I was to move on and enter the Kings service, whatever that meant. In my own heart and mind I really believed that working in the drop in centre was the Kings service for my life and it was but God had now a different kind or service planned for me. My patience must have been far worse than I anticipated because it would take another twelve months of crying out to God and seeking his will and direction before he would lead me onto the next road on my journey with him.
We had a celebration party the day the centre officially closed in November 2010. The building was packed with people who had come in over the three years. It was very emotional for us all and I found it difficult to again tell people I was moving on to somewhere but could not tell them where because I did not know where. Imagine the conversation, “What are you going to do now”? Answer, “I don’t know”. I am a person who likes to know what lies ahead of me; I like to work within my comfort zone. The problem with that is my ways are not God’s ways and his ways are always right, so I am continuing to learn to let go and let God.
I am not the kind of person who likes to lie around doing nothing for long periods of time. One of my former foremen in the big factory once described me as a doer; he paid me the compliment of telling me that he knew if he came and asked me to do something it would be done. I have to confess that this character trait causes me some problems at times. If someone tells me they are going to do something for me I get frustrated and impatient if it is not carried out reasonably quickly. Unless of course there is a good reason for the delay and that is communicated to me.
During the months that lay ahead I had the privilege of serving as mission’s secretary in the church that we had moved to and this provided me with something to keep me occupied. I like structure, for three years the centre was opened four days a week just before 9.30 am, anyone who knows me well will know how important it is to me to be punctual. The fact that I did not have to clock in made no difference to my time keeping, I was accountable to the Lord and it was a good witness to be open when you said you would be open.
I knew that whatever God had planned for me to do next would become apparent in his time and not mine so I had to be still and at the same time do something to preserve my sanity. The solution I believe came from God. A missionary from Zimbabwe was home on furlough and came to take our midweek meeting. He shared with us how they had a programme to train young men to become skilled trade’s men so that they could find work to support their families. He asked if we could help supply the tools that they needed for their trade and as a church we took it on board.
The Lord put it in my heart to ask people in the church if they would like any power washing carried out around their houses and soon I was spending many hours doing just that. I did not put a charge on the work I only asked that they give a donation towards the work in Zimbabwe. This is probably a bit sad but for some reason I find using a power washer therapeutic. The dirtier the patio or paving stones the better. To see things restored to their proper condition does something for me. Well I live in Lurgan and I am not that hard to please.
I had an amazing summer power washing numerous things around people’s houses as well as getting to know the people better as well. On two occasions I became a part time landscape gardener as the paths looked like new the surrounding flower beds had to be brought up to standard as well. I did not find this work just as therapeutic. By the end of the summer £1400 pounds had been raised from the power washing and attempted landscaping and I was minus one power washer. I am proud to say that it could not keep up with me.
When we moved on from the church that I had went to from age sixteen we did not leave under any cloud neither did we make any fuss or try to make life difficult for anyone, we moved on quietly. I would still visit some people from the church and it was during one of those visits probably around two years after we had left that one of the people in the house told me that they had a dream about me. I made fun of it by saying that if I was in it then it would have been more of a nightmare than a dream.
This was the first time ever that someone had said anything like this to me. I deeply respected the person who shared with me what they saw in the dream but to be truthful I in no way felt that what they shared with me could ever be possible. On reflection there is a well known man in the Bible called Joseph, the son of Jacob. He shared some dreams with people who also thought that he was crazy. I respected the person far too much to think that they were crazy but I just thought it impossible what they were telling me.
Two years later and a lot of water under the bridge and I am sitting in the men’s prayer breakfast on a Saturday morning. The former mission’s secretary came over to me and asked if he could talk with me, at first I thought that I had done something wrong because he looked very serious and apprehensive. He said that he had a dream about me, it was very specific and what he told me was exactly the same as the other person had told me two years earlier. I was shocked and slightly confused as to how these two people who had no contact with each other at all were telling me the exact same thing that they had seen in dream’s concerning me.
The man was almost apologetic for telling me the dream but that changed when I shared with him what the other person had told me two years earlier. His eyes and my eyes both filled with tears as we realized that God was at work in some way. At that moment in time in my life I still could not comprehend the exact same thing that they had told me could ever come to pass. As far as I was concerned it was simply impossible, out of the question. There must be another interpretation for the dreams. In the months that lay ahead what they described to me in their dreams would come to pass. What I thought was truly unimaginable and impossible God made possible. Lord help my unbelief.