Flashing in my Eyes – and Activity in the Sky

September 25, 2022

I’ve recently been avoiding (or trying to avoid) too much screen time because of eye problems. “Flashing and floaters,” as the optician calls them, can be harmless but on the other hand when they persist it can be a sign of a more serious issue. I was driving home on a rural back road one day when this large “black crow” kept flapping its wings and obscuring my field of vision through the windscreen. Eventually I stopped the car and pulled in to investigate what was wrong with this “black crow” only to discover that the problem was a large “floater” in the eye! Thankfully “the crow” decided to leave me alone after a few days. The zigzag flashing can indicate a migraine headache (sometimes without the pain) but again, it can be something more serious. I pray that it’s not serious and that both problems will be resolved as eyesight is such a precious gift.

To avoid screen time just recently I’ve been taking a few walks but in the process have seen other lights – in the sky. “As the crow flies” we live not far from an airport and it was so blissfully quiet during lockdown when the skies were clear. However, these days there is an enormous amount of activity and not all of it is due to normal commercial flights, as we’ve discovered. It was dark when we took a walk down the quiet back lane yesterday but directly above us a helicopter was circling low in the sky. “That’s the coastguard patrol helicopter,” commented my daughter, “I’ve been keeping an eye on aircraft on this “Flight tracker” site. It’s fascinating.” At one point this helicopter swooped quite low and circled close to us and I wondered whether they were looking for someone or something. Apparently they are able to see us quite clearly from up there! At the same time, the horizon to the east was very red and eerie. Since the sun sets in the west and there had been no sun worth talking about that evening, we watched the eastern red glow in awe.

 Once home, my daughter was telling me about other flights worldwide on this site and the fascinating routes they were taking. There were none over Ukraine but one Polish aircraft was making its way bravely towards it. All types of aircraft, including those on military manoeuvres, can be watched on this site. There was even a hot air balloon somewhere in Central America! We were still thinking about why some aircraft seem to be “unidentified” and disappear and also about that strange red glow…

The situation in Europe and indeed all over this world, has become volatile, with psychotic ruthless dictators hanging on to power, to the detriment of their own country and others. Threats of nuclear attacks could well become reality and we wonder about why we’re suddenly being warned about electricity “blackouts” and possible food shortages this winter. Sometimes I think the ordinary population is being “kept in the dark” by governments in regard to what is going on.

The Bible does not keep us in the dark, though and spiritually speaking it is essential to be awake and discerning to the growing darkness around us and to be able to see in these dangerous and uncertain times. Jesus said: “And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be earthquakes in diverse places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginning of sorrows.” (Mark 13v7&8)

 How good it is to be ready for any eventuality! We may not be in possession of an underground bunker, equipped with supplies in case of a nuclear attack but we must be “covered by the blood” of the Lord Jesus Christ. As the body ages it becomes subject to all sorts of problems and even our eyesight can be under attack but praise God we can have that peace in the knowledge of sins forgiven and a Home in heaven. Our bodies and this old world are not immortal – but our souls are. How essential it is to get right with God and to receive that wonderful gift of salvation and the knowledge that “we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” (Romans 8v37)

Those who know Him as Saviour can say… “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8v38&39)

Memories of Westminster Abbey on a Memorable Occasion

September 10, 2022

I was saddened to hear of the death of Britain’s longest ruling monarch, Queen Elizabeth II this week. I suppose that the vast majority of us don’t remember a time when anyone else was on the throne – and those who do were children or very young people at that time. Back in 2011 I remember being invited to a service to commemorate the 400th Anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible, which was to be held in Westminster Abbey. This was after I had received a letter from the Queen’s secretary thanking me for a copy of “A Biblical Journey through the Irish Year,” which I had sent prior to her visit to the Republic of Ireland in May 2011. Often when I forward a book to someone it is with the purpose of being a witness or offering it as a gift to Christians.   

Whatever a person’s standing or position in this world, whether celebrity, royalty or in a high government position, that individual must bow the knee to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, if he or she is ever to inherit eternal life and so we pray for these people as the Lord burdens us, along with our continual prayer for loved ones and others.

I remember 2011 well as I’d just had an operation for a serious health issue but the Lord helped me to fly over and be at the commemoration. We saw at a distance Queen Elizabeth, her husband and their son Prince Charles (now King Charles III) that afternoon, all souls for whom the Lord Jesus Christ died to save and we heard old hymns and psalms to resounding organ playing and readings from the Bible. It was good to be invited to the reception afterwards and to talk with people there, while giving out scripture bookmarks. The royal family were not at this reception but I am amused now when I remember one lady there, a well-known actress, who was quite rude when I offered her one of these. The Lord knows…

From a tract that I have read recently it is believed that Queen Victoria (1819 – 1901) knew the Lord as her Saviour and time and eternity will indeed confirm who throughout human history crossed the line of faith into the glorious light of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. It remains for us to continue to pray for all the members of the Royal family in their bereavement that they would come to a saving knowledge of the truth.

“I exhort therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men. For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceful life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” (1Timothy 2v1-4)

Random Acts of Kindness are appreciated in a Hurting World

August 24, 2022

In a world where a little old man in a mobility scooter gets stabbed to death and innocents are shot by psychopaths, how often we wince at the news of the day, whether it’s on a local or global scale. As this world rushes on selfishly only thinking of “me, my and mine,” how good it is to show love and kindness. “Without natural affection” is an accurate assessment of much of mankind in these days but the Christian should be “blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.” (Philippians 2v15)

John Wesley is quoted as having said… “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” No, we are certainly not saved by our works (Ephesians 2v8&9) but we are saved unto good works. (Ephesians 2v10)

My daughter has grown an abundance of flowers in recent times which is said to be very therapeutic after prolonged effects of treatment. When she has given random strangers a posy of fragrant sweet peas with an attached beautifully printed little verse of scripture how grateful they have been!

I heard also of two elderly ladies early on Easter Sunday morning, who were distributing a tiny present containing a separately wrapped teabag, biscuits and a tract to each person they met on a local river walkway. In a decadent world when often though we may not feel so well ourselves, how a smile, a nod, a deed or word of kindness can lift some soul’s spirits that day and give us the opportunity to tell them of the Lord Jesus Christ who died for them.

“Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.” (Ecclesiastes 11v1)

“Be Careful to Entertain Strangers…”

August 17, 2022

I have a pleasant recollection of many years ago on the Greek island of Rhodes when I was “entertained as a stranger.” While travelling alone there I recall falling really ill with sunstroke and then vague memories of finding somewhere to stay and of a dark room with the shutters drawn. An old lady in traditional black looked after me until I was well enough to resume my travels and as far as I remember she wanted no payment in return. I have no idea where the place was and the whole thing seems like a dream now but I now know the Lord, in His mercy, was taking care of me even though I didn’t think I deserved it! Then there was another occasion when a Greek person told me… “As a guest never eat absolutely everything on your plate or they’ll think you need another plateful!”

I was thinking of Greek hospitality today as I pegged the washing on the line and then my meandering thoughts wandered to the ripe crop of wild blackberries growing all around me – and to John Wesley and our recent visit to County Fermanagh. In Wesley’s era (mid 1700’s) as he travelled as an itinerant preacher, he experienced all sorts of attitudes. He truly was very much “a stranger” in many parts of Ireland back then and would have often encountered downright hostility, even (and perhaps especially) from some of those in the “established churches.” The latter would have referred to themselves as “Christians” but their behaviour showed anything but the love which is expected of those who have been born again of the Spirit of God.

John Wesley apparently stated that he would have “starved in certain parts of Ireland, were it not for the blackberries growing freely in the hedgerows.” Sadly this showed a lack of love on the part of those who claimed to be Christians in those areas he visited. However, there are still areas in Ireland today which are influenced by what John Wesley stood for in those days.

We discovered a tiny former Methodist “tin church” not far from our accommodation. Above is Toneyloman (or Tonyloman) Methodist Church, which I initially thought was a small mission hall, until we spoke to the gentleman living just across the road from it; he kindly told us something of its history. The tiny church was erected in 1905 and he remembered well the very last service ever held there – a Harvest in the autumn of 1995. That very last service was packed out, because people from other churches crowded in, as they sadly saw the great significance of such finality after 90 years. He told us that this was his family’s church (just a few steps across the road!) which they attended every Sunday evening at 6pm and his mother played the organ there. After the closure of the tiny church, his father (a farmer but now deceased) bought it and the piece of land on which it stood.

John Wesley had, in fact, visited the spot on which this gentleman’s bungalow stands today, although in those days perhaps it would have been a thatched cottage or house. I find it all very fascinating to discover the history of these places where that old servant of the Lord visited and had such an influence. Sadly he would shake his head if he were alive today to see the changes, the decadence, the ecumenism and the great falling away – and I don’t believe that he would be any more welcome in certain quarters, than he was back then.

John Wesley also wrote hymns but his brother Charles was the more prolific hymn writer and right now “Love Divine, all loves excelling…” comes to mind. When we truly know the Source of “Love Divine” our hearts should be filled with love for our fellowmen. Certainly, if an itinerant preacher of the truth came to our area, I would hate to think that he would have to survive on wild blackberries!

The little old Greek lady cared for me all those years ago, although sadly I don’t know whether she was a Christian but I would love to think that she had somehow heard the gospel. I thank the Lord for His goodness and mercy to me, even in the years when I was outside of Christ and I pray that He would assist me to help and to love my fellow mankind and to love as He loved.

“Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.” (Hebrews 13v1&2)

“As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6v10)

“A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13v34&35)

Never Look Back

August 10, 2022

There is a well know beacon at the entrance to the harbour of Baltimore in West Cork. For centuries sailors far out to sea loved to see it looming on the horizon, a familiar beloved sight reminding them that the home they longed to reach was not too far away.

As the Christian travels Home, they see by faith a Beacon on the Horizon and know that life’s short day will soon be over. That Beacon, the Light of the world throws powerful warning beams to travellers on the troubled dark waters of life and they sail for the shore in the strength of His might. They are advised never to look back (or dwell on) on the troubled scenes that they have left behind in more turbulent waters. At best it is a waste of valuable time and at worst it can lead to disaster. The welcome knowledge that Home is on the horizon keeps them sailing steadily forward, through peaceful and stormy waters.

I found it interesting that the earthly beacon which looks out onto the Atlantic Ocean in Baltimore is known as “Lot’s Wife,” probably because it resembles a pillar of salt! Anyone who has read the account (in Genesis 19) knows that Lot’s wife made the terrible mistake of “looking back” (Verse 26). Spiritually speaking, the devil loves it when anyone looks back to the scenes of their old life outside of Christ, if it allows the enemy to taunt, accuse and even tempt with matters which have long since been repented of and forgiven by the Lord…. “thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7v19) Of course we can learn from our mistakes and when giving a testimony to what the Lord has done for us, we give Him the glory by referring to how He has blotted out those things which were displeasing to Him in our old, unregenerate lives.

I don’t know what Lot’s wife was thinking of when she looked back. Did she feel that she was going to miss the old life? I don’t know but the Lord knew her heart and sadly her disobedience to a simple commandment had terrible consequences.

The earthly “Lot’s Wife” high up on the cliff overlooking the ocean, reminds us that it looks outwards and is a beacon throwing out great rays of light – not a defeated figure with its back to the vast expanse before it. We too, as vessels basking in the Light of the Great Beacon must press forward, travel onwards by faith, victorious over sin and death and hell in His strength. Throwing out the lifeline, we show that great hope for troubled travellers in dark waters, that they may be led safely to the Throne of Grace.

Sailing onwards, looking forwards,

Drawn by Love’s victorious Light;

Rowing on in the Master’s might,

We see by faith and not by sight;

And though the waters dark may be,

Upon life’s changing, restless sea,

Our eyes must always forward be,

Until He reigns eternally.

© Elizabeth Burke

“Homes Fit for Heroes”

July 27, 2022

Very recently we stayed close to Cleenish Island on Lough Erne in County Fermanagh, a beautiful place to which a bridge was built to the mainland in 1956. I discovered from research that this island had been set aside for 12 soldiers, veterans from the First World War. The Prime Minister at the time was Lloyd George (1863-1945) and he had described the dwellings offered to veterans around Britain as “homes fit for heroes.” Each of these particular veterans was allocated 30 to 40 acres of land and a house, with the intention that they would eke out a living on the island. The only one to stay there was a man named Johnny Balfour, who died aged 101 and whose son and daughter became the sole occupants of the island. (The brother and sister have since died in 2018 and 2021 respectively, having moved off the island in 2016.) As we drove across the bridge to this hauntingly beautiful place with its abandoned dwellings, I thought of those veterans all those years ago and although a dwelling place with so many acres each may seem wonderful, it must have been difficult in those days, when it was even more remote, as to reach the mainland was an ordeal before the bridge was built! I wasn’t surprised to learn that all of the veterans but one, decided not to settle there.

War weary veterans would have been traumatized by some of the bloodshed that they had been witness to. They struggled home to find old acquaintances gone and life changed and apparently the rents were relatively very high on these houses they were allocated. Like weary travellers and life’s veterans, the Christian too is travelling Home – but there is no rent or mortgage payable on this Home and as the Christian stumbles through scenes that they would never ever want to live over again – they are comforted by the Guide that they have put their trust in and they often lean more heavily on Him at times, on that journey Home.

Those who love and follow this Guide, the Lord Jesus Christ, are not the heroes of the story – but He is. To those who know Him, He says… “In my Father’s house are many mansions: If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14v2) Do you know Him today, the One who loved you enough to die for you that you would inherit a mansion in the sky, which cannot be compared to any earthly dwelling, however grand it is? It will be a Home built by a Hero (the greatest who ever lived on this earth) and all He wants is for you to repent, give your life to Him and accept the gift He offers you of eternal life in this Heavenly Home.

The First World War produced many notable poets who were nostalgic in their thoughts of their earthly homes, wondering would they ever see them again – but this life’s journey has produced many notable hymn writers who refer to their “heavenly Home.” Ann Ross Cousin (1824-1906) wrote a hymn of many verses, “The Sands of Time are Sinking,” one of which I quote…

“I’ve wrestled on t’wards heaven,

‘Gainst storm and wind and tide,

Now, like a weary traveller

That leaneth on his guide,

Amid the shades of evening,

While sinks life’s lingering sand,

I hail the glory dawning

From Immanuel’s land.”

John Newton, who wrote “Amazing Grace” has strong associations with Donegal, a County which borders County Fermanagh, as it was here that he had his spiritual awakening when a severe storm at sea brought him to the Saviour’s feet. He also wrote another hymn, from which I quote the first two verses…

“As when the weary traveller gains

The height of some commanding hill,

His heart revives, if o’er the plains,

He sees his home, tho’ distant still.

Thus, when the Christian pilgrim views

By faith his mansion in the skies,

The sight his fainting strength renews,

And wings his speed to reach the prize.”

My prayer is that the reader would share in the sentiments that these hymn writers express and would know the joy of sins forgiven and a Mansion in the skies, as described in Frances Crosby’s hymn, “My Saviour First of all…”

“Oh the soul-thrilling rapture when I view His blessèd face,

And the lustre of His kindly beaming eye;

How my full heart will praise Him for the mercy, love and grace

That prepared for me a mansion in the sky.”

If you have not already done so, in the quietness of your heart ask the Lord Jesus Christ to come into your heart this day and He will be your faithful and loving Guide through the rest of your life here on earth, whatever it holds for you, until at last you cross the river to a beautiful and eternal Home, beyond the skies.

Remembering Our Old Friend – John Armstrong (1934 – 2022)

July 21, 2022

Last weekend while we were away at a Christian conference in the north we were saddened to hear from his wife, of the death of our old friend and previous neighbour John Armstrong. I had been aware that he had been in particularly ill health in recent times, but somehow it always saddens us to hear of the passing of someone with whom we associate having good fellowship and friendship. I remember well my first meeting with John when we came to live in this rural area many years ago now and I found him to be a quietly spoken, kindly and unassuming gentleman. Later I was to meet his wife Muriel with whom I am still in touch, even when they later moved to a town where the hospital is nearby, as John had suffered from heart failure.

When John and his wife Muriel lived near us in years past, they would often join with us in prayer and I recall well those good evenings of sincere prayer. When I look across fields with the blue sea on the horizon, I can still see the bungalow where John and Muriel used to live and my thoughts go back to those days. But I particularly remember John’s lovely singing voice, as we always sang a few hymns before our prayer – and how he loved those old hymns!

I also remember his wonderful singing at the funeral of another old friend, Evelyn Taylor, who passed away in recent years. I don’t know a great deal about John’s life in his younger years, except that he had previously sadly lost his first wife Stella (whom I had never met) when she died at a relatively young age with cancer. However, I have met on at least one occasion, his four children, Joan, Ian, Sarah and Keith. John had also been very involved with the “Gideons International,” an organisation which prints Bibles in many languages, leaving them in hotels, guest houses, schools, prisons and many other locations.

Shortly after I met him, John told me how another “John” – John Dickson, an evangelist who once worked in this part of the Republic of Ireland, led him to the Lord. Coincidentally, I knew John Dickson (1914 – 2010) very well, as he was an old friend of my father – and much older than my father! What a small world – or at least, a small Ireland!

I feel with each of the old saints who pass, that it is very much ‘the end of an era.’ But we who remain, must keep our eyes on the Lord and what He would have us occupy our days with in these spiritually needy times. I remember John Dickson, when he gave his testimony saying… “He has a mission field for every one of us – wherever He has called us to be!”

It is wonderful to think how one ‘John’ reached out to another ‘John’ and led him to the Lord and how both souls can now meet together in their Saviour’s Presence, in the great “by and by.” In the words of John’s death notice… “And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels…” (Malachi 3v17)

Parisee Mission Hall, County Cavan

July 11, 2022

Numerous lakes, rolling hills and little forests scattered through rural landscape all come together to form my impression of lovely County Cavan. The people of Cavan maintain that ‘there is a lake for every day of the year!’ (Apparently this is no exaggeration.) Parisee Mission Hall, in the rural district of Parisee which is close to the village of Cloverhill, overlooks a lovely lake too; I viewed it on the first Sunday afternoon in July through the hedgerow of sweetly smelling summer honeysuckle.

Meetings in the Parisee area have been running even before a mission hall was ever built. Mr Norman Woodhouse who is a native of that area of Cavan has a recollection of attending meetings in an old family home belonging to Maxwell Cherry’s family and Ms Granleese remembers going to meetings as a child in the late 1940’s in a long low old cottage belonging to the Cherry family. The latter have been associated with meetings in this area for many years and I actually have a very faded photograph of the older hall somewhere, if I could only find it. From local knowledge this old wooden hall was most likely erected in the early 1950’s but even prior to this many people in the area in those early years were saved through the ministry of Faith Mission pilgrims, Ms Hanna and Ms Parker in the Cherry homestead. I have been told that Ms Gordon and Ms Marshall who worked for the I.E.B. (Irish Evangelistic Band) were also active in the early years. In later years, in 2007, the present new hall was built, Mr John Boyd (Portadown) officiating at the opening.

Currently there is a meeting there on the first Sunday of every month at 3pm and everyone is welcome. Before the onset of Covid 19 and its ensuing restrictions, monthly meetings were held at 8pm. However, they may well revert to this time in the future, when pandemic conditions return (hopefully) to some sort of normality.

The speaker this month was Ms Elizabeth Conn who always has an excellent (and unique message in these days) for both growing Christians and souls in need of a Saviour. It is especially good to see a weekly prayer meeting being held there on Monday nights at 8pm. How we need to pray in these days…

After the meeting my husband and I embarked on the two hour journey home, stopping en route for some refreshments in the countryside. As I opened the boot of the car to take out a flask of hot water to make tea and coffee, I instinctively felt that somebody or something was watching me. Turning around quickly I saw to my delight the most beautiful red fox standing close by amongst the trees. He kept on standing there staring at me even when I said: “Hello Mr Fox!” However, when I opened the car door to get my phone to take a photograph he just disappeared unfortunately.

Somehow this little incident brought to mind some words from a hymn which is in the old “Songs of Victory” book used by Parisee Mission Hall…

“See, they are waiting, Looking at you,

Furtively watching all that you do:”

In the human sphere, we just never know who is watching us; surely our lives should be testimonies in themselves…

We had just listened to a message in which we were encouraged towards a holy life as Christians and those lives of ours should radiate the deep and caring love of our Master for others… “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” (1Corinthians 13v13)

I quote the third and fourth verses of the hymn “Love Never Faileth…”

See, they are waiting,

Looking at you,

Furtively watching

All that you do:

Seeming so careless,

Harden’d and lost.

“Love never faileth,”

Count not the cost.

Love never faileth,

Love is pure gold;

Love is what Jesus

Came to unfold,

Make us more loving,

Master, we pray

Help us remember

Love is Thy way.

(Flora Kirkland 1862 – 1911)

May the Lord continue to bless the ministry of Parisee and other little mission halls in the years ahead.

“Who Can Track a Tract?” “Cast Thy Bread Upon the Waters…”

June 25, 2022

I was reminded this week of one of Roger Carswell’s little tracts (this one for Christians): “Who Can Track a Tract?” I picked up the latter at a convention he was speaking at in County Cork and was encouraged to read in it how tracts have been used greatly of the Lord. He tells how the founder of Hawes Creamery picked up a discarded tract when he was a teenager, read it and was converted through it. The story of how John Hudson Taylor (pioneer missionary to China) was saved through a tract is there, as is the story of how a pamphlet written by Martin Luther fell into the hands of John Bunyan, author of “Pilgrim’s Progress” helped him to Christ.

This little tract: “Who can Track a Tract” is a good one for distributing amongst Christians as it has a work to do in itself in encouraging them to reach out. It outlines the many advantages of the tract which can be “a powerful proclaimer of the gospel.” Tracts (unlike me!) do not get tongue-tied and they are instant proclaimers of the gospel which can be read by all types of people in all types of situations. He talks in it of how he regularly “loses” tracts in telephone kiosks, public transport seats, library books, pre-paid envelopes and other places where he knows they will be found. When travelling overseas he always obtains some with the native language, passing them to waiters, hoteliers and contacts. Of course all of this must be accompanied by much prayer and he is encouraged by such verses as “Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.” (Ecclesiastes 11v1)

I feel an assurance in my heart that when we honour the Lord in this domain, then, most definitely we will discover the fruit of our labours “after many days” – if not here, then certainly in eternity.

There are people out there who will never enter an evangelical church door, hear a traditional gospel message or come in contact with a Christian who witnesses to them but they will someday chance upon a tract. The writer himself (an English man who has written many tracts) has come in contact with people who have told him how they were saved through the reading of tracts. One was a worker for Royal mail and another was a railway carriage cleaner who had been working through the night when he picked up a tract and came to know the Lord through it. Mr Carswell says that he always keeps some tracts on his person wherever he is – something I should have thought of a few days ago!

This week I happened to be in a store and not being able to find the item I was looking for, I asked a young lady assistant who was pricing items and packing shelves. She had the words: “I’m here to help” written on the back of her uniform, so I assumed she could speak English. With a friendly smile and broken English she assured me that she hadn’t a clue what I was talking about. “Ukrainian” she said, pointing to herself. I assured her in sign language, with a smile, that it was ok, I would find the item myself. Then I remembered the few Ukrainian tracts I had picked up at the convention but they were in the boot of the car. After purchasing the item, I went out and retrieved a tract which was entitled the Ukrainian equivalent of “Key to Life” – a tract which I also have in English.

To my dismay I couldn’t find her when I returned but then I suddenly turned around and there she was smiling brightly, like she remembered me. I said: “Welcome to Ireland!” and presented her with the tract and my contact details. I felt that this whole episode was of the Lord and I pray that His Word will not “return unto Him void.” As I’m not an urban dweller, it is possible for days to pass before I see anyone that I’ve never given a tract to – but there are many other ways to be a witness. And sometimes our lives can be that witness too…  May the Lord bless in these dark days, as we endeavour to reach others for Him and let us not “be weary in well doing.” (Galatians 6v9)

“They that sow in tears shall reap in joy…” (Psalm 126v5)

On Slavery, Islam, the Sack of Baltimore – and “a Thief in the Night:” A Tract

June 20, 2022

On a recent visit to the village of Baltimore in West Cork, I gave out the following in tract form. This strange event is something which I wrote about in a previous blog on June 20th, 2015 and decided to edit it into tract form for distribution when we visited the location. These Muslim pirates also raided other European coastal towns and villages, including Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, the British Isles, the Netherlands and even Iceland. Today the beautiful fishing village of Baltimore is very peaceful but nearly 400 years ago it was raided by Muslim pirates who carried men, women and children away to a life of slavery. As I walked around the cliffs overlooking the blue sea, I wondered what had ever become of those people after this terrible event…

 “Some years from now, the significant date June 20th 2031, will mark the 400th anniversary of “the Sack of Baltimore.” On the night of Monday, 20th June 1631 Muslims from North Africa’s Algeria made a surprise raid on the village of Baltimore which lies on the coast of west Cork in Ireland. Thomas Osborne Davis (1814-1845) the Irish poet and politician describes the dreadful scene in his poem which is quoted in Des Ekin’s book “The Stolen Village.”

Most of those villagers (men, women and children) were carried far away to a life of slavery in North Africa; apparently only two of them ever saw Ireland again. I wonder what terrible stories they would have to tell us if they were alive today?

The Sack of Baltimore is said to have been “the most devastating invasion ever mounted by Islamist forces on Ireland or England.” Some of the prisoners would spend the rest of their lives chained to oars as galley slaves, while others may have been prisoners in harems. I can only imagine their horror as they tried to grow accustomed to the stifling heat of a new climate, while the peaceful seaside village that they once knew became a mere part of their dreams.

Today most people view slavery in terms of European slave traders whisking African prisoners away to a life of forced labour, something which was abhorrent to William Wilberforce, the Christian who headed the parliamentary campaign for the Abolition of Slavery. William Wilberforce (1759-1833) is said to have trusted the Saviour in 1785 and went on to campaign for many other worthy causes, including the society for the prevention of vice, the foundation of the Church Missionary Society and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The words slave/slaves are only mentioned twice in the Bible (Authorised Version), given as an account, as it was part of the culture during certain periods of history. However, I believe that the Lord never intended that any man, woman or child should ever be a slave. (1Timothy 1v10 refers to “menstealers, amongst other evils.) Despite their slavery, however, many souls triumphed in adversity and became followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed!” (John 8v36)

As opposed to this, the Koran, on the other hand allows slavery and there is evidence to suggest that slaves still exist in many parts of the Islamic world, particularly in Saudi Arabia, even though Saudi Arabia and Yemen are said to have abolished slavery in 1962. However, there are countries which presently claim that slavery has the sanction of Islam and within these countries slavery is said to be a current practice; these include Chad, Mauritania, Niger, Mali and Sudan. (A couple of the latter also claim to have recently abolished slavery but unfortunately it does still exist as an accepted practice.)

I cannot even begin to imagine the trauma for those villagers in Baltimore all those years ago, when men, women and children were literally stolen away. The Algerian Muslims descended upon their peace “like a thief in the night.”

In 2Peter 3v10 we also read of a thief in the night: “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”

The villagers of Baltimore never for one moment expected such a terrible thing to happen to the peaceful security of their lives in that village in the southwest tip of Ireland. They had no warning at all.

On the other hand, there is a warning to those who live in the world today of that ‘Day of the Lord’ which is to come. We are warned of this many many times in God’s Word and for those who are His servants it is our duty to warn others of His coming again – this time to judge the world.

“Behold I come as a thief….” (Revelation 16v15) “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.” (Matthew 24v42) As the signs of the times show us that “the coming of the Lord draweth nigh” (James 5v8) may those who have never trusted Him, turn to the Lord in repentance, in the knowledge that your good works cannot save you. (Ephesians 2v8&9) and may those who do know Him as Saviour, be faithful to loved ones, neighbours, friends, acquaintances and every stranger they meet…”