The Last Faith Mission Convention in Stradbally, Co. Laois – and Memories of the Rock of Dunamase

The Stradbally area will always hold special memories for me, since it was the evocative beauty of the scenery here which inspired the covers for my first two books: “A Biblical Journey through the Irish Year” and “Singing on the Journey Home.” It was with a sense of anticipation tinged with a little sadness that we set out on our last journey to this area where the convention has been held for the last twenty-eight years.

Last weekend I recalled the bright August morning on which we first discovered the ‘Rock of Dunamase’ – ancient castle ruins dating back to AD 432, which the Stradbally area is famous for. This rock, if it could speak, would tell of many battles. In the 9th century it was plundered by the Vikings, in the 13th century it became a Norman stronghold, while in the 17th century it was destroyed by Cromwellian guns. Throughout Ireland’s turbulent history the Rock of Dunamase remained a strategic base, even through constant violent attacks. Amazingly the rock was recorded by the Greek geographer, Ptolemy, in his map of AD140!

Little did I know when I first photographed the “Rock Church” from high amongst the ruins of the Rock of Dunamase, that it would be on the cover of my first book and that a view of a lovely little Laois farmhouse would provide the cover for the second.

As we drove along the narrow country lanes, I gazed with interest at golden crops just waiting to be harvested. Yes, they were “white unto the harvest” but would there be enough help available to get those crops safely gathered in before the dark days of rain which had been forecast? There were numerous “tares amongst wheat” and regrettably some “wheat amongst the tares.”

And so I pray for the Faith Mission workers as they move to a new location; that they will stand true to the principles on which they were founded; that souls will be touched like never before and that the Lord will use this new centre in Durrow to His glory. I thank God that He gave ordinary people like me the opportunity to reach souls in the Stradbally area, while attending the convention there over the years and I pray that some day I will meet those souls in heaven.

It was good to meet with old acquaintances and to receive and give spiritual encouragement last weekend and I pray that those who attended will be met at the point of their spiritual needs, for how we need the Lord in these times.      

I thought about the spiritual condition of many who claim to follow the Lord, both in this county and others and sadly the words of Revelation 3v2 came to mind: “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.” Yet, recalling how I reflectively touched the ancient remains of the Rock of Dunamase years previously, I cannot but think of the words of Jesus to Peter, in Matthew 16v18… “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

That “Rock” was surely Christ, as is evidenced by the words of 1Cor. 10v4… “for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.”

If a great remnant of the earthly Rock of Dunamase still remains, despite the fierce battles of two hundred decades; how much more shall we withstand the gates of hell if we are strengthened and made pure by faith… in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Eternal “Rock of Ages?” Praise His Name.

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