Beautiful Things


Once again I headed for Woodvale this summer co-leading the team with Jude and once again I set high expectations, which were completely blown away by the end of the week. I arrived feeling like I hadn’t done very much in the build-up to the team, but instantly felt comfortable and knew that things would work out.

A big part of that was helped by a lot of familiar faces returning from last year’s team … you guys played a massive role in achieving what we did this year. God used each of you in your own unique way to connect with those kids and teens who we came into contact with during the week.

One of the great things I’ve found about leading a team is that once you’re there and up-and-running, you almost become a spectator at times. There were times when I felt like I was standing back and watching God transmit His message through you to the young people you were working with and seeing you shine for Him like the stars that you are!

All week in team devotions we were focusing on the theme of new life and the verse that summed this up for me and summed up how I feel the week went is:

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

2 Corinthians 5:20

We went to Woodvale as servants of the King and ambassadors for Christ … what we witnessed in our time there was a transformation of hearts, souls and attitudes that will help Woodvale Presbyterian shine out into a community that is too often associated with darkness.

Some banterous highlights (which will mostly only make sense to fellow team members) of my week included …

  • Lisa’s ridiculous excuse for a bed (second year running!)
  • Robert’s inappropriate uses of Benny & Betsy
  • Alana’s missing shoe
  • Melissa’s “Awk guysssssssssss”
  • Our national anthem – “Oh Church Arise”
  • Semi-naked team members
  • Nipples on Susie’s phone (not related to the previous point by-the-way!)
  • Laura Quinn’s affection for the Pink Poodle
  • Alana’s manly “Yeeeeeeeeeeooooooooooo”
  • Ryan’s epic puppet voice (especially in church on the last Sunday!)
  • The legend that is Albert
  • India trying to play ‘I Have Never’
  • The best goal celebration ever
  • Susie’s fear of Betsy
  • The “forgiveness balloon” craft
  • Busking For Souls
  • Frapes almost every day
  • Teens acts of random kindness
  • Pony pranking Dave’s phone
  • Mummy Spence’s amazing chocolate cake
  • Susie literally throwing a handful of sweets through a woman’s car window in an “act of kindness”
  • Neil’s non-flushing toilet
  • Ah bawwwwww
  • “You make beautiful things, You make beautiful things out of the dust…”

2010 – The Best Bits

It seems crazy that I’m sitting down to write this already and look back on what’s happened in 2010.  Looking back, I thought I’d pick out some of the moments, times, places and people that have stood out for me this year … enjoy …

Bon Jovi in London

Bon Jovi have always been a band that I have loved listening to. The first album I ever bought was their “Cross Road” album and I had seen them live in Croke Park, Dublin a few years ago but I doubt anything will come close to seeing them in the O2 Arena in London. Jena and I headed over at the end of June and spent two great days in London. The concert was absolutely immense with a packed out O2 and them playing for over two hours, just about as many of their greatest hits that I can remember.

We spent the second day taking in some of the sights and just generally relaxing around London before heading back home. A great break and a great concert experience … JBJ never fails to impress!

Woodvale PCI Team

Where do I even begin with this week of outreach in the summer?! I guess I should thank Jude for asking me to be her assistant this year and for the amazing job that she does not only during the week but throughout the entire year with the kids of the Woodvale area.

Words really failed me this year as we saw God work in so many ways and prayer being answered so readily and in so many powerful ways. The experience of co-leading the team was a great one and the guys who were on the team were amazing and I honestly mean that from the bottom of my heart. Nothing was too much to ask and everyone played their part in another amazing part in Woodvale’s history … you all truly shone like stars in the universe.

Never forget that greater things have yet to come, and greater things are still to be done in this City.


This was a holiday that was VERY much overdue for both myself and Jena. We hadn’t had a proper holiday since the last time we were in Florida in 2008 so this was a much needed break from the horrors of part-time work and the seemingly no hope of finding full-time employment, so we used it as two weeks to get away and recharge and forget about everything back home.

We headed back to the same area as before but were a lot more chilled out and caught some more rays while relaxing at the pool rather than being at a park every day. We still managed to do all of Disney, Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure and (on Jena’s part) a lot of shopping!

An truly awesome holiday and I even managed to get (a bit of) a tan!

Viva Aviva

As most people know I’m a complete rugby fanatic and will watch any level of the game and November is always a big month with the Autumn Internationals. This year was particularly special as it saw the completion of the new national stadium at Lansdowne Road, or as it’s now known the Aviva Stadium.

It is a spectacular stadium, not the best I’ve been in, but it’s still a special place to watch a game that I love. I was lucky enough to get tickets to the opening international between Ireland and South Africa but unfortunately due to a massive cock-up by the IRFU regarding ticketing prices the place was only 70% full. It really dampened the atmosphere and let down what should have been a sell-out with the world champions coming to play there for the first time but hopefully this administrative error will be rectified before the Six Nations in February.

The Aviva is now home to Irish rugby but is still a very long way off recreating the atmosphere of the old Lansdowne Road.

Peter Kay

This was a night that we had waited almost a year for … Peter Kay live in the Odyssey Arena, Belfast. Probably the funniest comedian I have ever seen which is a huge compliment since my DVD collection includes Michael McIntyre, Eddie Izzard, Dara O’Brian, Patrick Keilty, Ross Noble, Frankie Boyle, Rhod Gilbert and Neil Delamere.

I honestly didn’t stop laughing through his entire routine with me in tears at some points and would highly recommend buying the DVD if and when it comes out next year!

Just some of the things that I found hilarious included …

  • The time before rulers were shatterproof
  • Teachers with amnesia
  • Teaching his nan to use Sky+
  • Checking FaceTube on your Thigh Phone
  • Woofing, Quacking and Mooing to Good King Wenceslas and Jingle Bells

The Best Christmas Present Ever!

After two and a half long years of trying to find a full-time graphic design job and after countless rejection letters, non-responses and feeling like giving up … I have managed to successfully escape the nightmare of retail and land myself a job in the marketing department of a top scientific company based in north Belfast.

I am so unbelievably thankful for them giving me the break that I needed and I’m positive that I will not let them down once I commence working for them after Christmas. I am also incredibly indebted to all the people who have been supporting me through their prayers and their helpful advice and pointers over the last number of months.

I kept my eyes focused on one Bible verse the whole time and it just goes to show that God is God and God is good …

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29 v.11

So I guess overall 2010 has been a bit of a mixed bag of feelings, expectations and emotions for me and in true fairy-tale style it ended with a happily ever after! I do plan to sit down before the official end of the year and look back at the goals I had set myself for this year and work out a few goals for 2011 and a few things that I’m already looking forward to … but for now I guess I’d like to say Merry Christmas to you if you’re reading this and hope 2010 has been a good one for you too!


Woodvale Team 2010


So it’s that time of year again … scary to think it’s 12 months since the team last year and even scarier to think that I’m co-leading the team this time around! We seem relatively well prepared and I get the feeling from the team that it’s going to be a good one and the whole Woodvale area is buzzing already in expectation of the return of Woodvale’s Got Talent!

I’ve jotted down our prayer points for the week below and as a team we would really appreciate your prayers over what is going to be a very busy, hectic, tiring, energy sapping but amazing God-filled week … you can also download a copy to print out <>.

Woodvale 2010 Team Prayer Points

* Our vision is to see dignity restored to people and to the Woodvale community through serving them in a Jesus-like way – pray that this would happen.

*Our newly birthed church youth group Squat will be serving alongside the team – this is an exciting new development – please pray that these young people would really encounter God through this and have their lives transformed. A small number of them are Christians but they have massive struggles – please pray for breakthrough with these issues – and that those who aren’t yet Christians will want to say Yes to Jesus.

* Pray for our kids and teens work – that young people would see God as real, powerful and exciting – and that life with Him is incomparably better than the alternatives offered to them as they hang out on the streets. Pray that many would want to come into a relationship with Him.

* Pray for our Woodvale’s Got Talent community event – people in Woodvale have been asking all year if we were going to repeat this after last year’s success. Please pray that this is a powerful experience for those who take part and those who come into the church to watch – that the community would be drawn together and see the church as somewhere open to them. Also pray that those who take part will feel so validated by being applauded and celebrated – and that they would experience Jesus through this.

* Pray for the team – that we would be united in vision and in Jesus’ Love. Pray for Jude and myself as we lead – for wisdom, passion and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.

* Pray for the Church – that people would be inspired to get more and more involved in serving the people of Woodvale. Pray that the Church will become a central hub in the community.


Future Dreams Turn To Real Life Nightmares


The opening line “What a difference a day made, twenty four little hours”  is from an old song that Jamie Callum covered a few years ago … the song goes on to tell of knowing that every day with someone you love is precious and how one day could have made the difference between being with them and never seeing them again.

It seems appropriate that this song came into my head when I heard the lunchtime news on the radio today.  Not even 24 hours after attending an incredibly inspiring evening in the Urban Soul Cafe held by Tell It In Colour, which used real people’s stories to reflect on the good news stories that are showing the world that Northern Ireland is changing for the better …… I find myself hearing breaking news of a man being gunned down in broad-daylight on a busy street in North Belfast.

Up until probably three years ago I had never been on the Shankill Road … never driven anywhere near it and knew no-one who lived there.  Now that area of Belfast is only a few hundred yards from where I have been involved with the Woodvale PCI team for a couple of years and is an area that I feel part of every time I go there.  It’s frightening to think that there are some people in this city who would intentionally go out of their way rob someone of a husband, a father or a son.

I guess we can only hope, dream and pray for a brighter future for this city.


Tick, Tick, Tick

Just thought I’d update the list of things I had planned at the start of 2010 to do this year.  So far I’ve managed to tick off half of them and we’re only half way through March so I guess I’m not doing too bad!

Head back to the States with Jen

We have just recently booked to head back to Orlando for two weeks in October … I know it seems a long way off but I’m really looking forward to it already and cannot wait to hit the rollercoaster trail again!

Get back into a gym routine

Wednesday nights have officially become gym night … possibly due to the lack of Liverpool featuring in any Champions League action this season which has dramatically freed up my Wednesday nights!

PCI Team 2010

I’ll be heading back to Woodvale at the end of August and will be the assistant team leader this year alongside Jude.  I was delighted when she asked me if I would help her lead and am really excited about the work that’s going to be done this year, about the team members that we’re going to have and everything that amazed me about Woodvale last year!

I guess that’s as far as it goes in terms of progress so far in 2010 … still a couple of things left on the list and probably the most important one to me is still sitting at #1 and is still unticked …

  1. Find a job doing something I love
  2. Head back to the States with Jen
  3. Get back into a gym routine
  4. Finish reading a book in the same year that I start it!
  5. Spend less time on the computer
  6. PCI Team 2010
  7. Keep in touch with people better
  8. Redesign my business cards


The Video That Facebook Rejected

I know I’ve already blogged about some of the events during the week in Woodvale and anyone who’s been on a PCI team before will know that words simply don’t do it justice … experiences that will last a lifetime and some memories we’d no doubt rather forget!

They say a picture says a thousand words, so enjoy many thousands of words in the following four minutes …

[flashvideo file=”” /]

A Crazy Few Weeks …

I honestly cannot believe as I’m sitting writing this it is the second week in September!  It seems forever since I sat down and reflected on what been happening in the last few weeks so here goes.

July 31st – August 9th (BB Camp – London)

Our annual camp took us to the BBUK Headquarters in London this year and an eventful week if nothing else lay in store for us.  The week featured a pool ball through a window, two sets of ride-on mower blades being broken, flooded tents, threats of through-the-night beatings and the typically smutty quotations that always manage to get associated with camp.  What more could you ask for?!

August 22nd – 30th (Woodvale PCI Team)

I returned to Woodvale with really high hopes and hoping everything would run smoothly.  It didn’t exactly happen like that but the week was still amazing and although it got tough at times, that made us rely on God for so much more.  The nights where we had stones through the windows and bangers and fireworks through the door was an especially testing night but we coped and thankfully no-one was injured!

Although it was tough, I wouldn’t have wanted it have been any other way … there’s no point going on a team and feeling comfortable and safe in your faith.  Teams have always challenged me to some degree and have forced me out of my own little “safe zone” and I have grown spiritually and as a person and benefited greatly from serving on these types of teams.

I think my highlight of the week was on Saturday evening at the “Woodvale’s Got Talent” live show when the downstairs of the church was about 85% full … possibly the fullest it has been in years … and three little guys who had been causing carnage most of the week stood up to perform “Our God Is A Great Big God.” I could not believe the reaction these kids got from their peers, no laughing, joking or pointing … but a sea of arms doing the same actions in complete unison … an amazing feeling of what is possible in this church and this community when we think BIG.

September Onwards …

Like I said I cannot believe it’s September already… I’m off work for a fortnight along with Jena since I’ve been away most of August!  No exotic holiday planned though as we couldn’t find anything cheap enough and it’s worked out that we couldn’t have gone because Jen’s just got a part-time lecturing job three days a week until possibly Christmas.  Just having the time off and the time together is good enough for me!

It’s been 9 months since I made this list of goals for 2009 … only one left … but it’s a biggie!

  1. Find a job doing something I love
  2. Buy my own car
  3. Look forward to a summer break with Jen somewhere sunny!
  4. BB Camp in London
  5. PCI Team… hopefully back to Woodvale!


The Eve of The Vale ’09 …

Tomorrow (technically it’s later today since midnight has passed) I head off on my PCI Summer Outreach team back to Woodvale.  Like I’ve said before Woodvale is a place that feels like it’s part of me since I was part of the team last year … the church is so welcoming, the kids are fantastic to work with and the team just clicked … so I guess I’m hoping for more of the same this year.

In fact I’m looking for more than that … our God is a God who can “do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20) so I’m looking forward to a more welcoming church and community, more amazing teens with their own backgrounds, troubles, fears and hopes and I’m looking forward to working and serving with 24 other fantastic team members each of whom will bring something completely unique to the team.

Behind all the excitement there are obviously some nerves … fear of no-one turning up … fear of the weather staying the way it’s been recently … fear of massive technical failures … ok maybe  I’ve been focussing on the negatives too much … but one thing I’m not afraid of is knowing that whatever happens will happen because it’s simply meant to … God has it under control!

I’ve listed a few prayer points below that I know the whole team would appreciate a few words being said to the Big Man on our behalf …

Pray For The Area:

  • For God’s Kingdom to be expanded in Woodvale…for His will to be done…and for a community to be touched by His Love.
  • For kids, young people and adults to say yes to Jesus and to begin to live transformed lives!
  • For young people who are already on a journey with God to give themselves more fully to Him, to grow in their faith and see transformation in their lives.
  • For kids and young people to realise that they are special andsignificant and that God loves them deeply.
  • For community groups who are doing vital work all year round in the community – organising activities to engage with kids and keep them from anti-social activities.

Pray For The Church:

  • For the leaders and congregation at Woodvale Presbyterian Church to be encouraged and inspired by the outreach going on this summer.
  • For the church and team to have a shared vision
  • For many people from within the church to get involved with the outreach activities.
  • That God would renew, strengthen, encourage and continue to excite the minister Ken Doherty.
  • That God would bless follow-up work that goes on – including the Sunday night ‘Squat’ group and possible new ideas for youth Bible study groups.

Pray For The Team:

  • For Jude & Chris as they take up the leadership of the team and all that that will involve.
  • For Lynn and Leanne leading the Kid’s Club and me leading the Teens Section in the mornings.
  • For Susie leading the Teens outreach in the evenings.
  • That we would have a servant-like approach to everything we do
  • That we would be united and display Jesus-like qualities
  • For team safety and protection in all we do – especially late night outreach activities.
  • For strength of mind, body and soul to face all the challenges of the week.
  • That we would step into all the divine opportunities that God will set up.
  • For wisdom and grace in dealing with any difficult young people
  • That God would give each of us some of His heart and passion for the people of Woodvale.

Thanks again in advance guys, it’s so good to know people are thinking and praying about us while we’re away!  I’ll try to keep you all posted via my Facebook status throughout the week!