Jun 20, 2015 – Training Volunteer Leaders for Prison Ministry Studies

Sam Teaching Volunteers

Sam Teaching Volunteers

Since March, Sam and Patti have been working with the key leaders of an Irish prison ministry called RELEASE, to establish a Bible Academy for prisoners using CBSI studies. In the picture above, we are conducting initial training for about 20 volunteers who have expressed interest in becoming study leaders. Studies are slated to begin in August in two prisons and we will be training these volunteers by doing studies together over the next month.

Bible Academy Team

Bible Academy Team

Sam and Patti have been working closely with Connie, center, who is the RELEASE Volunteer Manager, and Tip (with wife Laurie) who was introduced at this meeting as the new Dean of Studies for the Bible Academy. Tip and Laurie are also missionaries from the US, having moved back to Ireland a few years ago to work with recovering addicts. We met Tip and Laurie through Tim and Cathy Rutman who knew them from their home church in Virginia.

Pray for us and this ministry as it has much potential for widespread impact. RELEASE is beginning to work in two additional prisons this year, so should be starting studies in those as soon as the time is right. Tip even invited some friends from Galway who have expressed interest in doing something in a 5th prison in their area.

June 9 & 13 – Exploring and Praying Scripture

We had about 40 people attending our presentation Monday evening at the Tallaght Methodist Church. Sam shared about Community Bible Study International and what we do along with some scriptures to motivate people to be studying the Bible. For additional motivation, we had three of our study leaders share about their experience with the CBSI studies and how it impacted their lives, shown in the pictures below. Following these presentations, we walked the participants through a short sample study so that they could experience the whole process. The response was good and the evening led to some great connections with the host pastor and the general director of Scripture Union Ireland.

Presenting CBSI at Tallaght Methodist Church

Presenting CBSI at Tallaght Methodist Church

On Friday evening, about 45 people attended our presentation at Zion Parish Hall in Rathgar. We followed a similar format as Monday night and had very positive responses. Three of those attending said that they wanted to visit some of our local groups.

June 9 – Final Preparations

We were truly blessed to have Ann and Sharon from the UK with us this week to help with the inter-denominational Bible week presentations and meetings. Ann and Sharon lead the CBSI-UK Children and Youth ministry and are helping us to establish a children and youth ministry in Ireland. We had asked them to come and be prepared to share with people coming to the Bible week presentations that were particularly interested in working with children.

Ann and Sharon found a nice spot to work on final preparations for their evening workshop on engaging children and youth in learning the Bible.

Ann and Sharon found a nice spot to work on final preparations for their evening workshop on engaging children and youth in learning the Bible.

At the presentation, there were 5 people who attended their workshop. Three of them arranged for a follow-up meeting on Thursday morning to learn more.

June 8 – Pentecost Sunday

We were at the Trinity College Chapel on Pentecost Sunday (first time ever) for the opening ceremony of the interdenominational Bible week in Dubin. It was a wonderful service and we had the surprise privilege of reading some scriptures for the service.

Stained glass windows above the altar

Stained glass windows above the altar

Sam and Patti after the ceremony

Sam and Patti after the ceremony

The organ/choir balcony

The organ/choir balcony

We will have the entire program Monday and Friday nights at other Dublin-area churches to share about our ministry with Community Bible Study International – Ireland (our facebook page) to include introducing the beginning of the CBSI Children & Youth ministry in Ireland. We already know of some who are coming Monday night to learn more about the Children and Youth resources to consider using them among a Christian community consisting of more than 200 people. Several people in this community are already part of or leading ongoing CBSI studies, so using it with the children could certainly lead to wider use throughout the community.

Pray with us for the impact of these evenings, that they will bear much fruit in connecting us with people desiring to be in God’s Word and looking for resources to help them get started.

Apr 2 – Pray for C&Y Training Saturday

I had mentioned in my previous post Feb 5-7 – The Beginning of a Children’s Ministry? about the UK C&Y Director visiting us and sharing with several ladies in one of the CBSI studies about what C&Y had to offer. The result of that visit was two ladies who wanted training so that they could move forward.

The UK C&Y Director arranged to come back this Saturday, April 5th, to train those ladies and we planned to have it here in our home. As we have invited others, such as Alpha Youth leaders, and these ladies have invited others, the number has grown to up to 15 participants, so we can no longer fit into our apartment. One of the original leaders was able to get a room in the school where she would be using the materials, so we have plenty of space and a kitchenette to use … praise God!

This will be the largest training that the C&Y Director has done and it is really different in that is does not consist entirely of people who are in a CBSI study, so she is a little nervous. Pray for all of us as we prepare and present on Saturday (5-10 am US EST), that God would give us favor among these youth leaders, that we would be able to satisfactorily answer all their questions and concerns. Also pray that the use of these C&Y studies would lead to the children’s parents becoming interested in studying the Word also.

Mar 6 – A Valuable Meeting

I mentioned earlier that we had met Peter, the new director of Alpha-Ireland, at the Tine conference in Feb. Peter expressed interest in meeting with us to look at CBSI as a potential follow-up to Alpha. We arranged earlier in the week to meet today in downtown Dublin.

Peter and I (Sam) had a very productive time together and the future looks bright for ongoing collaboration between Alpha and CBSI in Ireland. The problems we face in Ireland are:

  • Very few people have any experience in personal Bible reading,
  • A very limited number of churches promote personal Bible reading / study,
  • Of those who are willing and motivated to study the Bible, a very small percentage are willing to be responsible to lead a study

With these problems existing, we have learned over the years that Alpha is a much easier “entry-point” for the Irish than CBSI because Alpha does not involve any homework/preparation for participants and less leadership responsibilities for the organizers. Unfortunately, there is still a “huge jump” from Alpha to CBSI. We have found good success with Alpha graduates using CBSI, but it required an experienced leader who was willing to give it a try.

Peter and I agreed that the major drawback for leaders in CBSI is the requirement for them to do a teaching / wrap-up talk after the discussion time. We felt that an effective alternative would be to provide video teaching to go with the discussion as Alpha does. Fortunately, this is a project that is already being pursued in the U.K. with a CBSI study called “God’s Amazing Book”. Peter and I felt that this would be a good study to use as a transition between Alpha and CBSI and that it would be even more effective with Irish teachers.

The U.K. CBSI director was in agreement and thought that it would be good to have the different voices for the different countries. The job now is to organize the teachers … pray that God will lead us to the right ones who are available and willing.

Peter was ‘on-board’ at the end of our meeting and told me he would be calling four of his Alpha leaders who were looking for good follow-up to recommend us and give them my contact information. He also had some other contacts that he thought might be interested and was also going to contact them. One of the main struggles he is facing in Alpha is expectations in churches that doing the Alpha course is going to revolutionize their churches when they don’t provide anything to follow Alpha that would help reap the benefits of going through Alpha. We are hopeful that this partnership will produce lasting results within churches that will contribute to the growth of both Alpha and CBSI.

Pray with us toward this end. Thanks you for standing with us!

Feb 5-7 – The Beginning of a Children’s Ministry?

We had the pleasure this week of having visitors from across the Irish Sea … the Directors of the UK Children and Youth Ministry. Wednesday evening they joined us in visiting one of the ladies CBSI Bible studies. This study has several ladies who had expressed an interest in using CBSI materials with children and youth, either for their own children or for those in schools where they teach.

After a delightful Bible study, 5 of the ladies joined us around the table to see some sample studies and to hear how they were being used in the UK, as well as how they were adaptable to many environments and situations. Two of the ladies in particular were keen to take several samples home to review and consider which best suited their situations, possibly for use in after-school programs. Discussions have already begun for Simon and Ann to return in April to train these ladies and other interested leaders.

One of the other ladies in the study came to our house with her husband for dinner and to learn about the C&Y studies as they are long-time friends of ours and have known Simon and Ann for many years also. We had another wonderful evening together discussing how the studies might be used with the children in their church.

We have been praying for years, as have many of you, for the right doors to open for the use of CBSI studies among children and youth here in Ireland. It appears that those doors are opening and God has provided the means to respond to these opportunities. Continue to pray with us that He would direct and give wisdom to those who are desiring to use these studies and those who make the decisions to bless their use, that the children and youth of Ireland can rediscover the joy of learning God’s Word.

Sep 30 – Final Week in Ireland

Thank you for praying with us for the time with the Lithuanian congregation. The time went very well and we had a great time of fellowship over tea after the service. They started a CBSI Bible study using a Lithuanian language study in Cellbridge, not far from Dublin, this last Thursday.

We met with the pastor of the church that hosts the Lithuanian congregation last Monday and he was very encouraged that we were ministering to the Lithuanians. He is also encouraging us to connect with a Romanian group that they also host at their church and we plan to do that as soon as we return in November.

We are finishing up cleaning, organizing, and packing today for our return trip to the U.S. tomorrow. We leave Dublin at 11:30 (6:30am EST) and arrive in Virginia at 6pm EST. Pray for safety as we travel and for the continued progress of the studies here in Ireland.

Sep 19 – A New Study … in Lithuanian

Shortly after arriving in Ireland in July, our counterpart in Lithuania told us about a Lithuanian couple living in Dublin who had expressed an interest in possibly starting a CBSI study with the Lithuanian congregation that they help lead in Dublin city center. We had lunch with the couple last week and they were ready to go. They had already been trained when visiting Lithuania earlier in the summer and had 5 or 6 people interested in joining them.

We found out that their church meets in an Irish church that we have visited often. We have talked with the Irish pastor several times and he is encouraged by and supportive of our ministry. In addition, the Lithuanian wife meets regularly with a lady in the church that have known Tim and Cathy Rutman for many years (Tim and Cathy started the CBSI ministry in Ireland). She is an elder in the Lithuanian church and usually preaches when the Lithuanian pastor is not there (he lives in Lithuania and comes to Dublin once a month).

We delivered the Lithuanian studies to the couple at church on Sunday, so they will be starting the study this week or next once they have arranged a suitable day of the week. During our time together last week, the wife (the husband does not speak English) invited us to preach at the Lithuanian service this Sunday afternoon (@ 2:30, which will be 9:30am EST), sharing about the CBSI study and preaching about the value of getting into the Word. So I will be preaching to motivate and Patti will follow with a presentation about the CBSI studies.

Please pray for us the remainder of this week as we finalize preparations for this time. Our CBSI activities for the week have been completed, so we have a good deal of time to prepare. Pray that people would be motivated to make the Word of God a significant part of their lives and that the number of participants for this initial study will double. Also pray for the employment situation of these Lithuanians … as immigrants to Ireland, most are unemployed and unable to find jobs.

July 31 – Helping Out at the Irish Bible Institute

I arranged with Louise, who I met at the IBI open house last week, to come in today to help her with the area of search engine optimization of their web sites (improving their position of appearance on search engines such as google). This is obviously not my purpose for being in Ireland, but we are seeking to use all of our skills to network and open doors to meet people and engage them and those they contact to find those interested in in-depth Bible study.

Due to missing my intended train (pulled away as I was getting my ticket) and having to wait an hour for the next one, I was late for our appointment. The good news is that I arrived just as they were preparing for tea, so I got to join them (about half a dozen staff that were there at the time, including the Principal) and fellowship over tea, coffee, and biscuits (cookies). They were interested in knowing more about my background, so I shared some of our story. It was encouraging to get to share about CBSI and why we had come to Ireland with so many of the IBI staff and volunteers at one time.

Louise and I worked together for about an hour, looking at their web sites and discussing ideas for improvement, especially seeking to understand their search engine analysis and how to improve their chances of prospects finding their site when doing internet searches. We both agreed upon some assignments for our next appointment. It was again encouraging that she was wanting to know more about CBSI as I was preparing to leave and showed interest in exploring it further.

During both the open house last week and during this visit I was encouraged to consider attending (auditing) an intensive one-week master’s course at the end of August. Pray for God’s leading in this and for His provision (about $400) if He would have me attend. It seems like it may be a strategic opportunity to interact with pastors and ministry leaders from around Ireland.