Meet your alumnus of the year, James Ford Jr.
To learn how God repurposed an old Irish public house for His glory, you need to meet two Moody graduates, Michael and Amy (Ballantyne) Walsh. Michael and Amy met at Moody Bible Institute and married soon after graduation in 1987. For 26 years the Walshes have served God as missionaries in Ireland. “Ireland is still less than one percent believers,” Michael says.
“But the Lord is working in amazing ways. There are eight Irish young people who we have ministered to who are now in full-time ministry.”
In 2005, Michael and Amy began their present ministry in Roscommon, Ireland. At first they met in their living room. Little by little, the congregation of Grace Community Church grew until it outgrew their home. Amy says, “For about six years we rented an old church building. It was over one hundred years old and very cold and damp. It was not big enough to grow or expand anymore.”
Then the Walshes spotted an unusual building for sale in town. Also more than a century old, it had been used as a shop, a residence, and a public house. “It was for sale for a really good price,” Amy says.
“We prayed over it. The Lord brought in all the funds, and we secured permission to turn this pub into a church. We are so excited to see what God will do with this building in the very middle of Ireland.”
As veteran missionaries in Ireland, they are seeing God at work in the lives of the people. “We have seen the believers in Ireland mature and take ownership of the call to make disciples,” Michael says. “I have been here long enough to see the next generation come into church leadership.”
Michael likes to tell how God has changed the lives of two young men, both named Shane. “The first Shane came into my discipleship program as a giddy twelve-year-old. He was a handful, but I noticed early on that Shane always got serious when we opened the Word of God. Today, Shane is serving the Lord as a youth pastor.”
The second Shane attended a youth camp where Michael was speaking. “Shane claims he got serious about the Lord after one of my camp talks, but I know it probably has more to do with the faithful prayers of the many people around him who saw potential.”
As an adult, Shane sensed the call to ministry and was able to attend Moody Theological Seminary. “He is now involved in a church plant, reaching his own Irish people with the gospel,” Michael says. Two Shanes, both changed for God’s glory.
“Those are the types of encouragements that keep my hand to the plow,” he adds.
“I can see that the Lord has matured me,” Michael says. “Not only do I have more gray hairs, but hopefully I’m more humble and more dependent on the Lord than the pup who was ready to conquer the world thirty years ago.”
Michael and Amy are thankful for the biblical foundation and heart for ministry they gained at Moody. “The Lord is so gracious and patient. He put people in my life in those early years of ministry who helped me,” Michael explains. “I learned the basics of how to teach, lead, and counsel from my classes, my practical Christian ministry assignment, and serving as a resident assistant.”
Looking back, Michael can see the hand of God in his life. “We are approaching thirty years of marriage,” Michael says. “We were twenty-two when we got married and we often say we grew up together. I would not even have a ministry if it were not for my precious wife. We do life and ministry together.”
To the donors who sponsored their tuition, Amy says, “Thank you so much for your generosity and your faithfulness to God and His work. Thank you for investing your finances for eternity where thieves cannot break in and steal and where moth or rust cannot destroy.”
One of the ways the Walshes are seeking to reach Ireland with the gospel is through their new bookshop/coffee shop. The old pub area of the church building will soon be opened as The Olive Branch Christian Bookshop/Coffee Shop. “Lord willing, it will be a place where Christians can read their poetry, artists can show their God-given talent, and musicians can introduce Irish people to the Savior,” Michael explains.
“I was always grateful that MBI had a bookstore right on campus. It is one factor that influenced my love of Christian literature,” he adds.
“At the Olive Branch we want to introduce our town to the great Christian writers of the past and present and help people find peace with God.”
Michael and Amy appreciate your prayers:
Why do some prayers move mountains while others barely budge stones?
Prevailing Prayer is a treasure trove of stories and illustrations. It will renew your desire to pray and guide you in the best practices. Sharpen your prayer life as D. L. Moody, one of the greatest evangelists of all time, explains the elements of biblical, powerful prayer.
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