A commissioning service was held in Ballinderry Parish Church on Sunday June 13 for 17 members of the congregation who will be involved in two weeks of missionary outreach work in Mekelle, Ethiopia, this summer.
Led by the rector, the Rev Canon Ernest Harris and his wife Ray, the team will leave for Africa on Friday July 30.
This will be the parish’s third visit to Mekelle. A team went out in 2006 and 2008 after a link was established through Crosslinks’ Mission Partner Karen Salmon, as nurse from Belfast who has been in Ethiopia for the past 10 years.
The team members, whose ages range from 17 to over 60, will be involved in running holiday bible clubs for children at the Youth Centre and also at nearby Operation Rescue. They will also visit orphanages, a school for the blind and a local hospital.
Much of their teaching will have to be done through interpreters, so Canon Harris anticipates a busy fortnight. He said the people of Ballinderry parish were fully behind the team.
“The parish has embraced this link and they have been very supportive,” he said. Canon and Mrs Harris were involved in both previous trips, and the rector described Ethiopia as a very poor but fascinating country, with extremely friendly people.
“It has always been known as a Christian country, but they are Ethiopian Orthodox as opposed to Eastern Orthodox. They are quite Old Testament. You hear the call to prayer at 4.30 in the morning and people will often have been in church for two or three hours before they go to their work,” said Canon Harris.
“It is fascinating and we are looking forward to going back.”
The speaker at the commissioning service was Crosslinks’ Ireland Team Leader, the Rev Trevor Johnston. In a challenging address to the team and the congregation, Mr Johnston spoke of God’s call to respond to His plan of salvation for everyone.
Team members Matthew Foote, Heather Tuft, Billy Livingstone and Patricia Harris led the prayers; also taking part in the service were Daniel Boyd, Aaron Killough and Jenna Boyd. The praise was led by the organist Robert Yarr and the church choir and also the Parish Praise band which included members of the Ethiopia team.
The team flies to Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa via London on July 30, and then takes and internal flight to Mekelle in the north of the country.