We are so thankful to Ralph Ireland, who has shared a bit of his story and how God has been teaching him and his wife Maureen, through an incredibly testing time:
I became a Christian in my mid-twenties, after almost a decade of ‘searching’ for God. I thought of the Bible as a ‘useful book’ that, as a Christian, I should take seriously – but not too seriously. The Auca Indians of Ecuador were used of God to change my views here. These Indians, first contacted for the Gospel 60 years ago, had come to see the Bible as ‘God’s carving’ – and they took it as His very Word. When I learned about this, I knew I had to do the same.
It was reading about the work of Bible translation amongst the Aucas that God brought me (eventually) to join Wycliffe Bible Translators – along with Maureen. That was in 1968. Two factors are especially relevant here: First, I met Maureen (who was already called of God to the mission field) in a whirlwind romance. (No room for that story here!). Secondly – out of the context of my employment with a large electrical engineering company – God challenged me to change my priorities. At the time I was working on a selective information retrieval project – decades before Google! – a project designed to help busy research engineers and scientists find papers of vital importance amongst the enormous quantity of literature pouring off the world’s technical presses.
God challenged me with the contrast between those ‘drowning’ in too much literature and the millions in the world who were dying for lack of knowledge of the one true God because they had no Christian literature to help them find Him.
Maureen and I served with WBT for 30+ years, and retired here to Nottingham 15 years ago. One of the major reasons for choosing Nottingham was to continue working with Christian literature, which I did by working as a volunteer with Inter-Varsity Press – no sadly no longer based here in Nottingham.
Five years ago on January 19th 2011 my beloved Maureen collapsed in my arms. The suggestion of the Emergency Dr on duty at QMC that night was that ‘I should prepare for the worse’. In the goodness of God that did not happen. In fact, as many of you know, she has made amazing progress. ‘Received wisdom’ has it that after a brain haemorrhage you can’t expect much progress after the first couple of years. God – in His Grace – has been working well beyond that time.
As George began to open 1 Thessalonians up to us recently, he stressed how significant that Grace is for us. Have you experienced it? I have. George also focussed on the ‘steadfastness of hope‘. That is a crucial ingredient of the Christian life. Many of us experience days of darkness, days when perhaps God seems to have deserted us; days when we don’t have any sense of hope. I’ve experienced that, too. Amazingly, it is God’s grace that restores our hope. He has done that for me, also.
Let me tell you, briefly, what hope Maureen and I have in our current situation. Some months ago I told many of you that we hoped to move to Pilgrim Gardens in Evington, Leicester as and when one of the flats there designed for wheelchair living became available. That was based on the Care Home suggestion that I – along with some welfare help – could handle her physical needs. Sadly, that proves not to be the case.
So, has hope died? No, it has been restored. The revised ‘plan’ is that as and when a flat becomes available, Maureen will move into the Pilgrim’s Nursing Home which is adjacent to the flats. We are, of course, still waiting for a flat to become available – and do not know when that will be. But hope remains and – by God’s grace – is steadfast.
One final point. George also reminded us of the importance of constant prayer for each other. Beeston Free Church members have (1 Thess 1: 7) become ‘an example to all the believers’ – and some unbelievers, too! Thank you for continued prayer for us – and for the visits and other acts of kindness you have made on our behalf. They, too, are provisions by God’s grace.