The English title of the first book of our Bible is ‘Genesis’, this comes from the Greek translation meaning ‘origins’. It is good to discover how things began so we can appreciate what they have developed into. In this second article on ‘the beginnings’ of Irish CEF I want to trace the origins of two key ministries of 21st century Irish Child Evangelism Fellowship®.
‘Pickie’ Outreach – The ‘genesis’ of Youth Challenge™.
In 1962, Bangor in Co. Down was the largest and best known holiday resort in Northern Ireland. Sam and Sadie Doherty were the volunteer Directors of the fledgling Irish CEF. They were invited to conduct a six-week evangelistic campaign to the children of Bangor at the height of the holiday season. Over sixty young people came at intervals from all over Northern Ireland to help with this thrilling outreach. Every day was full – morning, afternoon and evening. The afternoon activities were centred at the open-air Pickie Arena, where on a Sunday afternoon up to 600 people would gather to hear the Gospel presented.
The Dohertys had the vision and wisdom to harness the zeal in the lives of those young people. So was born the CEF Youth Council. Those teens and twenties met monthly during the autumn and winter months for fellowship, Bible teaching and the planning of further outreaches. In the years following Bangor, other outreaches were conducted in the Isle of Man and Paris as well as locally. After some time the name was changed to Youth Challenge. Today there are 11 Senior Youth Challenge groups meeting on a regular basis plus 24 Junior Youth Challenge groups. The objective has not changed – to help young Christians grow and to prepare them for service.
‘Mourne Grange’ – The ‘genesis’ of Good News Camp.
Mourne Grange was a prep school nestling in the foothills of the Mourne mountains on the Rostrevor to Kilkeel Road. This was the location chosen for the first ever Irish CEF camp, held in the summer of 1971. The problem was, none of those invited to serve at the camp had any experience of such a ministry! However, the Lord overlooked their inadequacies and poured out His Spirit in abundant blessing. Even after a lapse of 48 years those who were present still remember the final night of that camp. And so the camp ministry was born and continues to grow. From the 50 children who attended that first camp, over 1000 attended the 23 camps in 2018, during which many precious boys and girls trusted the Saviour.
If the trumpet hasn’t sounded by 2021 Irish CEF will celebrate 50 years of children’s camps.
This article first appeared in the Spring 2019 National Newsletter.