“Lord, for the years your love has kept and guided, urged and inspired us, cheered us on our way, Sought us and saved us, pardoned and provided, Lord of the years, we bring our thanks today.”
These words by Timothy Dudley-Smith rang forth in praise and worship from the large crowd packed into Milltown Mission Hall, near the village of Ardstraw,in Co Tyrone, on Sunday May 24, as the congregation celebrated its 90th anniversary.
In the summer of 1924, three men who were burdened for the souls of their neighbours, began holding open-air meetings near Coolaghey Bridge. God blessed their labours and souls were saved.
As the weather got colder, and it was not possible to preach in the open-air, they moved the meetings to a nearby barn lent by the late Mr Wauchob.
Numbers continued to grow, and the need for a mission hall became obvious. So Milltown Mission Hall was erected and officially opened on February, 1925. The Hall cost £100.00 to build; the money was borrowed and paid back in two instalments of £50.00 each.
The opening of the Hall was followed by a Mission, conducted by the late Miss Joan Harpur and auxiliary worker, Miss Towatt. Following the Mission, the Prayer Union was inaugurated on May 25, 1925. The late Mr Willie Russell was Prayer Union representative from that time, until 1975, a total of 50 years’ service.
Over the intervening years, a number of missions have been held, and a total of seven young people from the Prayer Union have gone into full-time Christian service.
The meetings are held monthly, on the last Sunday of each month. Numbers can fluctuate, but we are encouraged by the people who come in to support us, and most of all we are blessed by a very real sense of the presence of the Lord, without whom all our efforts would be in vain. We have had missionaries from many organisations all over the world reporting in the Hall.
Over the years, various renovations have been carried out, and the Hall is in a good state of repair, well-lit, comfortable and cosy. A few weeks ago, the Hall was painted and new doors fitted and a sign erected over the front door in preparation for our 90th Anniversary.
We were delighted to have the Londonderry Gospel Male Voice choir leading the worship, and Mr Trevor Matthews, Faith Mission Director for Ireland, to bring the closing word from Psalm 46, reminding us, among other things, that God is a very real help in a tight spot!
How we praise God for the vision of those men who built the Mission Hall, and for the heritage we have. Would they ever have dreamed that the work of God would have continued for 90 years? What a responsibility is ours to be faithful and to serve God faithfully in this area. May it be said of us, as of King David, that he served God in his generation.