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The Challenges Facing a (Christian) Young Person in Ireland

In this article I will be discussing the Limerick Reformed Fellowship (LRF), the struggles of the young person, and some of the differences between us and the Protestant Reformed Churches (PRC).

Limerick Reformed Fellowship

Life out here is very different. We are a small congregation, a fellowship, not a church. Eventually, we hope to establish ourselves as a church.

A fellowship is a gathering of the saints to worship God. We are few, but we are increasing in number and growing in the faith. For the past eight years, God’s work can be seen, as he has called his people in Limerick and in Ireland, our family being one of them. Unfortunately, some have left us in that period for various reasons due to work or a romantic relationship.

Being a small congregation has its advantages. You know everybody, and if there’s a problem the whole congregation knows about it and is there to help. It is a safe haven for the young person, a place of rest and fellowship for the bruised and battered saints. We are very thankful for our Fellowship, because in Ireland there are few churches that truly preach the word. The churches here are gradually falling away from the truth. God’s word is leaving Europe and heading to Asia.

The Struggles

Having only two teenagers (actually one because my brother is now in his 20s) in the congregation can be a bit lonely, for the following reasons:

First, there is no one to talk to who is around your age. This can cause a problem due to the feeling of isolation in the congregation. Having someone your age makes it easier for you to talk to them and relate to.

Second, having a young person in the congregation means that you can do fun things together. But can’t you do that with the adults or children? You can, but if they’re married and have kids, they will be too busy.

Third, one does not have a “true friend.” The lack of young people in the congregation makes it hard to have someone who you can call a friend. Outside the Fellowship, you can make friends at school, university or at work. But when you discuss your beliefs, there tends to be a friction in the relationship, especially if they are atheists. The more they know us and see how we lead our lives, the more they view us as weird and different. There is a gap between you and your friend which cannot be crossed. You may be friends for years or he may be your best friend. But is he a “true friend,” a person that believes in Jesus Christ who came to this world to save his people through his death on the cross? Is he one with whom you can discuss the word of God and praise the name of the Lord? The bond with the saints is that of a brother and sister in the faith. It is a unique and deep love towards one another. Not having a “true friend” can be lonely for a young person.

In addition, as a college student I face certain struggles and temptations. First, fellow students, lecturers, and professors use God’s name in vain. They use it to swear and curse as if it is a common name. Witnessing this happen eight hours a day for five days a week is agony. This makes me sick to my stomach, not just because they use it in vain, but because I have little to no power to stop them. But be of good cheer, by leading godly lives we can show them that God’s name is precious and sacred. Hopefully, this prompts them to ask why we lead such different lives to them. We can then explain to them what God has done for us and why we serve him. In doing so, we may put an end to their vain use of God’s name. If not, at least we make them conscious that we do not use his name lightly. Also, living in Ireland, one lives with the constant threat of alcohol. Ireland is known for its drunkenness. Drinking is a cultural thing, most prevalent in events such as Christmas, New Year’s Eve and St. Patrick’s Day. Almost everything revolves around alcohol. Drugs are also common and easy to acquire. Young people who do not use drugs are mocked. Provocation and ridicule wear down a young person tempting them to partake of the forbidden substance.

How do we differ?

In terms of church members, we pale in comparison, but the relationship we have is more intimate, like a family. We have fewer than 20 members, while most of the churches in the PRC have hundreds of members.

The PR young people have Christian schools, which are of great benefit. The children and teenagers are brought up in the faith, without much interference from the outside world. They are reared up in the safety and comfort of Christian homes, churches and schools. Here the children are homeschooled with the families helping and encouraging one another. Instead of a church building, we rent a building every Sunday. Also, the PR young people enjoy more social activities with other Christians throughout the week, such as sports, music, young Calvinists meeting and young people’s meetings. In Limerick, we only have one Bible study a week (for all members, both young and old), we have catechism, and sometimes lectures. These may be few, but they are a precious blessing to us.

The Irish universities offer a study abroad program. International students spend 3–4 months in Ireland as part of their course. So far we have had Americans and Singaporeans come over, which was refreshing, because we were able to meet people of different backgrounds and cultures. Not only that, but we get to hear how the churches and missionaries are doing from the other side of the world. We were always sad to see them go home again at the end of their short stay.

The PRC young people have the Young People’s Convention. Having been to one of them is both a relief and comfort, to know that you are not alone. It is one of the best things a young person can go to. All sorts of activities are arranged. You meet people your age, make friends, and have fellowship with one another. If it is your first time going to one (as it was in 2015 for my brother and me), it will be shocking and awe-inspiring, to see so many of God’s people. I urge you to go if you have the time and money. We have the British Reformed Fellowship (BRF) Conference, a meeting held every two years in the United Kingdom. It is an action-packed week, where there are fun activities arranged and great lectures. The BRF Conference brings people together from different countries. Through the lectures, we are sanctified, refreshed and strengthened. The activities we share together deepen the bond we have toward one another.

The LRF is a growing fellowship and a refuge for the saints. It is a help for the Christian young person. The churches in Michigan may have more members, Christian schools, and social activities, but we also have the BRF Conference. We are thankful for what we have, although we are small in comparison to the PRC. We pray that God will increase us, and we ask for your prayers for us, as we pray for you.

 

*Dale Mansona is a young person in the Limerick Reformed Fellowship in Limerick City, Ireland.