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Local church on mission in Northern Ireland

KEESEVILLE Fourteen members of the Independent Baptist Church are now in the rolling hills of Northern Ireland, though theyre not on a vacation theyre on a mission. The Rev. Russ O'Neill, his wife, Lynn, and 12 other parishioners are conducting mission work in impoverished areas of the European country as part of a two-week effort to spread the gospel. The inspiration for the trip came last November, when a man named Chuck Ebron, an old friend of ONeill, came to the Keeseville church to discuss the mission work he has performed. ONeill first met Ebron while he was teaching an open air evangelism seminar in New York City during the mid-1980s, he said. I met this fellow while I was preaching in Harlem and we had very like-minded passions for the things we did, so we worked a lot together, recalled ONeill. In the years that followed, ONeill and his family moved to Southern Ireland where he continued to preach for the next 11 years intermittently. During that time, Ebron moved to Northern Ireland where he resides today. Ebrons discussion of mission work inspired ONeill to ask parishioners if they would be interested in taking on a short-term mission this summer in Ireland. He said he was overwhelmed by the support of the congregation, considering he put no pressure on them to donate toward or participate in the mission. The topic was brought up once during a sermon, and that was that, he said. I said I wouldnt mention it again, especially since I was a part of it, said ONeill. I just asked them to pray on it or think about it for a month or so and if they felt moved enough to make contribution, they could. A simple donation box at the rear of the church soon saw enough money to support the missionaries in their work, much to ONeills delight. They were very, very generous, he said. The funding made it possible for the group to perform the work it is currently doing overseas, which includes teaching the gospel to both children and adults in housing projects similar to those in New York City, said ONeill. The missionaries are working on very strict, tight schedules, hosting a childrens vacation bible school, prayer services and going door-to-door in various communities to share the gospel. A good portion of the time will be spent on childrens work, both inside the church and out, said ONeill. A converted city bus will be utilized to travel to different neighborhoods where adults can come in for coffee and donuts and children can be entertained by puppet shows all centered around the gospel in a relaxed setting, ONeill said. The major point ONeill emphasized was that the mission will not seek to convert the people they encounter to one religion or another, but rather offer a nondenominational interpretation of the gospel. I emphasize that Jesus was neither Protestant nor Catholic. He was Jewish, he still is and when he comes back, hes coming back to Israel, not to the Vatican and not to the Westminster Cathedral, said ONeill. Well simply be there with the message of the gospel. The mission is one that ONeill said he looked forward to prior to leaving recently, though its a form of ministry he said is completely different from preaching within the walls of a church. Ive spent about 20 years on the outside trying to get people inside, and now Im on the inside trying to get people outside, he said.

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