Brooklands, Belfast, Northern Ireland
In 1967 the brethren in Dundonald Gospel Hall agreed that ground should be obtained in the fast-growing housing estates of Brooklands and Ballybeen for the erection of a building for gospel outreach. The following two years were spent negotiating with the Northern Ireland Housing Trust. They were not kindly disposed to the request but eventually agreed to provide 2.5 acres of waste ground on the fringe of the Brooklands Estate which the assembly then purchased. A wooden hall with a capacity for one hundred people was built.
Between 1969 and 1972, commencing with a very small number, there was a gradual build-up of workers and activities. A prayer meeting, Sunday School, children’s meetings, and a youth work were established, followed by a Sunday evening gospel meeting and a monthly Woman’s Gospel Hour. A big emphasis was placed on camp work, both senior and junior, with combined numbers of up to 200. The Isle of Man, Scotland, Republic of Ireland, and Wales were used as venues. Many found the Saviour at these camps. As the work progressed more believers from the area began to enquire about the work and some with similar convictions and vision joined the group. The main concentration, however, was on youth outreach. This was in the era of ‘coffee bars’ and on Friday nights a full hall vibrated with voices of teenagers from the estates. The gospel began to have its effect and in one’s and two’s these young folk were coming to Christ, trusting Him for salvation. During this time there were two special missions arranged in the Community Centre. The Lord really worked and night by night young folk who were hearing the gospel for the first time were brought under conviction and many of them professed faith.
All this was taking place at the heart of ‘The Troubles’. The estates were in turmoil through paramilitary activity. There was a great sense of fear, accentuated by the Province ‘shut down’ caused by the Ulster Worker’s strike. This brought down the Stormont Government and initiated Direct Rule from London. On one Sunday evening during the gospel meeting a bomb exploded in a factory across the road from the hall. The blast went right over the building without damaging it but shattered windows in the houses a few hundred yards away. By this time there were over thirty committed workers and the assembly at Dundonald agreed that it was time to establish a permanent Fellowship at Brooklands. The first Breaking of Bread was held in April 1972.
During the 1970s and 1980s the assembly grew to 170 in number. The majority of the members had no assembly background and this provided exciting but stressful times as New Testament church principles were taught. Mainly as a result of the stand taken on the principles detailed in 1 Corinthians chapters 11 and 14, some began to drift away, though others were added, and eventually numbers settled at between eighty and a hundred. In the early days the baptistry was used on a regular basis, however, in recent years it is has been opened on fewer occasions, but the assembly is grateful to God for tokens of blessing. From the commencement of the assembly a ministry meeting was convened after the Lord’s Supper. In the more recent times a Coffee Break has been introduced and has proved a valuable time for fellowship. The regular teaching of the word to the whole assembly week by week continues to build up the believers in the faith.
Over the years the assembly has had a deep interest and involvement in missionary outreach overseas and it has been challenging and rewarding to commend several young folk to the work of the Lord. These included a sister who worked with the Child Evangelism Fellowship for over thirty years. She was commended to work in Romania and other former Soviet Union republics. Others have been commended to work with the Wycliffe Bible Translators where assignments included developing an alphabet and grammar structure in the Ivory Coast, and translating and publishing the New Testament in the Kyuou language. Others were commended to work in France and the Republic of Ireland. The most recent commendation is for a young sister as a trainee to the Wycliffe Translators. It is hoped that she will be involved in translation work in West Africa.
The work in Romania has been particularly close to the believers’ hearts and has resulted in the establishment of a small Bible School to provide in-depth teaching to leaders and potential leaders. In the last five years the emphasis of the work has changed to an involvement with Roma Gypsy communities. This is a very difficult and challenging work but is beginning to produce fruit for the kingdom of God.
In November 2009 the assembly celebrated its 40th anniversary with a weekend of fellowship and ministry of the word. Brother David Gooding gave the ministry – he was a great encouragement and support in the early days of the work and provided much help in the teaching of new converts and the strengthening of the fledgling work.
The main focus of the gospel outreach at present is a strong Mums and Toddlers, a Drop-In and a new monthly activity called ‘The Link’. Mothers from the Mums and Toddlers attend and we are beginning to see some fruit.