George Hall, Belfast, N. Ireland
A BRIEF HISTORY
The work of Harvest Fields began in 1960. It arose out of the concern of a number of brethren in the Belfast area of N. Ireland to promote a deeper interest in missionary work. At that time there were many assembly-commended brethren and sisters from N. Ireland serving overseas in a wide range of countries. It was felt that more could be done to support and encourage them.
Accordingly, John Lyttle (now with the Lord), Joseph Mornin and William Gibson, all of whom were members of Apsley Hall assembly in Belfast, took the initiative and invited some others to meet with them to explore what might be done.
Their first meeting took place in Apsley Hall on 21st May, 1960. The following objectives crystallized in the minds of those present:
- A list of missionaries would be published.
- A newsletter, giving reports of the workers, would be produced regularly.
- A united missionary prayer meeting would be convened monthly.
- A fund would be established with a view to helping the Lord’s servants financially.
In the ensuing months a committee of ten brethren was formed and the name ‘Harvest Fields’ adopted. Many hours were spent discussing how best to proceed. Letters were sent to all the Belfast assemblies informing them of the committee’s exercise and inviting their fellowship. Many favourable replies were received, and, thus encouraged, the committee proceeded with the production of 5000 ‘Pray for Us’ cards. These listed the workers’ names and also the date and source of their commendation. The cards were sent, in varying quantities, to assemblies throughout Ireland.
The next step was the launching of the monthly prayer meeting. The first one was held on Friday 4th November, 1960, in Apsley Hall. There was an encouraging attendance, and appropriate points for prayer and praise were presented by Mr. Clifford Beggs (Angola), and the late Mr. David Mawhinney (Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia).
The newsletter came into being in June 1961. It was a simple duplicated four-page leaflet giving extracts from missionaries’ letters, and detailing points for specific prayer. Over 2000 copies were produced, each missionary receiving a copy by post, and sample copies being sent to all the assemblies in Ireland with an invitation to place a regular order. No charge was imposed for the newsletter and that policy has remained in force until the present day. Thus, from these modest beginnings, ‘Harvest Fields’ evolved.
We are happy to report that for forty years the work has continued. We give thanks to the Lord for His enabling throughout the years. He has supplied all the financial needs and has enabled the committee to discharge its stewardship in passing on to workers abroad what has been entrusted to them.
Today, the circulation is about 4,800 copies per issue and these are sent to approximately 500 addresses throughout the world. The largest packages, of course, are mainly to the assemblies in Ireland. We believe that the magazine is helpful to all who receive it.
We also maintain, and publish, an ‘Overseas Missionary Address List’. At the present time, there are listed under twenty-seven countries the names and addresses of sixty-two couples and sixteen single or widowed workers. Some of these workers are now advanced in years, or are in ill health, and residing in Ireland. All who are listed have links with Ireland, either by birth, commendation or marriage. Copies of the ‘Address List’ are available upon request.
The monthly prayer meeting continues to be well supported. Normally it is held in Castlereagh Gospel Hall, Belfast, on the first Friday of each month. There is an average attendance of seventy-five. Usually some missionary brethren highlight points for specific prayer. Over the years the gathering has been marked by a warm spirit of fellowship amongst the many faithful attendees.
Another publication is ‘Prayer Pointers’ – an A4 folded sheet, to supplement the reports given in the magazine. It is issued monthly, whereas the magazine is published six times per year. Each year there is also available an attractive ‘Appointments Calendar’ which displays one month on each sheet. Against each day is printed the name of a missionary, with a view to daily prayerful remembrance.
Reviewing the forty years of our operation we wish to give thanks to the Lord for all His help and blessing. We also appreciate the help given by many in the unseen tasks associated with the work. Five of the original committee members are still serving, and we are grateful that the Lord has provided very willing and suitable new members to take over some of the responsibilities previously handled by some who have gone to be with the Lord.
Enquiries, or requests for our publications, should be addressed to the secretary: George Hall, 9 Ferndene Park, Belfast, N. Ireland, BT16 2ES.