With Donegal being in such close proximity to Northern Ireland, the Assemblies benefited much from visits made by evangelists and brethren who came to help and encourage the believers both in Gospel work and in the ministry of the Word. Of these, two brethren who spent years in the county and labored much in the Gospel were Mr. Samuel Lewis and Mr. John Finnegan. Even so, to maintain the testimony was not easy. Work was scarce for the young men and they had to go to the cities in the North or to England to find employment. Only those who worked on the land remained to support the Assembly. Thankfully, the present economic situation is greatly improved and work is now to be found nearer home. The fact that the three Assemblies continue to day is witness to the faithfulness of God and the exercise of His people.
Most of the Donegal people who emigrated to other lands maintained a strong link with their families, having an affection for “dear old Donegal.” When I was back home in Philadelphia in 1967, two believers in different assemblies and unknown to each other asked me if I would ever consider going to Kerrykeel in North Donegal with the Gospel. Members in their families were still living there where there was no gospel witness. The following spring, a number of us were having open air meetings in Cork and in discussion with Sam Patterson, I found he had a tent and was anxious to use it, but had no definite place in mind. I told him of the request of those believers in America and suggested we try Kerrykeel. We obtained a site for the tent from a Mrs. Kerr who was then over 90 years of age. She was converted many years before through the witness of Mr. Tom Campbell when he was a police constable stationed in that village before he left to give his full time to the work of the Gospel. We had an enjoyable six weeks in the Gospel with God’s blessing for the Letterkenny Assembly.
For brother Sam and me, those tent meetings in Kerrykeel were the start of a partnership in the Gospel that has continued to this day, as we have worked not only in Donegal, but in many parts of Ireland. The following summer we took the tent to Listillion outside Letterkenny, to the same farm where, 75 years before, Mr. Megaw and Dr. Matthews saw the beginning of a work of God that brought souls to Christ and to assembly fellowship. Again, God was pleased to bless and some were saved, later baptized, and have been a real help in the assembly ever since.
Not all our work has been done in areas where we have followed in the footsteps of earlier brethren. We have sought to reach out to new areas where there is no testimony and no believers known to us. Openings to these areas have often come in most unexpected ways and we have made it a point to try to live among the people we are trying to reach. We have used portable halls for meetings, but these require a lot of help to erect, dismantle and transport, so that in the last 25 years we have replaced them with a more convenient mobile hall on wheels which can be easily towed from place to place. With smaller numbers coming to hear the gospel, we have found the mobile hall, which can hold up to about 50 people, ample for our requirements. We have a 17 foot long living caravan in which we stay when in these more remote places. But as the years have passed and more souls have been saved, we have had more offers of places to stay and less need for the caravan.
God has blessed the simple preaching in these out-of-the-way places. Some of these have been elderly people who were shortly called into eternity, making us realize that as we preach the gospel some are hearing it for the last time. Sometimes it is not only older people who are hearing the gospel for the last time, but also younger ones as well. We had the tent one summer in a country district known as Churchtown where there was a good response to the Gospel. We were encouraged to return sometime later with the mobile hall and, again, there was a good interest, especially among the younger folk. Some of these school children even asked if they could borrow hymnbooks to copy out the words of the hymns we sang in the meetings. We heard a few years later that two girls in their late teens were killed in separate accidents. At least one of these girls would have been at our meetings. We felt this an opportune time to go back with the gospel, thinking that the tragic deaths of these teenagers would have softened the hearts of the people and made them more open to the things of God and eternity. We returned with the mobile hall and had five weeks of meetings, visiting the homes which had been bereaved and all the neighbors around, but there was only cold indifference.
Brother Sam and I have enjoyed working in fellowship with the three assemblies in the county and it is encouraging to see those who have been saved in recent years, being baptized, and taking their place with those gathered to the Lord’s Name. Some of these have also opened their homes for cottage meetings inviting their neighbors and friends to hear the message of the gospel. We have found that some will come to these meetings in the various houses who would not come to our regular meetings in the hall. The three assemblies are not large, but the gospel is going forth which is still God’s power unto salvation. The Lord is working and we pray God will be pleased to prosper the testimony for His glory in dear old Donegal.