Tearfund Northern Ireland

At Tearfund, we believe the local church is central to overcoming poverty and transforming lives. We’re part of it, along with others around the world and with each and every one of our amazing supporters. Together, we make up the global church. Tearfund has operated in Northern Ireland for more than 40 years and continues with a strong network of supporters and churches.

We have a vision to see 50 million people released from material and spiritual poverty through a worldwide network of 100,000 local churches.

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Today’s Radio Ulster Thought for the Day : Are you asking the right question ?

In 1970s, a well known pasta sauce maker did some market research to find out what the most popular recipe would be for a new brand of pasta sauce. After thousands of taste tests, they made a surprising revelation  - they were asking the wrong question. They discovered that if they asked which are the most popular recipes - not just recipe - they would see that instead of one clear favourite, there were three top recipes. Asking the right question, led to the company launching three types of sauce which revolutionised the market and made them over $600 million.

Simon Peter is one of the most impressive church leaders I have ever met. What impressed me most about him was that he was brave enough to admit that his church has at times asked the wrong question. In an attempt to help starving people in his area of Uganda the church gave out bulls which they could use to farm and to breed. 3 years later when they evaluated the programme they discovered that few people had used the bulls they had been given. Simon Peter realised that the question the church was asking was What can I do to you?  It was the wrong question.

Jesus was once asked the right question by a young lawyer who really wanted to know How he should live his life? And the answer was to  love God, love your neighbour and yourself. The answer to his question challenges us to build enriching two way relationships between God, ourselves and others.  

When Simon Peter thought about this question, he realised that his church needed to stop doing things to people and focus on building relationship with and between them. He now runs a church based programme which is enabling 81,000 people to use their own resources to lift themselves out of poverty holistically. ‘Old Mama’ for example used to beg for food and brew alcohol to escape her miserable life. After joining the church group she began to respond to Jesus’ call to love God, others and herself.  She is now doing this by growing vegetables and raising pigs which support her, her 8 grandchildren and 3 local orphans.

Driven by good intentions, I know that I have a history of doing things to people. I once found myself digging foundations for a church in Malawi watched by locals who needed the work. Closer to home, I know I too easily give advice, act without listening and tell my children to do do things I don’t do myself.

Like me, are you someone who does things to people. How could you respond to Jesus invitation to build your life around loving God, others and yourself ?

Walking with Margaret

I have rarely met anyone who carried as much hurt as Margaret, a mother of 5  I met last year. When her husband got sick, she mortgaged her farm to pay for his medical costs. Then disaster struck. Her husband died and she lost almost all of her farm.

When I met her last year on the small plot of land she owned in Eastern Uganda,  she described how her family survived by boiling a local plant for their one meal a day. When I looked at the plant it was clear her dinner had more in common with my hedge than any meal I had ever eaten.  Margaret had lost her husband, the father of her children, her income - her hurt was immense and the consequences of the loss on her family’s well being incalculable. As a way to escape the hell she was in she drank heavily.

Even with my experience as a social worker, Margaret’s was one of the hardest stories which I had ever heard. With a feeling of helplessness, I  reached into my bag and handed out energy bars and sweets to her famished children. I knew it would be little help but it was all I had.

While I did that I was struck by how Odiirah the local church worker listened and comforted Margaret empathetically. Having done that,  she gently encouraged her to to join a church group which would help support her and help her use her own resources to improve her life.

In the Bible,  David writes that ‘Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I’m not afraid when you God walk at my side’.  Again and again we see in the scriptures that God walks with us in our pain and hurt. Ultimately, we see it in Jesus - whose name Immanuel means God with us.

Through Odiirah’s listening ear and the church’s supportive group, I had seen the church becoming God’s hands and feet to Margaret.  One year on, Margaret has cut her drinking down, has started to earn some money as a labourer and has even managed to buy back one of the fields she lost. Margaret is slowly but surely beginning to become the whole person God created her to be.

Odiirah and the church walked with Margaret through her darkness hour and helped her to come out the other side. How could you walk with someone you know today?

What would Barak Obama think of Beatrice’s hope filled life….

5 years ago when he ran for the presidency, one of Barack Obama’s main campaign slogans was ‘hope’. Against the backdrop of 2 failing wars in the Middle East, and the largest economic crisis ever seen, at times, it felt like a breath of fresh air. But deep down, my western cynicism questioned how real this hope could be.

In September, I met Beatrice, a Ugandan granny who showed me what a life of hope could look like.

Beatrice’s daughters used to have walk for 3 hours each day down a steep mountain track to get water. As well as worried about their challenging walk, Beatrice really feared them getting attacked by local boys while walking alone and vulnerable in the huge mountains they lived in.

However, Beatrice joined a local women’s group run by her local church. They trained her to build a cement water tank to catch the rain water from her roof. Now she would have clean water every day and her girls could go to school free from fear..

But Beatrice didn’t stop there. She and some of the women went to local villages and offered to built water tanks for them. This meant the other villagers got clean water and Beatrice got enough money to feed her family for the first time ever.

Having established their businesses, Beatrice’s group work began to work together for the wider community. The fridge where the local children’s immunisations were stored went missing from the local clinic - Beatrice and her friends organised a campaign and it returned the next day. They set up a craft business to generate new income, lobbied successfully for better educational standards at the local school, set up a counselling service for women who are HIV + and became leaders in their local church. Almost unbelievably, 12 out of the 15 women in her group are now local councillors!

Before she joined the group Beatrice said she felt low self esteem and fear - now she feels hope.

In the Bible, the apostle Peter says that God gives us ‘living hope through the resurrection of Jesus’. God’s hope is an offer of new life; of renewal ; an invitation to become the person who God always created you to be.

Beatrice’s local church shared God’s hope of a new life with her and helped her develop the inner strength and practical skills to flourish and thrive. Now Beatrice -  successful business woman, consummate politician, active christian leader, empathic counsellor, loving mother and grandmother - is a living example of hope.

I wonder what Barak Obama would think of Beatrice’s hope filled life….

Caroline Bradley works in Belfast, co-ordinating people in combatting global poverty, not only through prayer (whilst pushing her shopping trolley round the supermarket) but also through action! www.premier.org.uk/tearfund

An opportunity to reserve your choice of workshop and reduce your check in time on the day of the event.

Bono, Penelope Cruz.……and me!

On World Aids Day last year, Bono turned the famous Sydney Opera House red to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS. He was joined by stars like Penelope Cruz, who were pictured at iconic buildings which were lit up red for the night.


While the stars were busy raising global awareness, groups of individuals across Northern Ireland were taking action. In my church we hosted ‘A night at the movies’ in Strandtown cinema and raised £350 by showing Danny Boyle’s Oscar winning film Slumdog Millionaire.


‘We had a great night – live music as people arrived, complimentary ice cream, an inspirational film and we helped Tearfund bring hope to people living with HIV and AIDS’ says organiser Julie Magowan.


Tearfund supports 120 HIV and AIDS programmes around the world, which seek to stop the spread of the disease and support those affected by it.


One person we‘ve been able to help is 13 year old Rachel - one of over a million children who have been orphaned by AIDS in Uganda. Not only has Rachel had to cope with losing both parents, but she has been left to bring up her 6 younger brothers and sisters. Every day she cooks, cleans, plants food and gets the children out to school. Aged 13 she’s mother to 6!  


While we can’t support Rachel’s parents, we have been able to help Rachel’s local church to be a lifeline for her. Pastor Noah and his team help Rachel cook, clean and plant food.  They provide basic needs like soap and food and provide a local mother to sleep over with the children every night so they feel safe.


‘If I didn’t I didn’t have the pastor, it would be terrible for me. When my parents died, I realised I’m left alone and as the eldest I have to look after the younger ones’ says Rachel. 


This year, our vision is to inspire 10 churches to support families like Rachel’s by hosting ‘A night at the movies’ around World Aids Day in December.

We’ve 5 churches who have already committed to a screening. So we’d love you to join us and help us make it 10! If you’re interested,  come along to our movie night info session on Thursday 15th September, 8 – 9.30 pm, venue to be confirmed. We’ll give you all in the info about how to run a screening - we’ve even got Julie coming along to give us her top tips on how she ran hers.  

You can book your place, with no obligation about  actually running a screening, by emailing me :- tim.magowan@tearfund.org  or calling 07748156911.

Tim Magowan


Embodying the message - reflections on Shane Claiborne’s workshop at Fuel, Ballymena

It was a challenging first line – ‘I have tried to take Jesus seriously and have spent the last 20 years recovering’ said author and social activist Shane Claiborne, speaking at the Fuel Festival in Ballymena on Saturday.
To explain, Shane pointed to an exchange between Jesus and John the Baptist. When John’s disciples asked Jesus if he was the Messiah, Jesus responds by saying ‘Go back and tell John what you have seen and heard : the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and good news is preached to the poor’.
The simple, but profound point, Shane makes is that Jesus’ life embodied his message. Although in other passages Jesus states He is God, here he lets his life do the talking. Here, Jesus’ identity is demonstrated in the acts of love and compassion to those around him, especially those on the outside of society.
By doing so, Jesus gives us a model for our lives. A model of embodying the message – living it out in actions, as well as sharing it by words.  
As I searched my mind for people who embody the message well today, I kept coming back to Pastor Joseph, a Ugandan Pastor who has chosen to live in Ongongora, a village so poor that its name actually means ‘thin people’.
Over the years, Pastor Joseph has helped his church embody the message to its local community.  For example, Joseph has helped the church reach out to Richard, who misused alcohol and abused his wife. Now, with the church’s love and compassion Richard has come to faith, stopped drinking and has improved his relationship with his wife. He has begun to develop his farm and is able to provide for his family.
It made me think if Pastor Joseph was asked the question ‘is Jesus the Messiah’ maybe he could reply : Go back and say what you’ve seen and heard : alcohol mis-users are sober, wives are safe, children can eat and good news is preached to the poor.
It made me wonder what my life would look like if I embodied the message like Jesus? Who would I spend my time with? What would I give up? What would I do differently?
I can understand why Shane said he’s spent the last 20 years trying to recover from the challenge of those words.

You can view an excellent short film featuring Richard and Joseph’s story here. 

Something’s cooking -calling on Northern Ireland Supporters to share recipes

Northern Ireland has a reputation for great food often home grown and homemade.Many of you will be putting your skills to good use over the summer months, inspired by Henri Olonga and Jenny Bristow to Make a Meal of it!


Tearfund would love you to share your favourite recipes with others and inspire one another with your culinary delights.


Post your tried and tested favourite dishes today and let’s get going and Make a Meal of it for Zimbabwe.  By sharing fun simple recipes many more of us can make a difference this summer by having a go in the kitchen.  As you enjoy time with family and friends you will know that all you raise will help the partners in Zimbabwe who are reaching those most in a need in a land so often left out of the headlines.


Don’t forget to send your donations to the Belfast office clearly marked Make a Meal of it.


Thank you for planning to Make a Meal of it this summer!

Jenny Bristow’s sizzling BBQ is serving up support for Zimbabwe.


Local celebrity chef Jenny Bristow lit the BBQ and shared some of her favourite recipes and a feast of local food for visiting Tearfund partners from Uganda.


Watch Jenny as she prepares local Irish soda bread and hears the inspiring stories of Simon Peter, Jane and Sam from the Pentecostal Assemblies of God in Uganda.  They tell how lives are being transformed when the church takes a stand against poverty.


Jenny got the Make a meal of it campaign got off to a sizzling start.  The campaign is about having a fun summer event such as a BBQ that will bring hope to poor families in Zimbabwe.  Summer is the perfect time to join with family and friends and enjoy fun, food and fellowship and at the same time raise vital funds for the urgent needs in Zimbabwe.

Your help will enable church partners such as, Rivers of Life as they run an agricultural training progamme called Foundations for Farming.  The programme teaches famers how to implement new practices such as mulching their fields resulting in an increased yield and crops that can survive the long dry spells too.  One farmer said his harvest had doubled and what they are learning are proven methods worth recommending.


Let’s have some summer fun together and at the same time make a difference for our Zimbabwean neighbors in need.

Exiled Zimbabwean Cricketer Henri Olonga invites you to Make a Meal of it for his homeland.


Henri has a passion for his homeland even though he has been exiled in the UK since 2003 when he protested at the Cricket World Cup against the policies of the Zimbabwean government.


Zimbabwe is not often in the headlines but Henri wants us to remember the many needs there and get involved to make a difference.  13 million of the population in Zimbabwe is struggling to get by with an estimated 80% unemployed.  The country is also coping with record breaking hyperinflation.  A collapsed infrastructure means many basic services are not available.


By raising support for Tearfund partners you can help see the lives of some of the poorest of the poor changed


Your support will help Tearfund partners enable children like Shadrek (13)and Primose (11) who lost their parents through AIDS overcome some of the hardships they face in their daily struggle for survival.


The local church is helping pay Primrose’s school fees and provide them with the vital food supplies they need to keep them healthy.  Tearfund partner Zoe supplies them with a 20kg bag of mealy meal, which locally costs around £7. The children say this will last them a month.  The Zoe partnership are able to provide 7 staff to equip and train 3000 local church volunteers to support 7000 vulnerable children in their own homes, just like Shadreck.


This summer you could host a party and Make a Meal of it with a difference for your family and friends.  Invite them to help you raise money to support more children like Primrose and Shadreak enjoy food and overcome hunger.


Shadreck said “We think God is good and is going to bless us. He has been our protector’.  Primrose echoed this adding, ‘I believe God is going to provide for us.’


Let us together be the answer to their prayers as we Make a Meal of it for Zimbabwe.  Please send your donations clearly marked: Make a Meal of it to the Belfast office Rose House, 2 Derryvolgie Avenue BT9 6FL


Watch this week for more hot tips from for Jenny Bristow on what you can do at home.  


Thank you for your support.

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