Ballina Centre of Mission’s Bus
The Ballina Centre of Mission, based in County Mayo in the Republic of Ireland, is building bridges through schools work, Bible studies, and food distribution. The community bus project has been an important resource, parking up around the town and acting as a drop-in hub for people who are isolated, lonely, or those wanting to connect with Jesus.
Ballina is the largest town in County Mayo in the Moy valley surrounded by beautiful mountains. It is home to a divided and polarised community. 10% of the population are from the, often marginalised, traveller community, and there are many isolated farms that surround the town. The area sadly has a particularly high suicide rate.
Church Army’s Emma Rodrigues (Lead Evangelist) and Marian Edwards (Pioneer Evangelist) are based here and catalyse churches and local agencies to help meet the practical, educational, and spiritual needs of people of all ages. They work as part of Ballina Churches Together, an ecumenical partnership formed of the four main Christian denominations – Catholic, Church of Ireland, Methodist, and Presbyterian. This partnership is particularly special in light of Ireland’s historical tension between Protestant and Catholic groups.
The community bus project launched in January 2019 after Ballina Churches Together bought and refurbished an old library bus. Eamon arrived at Catholic Cathedral where the bus was launched, saying he distinctively felt led to the cathedral that evening. Eamon, a musician and someone who had not really been to church for years, offered to become one of the bus’ first drivers.
Eamon was experiencing difficult things in his life – he had separated from his wife and was currently living with his mum; there was a lot to process.
During his time as a bus driver, Eamon had heard and seen Emma, Marion, and their team share gospel stories with children on housing estates and had joined the volunteer events. As he saw the team’s faith in action, he noticed something was different about them.
Eamon began speaking of how his life had started to change since being involved with the bus project, and how he wanted to know more about Jesus. Some of his musician friends also began noticing how his outlook had altered.
Emma invited Eamon to a Bible study, and he started attending local Christian meetings. He was engaging with the discussions and began thinking about how Jesus was relevant to his life.
A spiritual hunger was awakened, and this overflowed into Eamon’s song writing. He began writing Christian songs, and some of these were sung at the Methodist Church Service on Zoom last Christmas.
Emma tells of how Eamon “has recognised God’s calling on his life and wishes to use his musical gifts to pursue this.” God has been working in Eamon’s life, and the relationships through the bus project have been pivotal in this.