Paul Somerville, Area Representative and Scripture Reader gives us insight into some of what he does in SASRA
It has been a busy few weeks with preparations for Armed Forces Day, Battle of the Somme commemoration meetings, and involvement at a Royal Signals sponsored church service at the Garrison Church.
Deputations take me all across the province and I am delighted to go and share wherever I am invited to do so. On a Friday evening in June, I had an early start and travelled down to South Armagh to partake in a Battle of the Somme commemoration service. It was a wonderful opportunity to highlight the work of our association during those dark days of the Somme offensive back in 1916 and to be able to promote our new 'SASRA at the Somme'. After the service a local historian did a short talk on WW1 using actual WW1 artefacts, which certainly added to the evening's commemoration.
Sunday saw me heading out the door towards Lisburn Camp where I was to be involved in a Royal Signals church service; the Padre had asked me if I would share my testimony to these gathered 'communication' soldiers. What an opportunity! I did so using the theme of 'comms are down' to highlight the importance of establishing communications with God through His Son the Lord Jesus. Afterwards over a cup of tea I was able to chat with these soldiers some more and further add to what I had shared from the pulpit. After a quick dinner at home it was on the road again, this time to a church in Belfast to share the work and give a short word.
Monday evening saw the prayer warriors of SASRA gather together at Finaghy Evangelical Presbyterian Church for our monthly SASRA prayer meeting, and how good it was to meet with these faithful supporters (if you're ever free on the 2nd Monday of each month, 8pm, September - June we would love to see you there). Wednesday saw me back in Belfast for a deputation meeting, where I was warmly received and many stayed afterwards to chat some more and to buy their copies of 'SASRA at the Somme'.
I spent the rest of the week preparing for Armed Forces day on the Saturday, which included a day of loading and reloading my car several times as I tried to decide what to take (who says my job isn't stressful?).
On the 18th June, Antrim and Newtonabbey Borough Council played host to the Northern Ireland Armed Forces Day. The Council had graciously extended an invitation to SASRA to provide a stand amongst many others, both military and civilian, as they paid tribute to our Armed Forces. The weather was very kind to us and there was a great atmosphere among the exhibitors and general public. The footfall towards our stand was constant; some came out of curiosity to see who we were, and some came to encourage us in our work. We were able to distribute well over 80 New Testaments and several people took full Bibles as well as gospel tracts that we had on the stand. With the Battle of the Somme centenary only a few weeks away our newest publication 'SASRA at the Somme' generated some interest, as did 'Rough Journal' - another of our books about SASRA's activities during WW1. Those who hadn't previously heard of us took literature and several took my details to pass on to their mission secretaries in order to invite SASRA to their congregations.
I had the chance to visit the Army Recruit Village at the event and I was able to meet with both Army reservists and regular soldiers as they manned their recruitment stands. I am sure that they never expected a Scripture Reader to visit them here! A Colour Sergeant told me that he had met an ASR before and he was happy to talk and accepted a New Testament. It was a busy time for the recruiting teams who were dealing with the interested teenagers and I too was on a recruiting drive - telling people about the Lord Jesus Christ so that they would have the oppportunity to enlist in God's army.
As the day was drawing to a close I reflected on the day's events, thinking of the many who stopped to look and say hello, and the many who were surprised to learn of our work and who expressed their delight at our existence. I thought of all the materials handed out and bought, the Bibles and gospel tracts that had been accepted and came to the conclusion that it had been a good day. I had been given a platform to share about the work and I am indebted to the Borough Council for their invite. It was a day where the Lord our God was honoured.
Sunday was a less hectic day. I was able to be in attendance as one of our SASRA General Council members was licensed for ministry in the Presbyterian church and it was great to be able to sit with the congregation and enjoy the proceedings.
So there you have it - a snapshot of a week in the life of an Area Representative/Scripture Reader. No two days are the same, and it is an honour to serve God in this capacity.