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Ballymena's Bravehearts

Updated on January 23, 2013
Victory Praise Church in Ballymena
Victory Praise Church in Ballymena

A Testimony to God's Goodness

In 1999 Victory Praise Centre opened the doors to their new premises in Pennybridge Industrial Estate, Ballymena in Northern Ireland. This is a testimony of God's goodness because of how it all began. How it, through a seemingly small step of faith, can lead to a wonderful journey of healing and deliverance for a city. You might think that when God talks to you about taking on what may seem a relatively small task that it may remain small but this is where faith like a mustard seed springs into action and becomes an activator to see God's bigger picture.

Matthew 17: 20:

... For truly I say to you, if you have faith [that is living] like a grain of mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, Move from here to yonder place, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you. (AMP)

As you read this testimony which was told to me by Rosemary for an article I was writing my prayer is that you will come away knowing that nothing is impossible with God if you are willing to be available and are willing to say Yes.

So what is so special about this church?

This church is on the frontline in Northern Ireland as it is situated in the heartland of the worst drug estate in the nation. Ballymena is also known as the heartland of the Bible Belt. It is quite clear that religion is not helping this area but one thing is certain, the love of Jesus Christ is. For through the lives of a faithful couple and a dedicated and committed team many lives are being transformed and set free. This committed team have themselves come out of the hardest places in the land. They consist of ex drug addicts, ex prostitutes and ex IRA and paramilitary men who have come into the Kingdom because this couple’s home had an open door which invited them in. Their arms were flung wide open to embrace the broken, needy and desperate in their land. They could no longer ignore the cry that was reaching their ears.

As this church is on the frontline of a battlefield it requires a braveheart and a total dependance on Jesus. He alone is the Deliverer and He alone is the Source and Author of this amazing testimony that you are about to read. The faithful couple I have mentioned were the pastors of Victory Praise Church from it's foundation for 21 years. Then in 2007 the Lord asked them to lay down their roles and pass them to the next generation. Today they have a new ministry called 'Inspire Ministry' and their names are Robert and Rosemary McCauley.

These bravehearts were and still are truly devoted to seeing a Ballymena set free from the heartache of drugs and war, set free from the weariness of being unloved and finally to seeing them saved and washed in the precious blood of the Lamb.

Let Rosemary now share with you about Victory’s heritage as testified the night Victory Praise Church's new premises were opened in 1999:

“Just a few years before our ministry was birthed I was walking across our farmyard. At that time there had been a real uprising with the Troubles and the killings of so many of our young men in our land. As I looked across at Slemish mountain, I hung over the gate and I started to talk to God. And maybe more than talk. I was thinking out loud. I thought of all the young men who had lost their lives in this land. So many young men who wouldn’t sit in a room with each other because of their beliefs and yet were blowing each other into hell and would have to then spend eternity with them there. At that point I said, ‘Oh God, when is it all going to end.’ God answered me with a question as He often does, it’s dangerous to say these things to God, and so clearly in my spirit I heard these words,

‘What are you going to do about it?’

At first I thought, ‘What can I do, what can we do? We’re a couple of farmers from the backside of the mountain that knows more about carrying buckets then anything else. What can we do?’ God didn’t answer me at that point but He put something inside of me that day as I hung over the gate that’s lived with me ever since and after that there came such an intense pain, such as I’d never known. I’d known a burden of prayer and intercession before for many years but never anything like this. I’d find that, as I walked the streets of Ballymena, anytime I saw a young man I’d start to weep. Sometimes I used to be embarrassed, I’d be in the center of a supermarket and a young man would come down the aisle I’d find myself weeping. As I was driving along in the car going through a particular area again the tears would come and on they came more and more over the years. This was how it went on until it got to the stage when I could hardly meet a young man without my heart being torn inside me. And I thought of all the young men who had given their life for a cause that wouldn’t matter a flick of your finger in the light of all eternity. Then one day God spoke to me through a scripture in Isaiah 60:4, that well known passage where He said,

‘Your gates shall not be shut day or night and I will bring the forces of the gentile to you. Your sons shall come from afar and your daughters shall be nursed at your side.’

Slemish Mountain where Rosemary walked
Slemish Mountain where Rosemary walked

The intensity of the burden came with that and I would walk the mountain in my welly boots and I’d pray that scripture. I had read that verse as prayer so many times before God that it was inside of me, I didn’t need to read it anymore and I would walk up and down the mountain and I would speak those words and I would speak those words. Then, one day, Robert and I got talking and I realized that the God who was dealing with me was also dealing with my husband. Not only this but He had also given him the very same scripture, exact verse by verse and we began to talk and we realized God was saying something very distinctive to us that He wanted us to hear. Robert often says to us, ‘There’s a difference between hearing and listening,’ we’d heard but we needed to listen. That day we knew that God was asking us to open our home and farm and to just let Him do what He desired to do. He put in our hearts that if we were willing He would send people to us, hurting, needy pained people. I remember just the two of us getting down on our knees in the farm kitchen and we’d said

‘God, we don’t know right what you are really saying but whatever you’re saying we are saying yes,’

and that’s as Irish as you can get. So we didn’t go out and advertise, we didn’t put a big bullhead at the end of the lane, ‘We’re open to hurting people’, because where we live it wouldn’t of really mattered because on our mountain road two cars leave a traffic jam. God knew. We had a transaction with a holy God that day; a couple of country farmers made a transaction with God. Inside of two weeks the first needy person was on our doorstep, a catholic mother and a fourteen year old pregnant daughter from the south of Ireland. One hundred and seventy miles from where we live they had come. That started it, after that there was scarcely a weekend without needy people coming. Hurting people, people that really for them, our farm was last chance saloon and God said to us,

‘Just love them. Don’t try to change them but let Me do the changing,’

and we did that. Then it came to the point that so many were coming that we’d just go and have a time of fellowship for the people coming. At that time the thought of ever planting a church would have scared us silly, God knew the level we were at, He knew what we could handle. We could handle opening our home so that’s the level that God revealed to us. Then we would have fellowship maybe one night it would be a Wednesday and another night a Friday and people would come. It got to the stage that I was spending a lot of time on the telephone inviting people to come cause there were some hurting people staying with us that needed fellowship. So one day Robert said, ‘Why not just have one night when it’s open night at the farm and if on one turns up then it’s alright.’ And it’s a Saturday night for two reasons because the children have no homework or school the next day and the other reason is it’s not a night that other churches in general are meeting and it doesn’t clash with anyone else’s church situation. We began on Saturday nights, we’re going into our thirteenth year and there was never one Saturday night that there wasn’t anyone in our home for fellowship and help and hungry for God. After some weeks as we gathered momentum and there was no more room in our kitchen and we were spilling over into the next room we realized this was bigger than us and we gathered together to pray on a Thursday night. That’s the night that we shall never forget for as long as we live. As we were praying and asking God where do we go from here, He gave me a vision, now I very rarely have visions, I’m a wordy person and God usually gives me words. Now anytime God gives me a vision it usually means it will change my life and the life of many others. That night suddenly the words began to come, ‘Will you take them and will you hold them close to your heart,’ that’s all it was over and over again. Prophetic the words came and at that moment our living room began to fade and I saw a large flock of sheep, ordinary sheep, God speaks to you in a language you understand.

My father was a sheep farmer; we were sheep farmers so we knew more about sheep than anything else. So we saw a big flock of sheep coming up the country road. As they came nearer I saw that many were bleeding, some were dismembered, some had almost no life left in them as they scrambled onto what I knew was our land. And just at that moment they turned into humanity. All the words that were coming,

‘Will you take them, will you hold them close to your heart.’

In that vision I saw those that bore the marks of the heroin needle, even those that still had the needle going into their main bloodstream, I saw those who bore the marks of prostitution, homosexuality, every sin that you could think of, some even dismembered. I remember one young man, he was reaching out as if he was desperate, desperate and I remembered that some of his fingers were off and looking back over twelve years we have seen at least about one of every type that God showed us that day. In that vision there were many classes, every social bracket was included cause you see the rich know pain just as well as the poor and sometimes it’s the poor rich. I saw every type of social bracket, every type, every class, every creed and we have seen at least one of every type that God particularly showed that night, we’ve seen many of some but we have seen at least one. I shall never forget the day that Norman came into the portacabin and he found the Lord and Norman has been, in the past, notorious here in Ballymena as one of the crime leaders. Then I saw that there were just some stumps where fingers should be and I knew that he was the young man that God had shown me in the vision. That’s well over eleven years ago and he is now in full time ministry in Manchester, in one of their roughest estates where they lock up at six o’clock in the evening. They’re living in a converted pub and he’s working with Mannilo Paki-Hamilton, the former paramilitary leader, and doing a mighty work for God. Norman’s flown over especially to be here for this celebration and so wherever you are, we love you and it’s great to have you here with us. There are many Norman’s and many others that have come over the years, many today in full time ministry here and in the south of Ireland and across the water (England) and we thank God for everyone of them.

Real IRA members marching in Londonderry. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA
Real IRA members marching in Londonderry. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

Because our ministry was birthed through a burden for the young men involved in the paramilitaries there came a time where many paramilitaries came to us and found God. People who’d been very, very much involved high up in the IRA and the UBF and we saw them become as lambs before God, working together and embracing each other in the love of God, becoming the greatest soul winners that you could get.

You get a terrorist saved, a terrorist knows about discipline, they know how to take orders and they’re your best soul winners when they come into the Kingdom.

So we give God thanks for that over the years and I never had another vision over that time until about two years ago. I was standing in our portacabin one night which was where our pig sty use to be as the Lord said this is for all the prodigals that I am sending you. During the worship, suddenly the room disappeared and I saw the vision again. The same picture with the people coming up the mountain road and God said, ‘Look closer and I saw that this time there were people there of many different skin colours, there was black, there was white and there was every other colour in between. Particularly I saw many Asian people in that vision and God said, ‘I’m now birthing an international ministry.’ We are now ministering into nine countries and especially into the Asian nations. We’ve poured thousands upon thousands of pounds sending out teams into these third world countries and it’s wonderful to have our adopted daughter here tonight all the way from the Phillipines and that was another expansion of the vision. One further expansion to this vision was given a few years prior to that. God spoke to me very clearly, ‘I want you to move out in restoration to those who have been in ministry who have missed it, have repented and come back to Me but no one will ever have them again.’ You know Ireland and particularly Ulster are filled with these people. People who were doing a wonderful work for God and somehow the enemy got in. Yet when they came back to God in repentance the Christians would accept that they had been forgiven but never, ever, ever gave them a platform again. God said, ‘Would you give them a platform, will you bring restoration and reach out in love to these people who’ve done tremendous work for Me but somehow one weak moment they missed it,’ because there’s forgiveness in God. God has brought many into restoration, many in ministry with us, some of our most precious people and many out in our fellowship as well that were able to hear again that there was a forgiving God. That no matter what they've done that God forgave them and when God forgives He forgives totally, there’s no buts in God. The last part of this vision was in December 1998 and what I saw was this place and this time there were more, so many more people running desperately to get here and on the other side of the building was a pile of mess and God said , ‘As I move you into Ballymena I’m only moving the birthing room. I’m giving you a bigger room and as it was messy in the old birthing room so will it be here. But many will not see the babies they will only see the afterbirth. God said, ‘You know, no afterbirth, no baby. Don’t look at the mess, don’t look at the afterbirth because just as a mother, after she’s given birth, holds that baby close to her heart, she’s not interested where the afterbirth is. She doesn’t want to see it because she’s holding the life that’s just been brought into the world. He said to us, ‘ Just keep holding the babies when they come, keep helping them to be birthed, keep loving them till they grow into strong, whole mature young men and women of God. He said, ‘Don’t look at the afterbirth, many will only see the afterbirth and many will only hear about the mess and they will judge you because of that. But don’t look to the right or to the left just keep your eye on the babies that will come because I will birth strong, strong healthy babies for Me in the new birthing room.’

So what you are looking at today is only a birthing room, that’s all, it is a room for many needy men, women, girls and boys who’ll come through into the Kingdom of God’s Son. We’ve never lost the thrill of seeing these people come to Christ and that love that just comes. You see, love covers a multitude of sins and if you have the love of God in your heart for these people you’ll put up with the mess until they are able to walk straight. You’ll put up with them when they fall and skin their knees, you’ll put up with that and you’ll be better to hold them when they get up and speak to them saying,

‘Yes you can make it, you can still make it.’

That’s the cry of our heart, it’s the passion of our heart and so help us God we will birth many, many, many more babies in this place. Amen.’

Watch 'The Greatest Army' by Delores Develde with Laura Woodley praying and singing


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    • Morningwings profile imageAUTHOR

      J M Smith 

      6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Beth, Thank you so much for your encouragement. These people are great friends and it is an honour to share their story for His glory. I pray I can introduce you to many more like these in the days to come. Have an amazing God kissed day. :)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      What a wonderful story. I love ppl's stories and these seem like wonderful, interesting and most of all faithful ppl. Im glad you introduced me to them :)


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