JAY Lowder is a man with a story to tell, but he’s not giving much away before he comes to Lurgan for Mission Hope in May.
From Wichita Falls in Texas, Jay is an American evangelist who breaks the mould, a man who has lived life on the edge and been on the brink of suicide.
Unafraid and unashamed in his faith Jay’s message is a simple one, he doesn’t speak religion, he’s not affiliated to any church but he does want to bring people to a true relationship with Christ.
Jay speaks from hard earned experience and gave a hint of what he’ll have to say in May: “Come hear from a man who understands the path of suicide. Come hear from a man who at 21 years of age decided to end his life with a pistol, come and hear his personal story.
“I am going to take time to share my personal story, about the day that changed my life and what transpired that day that kept me from ending my life and what, as a result of that, gave me the purpose, the reason and the hope to continue on.”
From a churchgoing family himself, like so many of us, Jay might have attended church but was by no means a Christian.
That changed when he was converted at a mission very similar to what’s planned for Lurgan on May 13-20.
He told the ‘MAIL’: “I was invited by a family member to attend a mission, an outreach. I was someone who grew up in church but I discontinued going, I went to the mission, I didn’t even plan on going but went and accepted Christ there.
“Three nights later they had a special student event, a strong outreach to students and that night I saw over 300 students make a commitment to Christ. When I saw that I just knew that was what I was supposed to do with my life.
“I’d been a believer for three days and I wanted to help other young people like myself discover the truth that I had recently discovered,
“There’s something to me about seeing so many students having their lives transformed, that a switch was flipped in my heart that’s never went off.”
Developing his ministry Jay first started his own small Bible study with a group of close friends: “We started ‘street witnessing’, we would go out to the street, where we lived at the time there were a lot of bars, strip clubs, nude dancing - some very rough people, a lot of drunks, homeless people, prostitutes walking up and down the street and so we started walking the streets at night time. Once the streets got cranking, we started sharing our faith.
“From there we started preaching at the Faith Mission - the equivalent of the Salvation Army. We started very humbly I didn’t have any rapport or credibility with the churches, I was just someone that Christ wanted to help others. There was no credibility for me.
“That was fine with me, that’s where I felt I could be most free. From there I started travelling with different evangelists in the States, and we were doing what I really knew we were supposed to do.” Of those early days ministering on the streets, where most people would fear to tread, Jay said: “It was certainly a difficult time. It was dangerous, no doubt about it. There’s a lot of belligerent drunks. Any time you have drugs, prostitution and alcohol you have the potential for trouble.
“We were at times in situations that could be described as dangerous. You have to understand we were 21-22 years old, we were somewhat bullet proof. We do believe in the command of Christ, you can’t follow Christ if you are not willing to be risky - no risk no reward. Risk is just another word for faith.”
After learning from other evangelists Jay’s own ministry developed through Harvest Ministries and he said: “I’ve always done the work of evangelism, I’ve never been a pastor in a church, never served in an official role, I’ve been invited to do that on several occasions but never had a desire to do that.
“Evangelists are not tied to a specific doctrine, we’re not defined in that way. We stick to one message, the Gospel, the birth, death and resurrection of Christ. We are able to work with every denomination, every race colour and creed.
We really wanted to be diverse in our ability to converse and relate. We stay focused on one thing.”
Most of Jay’s work is done in the USA but his work also has an international dimension through the use of TV and the internet and, as he put it: “With modern technology you have ability to do international ministry sitting in Ireland, Texas or Kenya.”
Broaching the problem that has so blighted Northern Ireland Jay said: “Religion often divides, but Jesus unites. We’re siding with Jesus not with religion. Our allegiance is not with the Methodist Church, Baptist, Catholic or any other church, it’s not that we don’t want to work with them but when we come, we represent Christ. The only flag we come to Ireland with is the flag of the cross of Christ.”
Jay will be the key speaker at Mission Hope which will run from May 13-20 and has the support of 15 churches across the town.
Everyone is warmly invited to attend during the mission and hear more of what Jay has to say. The ‘MAIL’ will be carrying further details of the mission in coming weeks.