MY XP2016 Tim Neill
“Back to Basics,” - the theme of Xpression 2016, my first big leap into service for God in the community. Basics, Love God, Love Others, Shake and Shine. Firstly, I live in Poyntzpass so, even though I’m not a farmer (contrary to many friend’s beliefs), it is rather quiet out here. Local people like to use the idea that Poyntzpass is surrounded by churches and so the Devil is trapped outside, but it’s perfectly possible that he may be trapped inside....
Anyway, I go to Portadown College and over the past few years it’s fair to say that I now know Portadown rather well! If nothing else, going to school in Portadown has taught me where little nooks and crannies that any out-of-towners don’t know about are, however one thing that I always found daunting and scary was the thought of anything churchy in “Town.” Even though most of my friends go to church locally, I was never quite confident enough to turn up to church events, but... after a lot of coaxing from a few friends, I eventually gave in to accompanying them to Edenderry CE and have been going ever since. There, is where I first heard about Xpression, and picked up my application form - “for the bant.”
No matter how much I spoke to friends who had done Xpression, I still didn’t feel 100% comfortable when I arrived on the first night. So Tuesday night arrived, and, unsure of what to expect, I rolled into St. Columba’s Parish Church hall where my first sight was a mad setup of sound equipment (right down my street, for anyone who knows me). I was very quickly put at ease by some of the Logistics Crew who were dandering about in the hall looking for something else that they could do (they are, in fact, the most helpful guys around as trying to fit a huge table in Andrew McGuire’s car is a rather challenging experience...). After collecting the brand new, exciting, BLUE Xpression T-shirt, my “squad” and I took our seats for what I would soon realise would be one of my closest encounters with God to date. The worship band, led by Andi Oakes was absolutely class – like seriously, if that music and concentrated worship doesn’t send shivers down your spine I don’t know what will!
As each morning of Xpression does, the same exhilarating, encouraging and engaged Worship took place on Wednesday morning before we headed into the Community. Andrew’s talk on the true basics of sacrifice to God, combined with the discussion in team time during lunch was so helpful, as I felt it just gave me that last ounce of encouragement that I needed to face the Community. When we arrived in Garvaghy (I was indeed a member of the mighty G-Road team for 2016), I won’t lie but being descended upon by a rather intimidating group of wobbly residents wasn’t the best introduction. More on that later. Due to the nature of our Kid’s Club set up (we did a pop-up kid’s club), we spent a lot of Wednesday handing out flyers and leaflets about the Saturday fun day, meanwhile telling people about the Kid’s club and BBQ that evening. I would say that I’m a bit of a people’s person, but going into Garvaghy to talk about God? That’s a completely different ballgame. I had never done anything remotely like this. Sunday morning was church, more recently Saturday night was CE and that was it - done and dusted for the week. Yet, as soon as I began to talk to people a little about why we were there I just felt like the words just flowed! Talking about God has become so easy since, even some conversations with like-minded friends are so much easier now! I could honestly say that Xpression 2016 has changed me for the better!
Dinner each evening was another special occasion. Coming back to St. Mark’s Parochial Hall to eat together and share some stories from the day – some of which truly showed God’s actions on Portadown. One of the stories I told was particularly special, one of those wobbly residents that we met in Garvaghy was called John. John, without a doubt, was in a bad place – his life had been controlled by alcohol since the recent death of his mother and while we were working on a garden on Thursday in a completely different area of Garvaghy, John appeared from a neighbour’s house where he had been visiting. We spent over 15 minutes just standing talking to him there; he shared his stories, and commented on the fact that his current translation of the Bible wasn’t making sense to him. Alarm bells began to ring with us. On Friday morning, we took a shopping trip to Faith Mission Bookshop, where we found a new Bible and appropriate Study Devotional for John. Two of our leaders, Andrew and David delivered the gift to him the following day. God was moving in Garvaghy, He meant for that meeting to happen and I just praise Him that I was given the opportunity to be there! That’s one of a million amazing stories from Xpression this year, and I believe that a million more are still to be made!
Xpression is your opportunity in Portadown; Romans 12 v 1 speaks of being a “Living Sacrifice,” and for me, there was no better way to do that than to get practical, get involved and work with my team in the Garvaghy community. Portadown is undoubtedly in need of repair and we are God’s tools. I just want to personally thank the Xpression Organisers, the Committee, the Teams and everyone else involved for making my first large contribution to the community so memorable.
To anyone out there who is wondering about Xpression, I’d say one thing – I have never had as much fun, focus and finding myself in a week as #XP16 offered me (do check out that hashtag on Facebook and Instagram – a picture can tell a thousand words!). Get involved and get active for God, and if you’re nervous about it like I was, let’s just say there wasn’t a single worry when I stepped into that hall on the first night!