At the end of 2020, after almost nine years in the role, Alastair steps down as Field Leader of OM in Ireland. As this chapter comes to an end, Alastair looks back on his journey.
“I never intended to be Field Leader,” tells Alastair. “Our first leader, Mike, was a very inspirational leader, whereas I was happy making things happen on the administrative side. In 2011, when Mike stepped back to care for his ill son, I stepped in as interim leader.”
When asked to remain as Field Leader, Alastair was reluctant to continue because he did not see himself as a visionary, but the rest of the team felt he should stay. “I thought I couldn’t take on the responsibilities, but I heard God say: ‘I can give you the strength and wisdom that you need’ and, after receiving that reassurance, I accepted the role. During the first years, I felt God leading and guiding so much and I had a great team around me with many different gifts and abilities.”
Born to missionary parents from Northern Ireland and serving in Donegal, Alastair grew up seeing how tough missions in Ireland was. He came to faith at the age of 12 and, as one of very few Christians his age, found his teenage years challenging.
In the summer of 1989, Alastair went on a trip to London, where he experienced being amongst Christians of his own age. “It opened my eyes,” he remembers. “I didn’t want to go back to Ireland, and I ended up staying in London for seven years.”
Having gained experience in the world of finance, Alastair quit his job and went to Malawi, where his brother was a missionary. “I was convinced God would send me to ends of the earth!” he tells. For three and a half months, he used his skills as an accountant to help with the mission finances. “During this time, I knew this was what I should be doing. When I came back, I explored options to serve with mission organisations in Africa. To my disappointment, I was met with many closed doors.”
After hearing of the need for accountants, he joined OM, overseeing finances for Latin America. Based in the UK, it was during this time that Alastair met his wife, Helen. After a few years, Alastair and Helen felt it might be time to move on. “We were in Donegal for Christmas and, at church, Mike tried to recruit us for the launch OM in Ireland. Helen was enthusiastic, but I was more reluctant, but God worked in my heart and we felt it was the right thing.” In August 2002, Alastair moved back to Donegal, this time with his wife, Helen, to launch OM in Ireland alongside Mike and his wife, Aster.
Since taking over the leadership in 2012, Alastair has overseen many new programmes including Mission Discipleship Training (MDT), as well as continuing established ministries such as the Big Red Bus. “In recent years, one of the ways we are most blessings churches is the Partners for Church Growth programme. Churches said it was great to have interns, but they needed people longer term to build relationships in the communities," Alastair explains.
When asked to describe his highlight he says: “There are so many highlights that it’s difficult to pick one! It’s been a joy to lead the team and I will take away many good memories. What excites me the most is when church leaders come and tell me how much the team has helped them. It’s such a joy when you know you are really blessing the church and helping them to achieve their vision.”
“One of the highlights has been the church plant in Longford. This is a great example of what I would like to see in other towns in Ireland. We aim to build up local churches and make them effective to reach out to the community. Our focus is on smaller churches in more rural areas where there is very little evangelical presence and few resources. These are the least reached in Ireland and it’s amazing to see work start in these areas.”
With his background in finance, Alastair says his biggest challenge was paying off the money for Lacken House. “In 2006 we began to think about being more centrally located within Ireland. A businessman had a property he wanted to sell to a Christian organisation and in 2008 we purchased Lacken House for 1.1m euros. It was a big commitment, but it was definitely a God thing. Despite facing many challenges, we are now close to completely paying this money off and I’ve learnt so much through this experience!”
With the unexpected challenges that 2020 brought, it has not been the final year that Alastair had hoped for. “Now I’m in my ninth year and I wanted someone fresh to step in and build on what we’ve done. When I originally planned to finish in 2020, I thought I would go out with a bang, with the planned visit of the Logos Hope, but in the end, it has been much harder than any other year,” says Alastair.
The team is currently seeking God’s will for the future as they look to appoint a new Field Leader. “I love how God brings the right person for the job at the right time and situation and I know He will do that for the Field Leader position,” Alastair comments.
Although Alastair is stepping back from leadership, he and Helen will continue to serve with OM in Ireland. “Initially, I plan to take some time for a sabbatical. After that, I’ve agreed to help with finance for one day a week, as well as exploring the possibility of a financial role within OM International. I also want to give some of my time to serving in local community, since my passions have changed over the years. I joined OM because of the need for accountants and, whilst that’s still important, I now have much more emphasis on wanting to see lives changed."