Ian Gilkinson has been welcomed to the congregation at Ballymena Independent Methodist Church as their new minister.
Originally from the Coleraine area, Ian, (43) is married to Hazel and the couple have two sons, Joshua, (11) and Samuel, (8).
A graduate from the University of Glamorgan, he came to know the Lord while teaching at what is now the Coleraine Campus of the Northern Regional College.
Recalling his conversion, Ian said: “It came to a crisis point where one evening I knew the reality of the words of Scripture: ‘My spirit shall not always strive with man’ and knew that it was my last chance to be saved.
“So it was in May, 20 years ago when I was 23 that I sought the Lord. It took a few days though for me to have the witness of the Spirit because although I had asked him to save me I wasn’t resting on what it says in scripture.”
Following a short period of employment as a Data Analyst with Daewoo in Antrim, Ian enrolled at the Faith Mission Bible College in 1997, staying there for three years.
Subsequently, he worked in the Mission’s Belfast bookshop for a year before he and his then new wife, Hazel, became junior workers for the organisation in Ballymena.
“Hazel and I conducted Missions of three and four weeks and we were able to point a number of people to the Lord over a three year period,” Ian added.
Long spells in County Laois and in Devon followed for the couple as they worked for the Faith Mission before the Lord surprised them with a homeward call.
Following an approach from Ballymena Independent Methodist Church, Ian carried out a speaking engagement on the Sunday after Christmas, returning at end of March after which the Board voted unanimously for him to take up the charge of pastor and a number of weeks later the members of the congregation who gave him the same mandate.
He says: “Just as you cannot hide a city that is set on a hill, my hope would be that the Independent Methodist Church on Doury Road, which is located on a hill, will be a light for this needy town.”