Rev David Park
|Place of Birth:||Banbridge, County Down|
The Theological Hall at The Whitefield College of the
|College Date:||1981 - 1985|
|Former Pastorates:||Oulton Broad, England; Portavogie, N. Ireland|
|Installed in Ballymoney:||5th December 1996|
|Children:||David, Joanna, Andrew, Leah & Joshua|
|Favourite Bible Book:||The Acts of the Holy Ghost|
|Favourite Bible Character:||Other than the Lord Jesus Christ, Elijah|
|Favourite Historical Figure:||Charles Haddon Spurgeon|
|Favourite Bible Commentary:||Matthew Henry|
|College Lecturer in:||Personal Evangelism and Christian Doctrine|
|Member of:||Mission Board and Education Board|
|Ambition:||To see Ballymoney turned upside down for God|
Having been brought up in a Christian home, Rev. David Park was well acquainted with the Gospel message. From a child he knew the Holy Scriptures which were 'able to make him wise unto salvation' and in August, 1972, ten-year-old David repented of his sin and trusted Christ as his Saviour. Teenage years were difficult for the young convert, but God, who is rich in mercy and love, drew him into a closer walk with Himself and called him into the Christian ministry through such texts as 1st Timothy Chapter 1 verse 12 and Chapter 2 verse 7. He made application to the Whitefield College of the Bible at the age of eighteen and commenced his studies in September,1981. In October of that year he was interviewed by Presbytery in Dunmurry Free Presbyterian Church and was accepted to train for the ministry. Two years later he was appointed as the student minister of the Ardaragh Free Presbyterian witness. Ardaragh wasn't constituted as a church at that time so they couldn't call a minister, therefore Mr. Park's time there had to come to an end at Christmas 1985. In July of that year he married Miss Susan Gibson from Belfast.
In January, 1986 at the ministers' week of prayer, Mr. Park was asked to consider if he would be willing to go to the small outreach work at Oulton Broad for the month of February. At the same time, he was approached by leaders in the work in Antrim to consider becoming their pastor. After prayerful consideration Mr. Park went to Oulton Broad. While he was there the congregation expressed an interest in having him as their minister. Dr. Paisley visited the work and arranged a meeting at which the call to Mr. Park was issued. In early May, 1986 Rev. David and Mrs. Park and their infant son, David set off to Oulton Broad. Mr. Park's ordination to the ministry had taken place in his home church in Portadown on 6th May. The installation took place in Oulton Broad on 14th May. Rev. Park's ministry in England continued until a call came from Trinity Free Presbyterian Church, Portavogie at the end of 1989.
Rev. Park was installed in Portavogie on 5th January, 1990. The Lord honoured his ministry there and great times of blessing were experienced. The work grew rapidly and many souls were brought to saving faith in Christ.
However, unknown to the congregation in Portavogie, the Lord had already begun to deal with Rev. Park from Isaiah Chapter 6 when Rev. James Beggs contacted him to ask him to pray about a possible move to Ballymoney in 1996. On 1st July of that year Rev. Park preached in Ballymoney and when the call from the congregation was presented at the November presbytery meeting, he accepted immediately, knowing that it was God's will that he should leave the Ards Peninsula and go to North Antrim.
Rev. and Mrs. Park recall their first visit to the manse in Ballymoney. At that time major renovations were being undertaken, largely by session and committee members, so the building was in a rough, incomplete condition. Mr. Nevin Carson swiftly informed Mrs. Park: 'Now you're seeing it in its raw state' just in case she would feel reluctant about coming! When the family did move in December, 1996 Mrs. Park was very grateful to see a fridge stocked with all essentials, and pots of stew prepared by the elders' wives to provide a warm welcome on a cold winter's day.
The church was packed to capacity for the installation service, which took place on Friday, 5th December. Rev. R. J. Beggs, who had acted as interim-moderator during the vacancy, led the meeting. After the opening prayer by Rev. John Gray, (Ballymagerney) the Scriptures were read by Rev. Timothy Nelson of the neighbouring Rasharkin congregation and the installation sermon was preached by Rev. Ian Kenny (Dromore). The prescribed questions were put to Rev. Park by his former minister in Portadown, Rev. Kenneth Elliott. This was followed by Rev. Park's subscription to the Westminster Confession of Faith, and the installation prayer. Dr. Paisley was present to deliver the charge to the new minister and the congregation, after which the Youth Choir sang. Rev. Park then gave a personal word of testimony and was officially welcomed to Ballymoney by Mr. Norman Hanna, Clerk of Session. Rev. Ian Harris (Carrickfergus) closed the meeting in prayer, after which supper was served to the huge crowd present.
One of Rev. Park's first concerns was to see an increase at the church prayer meetings as numbers had fallen during the vacancy. Within a short time God had blessed his ministry to such an extent that the attendance doubled. The small prayer room was no longer adequate to accommodate those who met regularly on Thursday nights so the meeting was transferred to the larger room. Rev. Park, testifying to God's goodness in the prayer life of the church, commented, " We rejoice in what the Lord is doing, moving His people in the place of prayer. I thank God for the spirit of prayer that prevails among our people; the cries, the tears, the brokenness, the earnestness and sincerity have been an immense encouragement to me in my ministry. The condition of the church may be very accurately gauged by its prayer meetings. The prayer meeting is the thermometer of the church. It is most encouraging to any preacher to see an increase in the numbers attending the place of prayer. The midweek prayer meetings now have an average of ninety people in attendance, sometimes reaching well over one hundred. On at least one occasion there were one hundred and twenty people present. To God be the Glory! This is a sure sign of blessing, and an indication of what good things the Lord has in store for His people. It was Matthew Henry who said something like this, 'When God intends to send blessing to His Church, He always sets them a-praying.' May we never, never depart from the importance of prayer."
The attendance at the Sunday evening meeting had also dwindled. This was made a matter for special prayer by the session and in addition Rev. Park introduced two new initiatives. The first of these was a change to the time of the Sunday evening meeting from 7.30 p.m. to 7.00 p.m. This was to encourage young families to attend. The other innovation was to introduce a monthly Family Night service. The first of these took place at Christmas 1997 when over four hundred people packed into the church building. Such were the queues of people waiting in the porch that the start of the meeting had to be delayed for fifteen minutes to enable the committee to get the visitors seated. The decision was taken after the first Family Night to continue these special meetings on the first Sunday of each month for a year. The Ballymoney Family Night meetings are now well established and known throughout the province and are eagerly anticipated by many in the congregation. Special speakers are often brought along to testify to the goodness of God in times of difficulty or to relate how their lives have been transformed through Christ.
Another change established in Ballymoney is to have a watch night service on the last day of the year when members take part by singing or testifying to God's goodness throughout the year. Over two hundred people attended the very first watch night service in 1997.
In January of that year Rev. Park introduced a week of prayer, following the Missionary Weekend. This has become an annual event in the church calendar. Large numbers of between sixty and one hundred people attend nightly. Throughout the week a prayer list, which includes the names of family members and friends, is compiled and then distributed on the Friday night. On one memorable occasion in 1998, ninety-six people came and thirty-three prayed audibly, nine of them being children.
In 1998 there were many 'tokens for good' in Rev. Park's ministry. Miss Shireen Atkinson and Miss Tracy Hegarty were saved at the beginning of the year and that was a great encouragement to Rev. Park. New committee members were chosen by the congregation too and Mr. John Currie and Mr. Griffith Gregg were installed as elders in the Session. A children's mission, conducted by Mr. Noel Stevenson, brought huge numbers of young people into the church and best of all, some of them professed faith in Jesus Christ. Altogether twenty-five souls were counseled in that year.
1999 was another notable year. There was a marked increase in attendance at the Lord's Table, souls were saved and God's people blessed through a special series of messages entitled 'What in the world is a Christian?' preached by Pastor David Cassells from Scotland.
In 2000, on the first Lord's Day of the Millennium, many Christians dedicated their lives to the Lord's service. January 2001 saw the largest attendance of one hundred and twenty people at the prayer meeting.
Evidently, God is at work in Ballymoney and has used His servant to bring honour to His name. However Rev. Park knows that there is still much to do for God. He outlines three main ambitions. His greatest desire is that the Lord might be glorified and souls brought to Christ. He remarks: "I have no greater joy in my ministry than to sit down with a poor lost sinner, to open God's precious Word and to point that person to Christ the Saviour. There's nothing like the joy of the harvest; it's the soul winner's wine!"
Another burden that Rev. Park bears is that there might be a spiritual awakening among God's people similar to that evident in Ireland in 1859. In his first year in Ballymoney he preached a series of messages on revival and his yearning for God to work in a remarkable way has not diminished. On the contrary, he views the extension and enlargement projects being undertaken presently in the church as preparation for a forthcoming revival.
His third objective is to be used as an instrument in the spread of the Gospel through missionary work. One of the highlights of the church year for him is, therefore, the Missionary Weekend. Rev. Park's enthusiasm for missionary work led to his appointment, by Presbytery, to the Mission Board in 1995. He is also a regular visitor to the mission field with a personal interest in the land of Spain, where the Hanna family, from the Ballymoney congregation, serve the Lord in Alcorcon, Madrid and where his brother-in-law and sister, Rev. and Mrs. Lyle Boyd labour in Cortijos Nuevos. Another special area of the mission field is Kenya, where Miss Noreen McAfee, also from Ballymoney, serves the Lord as Principal in the BCFC Christian Academy. He has sought to encourage Noreen by visiting the Kenyan mission field, initially along with the Clerk of Session, Mr. Norman Hanna and Committee member, Mr. Wesley McAuley (now elder). He has returned to Kenya many times since, including twice to make CD recordings of the Children's Choir at the Academy, and for the Official Opening of the School which took place in September 2009. He was delighted that his wife, Susan, and son, Joshua, were able to accompany him on one of these occasions along with other church members. In 2003 he traveled as part of a group to Brazil to see, first hand, the work of Dr. Bill Woods, and in 2008 visited Nepal with two members of the Church Committee.
Rev. Park has helped and encouraged the young people of the church to become involved in outreach work, both at home and abroad. Several of them have traveled to Britain as part of the Youth Council outreach programme's during the summer months. He has traveled with work groups and outreach teams to various parts of the world and helped encourage others to go for such visits. These have included Spain, Romania, Kenya, Nepal, the Philippines, the British Mainland and Southern Ireland. Many from the Hebron congregation in Ballymoney have joined these groups and given of their time and skills to the work of missionary enterprise. The minister and Session have been happy to support such endeavours.
As a congregation, we give thanks to God for such a godly man in our midst. Like his Biblical namesake, he is 'a man after God's own heart'. We look forward, in the will of God, to times of greater blessing under his leadership and assure him of our prayers and support as he continues the work of His Master in Ballymoney.