Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace. Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.” He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”
Daniel 3:19-25 (NIV)
I just spent the past week in a little town called Ballinagh in County Cavan. Every year a team of volunteers heads down to put on a Scripture Union kids club and we have an absolute blast every time. This was my second year doing it and it was better than I ever thought it could be. This year God used Ballinagh to show me how he has changed me in the past year and it was a beautiful experience; it was a beautiful view of life lived to its fullest and I enjoyed every single moment. On Friday morning I sat with two of my favourite people, in a cold room with cobwebs on the ceiling and air mattresses and sleeping bags on the floor, and cried and told them how good God has been in bringing me through the past year.
I was broken and hurting last year, and I’m still unsure as to why God took me to Ballinagh, but this year I went to serve Him, to teach some very cute little ones all about Him, and to share in fellowship with his sons and daughters. We sang a lot of great songs, did a lot of dancing, watched some funny dramas, heard some great stories about Daniel, learnt some important Bible verses, played a lot of guitar, ate a lot of food, stayed up late, didn’t get anywhere near enough sleep, and I’d do it all again tomorrow if I could.
I feel so honoured to have worked with ten of the most hilarious, welcoming, kind-hearted people and don’t think I’ve laughed that much in the space of six days in a long time. I’ve come home with new friends and have grown closer to old ones, and know that each one of them brought something important to the team; the light of Jesus shines through each one of them, even when they’re doing nothing other than being themselves.
Throughout the week we looked at the story of Daniel with the kids, a Bible story that has plenty of themes that resonate with me and my experiences over the past year, and the part about the fiery furnace spoke to me very clearly. Even when we’re going through what feels like hell, God is with us and He won’t let us be harmed. Even when we experience situations that have killed others, if we trust in God He won’t let that happen to us.