CMSI is blessed to have as part of our family, countless individuals throughout Ireland who are passionate about mission, who continue to pray for our work, and who have been involved in supporting both our Mission Partners and our Global Partners. Over the coming year, we want to introduce some of these unsung heroes as we celebrate the network of CMSI Stars who are so crucial to our ongoing work.
One such person is Betty King, from St Donard’s Parish in East Belfast. I caught up with Betty by phone recently to find out more about her life of faith and mission engagement.
For anyone who has met Betty, they will know she is gentle, loving and radiates warmth. She grew up close to the church, and was christened, confirmed and finally married to Ronnie (1962) in the parish. She remembers as a child, her mum always brought her to church and it was there she learned about faith. She also had two maiden aunts, as well as two uncles whom she describes as prayer warriors, who all had a part in her faith journey. She always loved the Lord, but only made a deeper commitment later in life when Michael Perrot came to take a week’s mission in the parish. His messages were a real encouragement and came at a time when Betty's father was very ill. On one of the final evenings she took that final step of committing her life fully to Christ. That experience still brings tears to her eyes.
After Betty’s daughter was born, she was very involved in the Brownies and other children’s organisations in the church. A lady called Irene McKegney (sister to Canon McKegney), who was then Secretary of St Donard’s Mission’s Committee, spoke to Betty and encouraged her to get involved. At the time (mid-70s), Betty didn’t think she was the right person, or had the right skills, but always had an interest in the work of missionaries serving in far off lands.
The Mission Committee at that time was made up entirely of women and Betty remembers with fondness their first fundraising initiatives known as “Car Runs”, organised by Tony Cassidy. They would fill 10 cars with people, who would pay for a seat, and they would head out for a day trip, and stop off for lunch at a pre-arranged church hall. Recent escapades by the committee have included a “murder mystery” night along with hosting a CMSI stall at their weekly car boot sale to raise funds.
Betty eventually took over the role as secretary, and is still chairing the group of committed volunteers. One of her favourite things to do was to write to missionaries who were serving overseas, and the parish actively supported Mission Partners throughout the years such as the Stockleys (Uganda), the Brownlees (Uganda) and the Magandas (Egypt). When new forms of technology came in, she decided it was time to take a back seat and leave email and the internet to some of the younger members of the mission committee.
In recent years, the parish have developed a vibrant partnership link with Shyogwe Diocese in Rwanda and Canon Ken Higgins has kindly hosted a number of visitors to the parish, ranging from Bishop Jered Kalimba through to a team of four in 2017. Betty herself would love to have visited Rwanda but feels the years are catching up with her. But seeing the positive impact that team visits have had on committee members such as Rhonda Moroney, Eileen Givans and Barry Leacock has brought her deep joy and encouragement.
Betty may be well into her ninth decade, but she is still delivering CMSI’s InMission magazine, Prayer Diaries and collection boxes to a group of core supporters within the parish. As well as attending CMSI events such as our annual Ignite Conference. For me, it is inspirational that Betty is continuing to solder away in the background, serving the One she put her trust in all those years ago. Truly an unsung CMSI hero!