100 not out - Joe Mooney's very special birthday

100 not out - Joe Mooney's very special birthday

Retired Serving In Mission worker Joe Mooney celebrated his 100th birthday at special parties with family and friends last weekend.

Joe, who served in Nigeria for 20 years after being accepted into SIM in 1940, is still very active and could easily pass for a man decades younger.

He spent his missionary life proclaiming the gospel and church-planting in remote areas of Nigeria, travelling through the bush on foot, by bicycle and, in later years, by motorbike.

He and his wife Margaret, who died in 2009, had two children – Gordon and Eileen (pictured above with Joe at the party) – while they were in Nigeria and brought them up there until returning home to Northern Ireland in the early 1960s.

Joe went on to pastor Grange Church, County Antrim, and is now a member of Knock Presbyterian Church, just outside Belfast, where the weekend’s main celebration took place.

In a moving tribute, SIM Ireland director Mike Ewan (pictured with Joe below) said: “In the report on Joe when he first joined SIM, which we found in our archives, there is a section headed simply ‘Remarks’. The person who interviewed Joe had written: First class life.

“I don’t think there can be a better way of summing up Joe - that remark is as true today as it was all those years ago.

“There are many people who owe a huge debt of gratitude to Joe, for the way he has helped them, guided them and led them to Christ.

“In those early days, he and Margaret lived more than 50 miles from the nearest other missionaries but he was a great evangelist.

“Among the Manau tribe, for example, who were notoriously resistant to the gospel, he saw 28 people come to Christ in just two months and he saw this as a sign that the Lord was breaking down these strong hearts.”

Both Joe’s children were at the celebration – Gordon, who travelled over from his home in Canada, and Eileen, who lives close by the sheltered accommodation which is now Joe’s home.

Gordon said: “My dad is an amazing man. We Skype each week and he’s right on top of things. He still keeps very detailed notebooks, which have helped him have an incredible memory. He will often correct me about things that have happened!

“It’s wonderful to see so many people here to celebrate with him. It means a lot to him and to us.”

But the last word must go to Joe, who happily took centre stage to thank everyone for joining him.

He said: “To hear all these kind words puts me in mind of a story, about the widow at her husband’s funeral. As she hears everyone saying such lovely things about the man in the coffin, she says to one of her children: ‘Will you just go and check that’s your father in the box?’”

As so often, Joe got the biggest laugh of the day.

We thank God for his service, both in the field and in prayer, to the work of SIM. His one desire has been to see people come to Christ and God has used him mightily to do just that.

Pictures: Sophie Hunsdale

Tim Allan