Our CEO Paul Laffey was honoured to give the Opening devotion at this years YMCA England and Wales National Conference at Nottingham. Paul, who is also a member of the National Board drew inspiration from Stormzy’s “Blinded by Your Grace Pt2” to highlight the challenges faced by young people and communities, emphasizing the importance of resilience and hope, and the significance of God’s Grace.
Here is Paul’s blog post:
My Grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness. That’s from a book in the Bible called 2 Corinthians Chapter 12 v 9
I was privileged to be asked to deliver the opening devotion at our recent YMCA England & Wales National Conference, which was a fantastic gathering. I shared a testimony from my early life, one that has shaped who I have become and my journey with the YMCA over 39 years.
I grew up in the west of Ireland in a county called Galway. It was a very rural area, with just six houses in our village. My childhood was not idyllic as I suffered from from both asthma and severe eczema throughout my childhood and teenage years . This had a huge impact on my life. For example, I was never able to participate in any sports. I remember the day when swimming lessons were introduced for the first time for all pupils at our primary school. I was eight years old. The coaches arrived. My friends were excited and climbed onboard, and I was the only boy that remained behind in the school because I could not enter a pool with chlorine due to my severe eczema. I’ve always
prayed about my health issues as a child and teenager and I frequently got frustrated with God that I didn’t see any answers to my prayers.
Timing is everything, and God’s timing is not always the same as our timing.
My health needs changed in the summer of 1984. I visited my sister Barbara in London. She was
training to be a district nurse, and during my holiday I slept on a mattress on her bedroom floor at her living quarters at Central Middlesex Hospital. During my stay, one night there was a severe summer thunderstorm just like we’ve recently experienced. Barbara said at the time that while I was sleeping I was scratching my skin very badly.
She prayed over me that just as the storm outside would cease – that the storm in my life would also cease and that I would be healed. Within two weeks of my sister prayers, a profound miracle took place in my life in that, for the first time in my 18 years of living, the whole of my body was healed from both eczema and asthma.
To this day, I see that as a miracle , especially after having had frequent stays in hospital and seeing a number of medical professionals over many years without any cure.
The following year, I moved to live in Fulham in South London. My brother–in–law to be Des Morris, was the manager of the local YMCA. It was here that I was to learn what the YMCA was all about, when it came to spiritual nourishment, physical activities and forming wonderful friendships. I was amongst 22 residents that came from 19 different countries. We were our very own United Nations living at the YMCA. All of us were new to London, and we shared many great experiences and memories living at the YMCA.
The new life I formed living in London during the late 80s and 90s was a cultural wakeup call from that of rural living in the west of Ireland. I have had many significant moments or as I like to call them God Ordained moments in
Within 3 weeks of living at the YMCA one of the residents Tony introduced me to his boss, a Scottish man called Jerry. He came to the YMCA one evening and interviewed me for a maintenance and cleaning job. I started work the following week and had three promotions at that company within four years. This led me to overseeing a maintenance and cleaning contract for one of the largest council residential estate in the UK. It was called the Alton Estate in Roehampton in South London, and I remain in touch with friends living on that estate today.
During my time with this company, and at the age of 22, my new Manager Peter said that it was time I learnt to swim. During my lunch break with Peter and a few staff, I joined a swimming class at Putney baths. I went swimming every day for almost 6 months and became a particularly good swimmer.
I’ve had many blessings and challenges in my life, but if you were to say to the young introverted, shy and lonely young person in my teens that I would go on to have a number of managerial posts with different organisations and become the CEO of a local YMCA and join the National board as a Trustee, I would’ve said you are living in a dream
Never loose hope in the tricky situations you find yourself in. There is always a way through difficulties and you will at the right time find the people that can encourage you to change and make that difference.
I will leave you with a poem by William Arthur Ward that I hope will encourage you and challenge you at the same time. It did me.
Fast from judging others,
Feast on Christ dwelling in them.
Fast from fear of illness,
Feast on the healing power of God.
Fast from words that pollute,
feast on speech that purifies.
Fast from discontent,
Feast on gratitude.
Fast from anger,
Feast on patience.
Fast from pessimism ,
Feast on Hope.
Fast from negatives,
Feast on encouragement.
Fast from bitterness,
Feast on forgiveness.
Fast from self–concern,
Feast on compassion.
Fast from suspicion,
Feast on truth.
Fast from gossip,
Feast on purposeful silence.
Fast from problems that overwhelm,
Feast on prayer that sustains.
Fast from anxiety,
Feast on faith.
CEO YMCA Burton