TRIBUTE TO THE LATE JOAN McALISTER
In writing a tribute to our late colleague, Joan, it is difficult to adequately express the sense of loss and shock at the sudden “Homecall” of someone whose life and ministry has been shared by so many for almost five decades.
However, it is a privilege to have the opportunity to express our gratitude to God, to her family and friends our deepest thoughts about Joan. Her dedication was a challenge to us all.
To Joan's sister Valerie, brother-in-law Freddie, niece Esther and the whole family circle, we assure you of our sympathy, love and prayers. You have been part of Joan's ministry, especially since she was appointed Secretary of IEB. The Committee thank you most sincerely for the hours of voluntary work in the spread of the Gospel in Ireland.
Joan McAlister was gifted in many areas, but particularly among young people. Not only was she gifted but she was reliable and when she undertook a job, she was not happy until it was completed. She gave every job one hundred percent! Joan chose teaching as a profession and after graduation in Newcastle-on-Tyne, she returned home and taught for many years in The Hardy Memorial Primary School in Richhill.
When Vera Smith was appointed Youth Director of IEB, Joan became involved in the mission and realised her worth as an ambassador for Christ.
When Vera launched "The Loft" in Portadown, Joan was elected onto the Committee. She worked tirelessly, with many other young leaders, to prepare the venue for launching a Saturday night outreach programme to attract young people. They inspired others to share the burden and enthusiastically blitzed the town with publicity! Within a month young folks were queued to the front door and, despite an overflow, some left disappointed!
Two months after launching "The Loft", IEBYM Committee was asked to become involved in the "Dick Saunders Way to Life Campaign" in Portadown. A sixteen-foot caravan was parked in High Street and this was staffed by Joan and other leaders, who kept a supply of literature and dealt with any queries. Almost four hundred young people made profession of faith and IEBYM was asked to care for the "Babes in Christ". Joan had an amazing ministry in nurturing and helping in Bible Study groups and evangelism both locally and in the Republic of Ireland. Her ability in communicating with young people gained her friendships which lasted throughout her life.
The IEB Committee members were delighted when Joan retired from teaching and accepted the invitation to become General Secretary of the mission. She knew God was leading her towards a full-time commitment to evangelism and Christian ministry and had been preparing herself, despite an already busy lifestyle. She completed the four year Layman's Diploma Course with Emmanuel Bible College and after a short break, a three year Diploma Course with Belfast Bible College.
Since then, Joan dedicated herself to the Lord’s service fully and completely. She had the vision for motivating and leading outreach teams into areas where the Gospel was less well-known – if at all. Joan organised and led teams to Achill, Leitrim, Croagh Patrick, Belmullet, Roscommon, Sligo, Fanad, Innishowen and Tipperary to visit and re-visit people in need of Gospel comfort. Many towns were also visited at St Patrick’s day parades offering literature about Patrick’s Saviour.
While these opportunities were limited because of time and resources, Joan pressed forward with the vision to see every house in Ireland receive Gospel literature. Through ‘An Post’ the committee, with the invaluable support of Dick Keogh, was happy to support sending “No Longer Hoping” to every home in the 26 counties, with a current follow-up using “Hope in a Troubled World”.
Joan prepared the IEB magazine, planned and led deputation meetings and prepared flyers for all IEB events. Her planning was always thorough – everything had to be done well. All who knew her witnessed her compassion. She cared for all her fellow- workers and the IEB supporters she so often visited. She had a real concern for the travelling community and often visited them with gifts of toys and clothing. Joan was prayerful – in everything she did she sought to glorify the Lord. She loved Jesus and only wanted to serve Him in humility.
The media and press reported the tragic accident that claimed two lives in County Cavan on Friday, 28th February. It was Saturday morning when many of us received the news that our colleagues Joan McAlister and Ian Kennedy were the occupants in the car. We know they are both "with Christ which is far better" but we will miss them. We ask your continued prayers for the families and for the 'gaps' left as we continue to fulfil The Great Commission...
"Go into all the world and preach the Gospel..."