It was a typical Irish day, damp and drizzling. But the weather didn’t stop the small group of people who go out three times a week in a Big Red Bus, a double-decker red bus, to share their faith on the street corners of Ireland. And the weather also didn’t stop two teenagers who came up to this group with questions. The teens asked questions about God, about sin and goodness, and about salvation. They left the conversation with answers and a way forward. Who shared this good news? An Irish bus driver named Colm.
Colm hasn’t always stood on street corners having deep conversations with locals. When he started in Operation Mobilisation (OM) in Ireland in 2008, he came because, as he says, “I decided to give a year back to God, as if you can give anything back to God that He hasn’t given you.” He came as a maintenance man, a bus driver, and an Irish person who speaks Irish as his first language. Originally, Colm and his wife, Catherine, had planned on only being a part of OM for one year. Now, they have been a part of the team for over 13 years. Colm has been a part of many different ministries within OM and now, after years of doing many things, he shares, “I drive the Big Red Bus and I love it.”
The Big Red Bus has seen a lot in the years that it has been in commission. The bus has been used to host children’s programmes in various towns and estates around Ireland. It has been set up in town centres to serve free tea, coffee, and Bibles to locals. It has visited countless schools and churches and been the site of untold numbers of deep conversations and meaningful moments. When asked about his role on the Big Red Bus, Colm shared, “I drive the Big Red Bus and we do street evangelism, the ploughing championship, the horse fair, and the Flagh Keahl (the big Irish music festival).” Colm has seen the Big Red Bus used in many different roles, but the role of the Bus shifted dramatically when the Covid-19 pandemic hit Ireland.
During the pandemic, the Bus could not be used for school programmes or church events, as many of these were cancelled or postponed. So, Colm and the rest of the team switched gears and began using the Bus more for street evangelism. Now, three times per week in three different towns around Ireland, you will find Colm standing next to the Bus, sharing with locals about what God has done, the Good News of the Gospel. He shares, “I’m out there talking to people because that is what God has me doing. Telling the story of what God has done for me.” While the hope is that the Bus will still be able to be used at festivals and large events, the team is grateful that they have been able to use it in more creative ways over the last two years.
Just as the role of the Big Red Bus has shifted to better accommodate this new normal, so Colm also finds himself thinking about what ministry shifts are ahead for him in his own future. He shares about the many people, like the two teenagers, that he has met over the years and how he hopes that he will be able to still impact their lives, even if his role changes. No matter what the future holds, Colm is confident that God will be able to use his experiences on the Big Red Bus to impact the lives of those around him.