Down cleric's videos dealing with cancer fight are an internet hit
Alf McCreary talks to Presbyterian Minister Rev Adrian Adger who is battling the disease, inspiring people in the process
Rev Adrian Adger is a big man in every way. He is 6ft 7ins inches in height, and he is standing tall in his fight against cancer, and inspiring countless people every inch of the way.
He has made several short videos telling his life story which have been viewed by nearly 40,000 people in just over two months.
Adrian is the minister of Clough and Seaforde in Co Down, near the Mourne Mountains, and despite his illness, he preaches at each church in the parish on Sunday mornings, and also at a joint service in the evenings.
He is also writing a book about his experiences, which he hopes to publish in the near future.
When I talked to him recently in his home near Clough, I was impressed by his Christian faith, his steadfastness in adversity, and by his great sense of humour.
It was a dank, wet day outside but there was an inspiring brightness in the room where we talked.
Adrian, now 56, laughs a lot, and despite taking cancer medicines and undergoing regular chemotherapy treatment, he looks healthy, with a broad smile and a full head of hair.
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He tells me that he tires some mornings, and after chemotherapy, but if he had not told me that, I would have been none the wiser, judging by his outward appearance.
Adrian was brought up in a bungalow on his grandparents' small farm in Ahoghill. He attended the local Trinity Presbyterian Church where the minister was former Presbyterian Moderator, the Very Reverend Dr Harry Uprichard.
In his early life, however, Adrian went his own way. He told me: "I had no time for God. I just wanted to enjoy myself."
He took a BA degree in accountancy from the University of Stirling, and trained for a career in accountancy, but a car accident changed his life entirely.
"I was driving one night from Portrush to Coleraine and I swerved in the dusk to avoid a tractor. In doing so I nearly hit a car coming the other way. I was deeply shocked," he said. Some time later he was admitted to hospital where the doctors diagnosed a "panic attack", possibly as a result of the near accident.
In hospital Adrian had time to think deeply about how he was living without God. He felt that his life was " in a mess", and shortly afterwards when he was driving home from Belfast he sought God's forgiveness and "asked Jesus to come into my life".
Adrian went back to his home church where he received a warm welcome, and he later decided to devote his life to preaching the Gospel and winning converts.
He studied at Belfast Bible College, and worked for several years with Belfast City Mission, as well as for a short time in Nigeria. He eventually studied for the Presbyterian ministry and was ordained and installed as minister of Clough and Seaforde, after a fulfilling period as assistant minister in Ballyclare.
Meantime there was another dramatic development when he met and married Karen, his warm-hearted and vivacious wife, who used to be a catering manager.
Life for both of them was good - a relatively new and happy marriage, a position as minister and minister's wife with a supportive congregation, and a promising future in store.
Then disaster struck. In February 2017, Adrian went to hospital with a severe pain in his side.
It was diagnosed as a tumour, which was removed.
The surrounding lymph nodes were clear, and Adrian appeared to have a good prognosis of returning to normal. However, it was during a routine check six months later he was told that he had inoperable cancer in his abdomen.
He said: "The news was absolutely devastating. The very word cancer sends shivers down the spine.
"I felt that a heavy burden was hanging over me, and I asked myself, 'Will I ever experience joy again?'
"It was awful, and Karen and I just cried and cried."
Adrian and Karen shared their news with the congregation, who have given them enormous support, as has their families and many friends.
Gradually they came to terms with the situation as best they could. "It stinks, but we have a very strong Christian faith, and we rely on God's help and guidance. We have always been close as a couple and this has brought us even closer," Karen said.
Adrian, with the backing of his church and the help of friends and professional advisers, has produced several short videos of his life story.
"This is to give hope to others and their friends and families who may also be facing these and similar challenges. Cancer strikes fear into so many people," he said.
The videos are titled Finding Forgiveness, Finding Guidance, Finding Love, Finding Hope, and more recently Finding a Home.
At the beginning of this year Adrian was told that the cancer had spread to his liver.
He is currently receiving a relatively new treatment called immunotherapy, which helps the body's immune system to deal with the cancer.
"People tell me that they admire my courage but I don't think of myself as brave," he said.
"There are times when I have my down moments, and I ask 'Why me? Why has it all happened this way'?
"But I have put myself in God's hands and He will look after me, and Karen, and all of us.
"I still have so much to live for. I will continue to love and serve the Lord as best I can.
"I still sincerely believe that He has given me a job to do, and that He has not finished with me yet!"
Such courage, honesty and a deep faith conviction cannot but be deeply impressive, and Adrian continues to inspire so many people.
He is looking for a title for his book which is being published in May, but whichever title he chooses he is clearly a human being, a minister and a Christian who can continue to walk very tall.
Rev Adger's videos are available for viewing on the Clough and Seaforde Church's Facebook page and website cloughandseaforde.com .They can also be viewed on YouTube and Vimeo