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Nigeria motorbike missionary Joe Mooney dies at 102

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The Rev Joe Mooney was born in June 2017

The Rev Joe Mooney was born in June 2017

The Rev Joe Mooney was born in June 2017

The Rev Joe Mooney, who has died in his 103rd year, spent 20 years as a missionary in Nigeria before returning to Northern Ireland where he trained as a Presbyterian minister and served in the Ballymena Presbytery for two decades.

Joseph Buchanan Mooney, the second of four boys in the family, was born on June 2, 1917 in Belfast, where his father John worked in a linen factory.

After attending the Boys' Model School he studied at a Bible college in Glasgow and then went to Nigeria as a member of Serving In Mission (SIM) from 1940.

He moved widely around Nigeria to promote the Gospel and set up churches in remote areas of the vast country.

Travel was difficult and he often went on foot or rode a bicycle. In later years he travelled by motorbike. He was helped in his missionary work by his wife Margaret, a trained nurse.

They had been attending the same Bible college in Glasgow, and when Joe went out to Nigeria at the age of 23 they corresponded by letter, during the Second World War when that was largely the only form of communication over large distances across the world.

Joe's daughter Eileen Brown recalled: "My dad often talked about proposing to my mother by letter and having to wait six weeks to receive her answering letter, which came from the UK to Nigeria by ship."

They were married and had two children in Nigeria - Gordon and Eileen.

In a tribute to Joe on his 100th birthday, the SIM Ireland director Mike Ewan said: "In the report when Joe first joined SIM, which we found on our archives, there is a section simply headed 'Remarks', in which the person who had interviewed him had written "First-class life".

"I don't think that there can be a better way of summing up Joe. There are many people who owe him a deep gratitude 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 his nearest missionary colleagues, but he was a great evangelist.

"Among the Manau tribe, who were notoriously resistant to the Gospel, he saw 28 people come to Christ in just two months. He saw this as a sign that the Lord was breaking down these strong hearts."

After his service in Nigeria, he returned to Belfast and trained at Assembly College.

After ordination he served first as assistant minister at Bloomfield Presbyterian Church and later as minister at Grange Presbyterian Church in Co Antrim. In his retirement he became a pastoral assistant at St John's Presbyterian Church in Newtownbreda, and he continued pulpit supply preaching.

Eileen said: "He loved preaching and he was very good at it - but he wouldn't like me saying so, he was such a modest man.

"He was a very sociable person, with a great sense of humour.

"He wrote three joke books and gave the proceeds to the Irish Mission.

"He was mentally very active right up to the end, and shortly before his death he was on his computer emailing his many friends all over the world. He was a man of deep faith, and lived up to it, and he was a lovely dad."

He was predeceased by Margaret in 2009, is survived by his son and daughter and the wider family circle, including four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

A thanksgiving service will be held in Knock Presbyterian Church tomorrow at 2.30pm.

Belfast Telegraph