Jim Gillett prepared for a career in medicine, but, at the World Missions Congress held at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, Jim felt the Lord’s call for foreign missionary service and dedicated his life to the Lord.
Jim and Jean attended the Missionary Training Centre in the USA and served in France and then Ireland.
They went to Ireland with the goal of building up and/or establishing New Testament churches, so Jim and Jean became involved in two types of work. The first was to evangelize people with Christian literature, utilizing teams of English speaking assembly young people, with an immediate aim of visiting every home in the city over a period of five summers. The secondary aspect of this work was to give the participating team members a Missionary Exposure Experience by placing Bibles and Bible teaching materials into all the schools in Ireland. 97% of the schools in Ireland were Roman Catholic (even public schools) and each pupil was required to study religion for one hour per day.
After spending decades in Ireland, Jim and Jean have seen God send to Ireland over 2,500 Christians (mainly young people) on summer and 14-month Missionary Exposure teams. Every home in Dublin has been visited twice with Gospel literature and a personal explanation of the Gospel has been given to those who answered their doors. The teams have worked in various parts of the greater Dublin area and have co-operated with local churches in special meetings including Gospel film crusades at the end of the summer during the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s. Through this effort, the Lord has blessed hundreds of people (including many Catholics), of whom we are aware, professing to be saved over these years. More recently the teams have been involved in door to door evangelism and street evangelism including puppets, music, and literature evangelism, in addition to street preaching.
Today, virtually every assembly in the city of Dublin has people in their fellowship who have been saved over the years during the summer crusades of Gospel films. Others from rural Ireland and Britain who have been saved in the annual Gospel Film Crusades are in New Testament church fellowships in their own home areas.
Additionally, the local assembly in Dun Laoghaire where the Ireland Outreach teams worked for a number of years outgrew its old building, and in early 1990, the assembly moved into a larger newly built church building. Many of the new believers in that assembly in the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s were contacted during the Ireland Outreach summer teamwork.
During the 1990’s a new assembly was planted in the South Dublin suburbs. Then in 1998 the Ireland Outreach workers went to the Fairview Assembly, a waning fellowship of older believers to assist them in outreach at the edge of the inner city of Dublin. Today, Jim and Jean are five out of six of the oldest members of the assembly and everyone else is under 40 years of age. Currently, the assembly is looking for a larger premises to move to, as the current building is inadequate for the needs of the assembly.
Since the 1970’s, over one million Gospel tracts have been distributed in Ireland by Ireland Outreach team members. We praise God for this extensive “sowing” of the Good News, and we pray that many more people will be saved.
As the Lord blessed and the scope of the Gillett’s’ initial vision expanded, it became obvious that the work was too large for just one missionary couple to handle. Also, from a legal viewpoint, it was found necessary that some sort of legal basis for this growing outreach should be established with the Irish Government to give the work a solid basis for expansion in the future. Therefore, upon the advice of Irish elders, and the Fields (now CMML) and MSC Canada board members, this ministry was established as an Irish Charitable Trust known as “Ireland Outreach” in 1972 with Irish Christian businessmen serving on the Board of trustees.
The primary goal of Ireland Outreach is to see people saved and added to a local New Testament church or a New Testament church established if none exists in a particular area, and to encourage Irish Christians to reach their own people with the Gospel. Additionally, we have a goal of giving North American, Australian, European, British, and Christian young people from other Countries short term opportunities to serve God on a mission field which is English speaking and has a culture not too radically different from their own, so that they might possibly become involved in later serving God full-time in Ireland or elsewhere in the World. This work is accomplished through summer missionary exposure teams, short term workers, and full-time missionaries who are involved in street evangelism, Gospel literature distribution, film evangelism, the Emmaus Correspondence Course School in Ireland, youth meetings, weekly Bible studies, and the Aids for Bible Education outreach to Catholic schools.
A third goal of Ireland Outreach is to encourage Christians to take a greater interest in missionary work and to become involved in missions throughout the World.
Over the years God has raised up a small dedicated team of full-time workers to serve with the Gilletts in Ireland Outreach. These full-time workers take responsibilities for the various areas of the ministry and they are assisted in the work by short term workers of all ages who come for various periods of time.
Due to the continuing expansion of the work with God’s blessings in other countries as well as in Ireland, the name of the work was changed to “Ireland Outreach International” in January, 1980, to more accurately reflect the broadened scope of this internationally developing work. Advisory Committees of Christians have been established and representatives appointed in various countries to stimulate more prayer amongst Christians and to encourage young people and older ones (even retired folks) to come to assist in the work for a short term or as full-time missionaries.
Today, many young people are serving God full-time either in their home countries or overseas, as a result of their exposure to missions on an Ireland Outreach team. Others are back in their home churches in secular employment with a better vision and burden for missions, which they can use to encourage missionary interest amongst their fellow believers.
In the autumn of 1970 and 1971, Jim visited Catholic schools and convents and monasteries offering Scriptures for sale to nuns and priests for their students. However, there was not much interest in the Scriptures on the part of Catholics at that time. Then in 1972 with the effects of Vatican II, the Ecumenical Movement, and the Catholic Charismatic Movement reaching Ireland, Irish Catholics took an interest in the Scriptures, and by 1980, every school started teaching the Scriptures. However, the Catholic Church did not provide any Bible teaching aids for this reversal of attitude towards the Bible which penetrated the minds of Catholic laymen and teaching nuns and priests.
In 1972, AIDS FOR BIBLE EDUCATION was established as a ministry of Ireland Outreach for the purpose of placing Bible Correspondence Courses and other Bible teaching materials into Catholic schools throughout Ireland. However, God has seen fit to expand this work so that today, Bible courses have been sent to Catholic schools throughout Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, and as far away as Australia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Sabah, and elsewhere. In the 1984/1985 school year, nearly 50,000 complete courses were sent to Catholic schools for students to study. Since 1972, nearly one million complete Bible Correspondence Courses have been sent out to Catholic students at the request of teaching nuns, priests and lay teachers. Additionally, over 1,000,000 New Testaments have been distributed free of charge to Catholic schools in Ireland and Britain by September, 2018. For this, we praise God! It is marvelous in our eyes!
In 1980, a 24-foot long vehicle was put on the road as a “Bookmobile” to visit Catholic Institutions throughout Ireland with our Aids for Bible Education materials. On board the vehicle, there was a permanent display of our materials and storage space to carry stocks of materials to enable instant delivery on the spot if a teacher placed an order when the bookmobile visited his/her school. Additionally, there was full living accommodation on board the bookmobile to enable two workers to actually stay on board for up to a week at a time when visiting rural Ireland. Through the bookmobile visitation, mailing 10,000 catalogues of our materials out to schools in August of each year, and our bookstore at “Charleville” where teachers came to visit us, literally tons of Bibles, Bible teaching materials and Bible courses were placed into Catholic educational institutions each year. By 1992 the bookmobile’s engine had worn out and this ministry with the bookmobile was no longer necessary to deliver books to the schools, as the nuns and priests started to buy their own cars and could travel to our premises in Dublin to visit our bookroom.
Jim Gillett is also the Regional Director for Emmaus Bible Correspondence School in Ireland. While most of the Emmaus Courses are used in school classrooms, at the same time, a ministry to individuals has been established with over 5,000 courses having been sent to people in their homes over the years. This ministry continues with Emmaus courses being provided to individuals and other ministries in Ireland along with Living Waters Gospels of John and Evan Tell Evangelism training materials.
In 1975, God provided “Charleville”, a 2-acre property and 18-room mansion rent and property-tax free for Ireland Outreach to use as headquarters and centre of outreach. Then in November 1977 the owner decided to sell “Charleville” for a housing development, but gave Ireland Outreach first option to purchase it for one-half the commercial value if we could come up with the money in 12 months’ time. Although that seemed totally impossible, in November 1978, just twelve months later, God had provided for the entire purchase price!
In May 1980, work commenced to construct a 4,000 square foot addition to the original “Charleville” building to enable Ireland Outreach International to hold Christian camps on the property as well as to have more adequate office space, a Christian bookstore, and storage space for holding stocks of Scriptures and Bible Correspondence Courses. The construction work was accomplished primarily by utilizing volunteers in order to cut down on labor costs although some specialized work had to be given to outside IRISH contractors. This work was completed in January 1985, and the offices, Aids for Bible Education book room, storage room, and team accommodation were all housed in the new extension.
In July 1985 work commenced to renovate the old building at “Charleville” to enable it to be used as a Christian camp/conference facility. There are two extensive national parks within 20 minutes’ walk of the “Charleville” property, so with the Irish Sea across the road from “Charleville”, recreational facilities abound in this vicinity. We anticipated this to be a relatively small job, but after the builders began the work, they discovered that dry rot had infested the entire old building from top to bottom. The entire building had to be completely gutted and re-roofed and refurbished on the interior, and the work was very expensive. The work was carried out as God provided the funds and as Christian volunteers came to do the work. This renovation work was completed by late 1991.
In the late 1970’s, Jim was invited by the late British missionary, Eric Church, to bring a team of Irish, Canadian and American Christians to Dakar, Senegal, for two weeks to assist some Brethren Missionaries (who were involved in translation work) with literature distribution at the West African Trade Fair. Since this type of team activity is compatible with the Ireland Outreach goal of encouraging Christians to take a greater interest in missionary work, Ireland Outreach sent a team to Dakar in 1982. God greatly blessed that effort, and in 1984, another team was invited to help at the West African Trade Fair in Dakar. Then in 1986 another team from Ireland went to Dakar for the Trade Fair. God blessed these efforts and a new assembly was established in the greater Dakar area and continues today. Additionally, God called other American missionaries to serve Him in Senegal. As a result of the blessing of the Lord on those three teams, the ministry of Overseas Assistance Teams was established in 1985.
In 1992 a medical relief team of 20 team members went to Trinidad, Beni State, Bolivia, to work with missionaries Lorna and Lucho Valez immediately following the worst flooding in that area in 50 years. Five tons of food and three tons of medicines were provided for people in that area. Of the twenty team members on that team, six of them entered full-time service following their short term service in Bolivia. Additionally, an annual short term service opportunity by the late Brother Homer Payne in Minneapolis, MN, USA, was initiated as a direct result of the OAT going to Bolivia in 1992, and these teams organized by Homer Payne continued each year for many years until a fully functioning school was built in Trinidad, Beni, Bolivia, incorporating preschool through high school. This school continues today. Over the years, other teams have been organized to serve in Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Zambia, and Malawi.
This is a project, which was undertaken in 1994 at the request of Emmaus (USA) and Martin Vedder in Germany to train national believers to set up Emmaus offices in their homes. The work is totally undertaken by nationals and Jim Gillett travels to Africa annually to conduct training seminars, which are arranged by the area coordinators in their own countries. Over 1,000,000 Emmaus courses and twenty million tracts, booklets, Gospels, and Bibles had been sent to Africa by 2019 and tens of thousands of students were enrolled to study Emmaus Courses. Jim Gillett has now introduced this method of Emmaus Bible Course distribution to Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Ethiopia, Zambia, Malawi, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Australia with invitations to take this new method of Emmaus Bible Course distribution to a number of other English countries. Jim Gillett was also invited to visit Togo and an Emmaus seminar was conducted in Lomé, the Capital city, in October 2000. Jim returned to Togo in 2002 and 2003 to oversee the construction of a Christian school in Lomé and to teach the Word. This distribution method was introduced to mainland China in 2005, by Jim and Jean Gillett, and now the Emmaus courses are being printed and distributed in the People Republic of China.
Irish society is increasingly becoming more and more secular and almost totally uninterested in Biblical Christianity. In 2015 Ireland held a referendum to change the constitution to allow same sex marriage. In 2017 Ireland elected a gay Prime Minister. In 2018, Ireland held a referendum to change the constitution to allow abortion upon request. One of the outcomes of this secularization of Ireland, is that the Irish Government is no longer requiring Religious Education in Irish schools, so this has resulted in a dramatic decline in the demand for our Aids for Bible Education materials. Additionally, several years ago, the Irish Government enacted legislation which limits new missionaries coming to Ireland to a maximum three year stay. This greatly impacts the ministry of Ireland Outreach because we cannot have long term missionaries serving with us for more than three years. Jim Gillett was training a young man to take Jim’s responsibilities as a coordinator of the ministry, but after three years, he was given one month to leave the country. Ireland has become so secular that it has the lowest percentage of professing Evangelical Christians of any country in the English speaking World at just 00.75% of the entire population which is largely uninterested practicing any type of religion.
As a result of all of these factors, along with the increasingly open doors for the Gospel and the ministry of Ireland Outreach in Africa and other parts of the World, in 2015, the Irish, American, Canadian, and Australian Board Members of Ireland Outreach held a joint international meeting to discuss the long term goals of Ireland Outreach. After extensive consideration, prayer, and consultation, a decision was made to relocate the International Headquarters office of Ireland Outreach from Ireland to Houston, Texas, under the auspices of Ireland Outreach International, Inc. God clearly gave specific confirmation of that decision through many different circumstances. One of these circumstances was that a property developer approached us about purchasing the Charleville property, before we advertised it, even though we had been told by a property consultant that it was unlikely we could sell the property; that developer purchased the property in May, 2017. During the following year that the new owner allowed us to continue to occupy the property, the Lord enabled us to purchase a smaller residential facility for short term volunteer team members in Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin.
During September, 2016, after looking at numerous properties in Houston, Texas, God clearly led us to a distressed business with a partially constructed building in Houston, Texas, and on May 22, 2017, we purchased the property on Hollister Street at a greatly reduced, below asking price. After many delays in obtaining the necessary construction permits from the County, that building is currently under construction and we hope to occupy it as the International Office later in 2019. This building will also be available to other ministries to have an office in Houston at a nominal rent so that we can maintain the building.