It’s open season

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Every fortnight people from a farming background, or who have a heart for the countryside, offer a personal reflection on faith and rural life. They hope that you will be encouraged by it.

We are now in the ‘open’ season, when farmers can spread slurry. While this period comes with some relief, we are all aware of the dangers of handling slurry and the heart-breaking consequences of breathing the hydrogen sulphide gas, which is poisonous to humans and animals and can be fatal in seconds.



It smells like rotten eggs, but high concentrations paralyse the nerve cells of the nose to the point where the person can no longer smell the gas.

A number of years ago the dangers became real to us when our much loved collie, Beckie, immediately collapsed on entering the dairy unit while the slurry was being stirred. Thankfully, her lifeless body was retrieved without adding to the casualty list and my distraught husband contacted me to come and say goodbye to her.

Having trained as a nurse I followed my instinct and straightaway started to resuscitate her. She did not respond initially, and the group of men who had gathered urged me to give up, but I continued. Then she suddenly gave a cough, life was restored, and a quick visit to the vet showed that no lasting damage had been done.

Several years later Beckie died from natural causes related to old age. As we tearfully buried her in our garden I was reminded of the verse in Hebrews 9:27, “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment...” Yes, I had contributed to restoring her life, but she was always destined to die. As humans, we will all also die, unless the Lord Jesus Christ returns first, but either way, we will face judgment.

Just as we may not be aware of the presence of poisonous gas, we may not be aware of the consequences of sin and of rejecting Jesus. We may think that basically we are a ‘good person’ so God won’t turn us away from heaven when the time comes.

Think of it this way. When someone applies to college to do a course, the entrance criteria are set. The applicant either meets the criteria and is accepted onto the course, or they don’t. The college won’t accept a student just because they are a ‘good person’.

Jesus gave His disciples words of comfort and hope in John 14:1-3, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am...” He continues in verse 6 by telling us, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Jesus offers us that same hope and comfort. By accepting Him as Lord and Saviour He will walk with us each day and when this life is over we will spend eternity with Him.

Charlotte Stevenson farms with her husband, Jim and son, James, near Kilkeel in County Down. She is a member of Mourne Presbyterian and works in Belfast with the Presbyterian Church.

If you would like to talk to someone about any of the issues raised in this article, please email Rev. Kenny Hanna at or call him on 028 9753 1234.