A tribute to Rev Adrian Adger

The Church Page team were saddened by the passing of Ahoghill native, Rev Adrian Adger, who passed away this week after a valiant battle with cancer.
His best friend, Rev Brian Smyth, minister of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Ahoghill, paid the following tribute at his funeral service, which took place today, Friday 15th January 2021.

Rev. Smyth said: “Just now with God’s help I want to try and bring a tribute to my best friend. I’m not here as a professional minister but as a servant of God seeking to do what I know Adrian would have done for me.

Adrian always liked things to be based in the scriptures and I want to read one verse as a lead in to the tribute and you will soon discover why I have read this verse. Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Adrian Robert Adger was born on the 9th March 1963 to loving parents Billy & Eileen. Their family home was on the Lisnafillan Road, Gracehill. Adrian had a younger brother called Neil and we are delighted Neil was able to make the journey from Exeter to be with us today. In recent times Adrian really appreciated the regular WhatsApp video calls from Neil, Kate and James.

The Adger family had a fairly loose connection with Trinity Presbyterian Church in Ahoghill and it was through the concern of a local neighbour, Billy Steele, that the connection was to strengthen. Billy offered to take Adrian and Neil to Sunday school and then their father would collect them afterwards and bring them home. It wasn’t long before the whole family started to attend the morning service.

Through the ministry of Dr Uprichard, Adrian’s parents were converted when he was around the age of 9 and immediately there were changes in the family home and through time his father was to serve on the Committee and was an elder within the Congregation.

Whilst Adrian had that Godly influence upon his life through the witness of his parents and many workers at Trinity Ahoghill he had no desire to follow Christ.

It is almost hard to believe that in his late teens he could hardly speak a sentence without a swear word being included and he was hanging out at the local pubs and discos and his life was devoid of God.

Adrian was educated at Gracehill Primary School and then went on to Ballymena Academy. He was very intelligent and excelled in his studies. At the age of 18 he passed his A Levels and headed to Stirling University to pursue a career in accountancy. He had gained independence and with that came the decision that he had enough of church and he stopping attending.

In 1984 he graduated from Stirling University with his degree in accountancy and then returned to Northern Ireland to complete a diploma in financial accountancy at Ulster University in Jordanstown. Adrian became a trainee chartered accountant with Delotte Haskins & Sells at their office in High Street, Belfast.

At the age of 22 he was still going to nightclubs and was far from God. However, God had an amazing plan for Adrian’s life and on 18th September 1985 God brought him under conviction of sin and as he drove from Belfast to Ahoghill he cried out to God to save him.

That same day he visited Rev Dr Uprichard at Trinity Manse and came away fully assured that his sins had been forgiven. God had taken the initiative, God had drawn Adrian Adger, a sinner in need of grace and forgiveness to Himself and that day life was completely transformed.

Within a short time Adrian was back at Trinity Presbyterian Church Ahoghill but now he had a hunger to serve God and going back to the biblical pattern in Acts 1:8, Ahoghill became his Jerusalem. He served as one of the leaders in the youth fellowship alongside his close friend Martin Dickey for 9 years and also had the privilege of teaching in Sunday school.

A tribute to Rev Adrian Adger
A tribute to Rev Adrian Adger who passed away after a battle with cancer

Adrian felt God’s call upon his life and he stepped away from what would have been a great career to serve his Lord and Master.

In September 1991 he began a 3 year diploma in theology course at Belfast Bible College in Dunmurry. I was also enrolled on the same course and almost immediately we clicked and became best friends. We started to pray together and only now has that come to an end. Almost 30 years have passed since we first met and that friendship has been so wonderful and I will miss my best friend so very much.

We both graduated from BBC in June 1994. A door of service had opened for me to serve on the staff of the Belfast City Mission but nothing had opened open for Adrian. We met and prayed earnestly about where God would have him to serve.

In the autumn of 1994 the Belfast City Mission took over the work of the Woodvale Mission Hall in Disreali Street and they were looking for a missionary. In the providence of God, Adrian was to be that missionary and he began service with the Belfast City Mission in December 1994.

We were best friends serving together in the great work of the Belfast City Mission. Usually once a week we met up and worked together. One week in the Woodvale district and the next week in the Mountcollyer district. Being a single man he needed all the help and support he could get and so usually he was at our home for tea and he always appreciated my wife Pamela’s hospitality. On one occasion he invited me to have lunch at the Woodvale Mission Hall – tinned soup / no tin opener / blue mould rolls!!

A highlight of our time together in BCM was when we both conducted a week long mission in Aughantaine Presbyterian Church. It was really wonderful to serve the Lord together and God wonderfully worked and 4 individuals professed Christ as their Saviour that week.

In the summer of 2000 God was redirecting my path of service and I resigned from the work of the Belfast City Mission to work full time with Child Evangelism Fellowship. That brought about a reshuffle within the staff of BCM and Adrian moved from the Woodvale district to a much bigger work to serve in the Fairview Road Hall in Newtownabbey.

At that time we lived about a two minute drive from the Fairview Road Hall and so Adrian became a very frequent visitor to our home and our oldest sons Matt and Chris loved to see him because he was so much fun and usually he brought some sweets! He was a wonderful uncle to them.

In the summer of 2002 we as a family moved from Newtownabbey to Donegal with the work of CEF but often I wondered how will my friendship with Adrian work out?

I needn’t have worried because that friendship endured. He made special visits to Donegal and when I was on deputation I always had a place to stay for the week.

Adrian loved the work of BCM and proved himself to be a faithful shepherd of the folk in the Fairview Road Hall but in 2007 God began to stir his heart about going to Africa. He knew Pamela Johnston who was a missionary in Jos in Nigeria. He made inquiries and on the 22nd October 2007 he was on way to Nigeria. He was excited about the work of Africa Christian Textbooks (ACTS) and that work and ministry was very close to his heart.

Most of that visit was spent at the William Wheatley Theological College in the rural Niger Delta and he formed a great friendship with Rev Rufus & Iris Ogbonna.

The big man came home full of zeal and enthusiasm and soon he was organising a ‘go serve team’ to go to the William Wheatley College. He phoned and asked if I would be interested in going? My initial thought was no way but his enthusiasm was infectious and I and my oldest son were part of that 6 person team.

Three weeks passed in a flash as we served the Lord in Nigeria and I could see Adrian’s passion for Africa growing.

By September 2009 Adrian tendered his resignation to the Belfast City Mission as he prepared to go back to Nigeria for almost 6 months. He lectured at the William Wheatley Theological College on three subjects: church growth, the book of Jeremiah and New Testament survey. The Rev Dr Sid Garland was a great help to him as he prepared his lectures and it was something he never forgot.

When Adrian returned from Africa he was somewhat broken and despairing as he had no job and didn’t know what to do next. I shared the need for ministers within the Presbyterian Church in Ireland as many ministers were due to retire and urged him to pray about the matter.

Eventually Adrian applied to become a candidate in training for the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and his studies at Union Theological College began in September 2011.

God had answered many prayers for Adrian but there was a big prayer that still remained unanswered and that was for a wife. Many times I prayed with him and as time was going he began to doubt it would ever happen but God was working out His Sovereign plan.

Adrian waited a long but he found a gem when he met Karen Anderson. Friendship developed into love and they were engaged on 3rd April 2013. I remember well because I had just received a call to be the minister of Trinity, Ahoghill – Adrian’s home congregation. We were in process of moving into the Manse when Adrian and Karen arrived with the news they had got engaged and with a request for me to conduct their wedding. The date was set for the 23rd July 2013. Who was the most nervous? Adrian? Karen? Perhaps me because it was my first ever wedding and my best friend had found the joy of his life.

Adrian fitted in so well to the Anderson family circle. Graeme and Irene welcomed Adrian into their family. So did David & Esther along with their children Ben & Emma, Lynne & Denver along with their children Anna & Jessica, Diana & Robin along with their children Jude & Ellie. As Adrian’s best friend let me say thank you for accepting him so warmly into your family circle and showing him so much love.

Adrian served as an assistant minister in Ballyclare Presbyterian working alongside the Rev Robert and once again he endeared himself to the people of that congregation.

When he became eligible for a Call to become an ordained minister within our denomination once again he was much in prayer. Several approaches were made but he was absolutely thrilled to be ordained and installed as the minister of Clough and Seaforde Presbyterian Church in June 2015.

When these churches called they got two for the price of one because Karen was completely behind him and with him 100% and what a team they were!

Karen was the love of his life. He referred to her as ‘honey’ and no matter where he went was always keen to hold her hand. Karen, he loved you so much. Just over seven years of marriage and that’s why this is go heart-breaking.

When Adrian was diagnosed with incurable cancer it also became your cancer and both of you walked that difficult road together and your faith in Christ was inspirational. You both kept your eyes on the Lord and you both demonstrated what living for Christ is all about.

Yes, it can be easy to follow Jesus when the sun is shining and all things are going well but when the dark clouds of God’s providence gather round us it can be a different matter. However, it didn’t change Adrian or Karen and resolutely they kept the faith and shared Jesus with everyone they met. Many consultants and nurses heard the gospel from this fearless man of God.

Karen, you ought not to have any regrets because you have showed so much love, care and support to Adrian and I know your faith in Jesus will sustain for the years ahead.

But as I draw this tribute to close I want to ask a question this is perhaps the elephant in the room. But why did God not heal Adrian? His elders anointed him with oil. Many prayed and fasted. Christians up and down the land have prayed every day. So why did God not heal Adrian? Well I believe God did partially heal him.

In November 2017 Adrian was diagnosed with incurable cancer but rather than relaxing and taking it easy, his ministry moved up yet another gear and I believe God touched his life and enabled him to do so much more for the next three years. His preaching was always bold and fearless but I remember saying to me ‘the gloves are off’ and the big man took every opportunity to speak about His Saviour. He was lead and inspired to write his first book; ‘Facing cancer standing tall’ Yes at 6 foot 7½ inches he always stood tall but I believe he began an absolute giant for the kingdom of God.

It was incredible that although he had incurable cancer, he was fully in charge of things here in Clough & Seaforde, meanwhile travelling the length and breathe of the country to share his testimony and sell the book, with all proceeds going to the work of mission. I tell you that had to be the touch of God and I believe your prayers were answered to allow God’s servant to keep sharing the gospel.

The Lord helped Adrian & Karen to write a second book entitled ‘Facing cancer standing together’ and that has also proved to be a wonderful blessing and help to so many.

This big man that we loved so much became a big signpost for Jesus. He wanted everyone to hear the gospel and he wanted souls to be saved and I believe today he is shouting hallelujah, tell them of Jesus.

Did you have the privilege of sitting under his ministry and yet today you are still not saved? I tell you my best friend would urge you to seek Jesus as your personal Saviour before it is too late. Today Adrian is absent from the body and present with the Lord but I warn if you die without Christ you will hear those terrible words; ‘Depart from me I never knew you.’

We are so glad that Adrian knew Jesus as his personal Lord and Saviour. I pray you will hear the call of God today just as Adrian did and know Christ as your personal Saviour.”