By Michael Van Cooten
KINGSTON, Jamaica July 28, 2017 — It came as no surprise that a country so steeped in religion — a country that boasts the reputation as having the world’s highest number of churches, per capita, and one whose anthem is a prayer — would host the inauguration of its vitally important, four-day 2017 Jamaica 55 Diaspora Conference in two churches.
A day before the official beginning of the Conference, on Saturday, July 22, the island-state held a pre-Conference worship service at the Andrews Memorial Seventh Day Adventist Church, in Kingston, Jamaica.
And the next day, Sunday — the day of the official opening of the Conference — a second pre-Conference service was held at the Providence Methodist Church, on Old Hope Road, in Kingston.
It was at this second service, in the relatively small, electric fan-cooled, cosy, standing room-only Methodist church, that Jamaican-Canadian Bishop Ranford Jones, the guest preacher, told his audience that the Conference was a necessity and strategic imperative for Jamaicans, in collaboration with the Diaspora, to dialogue, discover and develop a more sustainable path to growth and prosperity for the country.
“The theme for this conference, Partnering for Growth, defines and augments the critical and indispensable position of cooperation and collaboration between Jamaica and its Diaspora, in the process of growth and development for Jamaica.
“We are not here to re-invent the wheel, but to lubricate it, so we can get maximum output and real results that will shift the paradigm and bring the growth that will positively affect, not only well-to-do Jamaicans, but the marginalized, disenfranchised and penalized,” he expounded.
In his rousing sermon, entitled ‘Partnering for Growth: Some Invaluable Lessons From Nehemiah’, the articulate and passionate Bishop Jones told the congregation that the billions of dollars that Jamaicans in the Diaspora invest in Jamaica, through remittances, that has changed the landscape and positively affected the lives of many Jamaicans, is indicative of the tremendous impact that the Diaspora can have.
Bishop Jones, Chairman of the Jamaican-Canadian Christian Alliance, in Toronto, suggested, “A partnership for growth will be effective when the strength, resources, intellect and heart of each party are fully committed and actualized in making the partnership work. We must seize this moment!”
The recipient of the 2012 African Canadian Achievement Award for excellence in religion added, “The 55-year history of Jamaica has shown us that we are a resilient, determined and capable people. The annals of history is well decorated with the influence and ingenuity of many Jamaicans, at home and abroad. This is a testament of what we can achieve together.
“I believe that we have the most noble, poignant and prayerful anthem, motto and pledge, in which we have asked the eternal Father to bless our land and guide us with his mighty hand…I believe that this is evidential in the many ways that he has.
“Our cultural influence, religious influence, sports influence, intellectual, science and business influence, not to mention our tourism products, is a clear indication of what we can, and have achieved when we partner together.”
He eloquently pointed out, “I see an emerging generation in Jamaica that has the capability, audacity and persistency to make things happen in Jamaica. I believe they will abolish the status quo, and take Jamaica on a new trajectory of growth, development and prosperity.”
Reminiscent of a sermon, characterised by the African American preacher’s cadence, and punctuated with regular utterances of “Amen”, Bishop Jones moved flawlessly to his central message: that Jamaicans should emulate the Biblical Nehemiah, “a man whose conviction was greater than his circumstances, whose belief was stronger than his burden, and whose determination was more daring than his dilemma in Jerusalem”.
“Nehemiah is a reminder of a person, who was longing for partnership to have growth and development in Jerusalem, his beloved city, and country, Israel. He had a love for it. This is indeed a riveting and poignant story of how one person can make a difference,” he extolled.
“Can you imagine if many more like-minded people rise up and partner together for Jamaica? This could be the watershed, transformational paradigm that will take Jamaica to the next level. And, as former US President, Barack Obama, said, ‘Yes we can!'”
In Biblical history, one of the greatest examples of a person who had a vision to assist in his Diaspora’s development, was Nehemiah, noted Bishop Jones.
He reminisced that Nehemiah, in his pursuit of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, left us some daunting lessons that were his necessities, which helped him to succeed.
The Bishop added that there are five distinctive, purposeful, poignant and powerful lessons about Nehemiah’s expedition that Jamaica and its Diaspora can emulate: seeking and using intelligence; praying for God’s divine direction; leveraging connections and influence; utilising innovative planning and action; and involving the people “on the ground”.
Bishop Jones, who is also the lead Pastor of the Destiny Gospel Centre in Markham, Ontario, said, ardently, “We are not here to superimpose our ideas, but to collaborate and collectively contribute to Jamaicans’ sustainable development.
“The impact, the end result and the change we aspire for, is to improve the lives of our people, like Nehemiah, to create opportunities, especially for the youth, marginalized, disenfranchised, and demonized people in Jamaica.”
The worship service — which was attended by Jamaica’s High Commissioner to the UK, Seth George Ramocan; Janice Miller, High Commissioner to Canada; church and government officials; local citizens; and members of the Diaspora — included a personal greeting from Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, whose ministry spearheaded and organised the Conference.
Ably led by the church’s liturgist, alternate preacher and chief congregational steward, Fay Nash-Campbell, who conducted the service, the congregation, harmonising with its country’s religious-influenced reputation, offered a full-throated prayer for the success of the 2017 Jamaica 55 Diaspora Conference:
Leader — “Let us ask God’s Blessings upon the Jamaica 55 Diaspora Conference 2017.”
Congregation — “We pray that the event will achieve its aims and objectives. May all speakers be inspired by the Holy Spirit to offer effective guidance as they present the material they have carefully prepared.”
Leader — “We give thanks for fellow Jamaicans in Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, and other parts of the world.”
Congregation — “Bless them with the determination to use resources of people and finance at their beck and call, to become partners with us in the economic growth of Jamaica, land we love.”
Leader — “Creator God, we are mindful that in our country there are various areas occupying our attention: health care, education, national security, crime prevention, industry, commerce, agriculture, fisheries, investments, economic growth, job creation, social business and entrepreneurship.”
Congregation — “May the Conference be successful in achieving the aim of partnership for growth. Grant, O God, that at the end, there may be specific, actionable and implementable outcomes for the benefit of the nation.”
All — “May we, together, make Jamaica a safer and better place, more reflective of the Kingdom of God, here on earth. Amen!”