Had I been asked to speak about my life some months ago the introvert in me would have declined but I had a discussion with a Bishop recently and he spoke about sharing one’s life story with others and the good that can come from doing so and I have been thinking about that and then I was asked to do this and I thought this could not be a coincidence, so here I am.
As all of you know I was born in Kingston, Jamaica and spent the first half of my life growing up and working there. Where my parents are concerned on my mother’s side she was adopted and I knew nothing about the family that adopted her. My father was from a large family and I have many uncles and aunts. They represented several religions, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Baptist and Anglicans. We were the Anglicans but my father attended church very infrequently. It was my mother who would wake me up and tell me to get dressed for church. At that early age I really was not interested in going and when I got to church I just wanted to find a comfortable spot and go back to sleep. Well back in those days churches were built with pulpits and we sat two rows away from the pulpit so when the Rector went into the Pulpit and looked over the congregation he would look down and I would look up, our eyes would meet and any ideas of sleeping vanished. As the years rolled by I started to take an interest in what was said and I started to read the Bible and I believed everything that I was taught and read and so at an early age I accepted God into my life and that his son Jesus gave his life for us. I took going to church very seriously and got into trouble on a couple of occasions. We would arrive early for the service and my mother and sister would spend the time talking and so I eventually told them to stop as talking was not allowed in church. Well the looks that I got were more than enough to silence me. Back in those days all of the women wore hats but I noticed that more and more stopped wearing them so I complained that someone should say something about this as it was disrespectful. I was promptly told that I was not the Rector and that I should keep quiet and have nothing more to say. After that I just kept quiet.
After leaving school I started working for a British bank and did so for five years until an international insurance company active recruited me to join them and be in charge of their unit record equipment for which I was sent to IBM for training. The move turned out to be a great one as it was there that I met Gail. At first she took no notice of me but I persevered and a year and a half later we were married and here we are together after almost fifty years. Life was going really well and then after a very difficult pregnancy tragedy struck and we lost our first child shortly after childbirth. I sat in agony watching our little baby girl trying to breath with her collapsed lung but alas after about twelve hours she expired. If I could have given her one of mine I would have gladly done so. Gail was unaware of all of this as she was in a medically induced coma to prevent her having a seizure. I was devastated and barely made it to my parents’ home that night and collapsed on a bed and cried myself to sleep eventually. In the days that followed I went through all of the various emotions and could not understand why God had allowed this to happen and why this little bit of joy that had come into our lives had been taken away. I became angry and very upset but after a few days I came to my senses and realized just how wrong I was. Here was I an individual who had accepted God and now I was blaming him. What right did I have to do that or to question him and so I prayed and asked him for his forgiveness. I consoled myself with the thought that he needed another little angel in Heaven with him and that was where our baby was. And so we accepted what had happened and as the years passed after three more pregnancies we were gifted with three more children who have brought great joy into our lives.
Shortly thereafter a new problem arose. A new radically different government was voted in, a socialist government with communist tendencies and we knew that our lives would be changed. Violence started and there were rumors of houses been broken into during the day and housewives and children being molested. The remarks and comments about the plans that the government has caused many families to leave with some families splitting up with the husband staying while the mother and children left.
We decided to apply to come to the USA and our application was accepted but there was a catch to it, we had to go on a quota system which was a long list of applicants from this hemisphere who has applied for entry. So we waited and in the meantime the company offered me a transfer to Malaysia to be in charge of their home office there. I accepted but the Malaysian government refused to grant any more work permits so that door was closed. I was then asked to open a new office in Trinidad similar to the one that I was in charge of and I started doing so. I had by then been promoted to the position of an Assistant Vice President in charge of their Jamaica Home Office operation. The Trinidadian government granted me a one year work permit and shortly thereafter the US Government indicated that our four year waiting period was over and we could immigrate to the USA. With mixed feeling I resigned from the company that I had worked at for over seventeen years and we moved.
Now I can tell you that moving to a new country with a wife and three small children and with no job prospects is not an easy thing to do. We found a house, Gail got a job, the children settled into school and I was left at home sending out job applications with no success. Finally I was told by an employment agency that my problem was that I was overqualified for the jobs I was applying for and I reluctantly allowed them to change my resume. Shortly after I got a job as a building supervisor for a property management company. I worked with them for over a year and asked for a salary increase which I got but then I was fired the following week. What a shock that was, however I soon got another job managing a trucking company and did that for over three years. During this time I started longing for my old life in Jamaica and kept on complaining about living here. Eventually Gail said that it was obvious I could not get thoughts of Jamaica out of my mind and we should move back and so we did. Without thinking through what I was doing and praying and asking God for his help I just rashly packed up and moved and it turned out to be the worst move we could have made. Inflation had set in in Jamaica and the cost of everything kept on increasing. The car we shipped back had the duty doubled on it the day that it arrived and no matter what I did during the next three years I was unable to get ahead. I could not afford to buy a house and barely managed to pay the bills. One day I sat in my office feeling very depressed and I asked God to help me as I did not know what to do and a thought popped into my head, Move Back. What was this I could not believe it but as I thought about it I realized that was the thing to do. We had a house here, we could both get jobs and the children’s schooling was free. So I went home and told Gail what a fool I had been and that we needed to move back, she looked at me and then said well where are the boxes let’s get packing and so we moved once again.
We move into our house, the children settled into school and we both started working and little by little everything started going well for us except that I could not find an Anglican Church. We went to the Episcopal Church but I just was not the same and at the Catholic Church I felt excluded and so for a period of time we stopped going to church.
About sixteen years ago an incident took place that really strengthened my faith in God. I got sick and prior to this I had hardly ever been to a doctor and here I was in hospital with severe stomach pains. I was told to keep quiet, no eating or drinking for a week as they wanted to see if the blockage in my intestines would clear. After a week nothing had happened so the following morning I was place on the operating table and I panicked as it really hit me then that I was facing major surgery, something that was unknown to me. My mind was in a whirl and I was covered in cold sweat and shivering violently, so badly that a passing nurse noticed and commented that the room was very cold and she would get me some warm blankets. If only she knew what I was going through. I started praying to God and asked him to help me through this ordeal that I was facing and no sooner had I stopped praying I experienced a feeling that I had never had in my life. A feeling of complete peacefulness came over me and as I lay there experiencing this feeling of serenity I knew that God was letting me know that I was not alone and that he would be with me and that I would get through my operation. My mind became clear, the violent shaking stopped and I was completely relaxed.
After the surgery I was told they had removed the blockage, it was cancer but it had been caught in the early stage and was completely self-contained and I did not have to have any further treatments. As I lay there in the intensive care unit I thanked God for helping me and three weeks later and thirty pounds lighter I left the hospital. I recuperated and went back to work at the small company that our eldest son Craig and I had formed.
Just over ten years ago another significant event took place in my life. On a Saturday afternoon we saw a little sign by the roadside stating - Anglican Church of the Word Sunday service 9.00a.m. I could not believe it, after all these years I had finally found an Anglican Church. We were there the following morning and received the warmest greeting anyone could wish for and many of the individuals who greeted us that morning are here tonight. On our way home afterwards I knew that God had answered another of my prayers and I had found the church that I wished to be a member of. My involvement in the various Ministries and events that have taken place in this church have been a joy and a blessing to me and I have found the church family that I want to be a part of and to worship with.
As I look back on my life I have many times wondered why God has blessed me in the way he has. I have a wonderful wife, three children and seven grandchildren and we as a family have remained very close even though we do not all live in the same country. We meet often and celebrate many birthdays, anniversaries and other significant events and we all look out for one another.
I have come to realize that in this life that God has given us he gave us a very important ability. It is the ability to choose. He reaches out to each and every one of us and all He asks if for us to reach out and choose Him and if we do so and accept him into our lives with true faith and thrust and allow him to show us the way He will change our lives beyond anything that we could imagine. All He asks if for us to make that choice.
And so my friends this is my story and I thank you for so patiently listening to me.
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