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Archive for April, 2012

In my memoir, A Jamaican’s Journey to Time and Patience, I reflect on my personal odyssey to discover and fulfill God’s call in my life, heal family wounds, and share Christ’s message of redeeming grace and love. Set against the historical background of 470 years of Spanish and British rule (1492-1962) over Jamaica, the memoir portrays my family whose African, Chinese, and European roots merged in Jamaica during the 1800s, then scattered across the globe in the 1900s.

This post is one in a series that will reflect on my Jamaican heritage and how it has shaped my Christian journey.

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In the waning minutes of August 5, 1962, and into the early minutes of the morning of August 6, I had the privilege as an eighteen-year-old to participate in the ceremonies that gave birth to the nation of Jamaica when we gained our independence from Great Britain.

That night, as a member of a combined high school choir that sang during the independence inauguration, I stood on the grassy floor of the National Stadium in Kingston and watched with tears of joy as the British army lowered the Union Jack flag of Britain at midnight, and the Jamaican Regiment hoisted the new flag of the independent nation of Jamaica in the first minutes of August 6, witnessed by the royal representatives, Princess Margaret and her husband, The Earl of Snowdon.

Amid fireworks, we cheered as we became a self-governing nation whose motto was “Out of Many, One People”—a multiracial and multiethnic group of people who were proud to be Jamaicans.

This was a historic moment in which we were participating in the coming of age of our people and the recognition of our new independence. I saw it not so much as the birth of a nation, though that was true, but more as Britain’s acknowledgement that our people were now mature enough to rule ourselves as a responsible and democratic nation. The colonial child had grown up and was now ready to be on its own.

For 307 years Britain had been the guardian of the peoples of our island, and during the first sixty years of the 1900s a crop of well-educated and qualified Jamaican leaders arose to lead us toward independence and parliamentary democracy: Alexander Bustamante, Donald Sangster, Hugh Shearer, and Norman Manley, among others.

It was a privilege for our combined choirs from Ardenne High School and Kingston College to take part in the ceremony that night, and afterwards as I lingered on the grassy floor of the stadium, I prayed that if it were God’s will to bless me with a long life, I would be around to celebrate Jamaica’s fiftieth anniversary in that same stadium.

This coming August, as a naturalized American citizen holding dual citizenship with Jamaica, I look forward to fulfilling that dream of returning with my family to the land of my birth to celebrate the nation’s fiftieth anniversary of independence from Britain.

I owe much to the people, culture, a strong Christian heritage of Jamaica in nuturing me as a young Christian during the early years of our independence in the 1960s.

I had been living in Hong Kong with my parents during the late 1950s, but because of my rebelious early teen years, my parents abandoned me in Jamaica in the fall of 1960. But God began to work in my life and prepare me for his call:

•     In 1961 I had a dramatic conversion to Jesus Christ through the witness of friends at Ardenne High School.

•     During the next two years, I burned with enthusiasm as I witnessed and preached the good news of Jesus Christ in school and on the streets of Kingston and in rural towns, and led over 100 people to Christ.

•     A group of older Christians mentored me and supported me financially through school and later seminary.

•     In 1964 I entered seminary and studied for four years. While in seminary, I was elected president of the national youth fellowship of our denomination, and oversaw the youth programs of over 100 churches around the island and the annual youth convention.

•     Upon graduation from seminary, I became the associate pastor of a circuit of three churches.

•     Throughout the 1960s I was active in our church choir and various musical groups, and had the privilege and pleasure of touring the U.S. on a concert tour.

In 1969, I immigrated with my wife and daughter to the U.S. to pursue further studies in preparation for a new ministry as a Christian filmmaker. This has led to over forty years of seeking to fulfill my calling, but those years have also been characterized by broken vows, shattered dreams, and God’s redeeming grace.

Through it all, the Christian foundation that I received during those early years in Jamaica played a major part in wooing me back from my prodigal ways (please see my post of April 16, 2011, “This Prodigal Son Came Home”) and anchoring me to Christ over the decades.

So I invite you read the rest of the series of posts on Jamaica in the upcoming weeks.

And I invite you to view the following historical video excerpt that captures that night of independence inauguration in 1962.

The full BBC documentary, Towards Independence, of which the excerpt is a part, can be seen by clicking the “Independence Videos” here or in the black ribbon at the top of this page.

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Muslims coming to Jesus Christ through dreams and visions

I first heard about it from an Egyptian pastor of a church in Cairo—that Muslims were converting to Christianity after seeing Jesus Christ in dreams and visions.

Then I heard the same thing from other sources—through the mission department of our church, professors at Fuller Theological Seminary, executives at The Outreach Foundation, Christianity Today, The William Carey School of World Mission, books, articles, and over a million reports on the Internet.

This well-documented phenomenon reflects a number of common situations:

• These conversions have been happening for decades.

• They occur in “closed” countries where the Christian Gospel is not known, and where converting to Christianity often results in persecution and death.

• The men and women who have these dreams or visions have never had contact with Christians before the dreams or visions.

• The dreams or visions come to men and women who are earnestly seeking to know and please God.

• The person in the vision—Jesus—wears white or radiates light.

• The dreams happen while they sleep; the visions happen while they are awake.

• After experiencing the dreams and visions, these Muslims go outside of their communities to seek out a Christian or obtain a Bible to learn more about Jesus.

• After deciding to follow Jesus, many of these former Muslims are persecuted, but they experience further dreams and visions of Jesus who encourages them to persevere in their faith in him.

Since 2002, a nonprofit group has interviewed many of these former Muslims who experienced these dreams and visions. Out of the interviews, the group has created a series of docudrama videos—More Than Dreams—that portray the following five people. You may click the links to view their stories on your computer:

Khalil—A radical Egyptian terrorist is changed from a murderous “Saul” to a forgiving “Paul” after Jesus Christ visited him in a soul-penetrating dream. This hater of Christians and Jews set out to discredit the Bible, but is transformed when Jesus appeared to him and changed his heart.

Mohamed—The life of this Fulani herdsman in Nigeria was greatly altered when Jesus appeared to him in several dreams. Though his father tried to kill him after his conversion, Mohamed survived and eventually led his father to faith in Christ.

Dini—An Indonesian teenager, let down by family, friends, and society, became a Christian the night Jesus appeared to her in a vision. Although her family persecuted her because of her new Christian faith, Dini’s experience with Jesus sustained her through difficult times.

Khosrow—A young Iranian man, depressed and without hope or meaning to his life, met Jesus Christ in a vision and surrendered his life to Christ. Persecution followed in Iran and even in Turkey where he and his family had fled. They eventually fled to safety in Austria.

Ali—This Turkish man, in bondage to alcohol and desperate to overcome his addiction, moved to Saudi Arabia where alcohol is forbidden. However, he still found alcohol there and resumed his drinking. Hoping to be freed of his addiction and be led in the way of a true Muslim, he made a pilgrimage to Mecca. To his surprise, he met Jesus Christ in a dream instead and followed him.

Although we in the Western World don’t tend to take dreams seriously and seldom experience God in dreams or visions, we really ought to, for there are many places in the Bible where God appeared to people in dreams and visions, and the words of both the prophet Joel and the apostle Peter, serve to remind us that:

“In the last days,” says God, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.” (Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17)

God is reaching out to people of all tribes and nations in various ways, but to those who are shut off and forbidden to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ, God is revealing Jesus Christ to them through dreams and visions.

To those who earnestly seek to know God with all their heart, God promises, “If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.” (Jeremiah 29:13, New Living Translation, 2007, NLT)

And Jesus confirmed this when he promised, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6, New International Version, NIV) (The term righteousness means “having a right relationship with God and with people.”)

Not only are some Muslims seeking God with their whole heart and finding God through Jesus Christ, but millions of people of various nationalities, races, and religions are searching earnestly to experience God intimately and profoundly. Some of them might be your neighbors, family, and friends—and even you.

God might not choose to reveal himself through a dream or vision, for he has already revealed himself through his Word—the Bible—and through his Holy Spirit, and his living body, the Church.

Just know that if you seek God with your whole heart, you will find him. If you hunger and thirst after a right relationship with him and with people, he promises to satisfy your hunger and thirst.

And as Christians remember and celebrate Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection this Easter week, millions of seekers around the world will find their lives gloriously transformed as they encounter the risen Christ and receive his gift of eternal life.

To old and new brothers and sisters in Christ, rejoice and find encouragement in the following assurance:

“All honor to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for it is by his boundless mercy that God has given us the privilege of being born again. Now we live with a wonderful expectation because Jesus Christ rose again from the dead. For God has reserved a priceless inheritance for his children. It is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And God, in his mighty power, will protect you until you receive this salvation, because you are trusting him. It will be revealed on the last day for all to see. So be truly glad! There is wonderful joy ahead, even though it is necessary for you to endure many trials for a while.” (I Peter 1: 3-6, NLT)

Grace, love, and peace to you.

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