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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 the fourth in a series that will reflect on my Jamaican heritage and how it has shaped my Christian journey.

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In 1960, when I was 16, my mother left me behind in Jamaica and returned with our family to Hong Kong where my stepfather was a linguist at the University of Hong Kong.

She had had enough of my juvenile delinquency and bad grades in Hong Kong, and she accused me of being the cause of her shaky marriage with my stepfather. She also made it clear that they would only support me for one more year of high school in Jamaica until I took the school-leaving General Certificate of Education (Ordinary- or O-Level) exam for fifth-year students.

They would not provide any financial support for me to go on for two more years of advanced (A-Level) studies in preparation for entrance to a university, because to them, I was not university material.

A year later while waiting for the results of my O-Levels, I was faced with either dropping out of school to find a job, or returning to Ardenne High School to pursue Advanced Level (A-Level) studies.

I missed the first week of school for A-level students as I hunted for a job, but Miss Mary Olson, principal of Ardenne, contacted me to find out why I wasn’t in school. When I told her about my parents’ unwillingness to support me beyond the O-Level exams, she said, “Derrick, I will pay for your tuition for the next two years. You get yourself back in school and make the most of these two years. You show too much potential to stop your education now. God has a plan for your life, and I believe that he wants you to be prepared academically for the doors that he will open for you.”

Her generosity and her belief in me surprised and deeply moved me, especially since she saw something in me that my parents didn’t, nor had I seen in myself. Yet, I should not have been surprised, for she and her parents had dedicated their lives to helping the people of Jamaica develop their God-given potential.

Her parents, George and Nellie Olson, were Church of God missionaries from Anderson, Indiana, and had come to the island to establish congregations soon after the 1907 earthquake devastated the city of Kingston. Rev. Olson went on to plant over sixty congregations by the early 1960s and, with Nellie, co-founded Ardenne High School and a Bible institute with the purpose of developing indigenous Christian leaders in Jamaica. Nellie was the first principal of Ardenne High and turned that post over to Mary in 1944.

Could I accept Miss Olson’s offer? Did I have the ability to successfully complete two years of Advanced level studies, and go on to study at a college or university? In the end it was a desire to prove my mother wrong, along with Miss Olson’s generous offer and belief in me, that inspired me to meet the challenge.

So I thankfully accepted Miss Olson’s offer to pay for my tuition. I returned to school the following week to begin A-level studies. I passed both the O- and A-Level exams, and went on to graduate from theological seminary and earn bachelor and masters degrees at universities in the U.S.

Although George and Nellie Olson were born in America, they lived most of their adult lives in Jamaica, and considered themselves Jamaicans, so much so that they chose to be buried there. Mary Olson was born in Jamaica in 1913 and studied at Wolmer’s Girls School before transferring to Ardenne High when it was founded.

Other Jamaicans who influenced me were:

•     Barbara Beckles, an Ardenne student who stood before the class and shared how Christ had changed her life. Her testimony touched me deeply and caused me to yearn for that life of peace and joy that she found in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

•     John Harrison, another Ardenne student, invited me to Constant Spring Church of God a week after Barbara’s testimony. It was there that I committed my life to Jesus Christ during my first visit.

•      Mrs. Lilly Brown and Mr. Beckles were two Ardenne teachers who opened up the treasures of the New Testament teachings for me as a young believer and instilled in me a love for the Scriptures.

•      Rev. Cleve Grant was the pastor of Constant Spring Church of God, under whose preaching I matured and was inspired to become a minister.

•      John and Lena Fisher opened their home and cared for me for three years after my parents left me.

•      The elders of Constant Spring Church of God provided me with a stipend during four years of studies at the Jamaica School of Theology from which I graduated and became a pastor.

•      Mrs. Vidal Smith and Mr. Noel Dexter trained and mentored me in choral singing, and it is because of them that I have continued in music ministry for over five decades.

I am thankful to these individuals and to God for the ways in which they touched my life during the nine years I spent in Jamaica before immigrating to the United States to pursue further studies.

And I have sought over the years to be used by God to touch the lives of people through my roles as a former pastor, businessman, filmmaker, educator, mentor, and writer.

As a volunteer mentor to at-risk teens and as an educator to the high school students who came through my classrooms during my years of teaching, I have especially been vigilant in helping them to believe in themselves and develop their potential, echoing for them the words of Mary Olson:

“God has a plan for your lives, and he wants you to be prepared academically and spiritually for the doors that he will open for you.”

May God grant abundant fruit from the seeds that Mary Olson and others planted in me and through me. Blessed to be a blessing.

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George W. Olson &  Nellie Olson; all three pictures of the Olsons are courtesy of the Outreach Ministries of the Church of God, Anderson, Indiana.

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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 second in a series that will reflect on my Jamaican heritage and how it has shaped my Christian journey.

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In 1961 when I was dating my high school sweetheart and future wife, Joetta Chung, I visited her when she spent a week with her aunt, Thelma Manley, the ex-wife of Michael Manley who became the fourth prime minister of Jamaica in 1972.

At one point during the day, Joetta and I were alone in the living room when Thelma’s four-year-old son, Joseph, came in the room and caught us kissing. He looked at us intently for a few seconds, then said, “You biting her? Bite her again.” Joetta and I cracked up laughing.

That evening, Michael and Thelma took Joetta and me to dinner. Michael drove us outside the Kingston limits to the small community of Ferry where we dined at the Ye Olde Ferry Inn.

They seemed to take pleasure in entertaining us in conversation, stories, and questions, probably seeing us as two innocent, starry-eyed young lovers. I found Michael to be charming, charismatic, and very much interested in learning about me—my travels, experience living in Hong Kong, recent conversion to Jesus Christ, and my growing interest in studying for the Christian ministry.

And it was a pleasure for me to meet and dine with Michael, the son of Jamaica’s national hero Norman Manley who served as the island’s chief minister from 1955 to 1959, as premier from 1959 to 1962, and who was instrumental in helping Jamaica achieve independence from Britain.

Michael also would go on to twice serve as prime minister of Jamaica from March 2, 1972 to November 1, 1980, and from February 10, 1989 to March 30, 1992.

Since leaving Jamaica in 1969, I’ve followed the course of the Jamaican nation through various highs and lows. And although I have become a naturalized U.S. citizen holding dual Jamaican and U.S. citizenship, I follow the history and courses of both nations, especially in how each nation chooses its leaders.

In a year in which Jamaica elected its first female prime minister and celebrates its fiftieth anniversary, and U.S. is about to go to the polls to decide whether to reelect its first black president or elect its first Mormon president, my thoughts turn to what the Bible has to say about the qualities of a good leader, especially one who leads a nation.

A good leader:

•     Focuses on obeying God more than achieving results at any cost, and sees beyond temporary setbacks and reversals—Exodus 6:9-12

•     Involves others in leadership, and leads by delegating responsibilities—Deuteronomy 1:9-13; I Chronicles 13:1

•     Possesses the inner qualities of wisdom, understanding, and experience; is fair to the lowly and the great alike, never favoring those who are rich—Deuteronomy 1:13-18

•     Takes responsibilities when wrong—I Chronicles 21:8

•     Does not sacrifice the spiritual wellbeing of his or her children in order to serve the people—I King 1:6

•     Puts the best interest and welfare of the people above his or her own personal ambitions—I Kings 12:15-19

•     Leads and serves by example—Nehemiah 3:1

•     Chooses associates who have integrity and reverence—Nehemiah 7:2

•     Is accountable in how she or he leads, especially in dealing with the poor—Isaiah 3:14

•     Is a true servant to others, and is not above any job—Matthew 20:27; Luke 22:24-27

•     Is well-respected, wise, spiritually mature, filled with the Holy Spirit—Acts 6:3

•     Works hard—Proverbs 12:24

•     Doesn’t penalize people for having integrity—Proverbs 17:26

•     Listens before answering—Proverbs 18:13

•     Is open to new ideas—Proverbs 18:15

•     Listens to both sides of an issue—Proverbs 18:17

•     Stands up under pressure—Proverbs 24:10

•     Stands up under praise—Proverbs 27:21

As leaders—whether of a household, community, job, corporation, local government, or of a nation—these are the qualities that God requires of us.

I don’t know how many of these qualities Michael Manley possessed. Those who were closest to him would be better judges. And, certainly, God is the ultimate judge. Michael was loved by many, hated by others. He brought in many positive reforms in the island, and he had some failures, most notably his experiment is democratic socialism.

But I believe that the following video clips will give you an insight into the kind of man, leader, husband, and father that he was. I hope that you’ll take the time to watch these clips and learn about him and Jamaica under his leadership.

Blood and Fire: Jamaica Political History, Part 1 of 4

Blood and Fire: Jamaica Political History, Part 2 of 4

Blood and Fire: Jamaica Political History, Part 3 of 4

Blood and Fire: Jamaica Political History, Part 4 of 4

Daughter, Rachel Manley, reflects on her last days with her father.

Click here for a 1977 in-depth interview with Michael Manley on his visit to New York City.

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While watching the movie David on television a few days ago, I was reminded of a friend who went through seminary with me during the mid sixties. The scenes that triggered my memory were, first, the one in which the teenage David was chosen by God to be king over Israel, and the second in which David volunteered to fight Goliath. In both scenes, people questioned his ability as a youth.

The scenes reminded me that when I graduated from seminary in Jamaica, all of my fellow graduates—except one—were called immediately by churches to be their pastors. The lone exception was a 21-year-old man who could not get hired by a congregation because church leaders felt that he was too young and inexperienced.

After a year of waiting to be called, he left Jamaica and went to the United States and completed further studies, after which he was hired by his denomination to go abroad as a missionary to Bermuda and later British Columbia.

While still young, he became head of the missionary board of his denomination and supervised the ministries of scores of missionaries around the world. He was so highly respected around the world that he was sought for advice by the heads of several countries, particularly South Africa during and after Apartheid. He is now the senior pastor of a thriving congregation in a major city in the USA.

Jamaica’s loss was the world’s gain.

The apostle Paul gave another young pastor, Timothy, some sound advice regarding his youth, and it is advice that applies to all believers, no matter their age and experience:

Do not give anyone a chance to despise you because you are young; but in your words and in your conduct, in love, in loyalty and in purity, show yourself an example of what believing people should be.
(I Timothy 4:12, William Barclay’s Translation)

Whether we are young and inexperienced or older and more mature, we are to be examples to the church and the world in:

• word (speech)
• conduct (right living; righteous)
• love (self-sacrificial service to others, seeking only their good)
• loyalty (faithfulness to Christ, no matter the cost)
• purity (complete allegiance to the standards of Jesus Christ,
showing honor, honesty, self-control, and chastity, far above the standards of the world)

Too often we have seen Christian leaders whose lives and ministries have been derailed or sidetracked because they failed in their word, conduct, love, loyalty, or purity.

So Paul’s admonition to Timothy is not only for those young in age or faith, but even more so to those who are positioned in higher levels of leadership and responsibilities, for if they stumble and fall, it is usually revealed in a very public manner, and the consequences are great and affect countless others.

So to all of us—young and old, neophyte and veteran—let us see Paul’s admonition to Timothy in a slightly different way:

Do not give anyone a chance to despise you—period! But in your words and in your conduct, in love, in loyalty and in purity, show yourself an example of what believing people should be.

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