Posts Tagged ‘Derrick Garland Coy’

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(This is an excerpt from my memoir, A Jamaican’s Journey to Time and Patience)

After the months of studying for the O Levels and the intense days sitting for the exam, it was a relief to finish the last section of the exam and finally go on Christmas break to await the results in the spring. I got a two-week job in the shoe department of one of the major retail stores on King Street, but instead of repeating the Christmas Eve parade celebration down King Street as I had done the previous year, I chose to go caroling with some friends from Constant Spring Church. One of the young men in the church mounted a loud speaker on top of his station wagon and a number of us piled into the station wagon and drove around Kingston singing Christmas carols.

This was my first Christmas as a new Christian, and it took on a whole new meaning. For the first time, through redeemed eyes, heart, and mind, I began to see and understand what Christmas was all about!

It was not about Santa Claus, shopping, presents, or parties.

It was about the love of God for a lost humanity of which I was a part.

It was about a God who, even before he created the universe, planned it that, at the appropriate time, he would visit us in the form of a human baby who would grow up to reveal the true nature of God, and save us from sin’s destruction.

It was about a poor, frightened teenage girl who was visited by an angel and given the news that she was chosen by God to bear the child who would become the Savior of the world.

It was about dirty, smelly shepherds who, though ignored and despised by their society, were favored by God to be the first to hear heavenly choirs announce the birth of the Christ Child.

It was about three wise men who understood the significance of that baby and brought gifts to commemorate his birth and his future ministry and sacrificial death.

It was about God’s grace, mercy, kindness, and overwhelming love and generosity to me–and every person who lived or will live–in offering us salvation and eternal life.

And so, at eighteen, from the perspective of one who was redeemed from sin and blessed with eternal life, for the first time I understood and celebrated the true meaning of Christmas.

And celebrate it I did–with joyful music, carols, worship, and sweet fellowship with fellow believers.

That Christmas Eve of my eighteenth year found me reveling–not on King Street with the wild, bacchanal masses but–with a group of young Christians driving through the streets, avenues, and lanes of Kingston singing Christmas carols.

Though I had heard many of those carols before, singing them that Christmas Eve night throughout Kingston brought new meaning, significance, and appreciation for their words and tunes.

There would be many more Christmases to come over the decades, but this was the year and the Christmas in which I first fell deeply in love with the Christ Child who became my Lord and who was to shape my life from that point on.


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


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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