A couple weeks ago, a most horrific event took place in my country. People going about their ordinary business on public transportation, were subjected to virtual hell on a minibus. Three gunmen attempted to hold up the passengers, and a licensed firearm holder challenged them. The result! Three innocent persons dead, many injured, including a baby, and one of the gunmen shot and killed. Another one was also killed by the police shortly after, and the third one is now behind bars. One cannot even begin to imagine the absolute terror that these people faced during the madness unleashed in a such a confined space ! This, after many Jamaican had breathed a collective sigh of relief, with the news that following the Dudus Coke affair, the murder rate had dropped appreciably. And so we were looking forward to more peaceful times. But in the space of 24 hours we were rudely brought back to reality, as the night before, five persons were brutally murdered, whilst playing our "national sport", a simple game of Dominoes.
The fact that during the same week, a suicide bomber unleashed the same kind of terror, but on a much lager scale, in a Moscow airport, with which I and other Jamaicans who attended an International Conference there in November 2009, were quite familiar, also added to the pain that I felt during the week. So I tried to write about my experiences and what the Lord had said to me during this difficult time. But to no avail. Then I realized how much that which has gripped my country for so many years, is as a direct result of our failing to pass on to the next generation, that which our slave forebears taught us. And so instead the Lord led me to write our leaders in political, business, the media, and the University, including the Prime Minister and members of his cabinet, the following note, entitled " Death on a minibus: Life in Christ":
Dear PM: I have been struggling to write all week. Came home late from an AGM at church and thus was unable to write on Sunday night. Then meetings Monday and Tuesday nights. Tried last night, but the message got lost again in Cyberspace. Then this morning I woke up with a Word in my heart. And going from one section of the Bible to another I came up on this meditation from John Newton - who you probably know by now, was a captain of a slave ship, until during a storm he was convicted of sin. " God stopped his wild career". And he went on to become a Priest and write the lyrics of that famous song we love so much: " Amazing Grace.".
When I read the words of the meditation wrote below, immediately I thought of you and your cabinet and other leaders in the nation. Why? On account of part of what I wrote last night in connection with the orgy of violence that played out recently on the Coaster bus and around the domino table. Why has this kind of madness continued to plague my people!
The answer started as I read the Word before coming to the Prayer Breakfast to hear you read another part of the Word - " Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your understanding..........."
"Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died.........
After that a whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor nor what he had done for for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord.......They forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of of the people around them. They provoked the Lord to anger.......in His anger against Israel the Lord handed them over to raiders who plundered them.......Then the Lord raised up judges who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them" Joshua 2:8-16 NIV
And so Israel, so Jamaica. A people were rescued out of slavery, by people like Sam Sharpe,and George William Gordon. and others. All inspired to act by the Holy One of Israel, whose final and complete act of deliverance, I share with you and others now, as written by John Newton. It touched my heart deeply. I hope it will touch yours, and others, too. For the glory of God and for the salvation of my people.
Lucien - son of Winston Vassel Jones, who served the God of his forefathers faithfully. The question is, how many of our leaders, who were taught by their forebears to serve God, have turned away to idols. And with what consequences for a whole new generation of Jamaicans? " He who has ears to hear let him hear'.- Jesus
THE ENCOUNTER JOHN NEWTON VERSE REVELATION 5:9
In evil long I took delight,
Unawed by shame or fear,
Till a new object struck my sight,
I saw One hanging on a tree
In agonies and blood,
Who fixed his languid eyes on me,
As near his cross I stood.
Sure never till my last breath
Can I forget that look:
Though not a word he spoke:
My conscience felt and owned the guilt,
And plunged me in despair;
I saw my sins his blood had spilt
And helped to nail him there.
Alas! I knew not what I did!
But now my tears are vain:
Where shall my trembling soul be hid?
For I the Lord have slain!
A second look he gave, which said,
' I freely all forgive:
This blood is for thy ransom paid.
I die, that thou mayst live'.
Thus, while his death my sin displays
In all its blackest hue,
Such is the mystery of grace,
It seals my pardon too.....
The Word, that was in my heart this morning?
" We always carry around around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be revealed in our body."
2 Corinthians 4:10 NIV
.....in all thy ways acknowledge Him and His Crucified Son ( be obedient) and He will direct your path and the path of this nation. That's the call of the church, the Judge of this age.
What also struck me, and led me to write about our forebears was a meditation from Martin Luther King Jnr about the role of the Church in times of crisis. And how this faith in an Almighty God, was fashioned in the crucible of one of the most horrifying experiences than mankind has ever suffered. The midnight of slavery.
HE WHO TURNS BLACKNESS INTO DAWN MARTIN LUTHER KING JNR. VERSE PSALM AMOS 5:8
"he who made Pleiades and Orion, who turns blackness into dawn and darkens the day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea, and pours them out over the face of the land - the Lord is his name."
Midnight is a confusing hour when it is difficult to be faithful. The most inspiring word that the church may speak is that no midnight long remains. The weary traveler who asks for bread is really seeking the dawn. Our slave fore parents realized this. They were never unmindful of the fact of midnight, for always there was the rawhide whip of the overseer and the auction block where families were torn asunder to remind them of its reality. When they thought of the agonizing darkness of midnight, they sang:
Oh, nobody knows de trouble I've seen,
Sometimes I'm up, sometimes I'm down,
Oh, yes, Lord,
Sometimes I'm almost to de groun',
Oh, yes, lord,
Oh, nobody knows de trouble I've seen,
Encompassed by a staggering midnight but believing that morning would come, they sang:
I'm so glad trouble don't last always.
O my lord, O my lord, what shall i do?
Their positive belief in the dawn was the growing edge of hope that kept the slaves faithful amid the most barren and tragic circumstances.
Faith in the dawn arises from the faith that God is good and just. When one believes this, he knows that the contradictions of life are neither final nor ultimate. he can walk through the dark night and the radiant conviction that all things work together for good for those that love God. Even the most starless midnight may herald the dawn of some great fulfillment.
One of the things that struck me in an exchange of e -mails with a friend in Moscow, and who is also part of this Internet Ministry, was the observation that, as a result of the bomb blast, "people were losing their faith". No doubt many more Jamaicans, after the mayhem of the last two weeks, have joined the ranks of the cynics who say that " Jamaica done, and can't come back". And who can blame them, as for far too long it has been " midnight" in my country, in respect of so many facets of national life. Everything just seems to be going downhill, despite the occasional oases of hope which keep us sane. the quality of public discourse; the "low life" morals of so many of our entertainers and the kind of lyrics which they spew out, and which has such a devastating effect on our young and not so young too; the quality of leadership in every sphere of national life, including the church unfortunately, and most egregiously in the political arena; the seemingly unquenchable thirst for " blood", as human life is not worth much anymore in my country. You can lose your life on account of a simple " diss", or for being accused on being an " informer", much less for resisting evil when it confronts you, on the street or in the business place. So what are we to do.
Praise God that He has raised up a institution that can offer people hope in the darkest night - the church. The same " body of Christ" whose faith was fashioned in the "tragedy" , the seeming midnight, on Calvary. The early fathers of which faith, the Jews, when confronted by Pharaoh's army, in their midnight experience at the Red Sea cried out to God, and He rescued them.
But that certain hope only comes from obedience, and the Jews learned that lesson so painfully after they rebelled against God after leaving Egypt. And so we here in Jamaica, in Russia, and all over the world need to pay attention to the eternal lesson in Deuteronomy, to which the Lord pointed me, this past week. And which lesson our leaders, and all our people would do well to pay attention, as we experience a seeming unending midnight in Jamaica.
"Remember how the Lord led you all the way through the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to huger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live by bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God........Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down...then your hearts will become proud and forget the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, and out of the land of slavery." Deut. 8:2-3 and 12-14. NIV
So as we reflect on life in this my country, and on our midnight experiences, let us seek to encourage the faith that speaks a word about the dawn a better day. But the shaping of which faith requires obedience to the Word, and to the living Word, Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. As only He who rescued our forebears from the midnight of slavery, can rescue us from midnight on a minibus.