by Jean Lowrie-Chin - excerpt from Jamaica Observer column
Over 400 members of the GraceKennedy senior team and scores of others via the internet looked expectantly at their Group CEO, Don Wehby, as he stood to address them earlier this month. He began by thanking them for their contribution to the Group’s success and then stated, “With no apology, I thank God for His blessings.” Don commented that he was surprised at the number of calls he had received afterwards, applauding those words. “I grew up in a home that believed in prayer and worship,” he said. “This was supported by my teachers at St. George’s College, and I am grateful for my faith.”
There are many leaders in the private and the public sector like Don Wehby, whose practices in the workplace are underpinned by their Christian beliefs. This week they will be among the scores of Jamaican leaders who will gather for the National Leadership Prayer Breakfast which will have as its theme, “Righteousness Exalts The Nation”.
What a challenge this theme is to our leaders, especially those in the political sphere. The undertone of desperation that has entered the political conversation leaves us wondering if righteousness has been left out of Jamaica’s political equation. For our parties and other organisations to produce strong and decent leaders, they must ensure that their representatives are trustworthy, so they can inspire the trust of others.
I will never forget the call for help from a terrified police superintendent of blessed memory. He had pulled over a car in St. Ann, and discovered contraband and millions of dollars in cash. As a strong Christian, an Elder in his church, he prepared a detailed report on the matter, stating the sum that was in the vehicle. Lo and behold, he received ugly threats from fellow officers who were at the scene. They demanded to know why he had not reported a smaller amount so they could all split the difference among them. They also made threatening phone calls to his wife, a respected teacher. Sadly, the following year I heard that this relatively young man had died – it seems that his heart could not withstand the stress.
Many of our leaders have had to face similar dilemmas, wondering whether they should just follow the negative status quo, or step out and show the courage of their convictions. It is not easy, nor is it simple. I continue to believe that one cannot change the system if one stays out of it. Therefore, we have to commend those who take the bold step of entering politics. More than ever, we have to affirm representatives like Councillor Venesha Phillips of the August Town area, who has openly condemned criminality, and has led the citizens of the area in a march against it.
It is interesting how many political leaders tiptoe around the issue of criminal gangs when they make their major speeches. The formula of putting thugs in charge of tightly packed tenement yards seems to be a cynical method of keeping a seat. In our garrisons, the phenomenon of destitute mothers having six, seven children when they can hardly feed one, begs a question. Surely their representatives know that family planning clinics offer free assistance to such persons.
As our church leaders plan this National Leadership exercise, we need to ask them to follow through on the strong and moving messages delivered at these events. They have the influence, and should not only call out leaders at the prayer breakfast, but also from every pulpit in Jamaica.
|Dr Lucien Jones (left) in prayer with colleagues at World Remembrance Day Service for victims of road crashes|
Dr Lucien Jones who is an Elder at the St. Andrew Parish Church, shared these thoughts of theologian Oswald Chambers on prayer in his internet ministry: “It is not so true that ‘Prayer changes things’ as that prayer changes me, and then I change things.”
We are looking forward to the presentation of this year’s speaker, Pastor Glen Octavius Samuels, President of the West Jamaica Conference of Seventh Day Adventists. The event will be broadcast live on television and radio. Please gather in your homes, schools, and workplaces to participate in this moving event, and encourage your family, friends and colleagues to make their own pledge towards a more righteous Jamaica.
Indeed, the words of our National Pledge written by The Rev. Hugh Sherlock, reminds us of our responsibility: “I promise to stand up for justice, brotherhood and peace, to work diligently and creatively, to think generously and honestly, so that, Jamaica may, under God, increase in beauty, fellowship and prosperity, and play her part in advancing the welfare of the whole human race.”