Mon | Jan 25, 2021

Jamaica Gospel Song Competition finalists ministering through music

Published:Sunday | July 26, 2020 | 12:21 AM
Sheri-Gaye Johnson
Sheri-Gaye Johnson

The Jamaica Gospel Song Competition since its inception in 1987 has become an iconic presentation of indigenous gospel music in Jamaica. We asked the 2020 finalists about their calling to serve through music.

Sheri-Gaye Johnson, 18, (Glenmuir High School) – Clarendon

“I realised at age 13 when I just started high school and first heard the school choir. They inspired me so much that I was determined to join them. Once I started singing for God, I realised how easy and fulfilling praising Him through song was. I’m my happiest when I’m singing for Him.”

David Sutton, 18, (Munro College) – St Elizabeth

“I realised after a year of learning to play the keyboard. I [was about] 13 and I had reached a low point in my life where I felt worthless to God. On one particular night, which I would refer to as rock bottom of worthlessness to me, I heard, almost audibly, the Lord calling me and reassuring me that I was important to him. After that, I dedicated my life to learning how to share the redemption and connection that I feel through my songs with others.”

Anthony Malcolm, 33, St Mary

“I realised about five years ago when I was still an aspiring reggae artiste and was working at a farm store in my community. I was asked to perform at a nine night and I saw the response of the people there and felt God calling me to sing for Him. I tried to pursue my reggae music career after that, but it never took off. But the minute I decided to follow God’s calling and start singing gospel, the blessings have been unending.”

Euphoria (Floyd Smith, 42; Jasino Bicknell, 38; Mark Rowe, 53; Kaydene Smith, 37, – Manchester

“We all grew up in church singing and even started singing together as a family. Over the years physical distance caused us to split up, but when Floyd lost his sight two years ago and could no longer work, he called on us for support. We rallied around him and created this musical ministry to reach souls, while also being an income earner as an entertainment and talent management company.

Oliver Ashley, 62, St James

“When I got saved I didn’t know that singing would be a part of my ministry. I started singing in church and persons told me I was good, so I continued singing for the Lord. One day, I was at a crusade, and I was singing and the anointing of the Lord came down on me. It was so moving that the pastor leading the crusade told me to continue singing and wouldn’t let anyone else sing after me. Many souls were saved for the Lord that day, and I knew then music ministry was my calling.”

Lloyd ‘Father’ Reece, 62, St Catherine

“I realised while I was one and a half years into my death row sentence, while in prison. I was waiting to be hanged when one night I had a dream with a little boy who spoke to me, ‘God is going to help you.’ Women [dressed] in all-white [were] singing ‘There is power in the blood’. I woke up feeling renewed and touched by the spirit, I was a changed man and only wanted to sing for the Lord. Fifty-five men were in my batch when I entered death row and 54 were hanged, I am the only one alive and now free. There is no doubt that the Lord chose me to serve Him.”

Treisha Williams, 40, St James

“I had felt God’s calling on me as a singer and a songwriter from I was in primary school, but it was as a teenager on my church choir that I really felt Him calling me to take up musical ministry. I had written a song for the choir to sing called Pursue, Attack, We Shall Recover It and it was so well received by our church that it quickly spread across the island and was being sung in churches everywhere. That’s when I knew exactly what God was calling me to do.

Offneil Lamont, 29, St Catherine

“The Lord had spoken to me twice – first at the age of 10 and then at 19. I realised from then that the Lord had a purpose for my life. Through singing, I discovered the gift of ministering. Notably, my then assistant pastor, Rev Porter, singled me out and prayed for me by confirming my gift of ministering through singing.”

Martanek Phipps, 22, Kingston

“Growing up, I have always known that I can sing. However, it took me a little while to realise that my voice is a gift from God to be used to minister to His people. In my early teens, my mother and I would sell original poems of inspiration and faith to persons we met on the road or in business places. I would often sing them their favourite gospel song as a treat and their reactions would be quite moving. I could see the Lord working through my voice, some persons even surrendered right then and there to Jesus. It was through those one-on-one experiences and connections with total strangers that I knew what the Lord was calling me to do.”

Deon McDonald, 26, St Mary

“From my teenage years into adulthood, I have consistently been ministering through music. I had discovered early on in life that it is not only my passion, but a wonderful talent that God has blessed me with to minister to His people.”