Bishop Bradley Dyer: Doing God's work for five decades
In the Bible, the story of Saul's transformation on the road to Damascus is very popular. For Bishop Dr Bradley Dyer of the Rehoboth Apostolic Church in Independence City, Portmore, his conversion to preach the gospel was no less dramatic.
"I had a vision from the Lord when I was 19 years old," he said. "Great, bold writing in the clouds - 'Behold! I have called thee to be a preacher of judgement'. I was frightened, I ran." But he was "tormented by that calling" and started attending church. Bishop Dyer got baptised in the Church of God in Christ Apostolic (commonly known as Rehoboth) on January 31, 1962. By 1964, he was ordained, aged just 22. Fifty years later, the fire still burns to do God's work.
"I think it is the Lord," he said simply of his longevity. He noted his greatest passion is to train preachers. "I have great pleasures in bringing out (the preacher in people), especially a man, but women too. If I can convince a man to be a preacher, I am happy." This is especially for those who, like him, were shy initially. His transition from believer to clergyman started when he immersed himself in the church and found himself witnessing.
"Every street corner, bus, train," he said, recalling that when service ended, he and another budding pastor spent hours discussing the scriptures. "When I started preaching, I didn't even realise it." Originally from the community of Cairn Currant in Darliston, Westmoreland, Bishop Dyer was raised in a Christian household; his mother was a missionary and his father was a deacon. Bishop Dyer moved to West Kingston in his teens to live with an aunt who was involved in the Roman Catholic church, so he considered being a priest. But after he moved to Jones Town, things went badly.
"I used to be leading the Cigar Gang," he admitted. "We had to fight our way out. We fought a lot." It's possible he could have ended up in a life of crime. But soon after, he got his vision and after being baptised, there was no turning back.
Lost his job
"I worked at Jamaica Bottling Company and I lost the job and it's like God had something to do with that," he said. "When I couldn't get any work for months... I would be home studying the Bible." This got him intimate with the word and as his anointing became more evident, the church elders encouraged him to excel. He attended the Rehoboth Bible Institute in Jamaica in 1964 before going off to Baltimore to further his studies in 1971. Also trained as a mechanic, Bishop Dyer worked at United Motors (now Toyota Jamaica) and Kingston Industrial Garage before owning his own garage. But in 1975, he made a commitment.
"I made up my mind to close my garage down. I gave away my tools to one of my apprentices and became a full-time minister," he said. Bishop Dyer has led five different churches across St Catherine and is currently building eight more across the island.
"I plan to finish all my work when I get to the age of 75 in two years," he laughed. A strong believer in education, he was instrumental in building Southborough Primary, and has been running St John's College since 1981. There is a Bible school at the church premises as well.
"In the Pentecostal church, after we notice you have the calling to the ministry, we watch you and then come to your aid," he said. "We will train you and strengthen you and give you financial and physical support." Despite his age, he still preaches, mentors and serves as a justice of the peace. There are no national honours' abbreviations behind his name, but that doesn't bother Bishop Dyer. He believes "health, the spirit and loving people are the keys to life" and he wants to be remembered as a man who did the latter.
"You see on this street, I don't pass anybody without greeting them. Yuh could be bad like 'yaz', I shake your hand," he laughed. "I'm not the pastor of this church, I'm a pastor of the people."