Sun | Nov 18, 2018

John Spencer: Change agent doing God’s work

Published:Saturday | December 26, 2015 | 12:00 AM


Change signifies John Spencer's life. However, most of the changes that he has been associated with, in recent years, are those that he has helped persons to achieve in order to better their own lives.

The first real change in Spencer's life occurred at the tender age of eight, when he was baptised. Another significant development occurred eight years later when, at 16, he was made deacon at the Lillyfield Gospel Assembly in Bamboo, St Ann, one of the youngest deacon ever in the association.

Later, after getting married, he transferred to Ocho Rios and is now at Exchange Gospel Assembly.

In college, Spencer was trained in architecture, but his music skills led him to become a music teacher at a prep school in the parish.

Eventually, he changed jobs to become programme director at the Ocho Rios-based Teen Challenge Jamaica, a non-profit organisation dedicated to helping people suffering from drug and alcohol addiction.

In a way, this could be Spencer's most significant change yet, as this is where he helps others to change, and to turn their lives around.

Family and Religion caught up with Spencer at Teen Challenge recently and he shared part of his story.

"I love God," he began. "I am a young man who loves God very, very much, and is inspired by change; something that has to do with change in me and change in others."

He continued: "I'm a musician (he plays keyboard, guitar, drums), I am also a singer and I love people. I love sharing with people, I love seeing people at their fullest potential, which is one of the things that led me into being here at Teen Challenge. It brings me joy to see people change and become better, joy when I am able to do or say something that changes the course of a person's life."

In the four years since he has been programme director at Teen Challenge, Spencer has seen addicted persons change for the better, become better human beings, and being able to take responsibility for their lives once more.


This is the source of real satisfaction.

"Actually, it has been rough because Teen Challenge is a challenge. It's an emotional roller coaster. You work with people from different background, experiencing different hurt and pain that cause them to take the route of drugs, alcohol and other life controlling substances.

"But it's a challenge that gives you fulfilment when you see someone come through all of those challenges; internal conflicts, external conflicts and to come through it and say "you know what, I'm going to do better." And you see the change, how they handle anger, how they handle conflict.

"When they just came, they would want to fight (for any little thing) but now, they're saying, 'you know what, let's pray about it. I don't need to argue about that anymore'. 'And you're like wow, really? Is he not going to tear the place down again?' When you see changes like those, it really inspires you and encourages you."

Speaking of inspiration, Spencer, too, has been inspired by others, the two main persons being his pastor, Floyd John-Keith, and executive director at Teen Challenge, Anthony Richards.

For young people, though, he has words of wisdom that, if heeded, would mean less need for drastic changes later on in their lives.

Young people, first of all, need to recognise that they will not remain young, he suggested.


According to Spencer, many of us are fooled by the thought of being young that we think we'll always be young, so we don't make any plans for the future.

"And so what I would say to young people is, first, recognise that you will not remain young, recognise that every decision you make now will have great impact on your future.

"Think of when you start your family what you want it to look like, when you get a job what you want it to look like; am I going to be somebody that is always working for someone or am I going to establish something for myself? And when you cast those visions then you begin to do everything to line up with those. What happens with most young people is that they don't cast a vision.

"Second, make sure you know God. Then seek to know who you are.

We think it's easy but it can be one of the hardest things to know yourself - what you like, what you don't like, why you don't need to be like somebody else, why you don't need to live trying to look like, sound like somebody else, but just to understand who you are, accept who you are, be thankful for who you are.

"When you know yourself then you know what you like, what your dreams are then you pursue that. Then your life, even if it doesn't come with a lot of money, would be joyful and you would feel fulfilled."