From the pit to the pulpit –Sylford Kennedy’s testimony
He grew up under dire circumstances that saw him mixing with the wrong crowds in an effort to better his life. But things took a U-turn when God stepped in.
"I was a part of a family of eight that lived in a one-bedroom dwelling with little to no food, little to no clothes and no money. I knew what it felt like to cut grass for a mattress; I knew what chink sucking on you flesh felt like. My oldest brother, who is now deceased, was also on that grass bed with the rest of us and I knew what it felt like to have him come in drunk and pee and vomit on me ..."
Just receiving a primary level education, Kennedy said that even after leaving school, he could not read, as every Friday of the school year he was absent because he had to work on the farm with his father.
Sent to the morgue
"Yes, I couldn't read. I could barely help myself, so after leaving school I took up what I knew how to do - farming. But I wasn't happy. I hated it and I was depressed. It was just one bad thing after another and one of the worst things was my near-death experience."
He continued, "One day, I felt a sharp pain in my abdomen and, because I had not eaten, I thought it was gas. When it got intense, I was taken to the hospital and I found out my appendix (had) ruptured. I did the surgery and then when I woke up I saw some signs around my bed, it read 'No Food'. But at the time, I couldn't read."
Kennedy, being so hungry, asked a patient next to him for a piece of orange he had and even as the man told him the sign on his bed says 'No Food', he ate it nonetheless.
"I had the orange and felt a little ease, but some time later, I saw my stomach looking as if I was nine months pregnant. I could not respond, I was weak but I could hear the doctors around me and one of them knocked my stomach and said, 'Take him out'."
Kennedy told Family & Religion he felt his body being wrapped and rolled to a location. He said based on the temperature of the room, he knew it was the cold room.
"I was in there for quite some time, when I heard somebody storm in. It was the sister on the ward, Ruby Marshall, and she started tearing off the sheets and feeling my pulse. She saved me basically. She called the doctor who later started ripping the bandage. He pushed his had inside the cut and began ripping the stitches to stop the infection that was causing my swelling."
After that ordeal, Kennedy took up the trade of watchmaking and jewellery repair, but he had not found his true calling.
"Over time, I met friends - bad man - who even bought guns and gave me one. I remember an occasion when a man wanted me to sell him a piece a gold and me sell somebody else and him run me down fi chop me up. I wanted to teach him a lesson, so me say me a go join the force and use government gun kill him. I got through the interview, but after hearing that somebody killed the guy, me nuh badda pursue it."
He continued, "My life saw no real change until I passed a crusade one day and heard the pastor say, 'You may get by, but you'll never get away'. It was there that I got conversion and the calling to be a minister."
Kennedy attended the church school in York Town, Clarendon, and after three years completed the course in Ministry. But his problems had only just begun.
"It was a challenge because I could not read, but through prayer and fasting I made it ... but that was just one hurdle I had to go over. You see, before I got saved, nobody wanted me ... nobody thought I was attractive, but after, My God! The girls start flock me and it was overwhelming."
Kennedy ended up getting a girl pregnant and he lost the respect of persons that helped him along the way.
"It was a setback for me, but I didn't stay down. I ended up marrying that young lady and we now have two children. We last celebrated our 13th anniversary and I have been a pastor for about 14 years."
Kennedy is now in high demand, preaching locally and internationally in places such as Panama, New York and New Jersey in the United States. He also has a radio programme every Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Linkage Radio.
"Many persons believe they are so far from God, but God can raise you from the pit to the pulpit just as it says in 2 Chronicles 7:14. God is still interested in hearing the voices of His children. He has blessed me so much. As a matter of fact, I will be breaking ground February 28, 2016 for my very own church."