Winning souls is good, but more work is needed-minister
ORACABESSA, St Mary:
For the last 25 years, Dawn Sutherland has served as a minister at the Ebenezer Community Church in the serene district where she was born and raised, Days Mountain, in Oracabessa, St Mary.
Initially, Sutherland had planned to embark on a career as a clerical worker in the commercial sector, but an overwhelming desire to inspire disadvantaged young people eventually led the congenial pastor-cum-social worker to dedicate her life to God.
Speaking earlier this week from a backroom office at her church, she told Family and Religion: "I actually wanted to do secretarial work in the business world, but the Lord called strongly on my heart, and after seeing the needs of young people in the community at that time, I chose to minister, be there for them, and help bring about a change in their lives.
"They needed some direction and a sense of purpose. I did not want to see these youths go out into the world and waste their lives because I could see they had potential; all they needed was some guidance."
Ironically, Sutherland believes the situation for youths back then is comparable to the condition many people and young adults find themselves in today. She explained: "I think the situations are similar, but different because it's not that young people today don't believe in God, it's just that they are about reality.
"They want to know the truth, and to see the physical and practical manifestation of the God we talk about. Can He do for them what He did for (the apostle) Paul? So you have to teach and move beyond the traditional.
"There are a lot of barriers for young people coming in because the older, more traditional churches focus on things like what their members wear, and how they look. There are a lot of rules, and sometimes we allow them to bypass the pain and reality of the change that needs to take place.
"The changes come from the Holy Spirit. God Himself changes human beings, but you have to bring them to the Lord and point them in the right direction so they can make the right choices.
"Here, we don't focus on [dress codes]. We've sort of opened up the ministry, so people wear whatever they want; that's how we minister and try to bring about change."
Sutherland believes that if religious leaders truly want to help young people and address their issues, they must find new ways to engage them. She explained: "You have to see things from their point of view. Sometimes when they don't understand something, we ignore what they are feeling and the reality of where they are at, which blocks them from listening to us.
"Rather than just wanting to hear about them getting saved, we need to hear about the issues, challenges, and battles they are faced with because there is a lot of rejection out there; fatherless homes, abuse, and incest, and most victims don't say anything, so they are angry with God, their parents, and everything.
"And then, after they get saved, we leave and forget about their pain because all we want is additional souls coming to the church. But the reality is, we need forums where all these topics can be discussed."