Tue | Sep 26, 2017

Mary Wildish-Reece | 'It's well past midnight' - The Church needs to move now to save Montego Bay

Published:Sunday | December 11, 2016 | 12:00 AM
A resident of Mount Salem, St James, who lost a family member during the violence in Montego Bay weeps during an interview with a Gleaner reporter.
Police and soldiers patrolling sections of Montego Bay, St James.
Mary Wildish-Reece
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As I sit on my veranda with the warm Caribbean sunlight giving life to all that is around me, I look out over the crystal blue sea and feel the gentle rustling of the Christmas breeze stirring in the atmosphere.

I then take time out to reflect on the city of Montego Bay, St James, and the year that is rapidly coming to an end.

Montego Bay is known as Jamaica's friendly city where persons from around the world come to bask on our beautiful beaches, to eat our fabulous food, and to drink of our rich culture and hospitality.

I meditate on the pulsating life that it brings to those who visit our shores seeking rest and relaxation. My mind takes me on a journey this morning from the beautiful beaches, the majestic mountains, and the idyllic setting of my little veranda.

I call this spot - 'my slice of heaven'.

The questions my mind asks are jarring, frightening, alarming and unnerving. How could heaven and hell coexist in the same city? How can a city that gives so much life be engulfed with such bloodshed and death?

As tourists tan their bodies and sip their margaritas; military tanks with soldiers in fatigues bearing high-power weapons patrol the very communities where those serving the margaritas will return at the end of their work-day. How do these employees make sense of the life that they are called to live? Drinks by day and bullets by night?

This year has been the bloodiest to date in Montego Bay. As a pastor, I see the fear, the uncertainty, and the creeping hopelessness that the city is battling with-the issue of crime and violence.

You ask me what was 2016 like in Montego Bay - I say bloody. There is no escaping it. Not our grilled homes, Nor our gated communities. It has now crossed every socio-economic barrier, and it is time that we all wake up. It is well past midnight.

 

TURN THE TIDE

 

What can turn the tide? Military, yes, to an extent. Education, yes, to an extent. Social programmes and intervention, yes, to an extent. All significant, all important.

However, none of these can change the depth of the heart of a man. The ultimate law is in the hands of the one who upholds it. It is written that "righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people." (Proverbs 14:34)

Modern ideologies and culture cannot escape the law of God. Without a return to righteousness at the fabric of our society, our nation will continue to degenerate. It is now that the remnant church must arise; not in compromise or fear of man, but with the voice of God and His unchangeable word as the only standard.

It is time for the Church to unite, to come out of our four walls and our padded pews. It is time for the Church to take responsibility, to make use of this tremendous opportunity to show the power and love of God to a city that is bleeding. The answer is simply Jesus.

Jesus must be at the centre of it all. You might say that is too simple, but the verdict is in. He and He alone is our answer; not religion, just the plain gospel as it is written in Acts. Twelve men full of the power of the Holy Spirit, driven by the vision that Jesus gave them, turned upside down a whole world.

The warm morning sun has intensified to the burning midday heat. It is time, it is now, time to arise and be counted as part of the answer. History has recorded time and again that nations turn and powers of darkness flee when the church arises to her knees.

In October, the Church in Montego Bay did just this. We gathered across denominations. The barriers were broken down. We did not gather as individual churches, but we gathered as one army with one voice in Sam Sharpe Square for seven nights.

One army, one voice, one unified, cry; we cried out, we spared not, we bowed low and took responsibility. Statistics will tell you that it has resulted in a drop in crime - a battle was won - but the war is still on. We have been given the victory. Let us rise up and take it in 2017. We shall pursue, overtake and recover all - that Jamaica may, under God, increase in beauty, fellowship and prosperity to play her part in advancing the welfare of the whole human race.

- Mary Wildish-Reece is the pastor and founder of Trumpet Call Ministries International on Howard Cooke Boulevard, Montego Bay, St James, Jamaica, W.I. Feedback editorial@gleanerjm.com.