Tue | Nov 20, 2018

Michael Heath - rising from the ashes

Published:Saturday | September 1, 2018 | 12:00 AMShanna kaye Monteith/ Gleaner Writer
Michael Heath and wife.

Charged with murder and sentenced to death at the age of 17, the journey called life has been nothing short of a bed of thorns for Michael Heath.

Rewinding a few years, Heath told Family & Religion of the moment his life changed for the worse and began on a downhill trot.

"I didn't have an easy life. My father died when I was about nine years old, and from there, I was left to care for myself. I left primary school dunce as a bat, so I couldn't read or write, but I had to find ways to support myself.

"At 10, I started to do every type of work you can think of - away from mechanic and flying planes," he laughed, while noting that he picked up a lot of skills at a young age.

It was when he began "deejaying in the dancehall" that, according to Heath, a man twice his age, and his gang, began provoking him, which he reported at the police station on numerous occasions.

The provocation led to an altercation, which ended with a teenager on death row.

 

LESSONS FROM PRISON

 

His years in prison taught Heath that there were indeed tougher situations than a 10-year-old having to provide for himself.

But it was also while in prison that he met God and learned how to read and write.

"I had made a promise to God that if I learned how to read, then I would serve Him. I began praying often until one day, the Spirit of the Lord led me to St John 14, and while I was there, staring at the words, the voice of the Lord was reading them to me.

"Not long after, I caught on and when my cellmate, who had embarrassed me when I asked him to teach me to read, heard me reading. He was amazed," Heath recalled.

The man of faith later got baptised while in prison and began teaching others how to read and write, conducting Bible studies and, according to him, became the 'village lawyer' - speaking on behalf of other prisoners and 'doctor patch-up' - writing letters of redemption to the spouses of detainees.

Heath had his sentence reduced to life in prison and after much appealing, was set free at the age of 37.

Now happily married and with two children, 51-year-old Heath is a self-employed carpenter, landscaper, plumber, and carver, just to name a few.

He told Family & Religion that he hoped to share his testimony to save the youth but believed that the only way he could have an extensive reach was through music.

According to him: "I sing under the name Fire Heath, and I share my story through my songs because I can't get to see the youths one-on-one. I released an album called Born Again.

"I just want to let them know that prison is hell, and it only changes people for the worse. I've seen innocent men come in and leave as hardened criminals! Only God can change you for the best. He can remove the stony heart and replace it with a heart of flesh."

familyandreligion@gleanerjm.com