The following is feedback from an online interview of Yvonne Coke, conducted by Esther Tyson. Coke has committed herself to a 60-day fast.
After witnessing a man being murdered in Spanish Town across the street from my job at Things Jamaican in the mid-'70s and hearing a murderer confess how sweet it felt to see the blood of a victim run down the street, it left me sick knowing that I lived in a country where human life had no value in the quest for political gain.
In 1980, I left Jamaica because I became very afraid for my family and myself when the murders escalated. I was haunted to return to Jamaica, and my family and I came back fully in 1987. By 1988, I again became aware of the bloodletting which had not abated.
We kept shaking off the violence as someone else's problem. Then it hit home, in September 2012, as Janice Smith, a member of my church, was killed - her throat slashed by home invaders.
My 60th birthday was coming up in January and I started thinking about how to celebrate it. In November, while in Pennsylvania to visit my eldest daughter, I learnt that one of our dearest employees at Hands Across Jamaica For Righteousness, Diann Beech, was missing. I began to scour the newspaper and saw the report about the body of a woman found in the Bog Walk gorge, wrapped in tarpaulin. The Lord said: "That's her." It did turn out to be her.
Diann Beech was a materially poor woman but a giant in prayer before God. A valuable asset to Hands who understood Jamaica's purpose and worked to teach children what it truly meant to be a Jamaican citizen 'under God'. She did not deserve to be raped, gagged, bound and strangled to death, as no one else deserves. But that was the violent way in which our country had chosen to repay her service to her fellow citizens.
It was then that the Lord said to me: "I want you to give me one day for each year of your life over the 60 years in a fast of silence to end the violence in your nation and you will see what I will do." Sixty days! I thought I must have been going crazy. Well, this was such a persistent request which came day after day and moment after moment that I felt that if there was even a possibility that a miracle could come of such a fast, I had nothing to lose, live or die.
Then He quoted from Revelation 12: "They overcame by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony and they loved not their lives unto the death." I agreed. He chose the place, the mode, the time and the base scripture of Isaiah 58 for the fast.
The Lord chose the monument to the murdered children on Church Street to be the place for the public expression of the fast. My experiences at the monument have ranged from deep sadness and pain to seeing redemption as people come to the monument with their pain and we are able to lead them to forgiveness and repentance before God.
One young man who confessed to being a gunman and a deportee gave his life to Christ as he was confronted by the evil of the life he was living compared to the life God intended for him as a Jamaican guided by the national pledge.
Another came with the burden of hopelessness because he lived amidst constant fighting and quarrelling and all of his relatives had done jail time or were incarcerated. He also turned over his life to God as he did not want to continue the generational trend. He is now happy, employed and supporting his child. He almost daily reports on his new success.
A father and mother told us of how the police had (in their words) "murdered" their son in cold blood as he cooked dumplings and they could get no justice. He walked around with the child's picture and documents as he watched his wife suffer cancer from the worry about her son's death. We prayed for him and gave him what words of comfort we could, but the wounds were deep, yet he encouraged us by telling us that the work of Hands in his community in 2008 had brought lasting peace.
Every day I see a willingness to take responsibility for our own part in reducing our nation to a murderous, lawless island when God has given us so much to inspire others. People are comforted by knowing of the sacrifice of the fast. The silence is crying aloud about the sins of the nation, as we have turned our backs on the keeping of our national pledge. They understand.
People come, and as we offer to pray for them, we explain the path to which our nation had committed itself in the motto, anthem and pledge and the way we have strayed from that path which has led us to destruction and poverty. They are humbled by that knowledge and indicate a willingness to change and to cease to blame others.
Father Sherlock said it best in what he said he heard God say in 1996 as I interviewed him for his biography: "I believe I can hear God, looking at this nation on the march and as Commander of this nation, issuing His commands. The first one clearly is 'Stop!' We must halt.
The second command is 'Right about-turn!' We must turn away from the road we are travelling.
And the third command is 'March!' March in a new direction, a direction of love and of concern for others, of peace and of brotherhood and of sisterhood - a call to us as a nation to realise that we have lost our providential way and we have no right to proceed on the road which we are travelling.
So I say from the bottom of my heart what God said, what God wants: "Stop! You are on the wrong road, right about-turn, and march. March away from the destination which will mean ruin and an abuse of Independence which will result in the destruction of our nation."
Esther Tyson is an educator. Email feedback to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.