Rev Carla Dunbar: Uses GYMM platform to assist couples, children
The prayers of several families have been answered through the Carla Dunbar Ministries, led by Reverend Dr Carla Dunbar, who has been offering marriage and family counselling for more than a decade – some of which she does on a pro bono basis. Why does she do it?
“If the marriages are okay, the families are okay,” Dunbar told The Gleaner, noting that marriage is never easy, so even the best marriages are tested. For this reason, the minister of religion, marriage officer, family and sex counselling therapist, personal development coach and author, has launched a parachurch ministry for couples.
She said, “I have always been focusing on marriages and families as a counsellor, but I have chosen to go into a specialised area that concentrates on supporting and the restoration of marriages.”
Dunbar, who has been married for over 25 years to her husband, has influenced couples from various parts of the island and, more recently, across the world via digital platforms with her teachings.
Her latest project, Grow Your Marriage Ministries (GYMM), is a rebrand of the Faithfully Advancing Marriages Integrating Lives Encouraging Service (FAMILIES) programme and was officially launched in October 2020.
The pastor and counsellor recognised that marriage in present-day societies has fallen on hard times, with many couples viewing marriage as a contract rather than a covenant. People continue to enter marriage without the knowledge, leading them to divorce court, she said.
“As a marriage officer, I started to do marriage evangelism with couples who were giving their lives to God, and it also involved me providing whatever these persons needed to get married. For some, I have gone and solicited the ring from local jewellers or helped to purchase rings and then perform the marriage for them,” she shared. Last year alone, Dunbar performed seven marriages that she funded.
“I have invited different couples, as well as single persons residing in different places to my home over the years on a Sunday evening - a difficult decision at first - with the blessing of my husband and family. I sit with them, pour wisdom from myself about anything marriage related or answer questions they may present,” Dunbar said. “Now, it has become more structured with GYMM, which is a word workout which I provide free of cost every other Sunday. Of course, with the current crisis, it has scaled down, and persons have to book a space to participate. For the GYMM Academy, it is offered at a cost online, and we have students, couples and singles, locally and internationally taking part in courses as long as eight weeks, teaching on self-acceptance and how to transition from dating and courtship to marriage and other related topics.”
The Smith family from Portland, where Dunbar was raised for part of her childhood, has benefited from participating in the ministry and counselling sessions and has recently received a life-changing gift from the Carla Dunbar Ministries. Their daughter Dominique was diagnosed with osteogenesis imperfecta or brittle bones from birth, and is unable to walk.
“Reverend Dunbar got us married 12 years ago,” said Peter Smith. “So, she has known Dominique from before she was born; we have four children, the eldest is 20, the others are 17, 14, 10 and seven years old, she being the youngest.”
At the GYMM fellowship on the third Sunday of February, Dominique was gifted with a motorised wheelchair procured through the ministry’s Love Gives Charity showcase held on Valentine’s Day.
“She’s so competent with it, even though she has just received it,” said the overjoyed father.
Her mother, Jacqueline Rodney-White, added, “Dominique is a brilliant child and loves to engage in conversation about things she researches online. She writes well and has great memory. She is coming along well, and we know there will still be a lot of challenges because of her condition, where she needs a lot of calcium, but Reverend Dunbar has counselled us, and it is about teamwork. We’re very grateful for all she has given us.”
Through the Carla Dunbar Ministries and GYMM fellowship, sponsors such as VM Foundation, Sagicor Life Jamaica also assisted with acquiring the chair and made special donations.
“Through Dr Dunbar and the Carla Dunbar Ministries, certainly the programme is wide-reaching, and it’s a gift that keeps on giving - it doesn’t just start today and stop tomorrow. That is why I chose to partner with the School Companion plan through my company, Sagicor Life,” said George Adlam, employee benefits advisor.
“We have observed that parents feel as though they can’t afford health insurance, and the information we have been putting out since 2019 is that it is affordable, but you have to decide the sacrifices you want to make. In Dominique’s case, the plan we have given her offers up to $1.5 million health care per year and rolls over every September until she reaches age 21.”
To join or learn more about the Carla Dunbar Ministries and GYMM, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (876) 782-7646 and (876) 946-9981 ext. 2231.
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