Pastor's Desk - Coming Out of the Dark

Aug 06, 2023

As a child, I remember a particular trip with my family to Ocho Rios, Saint Ann. As we travelled through Fern Gully, and at the urging of my younger brother, my father agreed to turn off the car headlights briefly to show us how dark the area really was. Even though it was only for a few seconds, I can remember that my brothers and sister were terrified. To this day, I think that was the darkest environment that I have ever been in. The thick canopy of the rainforest completely blocked the night sky and stars, and there were no other vehicles either oncoming or behind us. As much as we scanned the area for something that we could identify, in that moment, all we could see was “pitch black”.

Darkness can be defined as the condition of an absence of light. One could argue that darkness is the exact opposite of light. These days, it is difficult to be in an environment that is completely dark. Either ambient light or the light from our technological devices provides a security blanket if it gets too dark for us. In the darkness, our eyes are automatically drawn to the slightest sliver of light that we can find around us. We look for the light so that we can see things as they really are. That was what my brothers and sister were looking for in that moment in Fern Gully – anything that we could hold on to so we could see where we were going.

The “Light of the World” is how Jesus describes himself to us. In John 8:12 Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” This is an amazing reassurance that even though the conditions might be treacherous, uncertain, and we are unable see the dangers ahead of us, if we only follow the Light, we will never walk in darkness.

We live in challenging times. Just a few days ago, the nation was again plunged into mourning on the news of a double murder and shooting in Burgher Gully, Kingston East involving an eight-year-old boy, DJ Dawes. Of course, this is just a few short weeks after the brutal abduction and murder of eight-year-old Danielle Rowe in Braeton, St Catherine. My heart is still broken from Ananda Dean’s murder, in 2008, as well as the three children from Kilancholly, St Mary in 2009. And lest we forget little four-year-old Natasha Brown of Duanvale, Trelawny, who was abducted while on her way to school and beheaded by her father’s ex-girlfriend in 2013. I could go on and on and on.

As an eternal advocate for children, I am so tired of these reports. Having spent so much time with the youth in the Children’s Choir and Homework Centre, I often question why someone would want to hurt them – to take away their innocence. How damaged must you be that you would seek to crush their spirits in these savage ways. I think that as a nation, we have become numb to every
report of the frequent assaults on our women, children, the elderly and against our general humanity. It is like a thick cloud of darkness has descended on Jamaica, land we love. It used to be the case that we took care of each other, but this no longer seems to be the case.

This is not a phenomenon that is unique to Jamaica. According to the Pan American Health Organization/ World Health Organization (PAHO/ WHO), globally, 1 in 2 children aged 2-17 years suffer some form of violence each year. A global review by PAHO/WHO revealed that an estimated 58% of children in Latin America and 61% in North America experienced physical, sexual and/or emotional abuse in the past year. In Jamaica, the Child Protection Family Services Agency received 9,800 cases of abuse against children in 2020, with sexual abuse accounting for 20 percent of the victims. These are devastatingly serious statistics, for which we all must bear some responsibility.

As Christians, we cannot ever allow these incidents to become normalized. No, we cannot get accustomed to the darkness, for we were not meant to live in darkness. The darkness provides a cover for those who would seek to do sinful activities. John 3: 19-21 says “people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will
not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” Though darkness provides a cover, sunlight is a powerful disinfectant. This is why we are shocked whenever criminal activity is perpetrated in “broad daylight”.

We do not have the luxury of turning a blind eye to these horrors. We must take the light into the darkness, expose sin, help those who have been affected and transform the lives of the sinners. it is OUR job; we are the light of the World (Matthew 5:14). It was the Reverend Dr Martin Luther King who said that darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot 
drive out hate; only love can do that.

This year, as we commemorate the 61 st year of our independence under the theme: ‘Jamaica 61… Proud and Strong’, let us remember that righteousness exalts a nation but sin is a reproach to all people. Ask yourself the question: are we yet out of the darkness of colonialism and pre-independence? If not, how can we change this part of the darkness of our past and present? We
can emerge from the darkness “proud and strong” with God, if only we shine the Light. In your own way, in your small corner, YOU can make a difference. Just remember the words of the old Sunday School song “Jesus bids us shine”:

Jesus bids us shine, with a clear, pure light,
Like a little candle burning in the night;
In this world of darkness, so we must shine,
You in your small corner, and I in mine.