Monday, October 20, 2008

Score One For Jesus !! - Tea Time Reading at The Blue House in Ocho Rios Jamaica

It's Tea Time at The Blue House in Ocho Rios Jamaica and I just read this news article in the Gleaner and was moved to share it :

In case the link isn't maintained, I've cut and pasted the story below.

Long read but really uplifting. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Standing in a narrow dirt lane bordered by rusting zinc fences, Norman Lewin doesn't seem to fit in. His shoes are black and shiny and his long-sleeved shirt looks like something you would wear to a wedding. But here in the politically segregated Spanish Town community called Rivoli, Lewin is a beloved figure. He is pastor of the local Kingdom Builders Open Bible Church and his unorthodox tactics have won him the hearts of the St Catherine community's residents, young and old.

I don't believe that you have to stay inside the confines of the church building in order to get people over to God. I believe in taking a more hands-on approach, he said, standing near the fence of a home next to the church.

Three years ago, crisis brewed in the community. Political tensions had reached never-before-seen levels and residents were being killed every day. Because of this, even ardent Christians were staying away from church.

Something had to be done. It could not continue this way. As a church, we could not just sit and watch this happening around us without trying to do something to help, said Lewin.

Football plan
So, the pastor devised a plan. He had to somehow win over the minds of the young males in Rivoli because they were the ones being killed and in most cases, were the ones doing the killing. His method of choice: football.

Football is very big in Rivoli and nearly all the young boys play the game at some level, he said.

Lewin said he got a vision from God while lying in bed one night and immediately summoned his congregation to church for an extraordinary meeting.

This was a stretch, because at nights people were scared even to leave their homes. They would have to come out risking being shot, because gunshots were being fired all around, he said.

At the meeting, the pastor told the congregation of his vision. The next day, he and a few members of the church went into the community.

We were going to tackle the problem head-on. We challenged the community to a football match. At first they laughed at us and thought we were just trying to be funny. But we were quite serious. We told them we wanted to take them on, anyone from the community, against men from the church, Lewin recounted.

Budding ballers
Like many inner-city communities, Rivoli is full of budding ballers and so the challenge seemed more like a joke, especially in light of the fact that most of the men in the church were well over 40, with expanding waistlines.

The catch was that if we won, they would all have to come to church for a month. They laughed at us and asked what would happen if we lost. I told them that they would only have to come to church for a week, Lewin joked.

The community members, at first not sure what to make of the pastors challenge, decided to go along with it, if for sheer entertainment value alone.

On the day of the match, when the church members arrived at the football field in the community, they were surprised by what they saw.

There were hundreds of people there. People from all over Spanish Town turned up. Apparently word had spread and the whole community turned up to, I guess, laugh at our defeat, said Lewin.

On one side of the field was an impressive team made up of members of Rivoli United, the community's National Premier League team and other fit and ready-to-go young men all decked out in spikes and branded jerseys. One the other side were the middle-age men of the church dressed in whatever they could find. One portly deacon was dressed in pink tights, making him the target of several jokes from spectators.

Soon, the whistle was blown and the game got off to a start.

Everyone was busy staring and laughing at the deacon in pink tights, so they were off-guard and so we managed to score first! Lewin said, with eyes wide.

This created some amount of excitement among the crowd and perhaps dampened the spirits of the other teams players. Before long though, they equalised, but soon, the team from the church was at it again.

We scored another one and the place went wild. Our choir got behind our goal post and started chanting Jesus! Jesus! They would do this every time the opposing team came close. Before long, the entire crowd was chanting the name of Jesus, Lewin said.

At the final whistle, the crowd was left dumbfounded. The ageing group of churchgoers had managed to pull off a 4-3 win over the team from the community.

They couldnt believe it, but we knew we had God on our side.

Shared food and drinks
Lewin said that after the match, the church members shared food and drinks with the spectators and members of the opposing team.

We told them that we were going to hold them all to the terms of our agreement and that we expected to see them in church for a month. We were somewhat surprised by this, but they all honoured their promise and since then, our membership has jumped from 30 to nearly 300. Most of the people who started attending services because of the events of that day have stayed on. The one month came and went and the residents kept coming. It is truly exceptional, Lewin said proudly.

According to him, among the group of new church members are former drug dealers, gang members and murderers.

God doesnt discriminate. We are just thankful that these people all decided to turn their lives around and they have become active Christians who travel across the country preaching the word of God.

Since that fateful football match, the police in Spanish Town have confirmed that crime in Rivoli has decreased significantly.


God's Girl said...

May the Lord continue to work in you and through you in mighty ways!

Bless you!!! : )

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