Thursday, April 18, 2024

Young pastor’s journey to the pulpit

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HIS DREAM WAS was to be a politician. He wanted to change lives and give back to society.

Jamal Kareem Medas admired the authority and respect that political office carried.

He wanted his voice to reach and touch those who needed help.

He believed it was the natural path for him to take given his experience as president of the Debating Society at St Leonard’s Boys’ School.

He has now fulfilled that dream. Not as a politician but as a pastor.

God had a different path for Jamal – one that was only unveiled to him quite recently.

Last Sunday, 23-year-old Jamal was installed as the newest and youngest pastor at People’s Cathedral.

He is also now one of the youngest to serve in the Pentecostal Assembly of the West Indies.

Jamal always had a strong desire to give back to the country and as a teen, he believed the only way to achieve that, was to become a politician.

But that was not the calling.

Over the years, Jamal battled with that call, backslid, but was soon back on track, well on his way to the pulpit.

He charted his young but fulfilling journey thus far, during an interview with the SUNDAY SUN last Thursday afternoon at People’s Cathedral.

Jamal left St Leonard’s Boys’ at 16 years old. He was head boy there, as well as president of the Debating Society.

When he left school, he wasn’t as successful as he had thought he would have been.

He didn’t get into any of the law schools he had applied to, he wasn’t accepted into the Barbados Community College, nor was he accepted by the universities he applied to overseas.

“All those doors closed up for me,” he said, recalling the frustrating period.

He worked for a year while enduring questions from his friends who were asking: “Jamal what are you doing with your life.”

“I got frustrated around that time. Within that year my mother looked at me and said she believed God is calling you to go to Bible school. I said ‘Bible school at 16? That can’t put food on the table. That is not going to work’,” he said. 

Jamal struggled with the decision to enrol in the Bible School of Theology at 17, even though he had given his life to God at 11.

“When I started at Bible school I was the youngest in my class. Persons were like three times older than me and that was a bit discouraging because everyone was like my father, grandfather and grandmother’s age. And I am here in the institute and I am like ‘Lord why am I here’ at 17 years of age and in Bible School?”

He completed Bible school in three years and graduated at 20 with a diploma in theology.

He said it was during his last year that he received many prophesies from pastors who were saying: “Jamal, God is calling you to be a minister, to be a preacher to go and share the ministry.”

Jamal preached his first sermon at 17, while he was in his first year of Bible school. Two or three persons came to Christ.

He has been preaching the gospel since then.

Before all that though, Jamal, who was born in Guyana, but lived in Barbados from age five, backslid and “went back into the world”. He was 16.

“I didn’t feel like going to church. My mum would pray for me but I just got tired of the things of God. I had my ears pierced, I had on big chains, had on hoodies. I was going out with my friends,” he remembered.

He also clearly recalled the night he was at a school party and heard the voice of God saying to him, “Son why are you here?”

Jamal laughed as he recounted how he had looked around only to find no one around.

Unbeknownst to Jamal, his mother Mitchin was secretly praying for her son and anointing him with oil.

“One night I suspected something because I was waking up and my forehead would be greasy. One night I came home and pretended I was sleeping  then I heard my door opened – the lights were off, my eyes were open and I felt something on my forehead. That’s when I realised that for weeks and months my mom would come in every night and anoint me when I was in my backsliding state and pray that her son would return to God,” he said.

Mom’s prayers were answered because one Sunday morning, Jamal recalled that he just woke up, took off the earrings, got rid of the clothes and gave away the chains. 

“The prayers of my mother and the anointing of oil is what really brought me back to the place of God. Since then I never went back.”

He vividly remembered getting up that morning, dressing and going in search of a church in the St Philip district where he had recently moved.

Jamal soon returned to People’s Cathedral where he worshipped when he lived in St Michael.

He was now sure of his journey.

So sure that he did two internships – one at the Kingdom Life Assembly in Silver Sands for a year, then the other at Calvary Temple in St Philip, where he also spent a year.

After that, he went on to pursue his bachelor’s of theology.

He completed the two-year programme online through the Bethel Life International School of Biblical Studies in Quebec, Canada. He also got the opportunity to preach there for two weeks at the invitation of the bishop.

Jamal is now studying for his master’s degree at the same institution.

He admitted though that the journey has not been smooth and was fraught with some challenges, particularly as a young man.

“I know God was calling me to be a preacher and a minister but at my age I was still a young man, a handsome young man, so the temptation was still there. The young ladies would still come on and off sometimes.

“I would say, ‘Lord how is it that you are calling me to be a minister at this young age?’ Having these features and being made in your image is challenging to live a righteous life and be pure and to practice what I am preaching. So day by day, I would pray unto God and say, ‘Father I did not call myself and you called me. And if you call me I believe you are able to keep me’. He is able to keep me and he has kept me until now, pure, up to this day and I am waiting until marriage to engage in those activities and be an example to the young people of Barbados,” he explained.

As difficult as it is, Jamal remains focused.

He said although some in society sometimes say abstaining is impossible, he said it definitely was possible.

“Yes there are temptations but you don’t always have to give into them,” he added.

“There are many young men who are looking up to me. I cannot play with my life. There are a lot of young persons out there and if I cause them to stumble I have to answer to God,” he said, sternly.

Jamal, who has older twin sisters Tricia and Tristta Johnson, said he was standing on his mother’s prayers.

“I am sleeping and my mother is praying. She has a gift of discernment. She can sense what is happening in my life. She keeps me in alignment. She is like the Moses in my life,” he said, noting with pride that his mother had also just graduated from the West Indies School of Theology with her diploma and was now pursuing her bachelor’s degree at the same school her son attained his.

Jamal, who also enjoys a close relationship with his father Lawrence Medas who lives in the United States, said now that he is pastor, he will be going into schools, prison, and also participating in more crusades.

The young pastor said he will also be ministering at other churches. To date, he has already preached at 27 churches.

Jamal admits that he still gets a little nervous as he approaches the pulpit to preach.

He also puts a lot into preparing for his sermons.

When he gets that call to preach, he doesn’t respond immediately.

“I spend time in prayer. I ask ‘Lord, should I go and minister at this church or should I not go?’ When I get the go-ahead, I pray and ask God what is the spiritual setting. What is happening in that church? When I spend time in prayer I would get a topic and many of the times when God gives me a word and I prepare it I spend time in worship. I have worship music on. The points will just come and I write,” he said, adding that his sermons usually take days to prepare.

Jamal, who worked previously as a passenger agent at the Grantley Adams International Airport, said while he would love to get back into playing football, a sport he enjoyed while at school, it was difficult to carve out the time.

He also has hopes of getting married at a young age, but believes that when the time is right, “the Lord will send that young lady”.

In the meantime, while he is busy at church five days a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays, his off days, Jamal is busy helping in his mother’s family business Simmons Gourmet Products.

He also has big dreams of expanding that business.

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