Journey to Jamaica Underway
MIWC Developing Several Projects
New partnerships explored with seminary, local church and youth orchestra
Growing up in a poor family in Jamaica, concert pianist Huntley Brown did not have much materially. But what his family did have, he said, was "our faith in Jesus, and that sustained us."
In 2013, Brown raised funds for the Jamaica Theological Seminary's (JTS) brand new Music & Media Department, introducing him to the school's vision and planting the seeds for an initiative for music and worship for the people of Jamaica.
A year later, Brown and MIWC President Steve Benham met as they worked together in Georgia. Learning that MIWC's goal is to raise up nationals to lead quality and biblically sound worship, Brown introduced the idea of MIWC pursuing a project in Jamaica.
"The first time I met Steve was at the Franklin Graham Festival in Tbilisi, Georgia," said Brown, "and I was blessed and impressed by his leadership ability. In the journey of life, you can't really tell who a person is until they get tested. Steve was tested in Tbilisi. ... I was very impressed and knew he was a born leader. I also got a chance to spend quality time with Steve and Kris [Benham], hearing their heart for ministry. Right then, I knew God had put the same burden on our hearts, and knew they would be perfect for Jamaica."
At Brown's invitation, Benham traveled to Jamaica in May and investigated three areas where MIWC will focus its efforts:
- Helping develop Jamaica Theological Seminary's new Music & Media Department
- Organizing Summer 2016 youth music camps with the National Youth Orchestra of Jamaica
- Assisting the First Missionary Church of Kingston in its project to turn a downtown building into a youth outreach center
Benham sat down with seminary, orchestra and church leadership and began exploring ways MIWC could impact new music students at the seminary, children in rural areas and the youth in Kingston's poor neighborhoods.
Amazed at the stark contrast between the tourist-rich area of Jamaica and the poverty that lays beyond the tourists' eyes, Benham got a sense of the culture as he visited and toured communities. Welcomed with great hospitality and openness even as an outsider, Benham learned that Jamaica has more churches per capita than any other country in the world.
Still, he said, people there, like everywhere, are desperate for Jesus. Jamaican Christians often encounter non-believers who have taken the practice of Rastafari and added in some of the Gospel teachings. The muddled belief system that results can be a challenge to sort through to identify the truth of Christ.
The official language of Jamaica may be English; however, for many Jamaicans, their first language is Patwa, an English-based Creole. Despite the size of the Patwa-speaking population, most church songs and Bibles are written in English. The island's music has seen a very heavy influence from Western pop and contemporary Christian artists, but local people have a strong desire to create music that relates to Jamaican culture. The need is great for a church music program in both a language people can understand and in a musical style people can relate to on a heart level.
"There are thousands of churches across the island," said Jo-Ann Richards, Head of the Department of Music & Media at JTS, "but most of them do not have the benefit of a musician, let alone one that has been trained."
While the Jamaican music scene is built around reggae, Richards said, "It may surprise visitors that most churches do not utilize this indigenous music form that is the heart and soul of the people."
Much like the recent MIWC project in Brazil, MIWC envisions equipping Jamaicans with the tools and resources necessary to create biblically-sound worship music in their own language and music system.
Benham said, "We believe God is calling us to help transform Jamaica for Christ."
Jamaicans hold an incredible sense of national pride, Benham said, and evangelicals there believe they are called by God to bless the world.
That belief is echoed in the national pledge of allegiance, which reads, "Before God and all mankind, I pledge the love and loyalty of my heart, the wisdom and courage of my mind, the strength and vigour of my body in the service of my fellow citizens; I promise to stand up for Justice, Brotherhood and Peace, to work diligently and creatively, to think generously and honestly, so that Jamaica may, under God, increase in beauty, fellowship and prosperity, and play her part in advancing the welfare of the whole human race."
"There are many kids in Jamaica like me," said Brown, "just waiting for a teacher like a Steve Benham. With the right training, they could change the world."
As MIWC begins its Jamaica endeavor, we ask supporters to consider a role in the following areas:
- Equipment donations, piano instructor and financial support for the Jamaica Theological Seminary (See Wish List of needs below)
- Volunteers to travel to Jamaica in Summer 2016 to participate in youth music camps
- Both physical labor and financial partners to help the First Missionary Church of Kingston build a community center in the inner city (pictured below)
If you are interested in contributing to any of the above ministry opportunities, please contact MIWC.
MUSIC & MEDIA DEPARTMENT WISHLIST
- 5 Adobe Suite
- 5 Desktop MAC computers loaded with Musition, Aurelia, Sibelius/Finale, Reason
- 5 M audio midi interface keyboards
- 1 camcorder
- 3 Yamaha DGX-230 portable keyboard with stands and sustain pedals
- Electric guitar
- Bass guitar
- Mixing board for chapel
- Soundproof rehearsal/recording studio
- Adjustable piano stool
- Drum practice pads
- Djembe drum
- Congo drum
- 2 Rhythm & Pitch: An Integrated Approach to Sight Singing by John Stevenson
- 2 The World of Music by David Willoughby
- Guitar amplifier (EM275)
- 15-inch Samson speaker box