My brother and church pastor, Dr. Michael Harvey, has never been shy about telling his Northern Caribbean University Seventh-day Adventist Church congregation that he came up—from the cane fields of Westmoreland, in deep rural Jamaica—the hard way. He learned to read, he frequently tells us—he was all of nineteen years old!—when he was saved from waywardness and eternal damnation, and baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Harsh fact is, the only credible institution in Jamaica that would accept him into normal high school, as he entered his twenties, was the Adventist-owned then West Indies College (now Northern Caribbean University), with its generations-long tradition of making “somebodies” out of “nobodies,” to coin a phrase from the 1970s’ lexicon of civil rights leader the Rev Jesse Jackson. West Indies College admission officers asked of Harvey—not for his money, prep school grades or his pedigree, none of which he had—only that “You prove yourself, son.”
And prove himself, by hard manual labour (in one of the school’s at that time many industries) and the oft-frustrating challenges of classroom and book learning, this hardscrabble, black son of the tough Jamaican soil did!
That he’d one day go on to earn a doctorate at, and lead the flock of, the institution that had inspired and nurtured him, whose teachers years ago told him that he was indeed somebody, is a modern-day, up-from-the dust, Booker T. Washington narrative; an epic Jamaican story of overcoming—through struggle, triumph and redemption—the plantation.
I know from having listened attentively to his musings that Pastor Harvey borrowed a page or two from another against-all-odds, determined, up-from-rural-poverty Jamaican stalwart and political icon: People’s National Party (PNP) president and incumbent prime minister, Portia Simpson-Miller.
Enthusiastic acclamation for their shared grittiness and refusal to be anything but extraordinary propelled the Adventist pastor into un-restrained exuberance—highlighted by his “Rise up and be counted, comrades!” exhortation—on the high-octane PNP campaign stage the Sunday night (Church meeting time) of January 31. The event, packed with charged partisan speeches, saw a fired-up Simpson-Miller declare February 25th the date for the country’s forthcoming general election, around which political campaign meetings are shaping up to be decidedly volatile.
The national Seventh-day Adventist Church’s organizational and administrative heads have in the aftermath of Harvey’s interposition wisely insisted that he take some time out for deep thought, reflection and prayer—perhaps to check himself to see whether being an Adventist minister of the gospel, and not a stump politician, is a calling he still senses.
His actions, however, (unlike the shady—if not criminally fraudulent—business dealings, plotted and executed by his Church’s elite United States counterparts)1 have not in any way harmed, damaged or even embarrassed the denomination, only Harvey himself.
In the spirit of the Master Healer, after his period of atonement and lonely sojourn in the prophetic wilderness, I’d like to see our village son forgiven, healed and returned to the pulpit—if truly in his heart and soul that’s what he desires. Our son Michael must be restored.
- See Douglas Hackleman, Who Watches? Who Cares? Misadventures in Stewardship, Morrison, Colorado: Members for Church Accountability, Inc., 2008
Bernard Headley is an educator (a retired University of the West Indies professor) and a board officer of the Northern Caribbean University Seventh-day Adventist Church in Mandeville, Jamaica
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