Friday, June 15, 2007

Rock Cliffe and Sellington Baptist Churches

Rock Cliffe Baptist Church

The main road ran through the property owned by Baptist Mid-Missions (BMM). There were 2 houses on the right side of the road and a third house on the left. Jim and Edna Green (Uncle Jim and Aunt Edna to me, as is common on the mission field) lived in one house, my parents lived in the second, and three missionary ladies (the Aunties – Kaye, Helen, and Muriel) lived in the third house. An old garage was torn down to make room for the first church building, and later a piece of land was given to the church by BMM, and a cement block building built.

From my dad's memoirs:
At Rock Cliffe, there was a large Sunday School, a preaching service, young peoples’ work, and prayer meeting. Attendance on Sundays averaged close to 150, and soon grew to around 250, as souls were saved.

I did not know anything about building with concrete blocks, but Bob Clubine, another missionary from Canada, taught me that skill. Most of the blocks we used were homemade, with some being 8 inches wide at one end and 7 at the other. We had no power tools, so used handsaws to cut wood for framing and roof materials.

I learned to sketch out a building, and draw my sketches to scale. As I traveled on the island, I would frequently stop to examine buildings under construction and take careful notes.

Some of the church buildings were my own design from foundation up and along with the church members who gave of their time freely, we labored through to completion of each building. Occasionally I would help with only 1 phase of the building, sometimes installing only the windows.

Jim Green began the building project at Rock Cliffe, and completed the foundation. I laid the blocks, built the columns, buttresses, and front porch, then Bob Clubine had the roof put on.

When my parents went to Jamaica in 1952 they had no children, so my siblings and I were all born during the years they were at Rock Cliffe. The property was 1700 feet above sea level, with a breathtaking view of the valley below and the mountains beyond. Even now when I stand outside my house, and hear the wind blowing through the trees, I am reminded of Rock Cliffe. We went to Canada on furlough during the year that I was in first grade, and shortly after returning to Jamaica moved from Rock Cliffe to Anchovy, a few miles outside of Montego Bay.

Sellington Baptist Church

I have 2 memories of the church my dad built in the community of Sellington. The first is that it was there that I was introduced to cashew fruit. I must have been 8 or 9 years old and did not know that the cashew nut is actually the seed of the fruit.

The second memory is of great significance and took place, to the best of my memory, the last time I attended that church. I was 11 or 12 and Evangelist Ed Morrell, who would become my father-in-law, was preaching there. He was one of my favorite preachers, and I was excited to ride to the church with him and my dad.

My dad asked him: “What are you preaching this evening.”

His answer surprised me!

He said, “I do not know.”

Some years later I learned that he always had 2 sermons with him and would wait to see how the Lord would lead before deciding which of them he would preach.

Ed and Esther Morrell first came to Jamaica in 1956, and on that visit stayed with my folks at Rock Cliffe.

L to R: the "Aunties" - Kaye, Helen, Muriel,
the Morrells and my big sisters - Margaret, Barbara (the baby)

Over the next 42 years they made 27 mission trips to Jamaica. On September 14th, 1998, both of them went home to be with the Lord, just 9 days after returning from Jamaica.

L to R back row: Tim (2nd), Lois (1st), Tom (3rd), David (4th)
L to R front row: Joy (5th), Grace (7th), Gloria (8th), Dan (6th)

After suffering a stroke in 1997, Mother’s greatest desire was to visit Jamaica one more time. Despite the protests of their children, Dad made arrangements for her care and they went to Jamaica to spend a few weeks and celebrate their 57th anniversary. As a surprise, Gloria and Tim flew down to spend the last 4 days with them. Mom and Dad left Jamaica on Saturday, Gloria and Tim the following Monday. Dad suffered a heart attack Monday night and on Friday of that week Mother collapsed and was admitted to the same hospital, in an ICU room next to Dad’s. Mother passed away early Monday morning and Dad joined her in Glory 14 hours later.

These 2 churches, rich in our family’s history, are both pastored by Sylvester Green. During the years we lived at Anchovy, Pastor Green was a student at Fairview Baptist Bible College. He along with Lloyd Davis, another Fairview student, stayed with us on weekends to assist my dad in the work at Hillview Baptist Church in Montego Bay.

Lloyd later emigrated to the US and while living in Florida founded Trinity Baptist Church, whose members are primarily Caribbean immigrants. Some years ago I had the honor of preaching at a memorial service for Lloyd, to mark the first anniversary of his death from cancer. It meant a great deal to me, when after the service Lloyd’s widow Yvonne, told me that he would have been proud of his “little boy Brian.”

On July 15th I will have the privilege of preaching at Rock Cliffe in the morning and Sellington in the evening. It is a special treat for me to preach in churches that my dad either pastored or built, and is a constant reminder of the heritage both Gloria and I have.


Da Preacha's Pickney said...

I'm so glad to finally know why you like cashews so much. I stood in my own wonderful church this morning wishing I was in church in Jamaica and asking God if it would ever happen and why He has me where I am right now when I long to be somewhere else. And maybe that is the way it will always be. We always long for where we are not, where we are supposed to be, where our hearts are, first heaven, and then an earthly home. Perhaps a good book would be a compilation of Grandpa's memoirs, your memories and those of your siblings, and the grandkids perspective on what we call "heritage".

Mike Mann said...

Hey J Brian,
I feel like I know you better now.
Mike Mann