Cooleys to Jamaica

Cooleys to Jamaica

Dear Ministry Partners,

Thank you so much for your faithfulness during, what we know, is still a very challenging time for every true believer. We know it’s not unprecedented in history, but the economic and moral chaos we’re facing in 2022 is certainly unique in our time.

Murders in Jamaica are at a record high over the last several months, and we have had to make detours to get to our ministry destination to avoid gang wars several times. There was a time when that kind of crime was limited to certain areas, but there is, literally, no real safe zone on the island at present. That said, Christ’s work must go on until He catches us up to be with Him. “Lord, come quickly!”

Tammy and I are now officially, and a little overwhelmingly, in transition from Ocho Rios to Mandeville. After having driven between the two a couple of Sundays, we very quickly discovered, a little to our surprise we must admit, that we are not what we were even 10 years ago. We do not have the stamina, or the funding, to do both works, so we have decided to move to Mandeville to help the small group, which has kept the doors of Grace Baptist Church open without a pastor for more than 5 years now, rebuild believing that our ministering in that context will give us a better opportunity to reach and recruit men to train for future pastoral ministry.

Since we made the decision official, and the church made their will to have us there official, two weeks ago, we have found ourselves under a landslide of the kinds of issues created by an absence of pastoral leadership. Many of the men who have filled the pulpit for the church and, therefore, developed relationships with the people, have been far from genuinely qualified to do so and ill-motivated. We will, no doubt, therefore, find much has been taught over the last 5 years that will need to be untaught.

Jamaican pastors who have, at one time or another, received help from the church have learned that we will now be there so have automatically assumed that they now have a source to turn to for financial aid and have been “blowing up” my phone and informing me that we need “to partner together”. We’re not going to be that, and couldn’t be if we wanted to. Given the cost of living, we are barely able to meet living expenses ourselves, and the church property is in such disrepair that a significant investment is going to need to be made just to make parts of the building and property safe again.

But as challenging as we know fixing what has deteriorated is going to be, those things do not even represent the greatest challenge we have learned we’re facing. When the church officially agreed that they wanted us there a dear little old British-Jamaican lady stood and made known that our coming to help them was an answer to more than 5 years of prayer.

They had had a Jamaican pastor for a short time after the missionary-founder of the church, Bill Amberg, had left the field, and it was not, apparently, a good experience. So, the little lady said what, it seems, the whole church was thinking. They don’t want a Jamaican pastor!

Recruiting, training, and installing a Jamaican pastor in churches where Jamaican men are no longer trusted because of past experience is going to be an enormous challenge. We were glad, though shocked, to learn that,

of course, because we can at least move forward understanding why there are so few Jamaican churches with qualified leadership and such a strong desire to have foreign leadership.

We did inform the congregation of 8-10 people, during our very first visit, that we were only coming to help them get back to a place of stability, effectiveness, total autonomy, and to train men for ministry, which they responded to, at least on the surface, enthusiastically, but the reality is that they want a missionary-leader.

To be quite honest, this new understanding of how the Jamaicans view the leadership of their churches is forcing us to alter our anticipated timeline for planting churches, leaving them in the hands of trained pastors, and then moving on to start again, and to rethink exactly how it is we’re going to accomplish that.

It’s always easy for the uninformed foreigner to cast blame on those who are actually doing the work for what has gone wrong, but we have no interest in doing so. We understand, from our own experience, that depraved man’s resistance to truth makes church-planting a far more sophisticated endeavor than is apparent to the outside observer. Sometimes issues arise, not because a leader couldn’t figure things out, but simply because sin is a living reality that is constantly, and dynamically, attempting to undermine Christ’s redemptive work!

Your prayers for wisdom, patience, and stamina as we work toward changing, and pray for the Lord to change, the culture of the local church, will be a necessity. We know biblical principle, and have more than 25 years of church-planting experience, but now, understanding the challenge here in Jamaica as we do, we are, in a very real way, back “in school”. We’re not looking for advice, but the Lord’s very evidently changing hearts through the teaching of His Word!

So, please pray…

  • That God will give us the wisdom to work our way through the new problems we discover each day without compromising our biblical long-term objectives.
  • That God will give us the stamina, both physically and mentally, to endure the disappointments and opposition we are certainly going to be confronted with.
  • That God will open doors for personal evangelism and give us new converts we can train to think like biblical disciples from the very beginning of their Christian lives.
  • That God will give us converts who will prove to be biblically qualified for leadership.

Please forgive me for having composed a short-story rather than just a schematic report, but we really need your prayer support. In closing, let me say emphatically that those organizations, religious and secular, who have determined that Jamaica no longer needs evangelizing and church-planting because it is “reached” are either completely ignorant of reality or have defined “reached” from some source other than the Bible.

Jamaica desperately needs the Gospel and committed people who will live and preach it! Thank you again for your faithfulness.

John & Tammy Cooley, Jamaica

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