His Excellency Brigadier David Granger: Thank you please be seated, Thank you for the warm introduction, of course it is not my first visit to Central; I believe I have been getting a reputation because since I have been here, I think two weeks ago I was at AME around the corner and then I got another invitation by the Roman Catholics so I have been making the rounds, I think people mistake me for a pastor.
Pastor Richard James, President of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, Pastor McAl, Elder Michael Kendal, Directors- Dr. Preston Patterson, Pastors and members of the church, Members of the media, Fellow Guyanese. You have heard about the history from Sister Gem Rohler but permit me today to vary from her presentation and I would like to start with tomorrow. Not the past, the future.
Tomorrow as you know is the 20th of March and as you know the 20th of March is Happiness Day. Happiness day is a day proclaimed by the United Nations, some of you may not know that, but it is United Nations International Day of Happiness and I decided to make that the theme of my presentation, although I know there are other themes for the hundred and thirtieth anniversary but you will discover that I will pay due recognition to several other things taking place in this important year. But Happiness Day worldwide recognizes the importance of happiness in human life, it recognizes the universal relevance of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals which seek to eliminate poverty, to reduce inequality and to protect the environment and these three themes are so very important to the Seventh-Day Adventist doctrine and mission in this country. So I believe that tomorrow you will be able as true Christians to recognise that it is happiness day as well.
Happiness comes from happy communities and happy communities, in turn, are based on happy households and happy household contains happy families. The family is essential to the proper development of children and those of you who have ever held a newborn baby in your arms would know how helpless that child is without the arms of a mother or father, that child is completely dependent on his or her parents- that child is completely helpless without the human family.
So we need happy families if children are to be adequately nurtured and prepared for adulthood. Fatherhood and Motherhood play an important complementary role in what I call ‘family hood’. Fathers are the providers and enforcers of the rules in the home and mothers provide the affection, the love and the compassion. Children grow up best in homes in which you have both fathers and mothers because fathers play a role and mothers also play a role and I believe that the home; the family is the foundation of the happy nation, happy community, happy region.
The family is the cradle of life; the citadel of safety, the classroom of culture, of loving, of sharing, of forgiving and the church is essential to building social cohesion and improving family hood and it can do so I remember when I spoke some time ago to the men’s conference at Sophia by reinforcing two important values the first is respect for the equality of women and as you heard a little while ago, it took a little while for people to get accustomed to the fact that women are equal to men- it took fifty years in Guyana for the first woman Senior Counsel to be appointed in 2017; fifty years.
Last year when the Golden Arrow of Achievement was awarded exactly fifty percent of the awardees were women. People didn’t realise that, but this President believes equality means equality and if you are going to have fifty men then you need to have fifty women.
So the first rule is for us to respect the equality of women. Women must be respected and loved and that respect belongs and begins in the home. Good families flourish where children are brought up in homes in which fathers respect mothers; in which brothers respect sisters and you take that respect into the schools and into their relationships with the other sex when it is time to get married but that respect has to start in the home. They must see daddy respecting mommy- not beating mommy.
The Second element is the sense of responsibility. Men must be conscious of the consequences of their conduct. I remember when I spoke at Sophia I spoke of something, I learnt in the army when I was training called ‘fire and forget’ we had a sort of antique tank weapon which once you fire it you just throw it away and you got on and when I went to Baracara somebody told me, I remember well, about fire and forget. So I wouldn’t use that comparison this time, I will use the comparison of traffic ‘hit and run’.
You know some men hit and run. They hit, but they don’t stay to look after the children, which come from that hit. They don’t try to form households and homes. They don’t provide for the education, the upbringing of their children after that hit and run accident. They just leave the mothers and the aunts and the grandmothers. What I’m saying here is that men must accept the consequences of their conduct and if you get a child, pregnant if you get a woman pregnant you have to bring up that child.
You have to ensure that that child is educated; that child has a decent home has clothes to wear, goes to school and gets a good job. So no hit and run anymore, let us have a sense of responsibility in our country in our families in our homes in our regions. The church too has a role to play in making sure or in helping young people to make intelligent choices; sometimes you go out to a party and you make a hasty choice, then you choose in a hurry and you regret it at leisure; you know you make a hasty decision and spend your lifetime regretting it.
But sometimes if the church or if parents and elders guide young people in making their choices they can have long happy fulfilling marriages. They don’t have to regret their choices they just have to be careful when they make those choices. So the church has a role to play in building a happy nation by instilling those values, values which were instilled by God at the time of creation he made man and woman.
The holy family was established by God and all civilization, every part of the world you go; every part of the world you go the foundation is the family. You go into the jungle, you go into the arctic, you go into the desert you go into the big cities, you go into rural areas you will always find the family.
So when we see men undermining the family, they undermine the very values of human civilization- they undermine the kingdom of God. I like to quote the words of an Anglican Dean, Dean Inga and those of you who wish can Google Dean Inga, the Dean of the Anglican church, but many years ago, he wrote and you would have heard it before I’m sure, “the proper time to influence the character of a child is about a hundred years before he is born.”
So sometimes you see a child misbehaving at school or in the street or when you go home you see how the mother and father behaving you say, ‘ah now I understand why the child is behaving like that’; the child is behaving like the mother and the father so if we really want to produce a generation of good children, we have to start like a hundred years ago.
So for us, we now have to ensure that the values we inculcate in our children are such that they themselves could pass those values on to their children for generations to come and correct the damage which has been done before. A child’s education is rooted in those values by his or her parents and grandparents in Guyana and in many places in the Caribbean we have suffered because of the plantation experience; particularly the Africans. I don’t want to speak about other ethnic groups.
I may not be qualified to speak about them, but I can certainly say that among the enslaved Africans, marriage was prohibited not ignored, it was forbidden and a man’s wife could be taken away and sent to another plantation and children could be taken away and sent to another plantation and that is why after 1838 families which had been split up actually tried to come together again.
There are stories of men who started walking from Essequibo from Wakenaam to go back to the east coast where they left their women and their children to try to bring their family together again and I have told this congregation before- the villages which were established from 1839 were built on four pillars.
• The first and most important was the home
• The second pillar was the church
• The third pillar was the school
• And the fourth pillar was the farm
And those villages were built on four pillars like a house standing on four pillars and if you kick down the pillars house will collapse, kick down the church, kick down the school, kick down the farm or the workplace; kick down the home, the house will collapse. So when you see evidence of collapse look to see what happened in the home. Ask the children when last they went to school or went to church and you will understand why collapse occurred.
Like the pastor before me, I turn to the Holy Bible and like him, I turned to Timothy. I don’t know why Timothy is so attractive but Timothy equates the father who does not take care of his children to being an unbeliever and let me quote Timothy because I know y’all will go and check it up- 1 Timothy 5:8. Everybody got a computer now, before I finish speaking y’all will go and see. If I have a comma out of place, somebody is going to tell me. What is written in Timothy, I quote “….If any provide not for his own, especially for those of his own house he hath denied his faith and is worse than an infidel.”
Not my words, my name is David; he’s worse than an infidel. So when you see these hit and run men, say, why aren’t you looking after your wife, why have you left your home, why have you left your children and you’re living with somebody else? Who’s looking after the children? You are worse than an infidel? Tell him that straight to his face; tell him you’re quoting Timothy. Tell him it ain’t come from SARU or SOCU or something, Timothy. So men must provide for their children, men must become the cornerstones of happy homes, men must help to raise happy families by showing respect and responsibility towards their wives and their children.
My brothers and sisters, I am in Central so let me direct a few of my thoughts to Adventism. Many people don’t know what Adventism is, I’m sure you do but it comes from two Latin words as we might have been told-Veneratus means to come and in my church, I’m an Anglican we celebrate advent in the days preceding Christmas but you celebrate advent in the 364 days preceding Christmas.
Adventism is a doctrine of the future, not of the past hundred and thirty years; think about the next hundred and thirty years. The church’s whole belief is about the saviour’s second coming, it is about the duty of devotees to understand that biblical prophecy and to prepare for that event but this year is a special year for certain Christians. Adventism is part of the great protestant movement in the Christian Church which began in 1517, five hundred years ago so this is not an anniversary year.
What happened five hundred years ago? Martin Luther challenged the Roman Catholic Church for what was taking place called the sale of indulgences. I don’t have to go into indulgences; again you can Google when you get home. The sale of indulgences but at the time of Luther, changes were taking place in technology for example, in same Germany the printing press was invented, well not really invented because of course the Chinese invented print before it came to Germany but let us say for the purpose of this discussion that it was introduced in Europe around about this time. It meant that for the first time in the western world, the Bible could be reprinted. It was no longer the property of the priest and the church but it could be reprinted and given to ordinary folk who can read for themselves.
So it was on the 31st of August 1517 that Martin Luther nailed one of his theses called The Power and Efficacies of Indulgences on the door of the Catholic Church in Wittenberg, Saxony in what is now Germany and we owe it to Martin Luther, although that seems so simple, that one rebel monk could have just nailed a protest on the church door, in my view it was probably the most important thing to happen to Christianity since the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It sounds like an extravagant claim but I will leave you to decide.
The Protestant reformation challenged the Roman Catholic Orthodoxy. The Seven Day Adventist Church together with the Anglicans which is the church to which I belong, the Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists, Moravians which is the school I went to in Anira Street, Wesleyan, hundreds of others, there are hundreds of others of denominations, all of these came into being in the wake of the reformation. So this year apart from observing the hundredth and thirtieth anniversary of your own church, spare a thought for the five hundredth anniversary of the protestant reformation.
As you know, this church was founded in the United States of America in 1863. What was happening in the United States of America in 1863? A civil war was being waged- civil war started in 1861, ended in 1865 so it was almost the middle of the civil war when what we now know as the Seventh Day Adventist Church came to be established. It was the most destructive war on the continent of America or in the United States in its entire history.
It was a time of great confusion and as you know very well it was also the year in which the enslaved Africans were emancipated; in fact they were emancipated fifteen years after the slaves were emancipated in Guyana and up to now you still have some states which fly the flag indicating which side of the civil war they supported but the point is that was the place and that was the time when SDA was established.
I’m not saying it was established because of the civil war but I’m saying that the civil war was being waged and a time when that came in being and perhaps there was some influence because the SDA from the start developed a strong tradition of printing and publishing literature and the production and distribution of affordable Bibles and being in possession of a Bible allowed every believer to read for himself or herself and understand the gospel and that I feel is one of the lasting legacies of the reformation or of the church, the production and distribution of affordable Bibles.
So by the time the church came here, there was already a missionary impulse and again if I can go back to the good book at Mark we are instructed “Go he into the world and preach the gospel to every creature” and the Seven Day Adventist Church established what came to be known as the Seven Day International Tracking Missionary Society to produce and disseminate literature to help its evangelical work.
So we come to 1883 when the church planted its field here in Guyana and from the outset the distribution of its tracts and it pamphlets won adherence into what we now know as the SDA. So today we celebrate the one hundred and thirtieth anniversary from 1883 when we witnessed the arrival of the missionary establishment of a seven school here in Georgetown.
As you heard the Guyana conference now boasts of having 216 congregations stretching from the Barima-Waini Region which some people still call the north-west district, I don’t know why, it hasn’t been the northwest district for thirty five years, stretching from the north-the Barima-Waini Region to the Rupununi and if my sister Minister Dawn Hasting was here she wouldn’t allow me to leave out stretching from the Cuyuni-Mazaruni Region and the East Berbice Region where my friends in Baracara live.
So the church is really at the four corners of our country. Today we celebrate the devotion and the dedication of the pioneers who have made the SDA into one of the leading denominations in Guyana. The faith and the works of the Adventists remain one of the admirable features of Christian development in Guyana. The Holy Bible, you can’t go away from the Holy Bible, you can’t get too far, at James 2 reminds us that it is not good enough to believe. Faith must be supported by good works.
And the Holy Bible states “What does it profit my brethren, though a man states he has faith and have not works? Can faith save him? If a brother or a sister be naked and destitute of daily food and one of you say unto them, depart in peace, be warmed and filled, notwithstanding he gave them not these things which are needful to the body, what doth it profit? Even so if man hath not works, faith is dead, being alone.”
So today I congratulate the church in helping to define and shape a positive role particularly for men in society and for the family. The success of the conference is attributable in part to its reputation not only of preaching the word but also practicing good works. Today I congratulate the Guyana Conference of the Seven Day Adventists on its hundred and thirtieth anniversary and pray God may continue to consecrate your message to mankind and reward your ministry to the masses.
May God bless you all!
I thank you.