Best friends from high school – Sean & Ruth-Ann Taylor’s Love Story!

This week we continue our Happy Marriage Summer Series with beautiful couple, Sean and Ruth-Ann Taylor, who have been married for about 13 years. The couple have 4 children: Caleb age 11, Eden 9, Benjamin 8, and Israel 5. Sean is presently the Head of Digital Marketing at Barita Investments Ltd. and one of the Pastors at Grace Family Church. Ruth-Ann, who has homeschooled the kids up to this point, is in the midst of a transition where she will be working as a breastfeeding specialist helping new moms to successfully nurse their babies. The Taylors shared their marriage story with Editorial Director of Family and Faith Magazine, Shelly-Ann Harris.

Shelly-Ann: How did you know that your partner was the one?

Ruth-Ann: Sean and I dated from high school on and off and we were best friends. I personally knew because God whispered to me one day that he was the one. I then carried him to all the people who loved me and who I trusted, and we went to several different counselors together.

Sean: Ruthy was and still is my best friend. I would be sorry for any other woman that I would have married. They would be jealous of our closeness and I knew I would not want to lose our relationship. Simply put – she is a godly woman who I loved and wanted to marry.

Shelly-Ann: I had a chance to hear you introduce your husband who was the main speaker at Grace Family Church one Sunday. Your intro was sweet, vulnerable and honest – what’s the thing you value most about your husband Ruth-Ann? And Sean, what do you value about Ruth-Ann?

Ruth-Ann: I guess it would be how humble and teachable he is.

Sean: Ruthy daily shows us what it means to live sacrificially. She is who I call my “end-times woman” because there is nothing she puts her mind to that she isn’t able to do. She chooses every day to live a life of service to God and her family.

Shelly-Ann: What’s one of the most challenging issues you have faced as a married couple and how did you overcome it?

Ruth-Ann: Getting married so young meant there was lots we had to learn so I would say the hardest part of the learning was doing so while being very sick during pregnancy and raising several babies at once with adequate but not much money while still loving God, my husband and maintaining a church community.

Sean: They tell you to study hard, get good jobs and make enough money so you can start a family. We have chosen to walk a path that isn’t the norm. That has meant we have often been in a season of life that looks different from most people our age. That looked like choosing things like living in a one-bedroom apartment, with 3 children, while Ruthy stayed home during the formative years. Or deciding that we would move our family overseas while I studied to be a Pastor with our entire family not knowing exactly how we would do that financially. Such things add pressure to any marriage, but being willing to learn from others and being engaged in Christian community have been important means of God’s grace to keep us strong.

Shelly-Ann: Describe the role your faith plays in strengthening your marriage?

Sean & Ruth-Ann: Jesus is our everything. He is our rescuer, our sustainer and in Him we also have hope for his return. These truths shape our every interaction in marriage. We take the Bible very seriously and seek to live out the Gospel truths in our conversations. That in mind, we say sorry often. We are quick to revisit arguments until they are things we can laugh about together. We have had a single income family for years and have trusted God to provide because we wanted to prioritize certain things with our kids for years. Sean left his Job to pursue pastoral study because He felt God was leading in that way, which meant no salary for a family of 6; again a walk of faith. We have given ourselves in humility to the church and to believers there to speak into our marriage and we have welcomed it through the years as we have seen in scripture the importance of prioritizing such things.

Sean, Ruth-Ann and their 4 lovely children.

Shelly-Ann: Has parenting challenged or strengthened your marriage?

Sean & Ruth-Ann: Parenting has humbled us immensely and has definitely caused us to rely on Jesus more and more. It has caused us to see aspects of ourselves that has had us repenting on a regular basis. We have always seen our kids as the blessings that they are and the ways we have been able to grow in our character and our skill sets in raising them have been amazing. Godly counsel has really served us in these years of parenting, warning us to prioritize our marriage while we parent. So, we have sought to continue building our marriage. We have date nights weekly (in house or out of house) and that’s prioritized by us and respected by our children, church meetings and work schedules. We also try to get away often; at least once a year together. We try to prioritize growing in affection in the midst of the chaos so that we grow while they grow.

Shelly-Ann: What are some of the biggest lessons you have learnt about marriage and family over the years?

Sean & Ruth-Ann: Trust God and His Word and live according to the things His Word says. For example, “do not forsake the fellowship of believers” – we have not always felt like it; sometimes fights get in our way but we continue to prioritize what God’s Word says and it has served us tremendously.

“A soft answer turns away wrath” when applied is powerful and true.

“Love bears all things, hopes all things…” When applied God is at work. We depend on God being at work in us to live out these truths daily and in every moment.

We read marriage and parenting books yearly to help to revive our marriage and strengthen our parenting.

We are part of a local church and we have submitted to its leaders. This helps with accountability for both of us and our kids. Staying in community has definitely served us tremendously.

We did choose as a family to homeschool for the early years of our children’s lives and that has served our family tremendously. Both financially and also in being able to bring stability in the early years. 

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God, wife, children, then others – Michael & Lynier Watson share powerful insights after 16 years of marriage!

This week Shelly-Ann Harris connects with Michael and Lynier Watson for Family & Faith Magazine’s Happy Marriage Summer Series. Michael and Lynier have been married for 16 years and have 3 wonderful children: Michaela (14), Michael Jr. (11) and Matthew Mikhail (6). The two also own and operate ePOH Jamaica Limited, a growing company that provides IT services for small to medium businesses. Michael is also a singer and actor and Lynier is a teacher and actress. The creative lovebirds are also both Ministers of the Gospel.

Shelly-Ann: How did you know that your partner was the one?

Lynier: I had a crush on him from the first time I watched him playing basketball on the court of my alma mater, Edna Manley College (EMC). The Holy Spirit whispered to me at the time that he would be my husband. The only thing is that I wasn’t a mature enough believer at the time to know it was the Holy Spirit and thought it was in my head, especially since I was engaged somewhat to someone else at the time. We became friends and were just inseparable thereafter. I felt he was family and just couldn’t imagine not being with him.

Michael: While playing dominoes on the EMC Campus Dorms, one day I looked up and saw a gorgeous woman open her windows and fix her curtains, after which I saw her beautiful figure silhouetted behind the curtains as she fluffed her pillows and got ready for bed.  I was so invigorated by the experience that I decided that I would sit in the same position every night to “play dominoes.”  I was determined from that time that I had to do something to get this girl’s attention.

Shelly-Ann: Whenever you speak of Michael, you always have a sparkle and admiration. What do you value most about your husband? And Michael what do you value most about Lynier?

Lynier: It’s hard to give just one answer for this but at the top of the list would be his faithfulness and commitment to God and his family.

Michael: Lynier is like no one else that I know.  She loves big and allows nothing to stop her from expressing that.

Shelly-Ann: What’s one of the most challenging issues you have faced as a married couple and how did you overcome it?

Michael & Lynier: We can’t identify one specific event that we could say was the greatest challenge we faced. We have faced many tough challenges including financial struggles, temptations of infidelity, struggles with in-laws – you name it we’ve tasted it. However, our greatest challenge comes not in the tough events because we often deal with those quite well. The toughest times in our marriage is when we turn our eyes on ourselves and look away from Christ and each other. Satan has a field day with our selfishness and floods our minds with thoughts that magnifies the simplest of things. We forget who we are and begin to accept all of satan’s lies about each other. “He doesnt love me, he only cares about himself so I have to take care of me,” is an example of these lies. These thoughts then influence both our behaviors and before you know it, we are constantly arguing.

We have identified that these thoughts are not our own. Whenever we refocus and set our thoughts on God’s word, He gently guides us back into truth. We still struggle from time to time especially when we are to minister. Satan comes at us with everything he has.  Through discipleship with more mature believers and dedicating personal time with the Lord and in His Word, we are learning more and more how to defuse the flaming darts.  As a result, arguments are way less and far between. We forgive each other for teaming up with the accuser of the brethren and we refocus on walking in the peace, love and joy that God has blessed us with.

Shelly-Ann: Turning to the children now, has parenting challenged or strengthened your marriage? Describe how.

Michael & Lynier: Parenting is one of God’s greatest blessings to humanity. Whether you give birth to a child or not we strongly believe that every Christian couple should raise children. According to Malachi 3, it is one of God’s purposes for marriage. We find parenting to be God’s greatest gift to us. We recognize that everything God gives us is geared at building our character. Like gold, character is tested when it goes through fire. Parenting is a character builder. Sometimes it is overwhelmingly rough but at the end of the day it strengthens who we are. As our characters are built so is our marriage, so yes parenting has certainly strengthened our marriage.

One practical way that this happens is that we have to always keep in mind that we are a team. Every disagreement concerning the children must be discussed on the sidelines and not on the court. The kids must always realize that we are a team. If Daddy says no, then it’s no and if mommy says no its no. This gives the children stability and builds our relationship as a couple. It’s not always easy…especially when inside you strongly disagree.  But with the help of the Holy Spirit it can be done and benefits the family greatly.

Shelly-Ann: What are some of the biggest lessons you have learnt about marriage and family over the years?

Lynier: God’s design and order for marriage is perfect. The world, our flesh and satan war against this. We are therefore in continuous warfare and can only win by learning and submitting to God’s way. Secondly, my spouse is not my enemy. We are on the same team. Keeping this at the forefront helps us to see situations from a clearer perspective. It helps us to identify the true enemy.  Finally, we must choose to forgive immediately.  Forgiveness is a decision not a feeling. No matter what is done we can choose to forgive. That frees the Holy Spirit to guide us through working through the challenge. When we choose to forgive immediately, the pain heals faster (though it still takes time), restoration comes and wisdom to not make the same mistakes is given.

Michael: That my primary relationships are God, my wife (the marriage union), my children, our extended family, church family, close friends, then everyone else.  Missing this order can be detrimental to everything.

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It was love at first sight and then a daily decision to love for Monique & Jerry after 13 Years!

This week we continue our Happy Marriage Summer Series with the McLeods! Gorgeous couple, Monique and Calvert (Jerry) McLeod have been married for 13 years and have been blessed with 2 remarkable children, Matthias age 6, and Niara age 10. Jerry is an Urban Planner and Monique is the Founder and Creative Director for Everything Creative Advertising Agency and a professional makeup artist. The two share their journey with Family and Faith Magazine’s Editorial Director, Shelly-Ann Harris.

Shelly-Ann: How did you know that your partner was the one?

Monique: I knew this soon after we met. Lol. The realization took my breath away and I was somewhat scared because this was so new and different from anything I had ever experienced.  I knew Jerry (Calvert) was the one because of a combination of incredible things. By the way, we could talk for hours and lose our sense of time and space. He was charming and humorous. He challenged me but always supported me. His ambition was vast, and I believed he could achieve anything with his drive. He was brutally honest (and trust me sometimes it was not received well but I loved that he would tell it like it is). He was gentle but firm. His love for God was marvelous to watch. When he looked at me, I felt like he was peering into my soul lovingly and fearlessly. I knew I wanted to experience all life had to offer with him, forever.

Jerry: The first time I saw Monique, my physical, emotional and spiritual being were all in agreement that she was the one. At that moment I asked God if she could be mine and we all know how the story unfolded.

Shelly-Ann: You and your husband have been together for a while and have 2 beautiful children. What do you value most about your husband and your life together?

Monique: I value our experiences the most – the good, the bad, and the in-between. I value his commitment, friendship and his connection with God. No matter what life throws at us, he is always by my side and we are a team. I love that he strives to put me and our family first. I love his business sense and his drive to succeed at whatever he touches.

Jerry: The thing I value the most about my wife is her unwavering faith and deep-rooted connection for God which are then translated into her love, devotion, and dedication to me and the children. I also value her spontaneity, creativity, love for life and positive nature.

Shelly-Ann: What’s one of the most challenging issues you have faced as a married couple and how did you overcome it?

Monique & Jerry: Accepting each other as we are, and practicing selflessness were the most challenging areas within our marriage. We have very strong personalities and are set in our ways. So, earlier in the marriage, it was difficult to become one in our thoughts, goals, and desires. After all, we are both individuals with lifelong dreams, expectations of marriage, and baggage from previous relationships.  However, we give God all the credit for all these years and the years to come. The lessons are hard due to our own selfishness and focusing on our own feelings. But with prayer, spiritual and emotional maturity, dependence on God as well as time, the pieces came together.

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Shelly-Ann: Has parenting challenged or strengthened your marriage?

Monique & Jerry: Parenting most definitely challenged our marriage. We grew up differently and had our ideas of how a parent should look, act, and simply be. I grew up without a father and had a mother who was plagued with mental issues, so I wanted to immerse my children in love and affection. My husband on the other hand grew up with his mom and a father who left when he was very young, which forced him to grow up quickly and live a disciplined life to survive. So, you can imagine an artist and a planner coming together and creating a family. It was an interesting ride indeed. However, we both wanted a loving home that was safe, secure, and God-centered; a home with both parents, something we didn’t experience. So, to answer the question it did both challenge and strengthen us. I believe every challenge gave us a new perspective, and either made us stronger or wiser in how to deal with other issues.

Shelly-Ann: What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned about marriage and family over the years?

Monique: A marriage requires God to be at the very center, hands down. It requires dedication and effort. You won’t like your spouse sometimes because of unrealistic expectations, unforgiveness, unresolved issues, stubbornness, or if there is a focus on each other’s faults/weaknesses. Instead, our focus must be set on being the best version of ourselves, using kindness and open communication to build the marriage. Surround yourself with like-minded, faith-based friends and couples. They will hold you accountable and give you a safe space to grow and learn more about this tumultuous marriage journey. Be your spouse’s biggest and loudest cheerleader and always fight your battles on your knees in prayer.

Additionally, my family has taught me how to love unconditionally and not to take them for granted, instead create experiences together to forge deeper bonds. Everyone makes mistakes, it’s a part of life so practice forgiveness daily.

Create a safe space for your children, communicate honestly and listen to understand their point of view, and teach them conflict resolution. Most importantly demonstrate God’s love through your words and actions.

Jerry: I’ve learned that each marriage is unique because it is a union between 2 unique individuals. Opposites don’t attract. Marriage is a union that works better when the individuals are like-minded. It is a daily decision to love your spouse in spite of. Additionally, no other earthly relationship is more important than the one you have with your family.

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Faith helps us to forgive when can’t see the best in each other – Paul & Andrea still happy after 34 Years!

With news that a record number of divorces were filed since the start of 2021, Family and Faith Magazine (FFM) is excited to launch our Happy Marriage Summer Series showing that there is still hope for long term relationships and keeping families together. We begin the series with the inspiring story and insights from lovebirds Andrea and Paul Russell who shared openly with FFM Editorial Director, Shelly-Ann Harris that on August 19 of this year, they will celebrate 34 years of marriage, God willing. Blessed with 4 wonderful children, Andrea is a guidance counselor and Paul works in sales.

Shelly-Ann: How did you know that your partner was the one?

Andrea: I was attracted to Paul’s energetic personality and friendliness. He is handsome too. After praying about him being my possible partner, I felt a peace about him and got confirmations in a number of ways that he is the one.

Paul: I noticed her and was very attracted to her.  During that particular summer I asked the Lord for guidance on who would be my wife. I processed what I felt and shared it with my support system and got confirmation before I approached her. We then realised that we were both each other’s one.

Shelly-Ann: As Pastors, you and your husband have been helping other couples to strengthen their marriage – what are your top 3 tips for keeping marriages sweet and strong over the long haul?

Paul & Andrea: 1.  Always pray for your spouse and relationship, during the good and bad times. 2. Recognize that the spouse you married is a “good willed person” and has your best intentions at heart. 3. Focus more on your total interactions over the marriage, 85% of the time you interact is usually great. Place less focus on the 15% of the time when your interactions are not positive. 4. Always look for the opportunities to create great memories – after a while the thing that will keep you holding hands and smiling will be the memories of the wonderful moments you created. Finally, it is also very important to practice marriage God’s way (Ephesians 5:25) and to keep the marriage God centered and 3 stranded (Ecclesiastes 4:12).

Shelly-Ann: I notice that you and your husband are not only devoted husband and wife but also very good friends who laugh together often, what do you value most about each other?

Andrea: I value the fact that he is a dreamer, forever hopeful and expecting the best. He constantly looks forward to how things could be made better. This is for everything, for the children, our church, the couples we support, the young men he mentors just about everything. He is always thinking, “If this could be done, then you know how good that would work?” He loves to talk and is a funny storyteller. He always has something to share, always remembering something or noticing something the children or the dog does and makes funny comments. You can’t help but laugh.

Paul: Her love for and dependence on God (this inspires me); Her genuine and sincere heart (no guile); and her commitment to our marriage (she’s in it to the end).

Shelly-Ann: What’s one of the most challenging issues you have faced as a married couple and how did you overcome it?

Andrea & Paul: We had a miscarriage early in our marriage, the loss of our first child. I remember Paul pulling off the side of the road soon after it happened and just sobbing, our hearts were so broken. That was very hard for us. We were young and that was our first big challenge. The Lord was the source of our strength in this challenge. He continues to be our strength. He has provided us with family and friends. In every challenge He showed himself in love, through the Scriptures and in the people who surrounded us.

Shelly-Ann: Has parenting challenged or strengthened your marriage? Describe how.

Andrea & Paul: It has done both.  It challenged us, as there were a number of occasions, we argued about how a parenting issue should be handled. Yes, some of these discussions happened with the children present. We have reacted impulsively and emotionally and truthfully some decisions made were not the best. These resulted in unnecessary conflicts. Thankfully as the years progressed, we learned and applied better parenting skills.

It has strengthened our marriage in the sense that we realized that we were raising God’s children and as a result we needed to depend on the Lord’s leading to work together as one. With the Lord’s guidance all the provision of resources, love, emotional and spiritual support were made available to us, which helped to strengthen our marriage. As a result, we are blessed with wonderful adult children that we are honored to know.

We have found that faith in God and its expression through marriage, allows couples to experience something that is closer to the nature of God than any other human experience.

Shelly-Ann: Describe the role your faith plays in strengthening your marriage? Do you think marriages truly built on Christ have better outcomes?

Andrea & Paul: Our marriage is built on and thrives because of our faith in the Lord. We make it a point to pray for each other and our relationship. We have chosen to apply biblical principles to our marriage, one of which is the principle of Love and Respect as set out in Ephesians 5:21-28. Marriage is hard and couples will face many troubles, as is stated in 1 Corinthians 7:28. This is true for us too. However, once the truths given in the word of God are applied, they quench the fiery darts sent against marriages. This makes us excited. We have so many testimonies of how the Lord has made provisions, healed, protected, created paths in impossible places during these 34 years of marriage. Faith helps us tap into something deeper than our understanding, keeps us balanced, helps us forgive when we are hurt and can’t see the best in each other. Our faith reassures us that there is beauty and joy in marriage. It allows us to accept that marriage is an instrument and a process for us to deepen our relationship with the Lord.

 As a result, we definitely believe a marriage built on Christ will have a better outcome. When couples are taught skills based on scripture and intentionally, deliberately use them, applying selfless love according to 1 Corinthians 13, for example, it is very likely they will successfully navigate the troubles guaranteed to come with marriage.

I would like to suggest to couples to take on a challenge for the next few weeks. Research all the words and phrases mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13. Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

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‘Raising Strong Boys & Repairing Broken Men’ – God’s Men Speak

Raising Strong Boys and Repairing Broken Men is the timely theme for the June | Father’s Day Edition of Family and Faith Magazine. Shorter than the previous documentary at 22 minutes, the June edition features impactful Christian men and their testimonies of faith, fatherhood and restoration. They include: Altano Morgan, manufacturer of ICAN; Robert Dixon, Principal of Operation Restoration Christian School and Dr. Wayne Henry, Economist and Director General of the Planning Institute of Jamaica. The documentary also connects with three promising young boys – Israel Redwood, Seth Ridgard and Luke Ridgard.

In keeping with the theme, the documentary, which is sponsored by the Jamaica Broilers Group, provides godly advice on raising strong boys.

Principal, Robert Dixon asserts that, “Children spell love – T-I-M-E. We have to spend time with our children. For both my son and the children at school I see my life as a foundation for these students.” The young principal advances that, “For my son, yes his foundation, his identity is linked to me to who I am and to who I am in Christ but for my students who have no other foundation who probably don’t know their father, can I be that foundation for them? Can I be so secure in myself that they can build their life on who I am and what I stand for?”

For his part, Dr. Wayne Henry points to three strategies for growing strong boys. First, he says it’s important “to be present, to be alongside, to be near.” Then, “There must be instruction and advice. Solomon, he said listen to my advice son, heed my warning and you will prosper.” His third nugget of wisdom is the need to show boys lessons and principles by example. “A lot of times we are too willing to say do as I say and not as I do and there is a key of leadership that we miss where Paul says follow me as I follow Christ .We don’t invite people to follow us ..part of leadership part of mentoring is that you have to be that example …the willingness to put on display even with your mistakes and your flaws that example,” the father of 3 insists.

Manufacturer and motivational speaker, Altano Morgan adds that the key to raising a strong boy is teaching him that there is a God, a Father who loves him despite the challenges he comes across in life. “There is a father there that will take care of him. There is a father there that wants the best for him. Even as an earthy father you are not going to be there every time to guide him and to teach him and all the different things but when you tell him about the Father up above who is looking down with his tender love, showing you, guiding you, directing you, that’s the fundamental foundation for me for raising a strong boy,” Morgan declares.

The uplifting documentary also looks at how to repair broken men, the most admired men in their lives and features what young boys love most about their dads.

Shelly 2016

President and Founder of Family and Faith Magazine, Shelly-Ann Harris feels turning the spotlight on boys and men is vital at this time. “The data is showing us that in many ways we are failing our boys and so we felt it was very important to focus on how to raise boys and restore broken men for our Father’s Day Edition, which balances our recent focus on women in the Easter Edition that was released a couple months ago,” Harris explains. “We remain thankful to our loyal sponsor, the Jamaica Broilers Group, who has supported us on this journey of sharing impactful testimonies of faith that can serve to strengthen family life,” she adds.

Viewers can watch the documentary here: https://youtu.be/aoZw0-UfXKw

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Pregnant at 16 and still in Church

Baby3

When her teenage daughter became pregnant, what could have turned into a mother’s utter shame, guilt and disgrace turned into a story of Christ’s love, redemption and power through her church. 

by Family and Faith Magazine writer, Ensebe Akunta

“I started to realize that I was looking for love in the wrong places and that the kind of love I really wanted was from my father,” Amanda* confessed. Her father had paid her scant regard throughout her life. He was not married to her mother and they did not relate well when she was growing up.

Amanda’s family circumstances are not unusual. In 2007, Jamaica had 35,344 live births out of wedlock, a little more than the capacity of Jamaica’s National Stadium.   But things are changing for better because according to the January to September 2017 Provisional Birth Statistics from the Registrar General’s Department, this number was reduced to 20,238.

Under the law, Amanda is not yet a woman but is legally allowed to engage in sexual intercourse.  At 16, she was taken out of a house by the police after she had changed out of her school uniform in a back alley and gone to visit her boyfriend.  This 19-year-old man had completed school, had no job and lived on his own with financial support from his sister and his mother who lived abroad.  The police took both Amanda and her boyfriend to the station and called the girl’s mother, Dawn*.

Dawn is a Christian who volunteers regularly at her church. Dawn said that Amanda had gotten baptized at 11-years-old and often served with her in the church. The single mother said that a few weeks after the police station incident, she bought a pregnancy test kit.  Amanda’s results were positive.

“I went into mourning,” Dawn revealed as her face took on a more serious look.  “I told  Amanda, don’t ask me any questions or expect me to make any decisions about punishment or anything for three days. Because I had been reading and meditating on 1 Samuel 16 where God asked Samuel how long he would mourn for Saul. And God was teaching me that it’s okay and it’s healthy to mourn for a time. If you don’t allow yourself to do that you’ll mourn in an unhealthy way probably the rest of your life and don’t even recognize that anger and bitterness with people is just you mourning something that happened long ago,” Dawn reasoned.

She explained that she took that time to fully feel her anger, shame, disappointment, frustration, hurt and every other emotion that came with the news. After three days, she made up her mind to move forward and shared the news with her Pastor.

Of course, the issue of sexual immorality in the church had also been the focus of national attention during the same period of time, with social media confessions from known personalities and allegations and arrests of church leaders. Like the current slew of Hollywood sex scandals, it seemed to be something ‘everyone knows about but nobody talks about’. But the numbers are not silent and it appears that about half of the young people who attend Church have had sex.

The National Family Planning Board’s 2008 Reproductive Health Survey indicates that 46% of young women and 60% of young men aged 15-24 who have ever had sexual relations attend church at least once a week.

Dawn recounted that the Pastor and his leaders lamented the fall of their young congregant as if she was their own child.   It is a small, close-knit church, led by a youthful pastor, who had not faced this situation before, she explained.

The Pastor said, “We prayed about how to respond and just followed the direction of the Lord”. They accepted the Lord’s challenge to face it in a God-honouring, Bible-believing way, so they met with Dawn and Amanda.

The Pastor and other church leaders determined that Dawn had tried her best but Amanda, knowing God’s standards, had made some bad decisions. Amanda, however, showed repentance about her sexual immorality in her speech and in her behavior.  The Pastor declared “We believe that while the sex was a sin, the baby was not” in keeping with Psalm 127:3 – Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.

Additionally, at a regular meeting of the church membership, the leaders reiterated that sex outside of marriage at any age is a sin and unacceptable, but the resulting children are not.  So, their decision was to love and support Amanda as she had recommitted to remaining a Christian and get help to make better decisions.

This gracious treatment of Amanda was peculiar because as the news soaked in, other church leaders and congregants would go to Dawn and share stories of being told to leave their church as youngsters because of teenage pregnancies.

“I heard stories of teenagers having abortion for fear of their deacon fathers finding out. Of little girls being sent away to country relatives.  Of pastors’ sons denying that they are the father and just a whole heap of painful hiding and rejection” Dawn lamented.

Clearly, when Dawn chose to tell her Pastor and Amanda agreed to meet with them, the church could freely apply 1 John 1:9 (KJV) – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Beyond Amanda’s confession and repentance her reform included attending professional counseling to speak about the issues that influenced her to sin in the first place; continuing regular attendance at church and starting mentoring relationship with a mature Christian.

Existing sex education programmes in Jamaica focus on teaching children how to engage in sexual intercourse that does not result in disease or procreation.  But they do not teach how to build stable life partnerships through healthy friendships then marriages before committing to sexual intercourse.

Both hospital and police staff encouraged Amanda to sign up with the Women’s Centre Foundation to continue her education.  But it was her mother who told her that while continuing her education was important, she also needed to learn how to have healthy Godly relationships with men.

Dawn reasoned that, “This would give Amanda hope for sex in the right context of marriage in the future.  Because after baby born, the ‘feelings’ don’t go away!  Who tells pregnant teenage girls that they can still look to get married some day?  And how do they go about achieving that?  It’s still on their minds, but who’s talking about it? And how do they raise their children well? I’d love to see Women’s Centre or the Church or somebody teach them about that!  Because as single parents we don’t always know how to”.

Throughout her pregnancy, Amanda had continued to regularly attend her church where she received encouragement and practical advice about motherhood.

Today the baby is born and bringing both joy and sleepless nights. Amanda says that her church’s love has been overwhelming as members donated cash gifts, baby clothes, furniture, diapers, motherly advice, rides to the clinic and much prayers. The baby’s father visits occasionally.

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There are no guarantees that as Christians we won’t sin, make bad decisions or mistakes. But in Romans 8:35 – 39, God has says that nothing can separate us from His love. He is not letting go. Why should we?

*Names and places have been changed to protect the identity of the family involved.

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‘There is a place for spanking’ – Dr. Barry Davidson

In these modern times, parents face unique challenges in effectively raising their children and oftentimes age-old practices are seen as ineffective, irrelevant and in some instances abusive. Corporal punishment, more commonly known as ‘spanking,’ is one of those parenting tools that is now in question and stirs significant debate.

Moreover, recent video recordings showing parents violently assaulting their children have further cracked the whip on the efficacy and humaneness of spanking. Family and Faith Magazine therefore sought answers from respected family counselor and CEO of Family Life Ministries, Dr. Barry Davidson.

Dr. Davidson first categorically explained that much of what has been seen from the viral videos are abusive behavior, where the parent seems to be venting destructive anger on a child.

Still, he was keen to point out that “there is a place for spanking.” He said: “I know it is not the politically correct thing for me to say but I say it because that is what I believe.” Dr. Davidson explained that “spanking is punishment and is not something that you do very often, it is something that you rarely do, but there is room for it. There is room for it when you really want to let the child know that this (negative behavior) is not something that you are going to tolerate.”

The family counselor was however adamant that parents “need to know when to spank, you need to know when not to spank and you need to also know how to spank.”

When not to spank

“I don’t believe you should spank for childish or immature behaviour which is consistent with a child’s age,” Dr. Davidson asserted.

He also warned against spanking when a child becomes restless as a result of sitting too long at an event or function. “A child who is in church and the service is going on too long (and the attention span for a child is much shorter than for an adult) and because the child is disturbing you; because the child is restless, you take the child outside and you spank the child – you don’t spank for that because the child is being him or herself,” the counselor explained.

Continuing he said: “you don’t spank for lack of ability – you may have one child that is very good at Math and the other is not. Don’t compare children and because one isn’t doing well you spank. You don’t spank for lack of ability.”

“You don’t spank for accidents – a child is playing cricket and the ball accidentally breaks a window you don’t spank for that however if you say to the child, don’t play cricket here anymore and the child continues, that is a different situation. That is now disobedience,” he explained.

“Never spank out of anger. Never spank when you are irritated, when you feel depressed or when you are tired because that’s when you lose control, that is when you become very very abusive,” he cautioned.

When to spank

Having shared when not to spank, Dr. Davidson also offered circumstances in which spanking may be warranted and helpful. He explained that spanking as a form of punishment can be done when there is disobedience. “Because when a child is deliberately disobedient – when a parent says over and over don’t do this and the child continues, what that child is doing is challenging the parental authority and so what the parent has to do is let the child know that this will not be tolerated, and the child must know why he or she is being spanked and the parent should be very calm and very careful,” he explained.

“I think also that children can be spanked for uncooperative attitudes – they are not willing to cooperate and again you have spoken to them, you have tried to help them to understand the importance of cooperating with the family – you might have to make a point. Because spanking is really punishment and punishment is making a point. It is letting a child know that hey, this is not going to be tolerated.”

Dr. Davidson added that parents could spank for lying, stealing, cheating – character faults. “These are things that should never be tolerated or encouraged. These are things that can end up in a worst situation than spanking, they could be embarrassed one day, in prison one day and so we need to understand that what we are doing with children is preparing them, helping them to live in  a real world and that real world has consequences for actions that right now we are helping them to change,” he explained.

A father himself, Dr Davidson told Family and Faith Magazine that: “I have 3 children and 1 of my children never ever got spanking, the other probably got 2 in their entire life and the other probably got 5 or 6 and yet still I was a believer in spanking. But I knew when to spank, when not to spank and knew spanking was not an act of discipline but punishment,” he admonished.

The family counselor also reiterated that “When I am talking about punishment I am not talking about abuse because I am very anti-abuse. I think abuse is what creates serious problems with people becoming very violent.” He however emphasized that “if you fail to punish a child, society is going to do it for you one day. A lot of children that we see becoming reckless and ruthless, they really never got the training and the discipline and when necessary the punishment when they were young.”

More on spanking below

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“It is my conviction that most youngsters even those who are rebellious against adults’ authority are actually seeking a strong hand of guidance and spanking therefore should be where you are setting definite boundaries of right and wrong for a child,” Dr. Davidson explained. Essentially, he says with spanking you are demanding obedience because disobedience can get you in trouble.

Asked what age spanking would be appropriate for children, Dr. Davidson said, “spanking should take place between ages 4 and 10. By the time you get to 10 or even 9 there is no need for spanking after that,” he said.

Where to spank

In terms of where to spank, the father of three prescribed that “the padded area that we sit on is the best place to provide the ‘rod of correction’. Certainly, it is not going to be the hands and face and the back – that to me is abuse,” he insisted.

In the end, Dr. Davidson urges parents to cultivate a balanced wholesome relationship with their children. He noted that firmness (discipline) without relationship can lead to rebellion and conversely, relationship without firmness can lead to spoiling. Instead he asserts that relationship plus firmness are what will result in helping parents to raise responsible human beings.

Do you believe there is a place for spanking? Why or why not?

Comment below or send an email to familyandfaithmagazine@gmail.com.

For more parenting strategies from Dr. Davidson you can check out his book Answers to Questions Parents Ask co-authored with Faith Linton, now available in book stores across Jamaica.