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Journey by Otto H Sam, 2014

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This is the first book published by former headteacher Otto Sam, and there are more to come. I promise you that as he sharpens his skills and diversifies his “curriculum”, this retooled Minister Sam will add to the significant literature of SVG. In this 220-page book, Otto takes us on a tour of the 75 years of the New Testament/ Pentecostal Church of God (NTCOG) in SVG and St Lucia.{{more}} Though I have not read the whole book, I like it. Somewhat like the gospel named after Luke, it is a sympathetic, yet critical research report of “the things that went down among us” (Luke 1. 1-3), not leaving out stories that don’t sound good and noble. Yet in all, the writer makes it clear that God was at work in the lives of the women, men and youth who answered ‘yes’ when the summons came to them to follow Jesus Christ.

A word of thanks is due to Bishop BW Davis for assigning Minister Sam to this task, which he has accomplished so promptly. In the middle chapter of the book, Chapter 5 of pages 39-156, the writer tells us 24 histories and herstories of the 24 NTCOG congregations in SVG, then of five in St Lucia. When you read the account of the congregation in your area, you will meet up with the faith, the foibles of working people, and the finishing touches which constitute the work of God. Many of the persons whose names decorate the pages of Chapter 5 only ring a bell in their own communities, but without doubt, they are to be found in the database of the Galilean Saviour.

From its beginning as a Caribbean missionary campaign of the Tennessee Church of God in 1940, today’s NTCOG has grown from having period crusades, to being a solid, sustainable and missioning community of faith. Its Bible College, now the Bethel Bible College of the Caribbean, is the first theological college registered with the SVG National Accreditation Board providing instruction and awards up to the doctoral level. The Caribbean area bishop, overseeing thousands of congregations, is the Vincentian born Ishmael Charles and in SVG, the 24 congregations are led by several bishops and 80 pastors and ministers. As they are wont to declare, “Only God could do that.”

Blessings and New Beginnings

JOURNEY pays special attention to one of its foundational leaders, whom the Heritage Organization in her home village cited as ‘A Diamonite woman” at its Women’s Rally in 2013. Victoria Alexandrina Thomas, or Mother Priam, became a part of the COG movement under the evangelizing work in Diamond Village of Sisters Green of Barbados and Smith of Bermuda. This was in 19401941.

Chapter 7 of JOURNEY has as its subtitle, “from Priam to Davis” and it says of mother Priam:

“Locally honoured by all, and regionally and internationally recognized for her role in building, leading and positioning the COG and the entire Pentecostal movement in SVG, she is the best known and most reputable of all its leaders.”

A leader, visionary strategist, evangelist, pastor and motivator, Mother Priam distinguished herself as an exemplary servant of God.

Writing about Bishop Wendel Davis, who was installed in August 2013, Journey makes the following observation: “Accountability and structure, vexing issues in the COG of the past, are addressed with a head-on approach by the current Administrative Bishop… The Administrative Bishop has initiated a plan to conduct annual training in accounting and finance for the general church leadership. In fact on Saturday, January 24, 2015… the first Financial and Business Conference of the church (was held). The new Administrative Bishop has also used the unity approach to request that all churches assist Lowmans by purchasing or contributing to a window.”

The author of JOURNEY, in the Acknowledgements, commended Bishop BW Davis “for his vision of documenting the journey of the church….” The Bishop also encouraged other denominations to tell their story of witness to the faith, as an evangelizing effort.

Reading Journey, even in part, gives me great satisfaction. I felt a similar joy when I read Rev Mark Da Silva’s story of the Catholic Church among the Kalina/Caribs.

But with JOURNEY, I am more connected. I remember faintly the early evangelists’ Sisters Green and Smith being guests at our home or at least welcome visitors in those early days. As a youth in Kingstown, I enjoyed the vigour and passion of Gladys Priam, as she preached in Paul’s Lot, while I was on errands to Ms Providence’s parlour. Later when Mother Priam and I became friends, she shocked me with assessment stories of my activities as a young preacher! And now, I have lived one stone’s throw away from the Diamond Village NTCOG for nearly 45 years.

JOURNEY is a book to read and digest.

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