Suddenly pun St. Helena Island
The Gullah/Geechee Nation is home to thousands of historic Christian congregations. Among these are the churches of St. Helena Island which is one of the largest contiguous Gullah/Geechee communities still in existence. For five years, Bethesda Christian Fellowship which began as “St. Joseph’s Baptist Church” and grew to be “the place of the outpouring” is the location in the heart of the island that opens the year as the space for Holy convocation by having a revival led by Dr. Kenneth C. Doe who has pastored this congregation for forty years. This year, the theme for this spiritual gathering of renewal is themed “Suddenly.”
One may look at the word, “Suddenly” in and of itself and not be in tune with how this one word would revive souls that are searching for renewal and direction in a new year. However, this word that is defined as “happening, coming, made, or done quickly, without warning, or unexpectedly” spoke to the souls present of how immediately an entire situation or condition can be changed once one is aligned with GOD. Yes, we can use a positive “Suddenly” in the community!
“Suddenly” appears in the King James version of the Bible 41 times. Interestingly enough, those that deal with numbers would say, that number becomes a five and this Holy convocation goes on for five nights in which we pray that there is a sudden change to arrest any negativity from our minds and lives, and therefore, from the community, especially the community that is the body of Christ worldwide.
Pastor Doe clearly and eloquently outlined the context of the Biblical story in Numbers 12 and explained that the “12 tribes of Israel were a loose federation. The only thing that they had in common was their God.” As he said this, I pondered the Gullah/Geechee Nation and its beginnings and how having the same GOD held together the numerous African ethnic groups now thrown together in the belly of the beast and then held against their wills in the bondage of enslavement and how having the same GOD kept them through it all. I thought of how those of us that pray to the same GOD continue to hold the community together in and through faith today and how fortunately, GOD orchestrated a way that we have culture, traditions, and language in common and how webe Gullah/Geechee anointed people.
Just as I got ready to settle into the peace of this thought, Pastor Doe proceeded to say, “The enemy takes differences and sought to divide the body of Christ…The enemy uses the foolishness of people to hinder the work of GOD.” As I heard this, I was immediately thrown back into memories of the past ten years when a group was put together to disrupt the human rights work in the Gullah/Geechee Nation and how this federally financed entity sought to go to media outlets and get pieces published that would divide the people that many of us had worked together to bring together for over decades. I thought of how foolish this is and how they had gone to the point of even rewriting the vision that GOD had given of keeping the words “Gullah/Geechee” together and voted to remove the binding component “/” and place a space between the two. This space between the two represents separation and division. Where there is division there is no strength because now we are no longer connected. We are now presented as “different” in the way that others outside of us had sought to indoctrinate us to believe. For many years, I saw this divisiveness as a means by which to disenfranchise and re-enslave a people because if you can impose mental changes, you need not physical ones. This night, I found the true source of this evil foolishness that has slowed, but fortunately not hindered “the work of GOD” here in the Gullah/Geechee Nation. I gave thanks for the Word.
As I continued to tune in to the blessed enlightenment of this sermon, Pastor Doe stated, “The problem was they complained to one another instead of praying to GOD.” He proceeded with making it clear that no matter what issue they may have had, they should have taken this to GOD and proceeded following the direction that GOD had given unto the leader. for “If you’re following a leader, it’s paramount that you trust the leader,” especially when this is a spiritual leader. Yet, the many that have allowed the division to come into the church through them, have caused the splitting of the churches instead of the growing of the churches. I nodded as he said this because just before entering into this revival, I was led to find out about the closing of churches in the United States and I read an article that stated of the 250,000 churches that existed in America in 2013, 200,000 are declining or stagnant, they are not growing. Now, as I sat and heard each and ever word coming forth in this convocation, I knew why I had been led to look up that statistic and to read a commentary about how to combat it-revival! The writer of the commentary made it clear that revival is actually an individual thing. I took this to be what we say about spiritual growth-“It’s a heart matter.””…as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…” (Proverbs 23:7)
I have often wondered what kind of heart someone would have to come in with the intent on dividing a group that is working together. I have seen the tools of the flesh used to accomplish this mission in the church and in the community unfortunately, but then I went back to the critical point of having or not having the same GOD. I have come to believe that there are many that do not have a relationship with GOD at all and that is why they can be used as the agent of division wherever they enter into. They dress up and smile in your face without any good intentions in their hearts and they try to imitate the actions of those that are truly seeking to be righteous, but as Pastor Doe clearly stated:
“I don’t care how pretty your shout is, if we can’t walk together when it is over, then we ain’t hittin on nothin’!”
“Suddenly” his sermon had hit on something that goes way beyond the pulpit. It hit on the journey out of the church doors into the community because if the people outside the church cannot look to those within the church and mirror their behavior in order to reflect positivity and unity in the community, then what will happen? If there is not a revival sought by each individual, what will happen? If we truly want to begin the year with “an improvement in the condition or strength of something” (which is what a revival truly is), then we must all unite in praying together that GOD will suddenly heal the hearts and renew the minds of those that have been causing division amongst the people of GOD. We must make clear decisions individually to come together and work together. As they Gullah/Geechee spiritual says, “Wok togedda chillun, doncha git wearee, gret camp meetin een de promus lan.” I am truly glad to have an opportunity to be in the midst of this camp meeting themed “suddenly” and hunnuh kin cum fa jayn we: