It is good to see all of you here this evening! You are most welcome at King’s House for Family Life Ministries’ 30th Anniversary Banquet, of which I am Patron. Accepting Dr. Davidson’s request for me to serve as Patron and for the Banquet to be hosted here was an easy decision. This is so because of the many synergies between FLM and the I Believe Initiative and we have collaborated so well.
I am also very pleased to participate in celebrating this milestone of a ministry which continues to contribute so much to the strengthening of our families, as well as to the spiritual, moral and emotional enrichment of our people.
On Heroes Day, I was particularly pleased to have presented the award of the Order of Distinction in the rank of Commander to Dr. Barrington Samuel Davidson “for outstanding service to Jamaica through his promotion of strong, healthy family life”. This is a well-deserved award and I ask you to join me in congratulating him yet again.
The timing could not have been better as this national honour bestowed in FLM’s 30th year, can be viewed as part of the celebration of this anniversary. Indeed, there is much to celebrate! Since this ministry was founded, it has blessed a significant number of persons right across the Caribbean. We have seen FLM at work in churches, in small group ministry, in marriage counselling, in education and training and in the media. Thanks to Trans World Radio, FLM is known throughout the Caribbean.
From a small seed, this significant ministry has grown, always based on the truth that “The roots of a stable family go deep into the Word of God”. To God be the glory!
The beautiful 30th anniversary magazine recounts an inspiring story of the Ministry’s founding by eight couples who were led by the Lord to work for the strengthening of families in our island. I was also moved by the willingness of the late Mr. Samuel Fitz-Henley to sell his building to a body which had neither deposit nor collateral. As the magazine declares, FLM never missed one payment! This is a powerful example of how God works in the lives of those who trust and obey Him!
Many of us, myself included, share the conviction of Family Life Ministries, that it is the home in which the foundation for the kind of world we live in is formed. God placed us in families for His purpose. As Desmond Tutu said “You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.” The stronger the foundation, the stronger the society.
Regrettably, however, the family is under serious attack here in Jamaica and across the world. Unfortunately much of the danger for us lies in our cultural roots in which most families are matriarchal; fathers are often absent or are not significant actors in the lives of their children; and, we see instances of children are having children. People are losing attachment to the institution of the family as God meant it to be.
Pope Paul II pointed to an underlying cause for this troubling phenomenon: “The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure, comfort, and independence, lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish.” This has a grave impact on our society. As the family’s influence diminishes we see a concomitant increase in moral and social decay, domestic violence, crime and a myriad of other social ills.
Economic reality has forced more parents, including mothers and grandparents in particular, to enter or remain in the workforce for an extended period. Individuals have become more committed to pursuing a successful career than they are to a successful family. Many families no longer spend time together to share each other’s interest and offer encouragement and support.
Too often children are left to raise themselves without adult supervision or guidance. They do not learn good coping skills and how to deal with difficult situations and so they develop a propensity to “fight it out rather than talk it out”. Further, in too many situations, children are abused or they witness domestic violence which leaves them scarred for life.
As if these societal problems were not enough, we have the added challenges caused by the information technology revolution and the gateway that it opens for negative influences from external cultures and beliefs. Social media can be a good source of information, but we must remain alert to and combat its inherent dangers.
One important, time-honoured strategy is fluent, truthful communication with our children and youth which helps to build trust. We must also be very careful about the messages- both verbal and non-verbal- which we transmit. Take for example the following: A little boy asked his grandmother how old she was, to which she replied: “39 and holding”. After considering that a while, he asked: “Well then, how old would you be if you let go?”
Children have a way of interpreting literally what we say to them. The way they apply that knowledge is sometimes surprising.
Little Susie, a six-year-old, complained, “Mom, I’ve got a stomach ache.” “That’s because your stomach is empty,” the mother replied. “You would feel better if you had something in it.” That afternoon, her father came home complaining that he had suffered a severe headache all day. Susie perked up, “That’s because it’s empty! You’d feel better if you had something in it.”
We know that the emptiness in many families results from their distance from God and that the renewal of the family must be rooted in Christian principles and values. A closer walk with Christ will ensure that families are built from bricks of faith, mortar comprised of honesty, discipline, kindness and understanding, and furnished with love. Christian families have a duty to demonstrate this by their examples.
We must each do our part to re-establish the family as the foremost socializing institution of society, where parents understand their roles and children feel loved and secure. This is why I welcomed the book “Answers to Questions Parents Ask” as a tool for parents in need of guidance and support. It is the basis for the IBI’s partnership with FLM as we collaborate in a media campaign to overcome weak parenting in Jamaica. I hope that you have heard the series on RJR and Mello FM, as well as the “Parenting Nuggets” on LOVE, NCU Radio and TBC Radio.
Finally, a family is enriched by the support of a village made up of strong, caring families. As Mary Naughty indicated in the article “Hopeless to Hopeful” in your 30th Anniversary Magazine, this support is especially important when families are going through difficult times. Her experiences made her refer to clients and friends as “the village that helped raise her children.” This reinforces the old African proverb: “It takes a village to raise a child”.
Tonight we gather to celebrate 30 years of Family Life Ministries. An author named Robert Brault once said: “What greater blessing to give thanks for at a family gathering, than the family and the gathering!”
So we are blessed together as we thank God for FLM and for this family of supporters and friends. We are especially grateful for -and applaud- the eight couples who recognized God’s call and in obedience, became the founders of Family Life Ministries.
We also thank God for your efforts to heal our nation by contributing to the building of better families. I pray His continued blessing and guidance on the work that He has begun in you. The good work that He has begun in you I am sure He will see it to completion.