AMIYAH Prudence Barnes is a resilient Christian who has defied the odds and hopes to use her story as an inspiration to others.
Born and raised in Rose Town, South St Andrew, Barnes, 48, learnt early that strength was something she had to rely on to get by.
“It was a tumultuous time during the 1976 elections. People were being forced from their homes and neighbourhoods. People's houses were set ablaze. It was only by the grace of God that our house was spared but we had to end up leaving. I remember they threw a Molotov cocktail at our house and it hit the cherry tree and fell back on the road and that's what spared our house,” she said.
Barnes added: “We lost everything — my grandparents had started constructing and had to abandon everything. We relocated to Tucker Avenue at the foot of Beverly Hills. Things got difficult. Now we had to find extra money to do all kinds of things; then the extended family split and saw us moving to Hermitage, which is the greater August Town area.”
For Barnes, this was the other extreme as the relocation took place in the middle of the 1980 election, spiralling a further series of traumatic experiences for her.
“It was like leaving the frying pan and going into a very hot fire. I witnessed one of my neighbours almost being attacked because someone mistook him for someone else. Plus I witnessed the death of some guys on a wall when people dressed as members of the security forces lined them up saying they were searching them and then they just started shooting,” she reflected.
Five years later, Barnes would bear the pain of losing her mother to lung cancer, “though she did not smoke a day in her life.”
“I thought it would break me, but it made me stronger. I am a fighter and I developed resolve to overcome,” she said. “Many times I wanted to give up, but I knew I had to make it out of the circumstances I was in. I pushed myself and I remembered the days of being in high school at Alpha Academy when I went to school with 20 cents — just my bus fare — and I survived. So I knew I had it in me to fight.”
And so, Barnes set out on a path for success by leaving Alpha, and earning a bachelor of arts in language and literature with social sciences from The University of the West Indies (UWI). She went on to build a career in public relations and communications locally and in the Cayman Islands and also completed a master of arts in communication studies at The UWI.
But in the midst of that, Barnes said she knew something had to change and she desired more. This led her to becoming a Christian in 2008.
“I sat down and realised my life needed to change. I had made a lot of bad choices and I had come to the end of myself. Life was painful and I contended with issues like self rejection, shame, unforgiveness, anger, and a multitude of other things God needed to get out of me. That led to a complete makeover,” she said.
Further, Barnes began writing about things like authenticity, shame, love and rejection until she realised most of what she wrote had to do with her experiences. Later on, through prayer, Barnes said she came to the realisation that God was using her to speak about the wilderness process in Christianity that had to do with healing and the process of sanctification — becoming like Christ.
Subsequently, she penned her first book – Wilderness Warrior: Life lessons on the journey from ashes to God's beauty — where she uses her own spiritual journey to share life lessons on the journey towards receiving God's goodness. The book, available by order through firstname.lastname@example.org, also takes you through Barnes' story of going from brokenness, material and spiritual poverty, abuse and rejection to experiencing healing and restoration by the power of Jesus Christ.
In addition, Barnes, the former public relations manager at the Child Development Agency, now Child Protection and Family Services Agency, said her time there helped with the production of the book and helped to ignite a fire wherein she now hopes to work with young people
“It's so ironic. I was there but when I look back at that season, I realised I approached it in a mechanical way and treated it as just a job, because I hadn't processed my own pain. However, as I healed I developed empathy. It exposed me to the extent of how hurt our children are and how much damage has been inflicted on them by those who should take care of them,” she said.
Having come face-to-face with her own challenges, Barnes now has a passion to see young people make the right choices, honour themselves, their bodies, and value themselves.
“There is a chapter where I speak about having a conversation with my 23 year old self. In that conversation I say value yourself, you are very precious to God. Don't allow anyone to dishonour you, use and abuse you. Make the right choices that honour you. Focus on the work God has for you, your purpose, and don't get distracted by the noise,” she said while also sharing that she hopes to do more community based work with youth.
Also a songwriter, gospel singer, blogger and poet, Barnes released an EP, I Will Follow You in 2011 and founded the Restored in Christ Media Ministries four years later.