Pastor Pat Francis saving teens from jail

BY ERICA VIRTUE
Observer Writer

Monday, November 01, 2004

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"Don't send them to prison but sentence them to the church and let us work with them."
That was the plea of Jamaican-born tele-vangelist Dr Pat Francis who, working with a group of lawyers, convinced the Canadian courts to entrust her with problem teens.
According to her, she could not stand by and let them be sent to prison to become 'hardened criminals.'

"Sentence them to me, and I will put them in community services. I will mentor them and transform their minds, and heal them from within, so that you have a successful person in society," she said, while explaining to all woman that Canada has a very low tolerance for truancy and other mistakes of youth.

The Courts granted her request and she has made good on her promise.

"And some of those kids that would have ended up in jail are now graduates of colleges, graduates of universities, loving and praising God at the same time," she said proudly in an interview with all woman just before she left the island last week.

Francis, who pastors 3,000 worshippers at her Kingdom Covenant Ministries in Canada, explained that she saw no sense in young people spending the best years of their lives in prison, with a record that can "scar you for life.'

And, as far she was concerned, prison did not reform anyone, and so she believed God should be seen as the alternative.

Her route to helping those in need could well be emulated by the religious and irreligious alike.

"When I see a need, I don't form a committee, I don't have meetings to look at pros and cons. I see a need, I just do it. I make it happen," she said simply.

That need has motivated her to seek property to build a complex for children here. It will be an exclusive orphanage for kids at risk. The vision could see "Destiny's Children's Village" off the ground as soon as real estate can be identified. The complex will house a school and a medical complex.

Francis said that the children would be fed with the word of God.

It is important, she believes, that people recognise that each life has a purpose, and means more than the monotony of eating, sleeping, wearing clothes and going out.

Christians should be the group leading the charge to cool the temperatures of society, help bring peace, comfort, togetherness, and a oneness with the spiritual leader, she said.

But with so much cynicism towards the church and the public fall of Jerry Fallwell, the colossal dive of the Jim and Tammy-Faye Baker, the tearful admission by the smooth-voiced Jimmy Swaggart that he peeped at prostitutes, how is Francis viewed?

"Many were sceptical at the outset when I started the ministry. But I am standing with the strength of God, and because success attracts success, today we have a ministry with our headquarters located on prime property in Canada, worth some C$10million," she said.

Located in Mississauga, the complex consists of a café, lounge, basketball court and study facilities, and it's simply called "The Spot."

According to Francis, she overturned the culture of anger and lack of self-esteem by healing hearts, and bringing those in need to her level.

"I did not go to their level. I brought them to mine. So they learnt to dress well and speak well. They dressed like doctors and lawyers, because that is where I wanted them, that is where they should be. And that is where many are today," she said triumphantly.

Francis is really devoted to her ministry but as a student at Alpha and later the University of the West Indies where she studied radiology, initially she had really aspired to do something in the medical field.
"When I look at the big situation in which I am now, I believe I made a trip of destiny," she told all woman.

Pastor Pat, as she is called, has just completed a mission of mercy at a health clinic in St. Mary, in which more than 70 medical personnel from her Kingdom Covenant Ministries in Canada, plus some Jamaicans, offered help to their countrymen. The only hitch in the mission, Francis said, was that two days were lost in clearing the bureaucratic red tape to get the medical items.

But she is still happy to help her homeland - even though she no longer has any relatives here. Most of her relatives have migrated to the US and Canada. She left Jamaica in the 1970s.

"When I went to Canada I started to get a desire to do something to help children and I got involved with a number of programmes," she said, but not only with the young.

She also became involved with programmes for the aged and teens. It was when she started church work, however, that she realised that she desired that experience, more and more.

"Once I went to the mall during school time, and I realised a lot of kids were dropping out of school. When I looked into their eyes, I saw anger and I saw bitterness and that's when
I decided that I wanted to something. And that's when it started," she said, explaining the beginning of her ministry which is now in several countries throughout the world. Her earlier experience working with children, teens and adults has also helped her to make the shift.

Francis felt she was the solution to much of the misery, anger and bitterness which paraded on the face of
Canada's young, many of whom were Caribbean, many Jamaican.

Unlike many churchgoers she did not believe that going to church was simply preparation to go to heaven.

"Going to church trains you to be very practical on earth. So in serving more and more you find that your gifts grow," said Francis, whose televangelist ministry is aired on local television on Sundays.

Francis recalled the time that she took away 170 children to a retreat centre - some of whom she considered "hard-core young people. Soon they started to "cry out for God."

A small bible-study group of young people, which began in her home and which she called "Thank God it's Friday," soon turned into a "mission " which saw them moving into the Anglican church for space.

Soon they began bursting at the seams, and had to find their own space.

Their first meeting at their own place saw 700 persons in attendance on opening night.
It quickly grew to thousands.

Now 3,000 worshippers regularly attend on Friday nights at Kingdom Covenant Ministries.
It's their 11th year.

"We are inter-denominational. I did not want to get involved in denominations. I just wanted people who love God to come and praise God," and out of this she began working with those she called "kids at risk", "especially those the communities did not want."

The youth group of the ministry matured into a body of 120 of the "worst kids" and they began at the beginning - "with academics."

The rest, as they say, is history.
But it is part of this passion for youth that sparks the admiration of fellow Jamaican Betty Ann Blaine.

"Her ministry is very focused on youth - working with black children who have been sentenced to jail, and I admire that. I think she is a strong spiritual leader and sold out on
Jesus," said Blaine, who is the Founder of Youth Opportunities Unlimited - a non-governmental organisation.

"I met her a few weeks ago when she spoke at two churches. I was impressed with her dynamism, her organisation and the fact that this Jamaican has gone to Canada and managed to build up one of the biggest churches there."

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