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Keith Hinds sets up new church

Former Portmore mayor fully wrapped up in God’s work

BY SUZETTE BONAS Sunday Observer writer bonass@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, June 29, 2014    

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TWO years into leaving politics for the pews, former Portmore Mayor Keith Hinds has fully affirmed himself in religious life with the establishment of his new church, Prayer and Faith Apostolic Ministries.

On an acre and two squares of land in Bog Walk, St Catherine, the ministry will have its first service today. But according to Hinds, the focus is not solely on the typical mandates of the traditional church.

"We're looking at a ministry that says a man is body, soul and spirit," Hinds told the Jamaica Observer. "We're not going into ministry just to preach to persons, just to be baptising them in the name of Jesus and having them filled with the Holy Ghost."

Through the use of expertise and connections in both the public and private sectors to engage young people, the one-time politician said that his ministry was here to do meaningful things. He plans to teach youth enterprise as a means to "come off the corner"; helping young men to become entrepreneurs and young women to have dignity and value for themselves.

Hinds also aims to help people to take their "feel-good Sunday" experience at church and extend it into the week. He has called on pastors to get to know their "sheep" and to give a chance to those who may not be baptised but are consistent in church.

"You have to understand," Hinds said, "that in the sea, you will catch some fish but there are still fish to be caught. But for you to catch them, you have to go into the sea and you have to set your net or your fishing line. What do you call the fish that you haven't caught? Aren't they fish?"

The pastor admits that arriving at this point of maturity in his faith was not without his share of slip-ups, lessons and successes. As a young man at the height of his evangelism, having started his Christian life in 1977, a distracted Hinds found himself backsliding. He said that he spent the next 20 years doing everything except for what God had called him to do.

With encouragement from his wife, Marjorie, Hinds responded to an invitation to preach and found himself back at his home church, Pentecostal Tabernacle. The crowd on the altar after his sharing was all the re-affirmation he needed.

"I never figured myself to be a pastor," Hinds said, "I always figured myself to be an evangelist and to be all over preaching."

In March 2012, he became co-pastor of the church situated in Morris Hall and settled in to do God's work.

"Having been there for over a year, I got to know the people in the community. Even the dogs in the community know me," he joked, "and I've just been there ministering."

Through various outreach projects, Hinds said, they have begun to transform the area. They have assisted persons in finding employment, constructed a wooden shelter for a church sister in need and one young man from Morris Hall has been ordained a minister. Fancying himself a good chef, Hinds and the ministry hosted cook-outs for the community on both Mother's Day and Father's Day.

Yesterday, the ministry engaged the Bog Walk community in another outreach exercise. Feting the children and the elderly, they gifted packages with donations from K and M Wholesale, Lasco and Wilcore.

From his various experiences, Hinds has learned that many pastors are unequipped to deal with some situations, including counselling. Others, he said, have watered down their gospels to reap benefits from relationships with the State but he will do no such thing.

"Many persons have forgotten," he said, "when they started this ministry and God start[ed] to bless the ministry. They become lords over God's heritage and that is a dangerous position."

Though he enjoyed his time as Portmore mayor, Hinds knew that his place was in the Lord's house.

"It was no surprise to me," he said, "that having gone through the elections, I decided that I didn't want to do this thing much anymore. So I did not really do as much campaigning as I would normally do, to go out and try to win a seat, per se."

With no plans to return to politics, Hinds advised his colleagues whom he left in the political arena to make just decisions, reminding them that the day of judgment is coming. To the prime minister, Portia Simpson Miller, and Opposition Leader Andrew Holness, this was his simple message: "Be careful for your soul."

Acknowledging that it is difficult to walk in both the political and ministry lives due to the nature of the situations that one is placed in, his wish for Education Minister Ronald Thwaites was similar: "I hope that at the end of his political life, he still has his salvation," he said.

Hinds said that he has found similarities in both spheres as he was still able to impact lives in a personal way. He has often had people come to him at functions who give him testimonies of his work in their lives.

To those who criticised his transition to religious pursuits, Hinds said that he takes the criticism with joy. To them he offered advice he received from his friend Daryl Vaz -- "you don't stone fluxy mangoes on trees."

But ultimately for the pastor, the journey has been a long time coming and undeniably satisfying.

"One of the most rewarding things, actually," Hinds said, "is to watch my wife, Marjorie, as she shows up at my side, despite the fact that we would have come from different backgrounds in terms of our religious beliefs."

Though the ministry currently holds its services in a container on the Bog Walk compound, Hinds hopes that through assistance from Food for the Poor, they will be able to establish a building in the coming months. With hopes of adding an early child-care centre to the church services and Bible sessions his ministry offers, Hinds will continue to give his service to God.

"The truth of the matter is, I love people." he said. "I can do wonders from where I'm at, at the moment. I just thank God for the opportunity to be doing what I'm doing and I want it to be a genuine experience," he said.

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