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Giving is in his DNA

Audley Gordon lands national award for 25 years of Prison Fellowship

BY ARTHUR HALL
Editor-at-Large
halla@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, August 25, 2019

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He came to national prominence as a Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) councillor for the Hughenden d ivision in 2003 and quickly developed into one of the party's leading voices in what was then the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation (KSAC).

In the nine years Audley Gordon served in the KSAC, he seemed poised to become its next chairman under a JLP majority as he was one of the party's leading lights before he was defeated in the 2012 local government election.

Gordon was then elected a deputy general secretary of the JLP and when the party was elected to form the government in 2016 he was hand-picked to head the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA). A job many persons questioned if he was qualified for.

So there is no surprise that the news that Gordon was among the 143 persons selected for national honours and awards this year was greeted with scepticism as persons questioned if the JLP administration was just rewarding one of his own.

But the soft-spoken Gordon is quick to rubbish this claim as he pointed out that the Order of Distinction in the Officer Class is in no way related to his political contributions.

“A lot of people might think that I am getting this award because of my political and community service which is extensive. But this is not for my community service, this is for my more than 25 years in the prison ministry,” Gordon told the Jamaica Observer.

“I am not surprised that this honour is not for the work I have done for the JLP because the truth is the party is just one of the vehicles that I decided to serve through. But another vehicle is the Prison Fellowship, which is different from prison ministry.

The Prison Fellowship was started in the United States in 1976 by Charles W Colson, a former politician jailed for his involvement in the Watergate scandal. Colson found Christ while in prison and on his release launched Prison Fellowship to take the values of Christianity to those behind bars.

It has since extended to more than 110 countries including Jamaica, where it was established some 20 years ago under the Reverend Rendford Maddix, and Gordon was quick to sign up.

“We are always going to the prison as Christians to minister but not under the Prison Fellowship International umbrella. I found something in Prison Fellowship which excited me because part of the challenge we have is how quickly we condemn another person's faults without realising that we too have faults and we too have committed infractions.

“When I looked at the concept behind Prison Fellowship I could readily see how I could fit in such a scheme because I believe that no man is beyond God's redemptive grace,” added Gordon who now serves as the president of the Jamaica chapter.

According to Gordon, going into the prisons and ministering to some of Jamaica's toughest criminals is a challenge he enjoys and finds rewarding.

“I never look at the crimes as the prerequisite, I look at the human being. I ask why one human being would be so cruel towards another. As a Christian I believe that there are forces at work in the world and human beings are at times led or influenced by those forces.

“So I never look first at the actual act, or the offence, instead I look at the human being and say how can I play a role in that person's life to let them think differently and be a kinder, gentler human being. So we talk about rehabilitation and we are very big on that.

“I have met with men, grown men, who people would call 'bad man' … who would have committed heinous crimes, and I have seen them come to a position in prison where they acknowledge that they have done wrong and cry like babies,” said Gordon.

He added: “I have seen them serve their time in prison and given their lives to the Lord and they are now out. Some preaching, some raising families and a number of them are success stories. So we know that people can be redeemed. We don't subscribe to the irredeemable theory.

“We have seen where you show people the right approach and show them — love they can change. Am I saying that everyone will? No. Am I saying that we have seen the numbers that we would like? No. But are we discouraged? No. We believe that we have seen enough to keep going.”

Gordon noted that because of his administrative role in Prison Fellowship and his work at the NSWMA, he no longer finds time to visit the prisons almost every Wednesday and Sunday as he once did, but whenever he gets the chance he makes a visit because giving back is a part of who he is.

“Growing up, we grew with nothing. We were very, very poor. We had a lot of challenges and along the way a lot of persons helped us, so helping out now is a given. Unlike today where people want pay to do just about anything, in the Jamaica where I grew up we were prepared to go out and do our part … and giving back was fun.

“So now giving back remains fun. I enjoy going into the prisons for a session because it is so fulfilling and it is part of my DNA, so it never becomes a burden,” declared Gordon.


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