On the Journey with Ellen Thomas

Life is a journey, journeying journeys, and for author, minister, educator and retired chaplain Ellen Thomas, her wise counsel has inspired many.

A self-confessed woman of excellence, Thomas tells All Woman that whatever she does, "I endeavour to do it to the best of my ability as inspired by the Spirit of God".

"In the middle of the word excellence is my name ELLEN," she shared. "I am lady of excellence, Christ-centred, counsellor, educator, loving, light-hearted, enabler, nature lover, compassionate, and easygoing."

Born and raised in the community of Mt Industry, St Catherine, as one of six children to a farmer dad and higgler mom, Thomas, author of the 'book of revelations' On the Journey, said she always knew she was supposed to write — and the inspiration for the writings.

"We lived next door to church and school. I'd usually spend many Saturday nights with my grandmother, who came nearer to us to live, which was an answer to the first prayer I could recall that I made to God and it came through. At her house I learned to pray in her early Sunday morning prayer meetings with my sister and cousins," Thomas recalled.

"I gave my life to Christ at age 12. We had a vibrant young people's group. The fellowship and ministry of that group and the Mt Industry Disciples of Christ Church made an indelible impact on my life."

She said the awareness of God in her life at that early age opened the path to where she knew she needed to go and what she needed not to do.

And, "Somehow in my heart long ago, I knew I was to write a book," she said. "I felt I was looking for the final chapter of that book before beginning to write it."

It was one morning in 2019 while preparing to leave home for one of the locations to which she was assigned to work, that the spirit of the Lord told Thomas, "God has interest in the journey".

She has now taken early retirement from her full-time job as chaplain with the Department of Correctional Service (DCS), but then the nature of her work took her to correctional institutions and offices outside the Corporate Area.

"The way to these destinations was often an occasion for reflection, meditation and communion," she explained. "Many prayers were said, issues of the heart poured out, lessons learned, inspiration given..."

She said it is also customary for her to say, "welcome aboard, Holy Spirit" as she enters her car, and with great anticipation, asks the Holy Spirit to determine the topic for conversation.

"So having heard, 'God has interest in the journey', this set the pace in my mind regarding what would be the nature of the conversation as I travelled to New Broughton Adult Correctional Centre in Manchester. So we conversed about JOURNEY.

"When I returned home, I knew I had book number two to write even though up to this point I had not begun the first. I knew then that this was to be written about journey. One morning I heard in my spirit, 'Life is a journey journeying journeys'. One evening following that, while going home in traffic, the thought was impressed upon me to entitle the book On the Journey."

She said during the pandemic when St Catherine was under lockdown, she decided to utilise the time to put the book together.

On the Journey invites readers to share in the impact of the Spirit of God in life's journeys, depicted through divine encounters, revelations and spiritual insights. Thomas said it was important for her to share the impact of God on people's life journey, as she is conscious of the tremendous joy and assurance that her own relationship with Him brings.

"I am conscious that we are here to help others along the way. I am conscious that I have a unique opportunity and responsibility which is a privilege to let others know about this God, my God who loves His people and cares about them and the nitty gritty aspects of their lives. Therefore, to me, sharing the impact of God on people's life journey is a mission of utmost importance."

A graduate of St Joseph's Teachers' College, where she entered straight out of secondary school at age 16; the United Theological College, and Christian Theological Seminary in the United States, Thomas, who has a bachelor's in theology and a master's in Christian education, is pastor for God's Mission Ministries.

She said it was God who called her as a pastor, and her greatest contribution to the world is her input in the transformational life experiences of the various individuals with whom she has worked, ministered and interacted.

"When I joined the DCS there was only one chaplain, the Rev Dr Renford Maddix. He was delighted to have me join him in the chaplaincy unit. The inmates, both male and female, endeared themselves to me. Almost the entire constituency was welcoming of my engagements with them," she said.

"There are numerous testimonials regarding benefits from the counselling engagements and other chaplaincy services that I have offered. During the early years at Tamarind Farm Adult Correctional Centre, one day an inmate came to my office and said, 'Have you noticed that when you approach the institution a number of us inmates line up along the fence and then after you enter they are gone? We look forward to the smile that you bring, you made our day. We know you are real and genuine'."

Thomas' definition of success is not necessarily in terms of achievements and accomplishments, but knowing what God sets out for her to do and doing it to the best of her ability.

"Success is having that sense of fulfilment whilst maximising for good the opportunities that God brings before me," she said. "Success is living life, and for me, living life is God establishing His purpose in my living."

She added: "I am mindful that there are always lessons to be learnt from every situation, and I believe that all things work together for good for those who love the Lord and are the called according to His purpose."

Partnering with God and having His purpose being fulfilled in her life is her motivation, and her life is to honour God.

"One of the experiences one will encounter in reading On the Journey is that of an awareness of the reality of life, death and subsequent necessity of living in readiness for eternity with Christ," she said. "This is a reality that matters to everyone.

"I don't want to know that there is something He has for me to do for humanity on His behalf that was not done, so I endeavour to incline my heart and my ears to Him. As He speaks, whatever He lays on my heart to do, I do it. Wherever He wants me to speak, to go, whatever He wants me to do..."

Nowadays she says she has the freedom to spend time studying God's word, writing, and engaging in other areas of ministry on her own schedule.

"This as well provides me with the opportunity to do more for myself, family, friends and others whilst applying wisdom," she said.

Petulia Clarke-Lawrence

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