At age 14, youth pastor Andre Dixon turned away from the guns and violence he had been exposed to growing up and found the right path for himself.
He got saved at the Church of God Church in Jamaica, and he says it changed his life.
“Gangs would say to me why am I going to church and tell me I should join them, but I would say no. It was challenging,” he says, “but I stuck through it.”
The former teacher in Jamaica, who now lives in Grand Cayman, is also a musician, and he realised there was an avenue to introduce Christ in the basic school and the community. He applied to be a youth pastor in Cayman at the West Bay Church of God, and he has been there for six of the 20 years he has been a youth pastor.
Recalling his experiences, he tells of a young girl who came crying to him one day because kids at her school were picking on her.
“I felt so bad because it happened to me before too,” he says. “I took her aside and ministered to her and up to today she’s changed – there’s a smile on her face. She would come and hug me. From that day till now, she’s not the same.”
Another youth pastor in Cayman, Felix Manzanares, says the day he gave his life to the lord at age 19 “transformed my life, career and my whole lifestyle…”
As the youth pastor at the Church Of God Chapel on Walkers Road, Manzanares says, “I’m asking God to give me the power to encourage young people.”
November will mark his four-year anniversary as a youth pastor, and he now sees a greater role for himself in the bigger picture here.
”I see all the stuff happening here and it’s a cry for help for the youth,” he says, in reference to the kind of news that’s drawing bad headlines. He hopes “to make a positive impact” and get the message out for parents “to start reaching out to their sons and daughters and loved ones …and make home a priority.”
Janet Chisholm, the youth leader at the Frank Sound Church of God, described her experience of being saved at age 12 as “dynamic”. Her love of children and her desire to keep them positive has now turned into 20 years as a youth leader. One of the things that really touched her was “getting a text from someone relating that she loves me and [that] I am making a difference in her life,” she said, adding that she wants to “take young people to another level, not only spiritually but intellectually.”
For those interested in youth meetings, here are some of them:
The Church of God Chapel on Walkers Road, 6.45-9.15pm Fridays; between 40 and 50 youths ranging in age from 10 to 17. The church helps young people get involved in community service, charity work and Camp JAM, among other activities.
The West Bay Church of God, next to the library, meets Wednesdays; about 50 young people ranging in age from 5 to 14 and Friday, ages 10-14. The group takes field trips, plays educational games and may hear from motivational speakers.
The Frank Sound Church of God: 8-10pm Fridays; 25-30 youths ages 13-25. They play a lot of interactive games and discuss topics such as peer pressure and self control.