Reverend Sheldon Raymond, a businessman and senior pastor, has started the new year right.
On January 31, he launched his church – Rehoboth Christian Worship Centre, at Fennel’s Place in Rose Hall district, Linstead, St. Catherine.
He is also on the verge of re-opening his door-manufacturing company – The Door Factory, in the town of Linstead.
But life did not always seem this promising for the 40-year-old, who initially lived in Kingston, but was relocated to Kitson Town in St. Catherine when he was a child.
He hit rock bottom spiritually and otherwise at 10 years old when his father, Standford Raymond, died after suffering a stroke.
“It was one of the roughest periods of my life,” Reverend Raymond told The Beacon.
His father, a farmer, was the family’s sole breadwinner.
His mother, Vinette Archer, who previously was a housewife, resorted to farming to raise her fatherless children – three boys and a girl.
“My mother started planting callaloo and we started going Downtown Kingston at Heywood Street Market to sell the produce so that we could survive,” Reverend Raymond recalled.
“The market was a very dangerous place. You never knew when gunshots would be firing or when extortionists would pass by with their bags and take what they wanted.”
Reverend Raymond also plunged into a spiritual turmoil, blaming God for the death of his dad.
He stopped attending church – the Haven Heights Gospel Lighthouse, where his mother was an evangelist.
He also turned to drinking and gambling.
“When I lost my dad, that was a turning point, because I never wanted anything to do with the church at all. As close as we were living to the church, I used to walk the opposite way,” Reverend Raymond said.
He noted that, despite avoiding the church, he admired how his one-time pastor, Keith Wilson, bonded with members of the Kitson Town community. The pastor, who started referring to him as ‘Minister Raymond’, also repeatedly encouraged him to start attending church again.
Reverend Raymond eventually returned to church at age 19, ending his almost 10-year hiatus. At the said age, he also baptized and preached his first sermon.
“Twenty-two years later, I am still in the pulpit preaching…” he noted. “I chose Christ one night, and I put down the Heineken bottle for good and the gambling for good.”
Reverend Raymond also stated that, after being baptized, his life started to change for the better.
A hardware company, known at the time as Edwards Jamaica Limited, re-hired him. He started working at the company’s chicken coop when he was 15, but he eventually was fired. After being re-hired, Reverend Raymond went on to become the firm’s International Purchasing Manager. He resigned in December 2007 after serving for 10 unbroken years. The company, which is located in St. Catherine, later became Beaver Enterprises.
Reverend Raymond ventured deeper into business, starting his own company – Harcon Distributors Limited, but it failed miserably. He later found employment at Black Ink Marketing, where he spent a year in the post of Office Manager.
The business enthusiast’s journey subsequently took him to Pro Choice Manufacturing in Linstead, St. Catherine, where he spent two years setting up the company’s manufacturing arm.
He eventually left Pro Choice and established another hardware company – The Door Factory, in Linstead in 2016. In that same year, Reverend Raymond relocated the operation to May Pen in Clarendon. He recently ceased the May Pen operation, and is again setting up shop in Linstead.
Linstead is the nearest town to the rural community of Mexico, where Reverend Raymond now lives.
His wife, Kayann, is actually a native of Mexico district.
She was engaged to another man when she met Reverend Raymond by chance during a church service at Ewarton Gospel Lighthouse in St. Catherine. However, the engagement went south, and Kayann wedded Reverend Raymond in March 2007 after dating for three years.
By late 2007, Kayann became pregnant, but the child died 36 hours after birth.
“That brought us through a really rough patch, a rough time in ministry and our personal life,” Reverend Raymond told The Beacon.
The couple bounced back, having a daughter and a son – Chaeli and Jonathan, who are 11 and nine years old respectively.
Reverend Raymond noted that, despite the adversities he faced since becoming a Christian 22 years ago, he has remained in the church.
He attributed his religious longevity to the grooming he received from members of the clergy, including Pastor Wilson and later Pastor Theophelus Forrester – both from Haven Heights Gospel Lighthouse.
When Reverend Raymond left Haven Heights Gospel Lighthouse, he went to live with his wife at Mexico district, where he served with Pastor Trevor White for about three years.
He subsequently was given the herculean task of leading Berwick Gospel Lighthouse church in the Riversdale area of St. Catherine.
“It was a church that had been neglected for years. We had two faithful brethrens. The church was in a state of disrepair. We were told to serve right there, and we got down to work,” Reverend Raymond said.
He added that his team repaired the sanctuary, built houses for a few residents, and re-established a basic school at the church.
“We invested in people’s lives and put back the name of the church on the map,” the clergyman told The Beacon.
He left the church in Berwick after nine years.
That tenure also marked the end of Reverend Raymond’s sojourn with the Gospel Lighthouse ministry, which is operated by the Independent Assemblies of God of Jamaica.
“I have done 35 years in the Gospel Lighthouse fellowship,” Reverend Raymond said. “Our tour of duty ended in September last year, and we were commissioned to go out like Abraham, not knowing where we were going… But we still enjoy a very cordial and respectful working relation with our old church – the Gospel Lighthouse group.”
Reverend Raymond stated that, after leaving the Gospel Lighthouse ministry, he got a number of preaching opportunities.
But he opted to start his own church, using the facilities at Fennel’s Place in Rose Hall, Linstead.
The clergyman declared that his church – Rehoboth Christian Worship Centre, is bent on making a positive difference mainly in the lives of young men in the Linstead area.
Asked how he eventually would like to be remembered, Reverend Raymond told The Beacon: “I want to be remembered as a servant – as somebody who serves people.”
Reverend Raymond is a graduate of the Jamaica Open Bible Institute. He is also a past student of Friendship Primary School and St. Jago High – both in Spanish Town, St. Catherine.
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