Even in retirement, 71-year-old Major Thamsie Ellis remains valiant in her effort to promulgate the virtues of Christianity.
She launched a Prayer Club on 21 October 2017, and is bent on establishing a branch in schools across the island.
“My desire is that we would teach our children to pray,” she declared. “A lot of churches don’t have a good Sunday school, and so we have to catch the children in the schools…”
The prayer club is already operational at Holly Hill Primary and Infant School in Westmoreland, Major Ellis disclosed.
Her thrust to have the club in other educational institutions has been slowed by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which has resulted in the closure of schools island-wide.
“It was going very good until COVID,” Major Ellis said.
“I would like to see a prayer club in all schools in Jamaica, in the Caribbean – all over. Our vision is to teach our children to pray, and praying for them to be safe from the hands of the evil ones who prey on them daily.”
Amid COVID-19, Major Ellis, who is usually called on to conduct devotions at schools and social events, has resorted to using media to reach her target audience – the children.
Her special affinity with children is not clouded by the fact that she does not have any of her own, and she has never been married.
“I love teaching, and so you would always find me with children,” said Major Ellis, who originally is from Bluefields district in Westmoreland.
She grew up partly with 13 siblings, as well as her parents Cecil and Alhama Ellis.
Her mother was a domestic worker, and her father a jack of all trades – especially carpentry, farming, and woodcutting.
Major Ellis spent the first 14 years of her life with her biological parents in a household that strongly espoused the principles of the Salvation Army.
Her childhood church in Bluefields actually was the first to have been built by the Salvation Army in the Caribbean, she said.
“We learned to profess Christ from when we were very small growing up in the [Salvation Army] church,” Major Ellis told The Beacon. “About seven years old, we were junior members of the church. At 14, we became seniors.”
Major Ellis eventually left Bluefields to live with her spiritual parents – Majors Lenworth and Ruby Campbell, who travelled across the island to preach. She lived with them for 11 years.
While residing with her spiritual parents in Portland, Major Ellis did a relatively short stint as a teacher at the Salvation Army Basic School in Port Antonio.
At age 24, she enrolled in the Salvation Army Training School for Officers in Kingston, where she studied for two years to become a pastor.
Major Ellis subsequently dived headlong into ministry.
She served as pastor at the Salvation Army’s church at Falmouth in Trelawny, Point and Fern in St James, Leamington and Carr in Westmoreland and St. Elizabeth respectively, May Pen in Clarendon, as well as Hopewell and Deleon Bigwoods in Westmoreland.
Major Ellis also worked as a matron for a few months at Windsor Lodge Children’s Home, which is operated in Manchester by the Salvation Army.
Her journey later took her overseas – first to Barbados, where she spent some four years.
She returned to Jamaica and took up pastoral duties at Cave Mountain in Westmoreland and subsequently at Jones Town in Kingston.
Another opportunity came for Major Ellis to travel abroad. She went to Bartica in Guyana for some four years, and later to Suriname where she spent two years.
Not giving up on her native land, Major Ellis came back to Jamaica and did pastoral duties at Port Maria in St. Mary from 2001 to 2009.
“While I was in Port Maria in 2009, I became 60 years old. So, I retired in Port Maria from the ministry,” she told The Beacon.
After retiring, Major Ellis went to Canada, where she spent two years with her spiritual parents.
When she returned to Jamaica, she stepped out of retirement and back into her heart’s desire – preaching.
Her final assignment was at Hopewell in Darliston, Westmoreland, where she did seven years, ending in 2019.
“I feel good about my years of service,” Major Ellis said. “The only regret I have is that I didn’t start preaching earlier.”
Major Ellis said one of the reasons she is fascinated with the Salvation Army is that it gives women and men equal opportunity to serve.
“A lot of women have privilege to become teachers, pastors, leaders in different fields and so forth,” she further explained.
During her sojourn with the Salvation Army, Major Ellis served in different ranks – moving up from Lieutenant, to Captain, and to Major. She has been a Major for 32 years.
She now lives in Kingston at a home designated for Salvation Army retirees.
“We are well taken care of by the Salvation Army,” said the pensioner, who dabbles in the playing of guitars and pianos.
She also serves as a Justice of the Peace, a marriage officer, and a chaplain at different infirmaries.
Major Ellis told The Beacon that one of her main objectives at this time is to push her school-based prayer club for which she has written and designated the following prayer:
God loves us, we will not fray
He is on our side, we will not stray
When we have problems, He has our backs
For Jesus will keep us, on the right track
So together in prayer we’ll bow each day
And trust Him to lead us along life’s way.
Major Ellis stated that she eventually would like to be remembered for her unwavering faith in her maker. “I would like to be remembered as a person who was born again and filled with the Holy Spirit,” she added.
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