I’m sixty-eight years of age, and heading for sixty nine. In fact, in just a few months I’ll be one year away from the biblical “three score years and ten.”
“So what?” you might ask; “what’s so great about sixty-eight?”
If you will bear with me, I’ll tell you a few things. First, at 68 years of age, I’m on no medication; so, from that point of view, I’m healthy. And that’s something to be happy about (in my view). Secondly, at 68 I have (finally) become a grand-father of a gorgeous (of course I’m biased) little baby girl, born just before Christmas. Thirdly, at 68 I’m married to the love of my life,
now going on 45 years! And again, that’s something to brag about.
Pastor Alson and Norma Ebanks
But there is something else about the number 68 that is very important to me. It’s not the age thing, but the actual year, 1968. That was a big year for me. No, I didn’t fall in love or get married or anything like that. I didn’t even get the big break that I auditioned for.
Let me tell you about that. Back then (just like now) I loved music. I had learned to play the guitar, and thought of myself as a promising singer and song-writer. I’d already written one song that was eventually recorded (by Cardinal DaCosta, most recently), and had gotten the opportunity (that’s what I thought of it back then) to play with some of the local musicians at such places as Blue Horizon Club, Club Inferno, La Fontaine Hotel, and Farmer’s Bright Spot.
I suspect that most of you reading this may not have a clue about the places I’m referring to. Sorry about that. Comes with not being around in 1968.
But there was one place that I (and the two other guys that with me formed our little group) wanted to play. We wanted the opportunity to play at the Galleon Beach Hotel. For you late-comers or younger ones, it was the hotel that occupied the space where the Westin Casuarina currently sits. Well, we three went and had our audition, and waited.
Scroll forward a few days (or weeks, I can’t remember—after all I’m 68). There was a group of teenagers visiting my school that summer of 1968. They were from Florida, and were doing some repairs at Triple C School (the old one, remember? Used to occupy what is the present Government parking lot behind the Immigration building in Town). That summer, at the request of the principal, I (reluctantly) agreed to donate some time to work with the visiting Floridians. Of course, by Divine intervention, I was motivated to be less reluctant when a certain pretty Caymanian girl also joined the work group. Freshly motivated, I worked with them for the week, hoping that when they left (especially the Florida boys), that particular young lady would give me more focused attention.
So, there I was on the Sunday night that they were to depart back to Florida. It was one of those late flights (on LASCA, I think), which made it possible for them to attend church and still make their flight. Ostensibly I was there to bid them farewell, and (what great fortune!) I was sitting next to that pretty Caymanian girl.
Well, the Florida teens sang and talked, and the visiting Florida preacher preached. I really have no recollection of what he actually said, but I know that at the time it got me thinking.
Then a strange thing happened. As they were closing the church service, and the preacher was extending an invitation to anyone who wanted to change their lives and become a Christian, I felt very uncomfortable, so much so that I was really gripping the back of the pew in front of me pretty fiercely.
Anyway, even though I felt what the church people called “under conviction,” I was reluctant to move, hoping that the preacher would soon finish with his invitation. Then an even stranger thing happened. At first I could hardly believe my ears (but as you will see, I heard with my emotions, not my mind). This pretty Caymanian girl leaned over and whispered this question in my ear, “Do you want me to go with you?”
Wow! Did I ever! Of course I wanted to go out with her; that was the main reason I was in church. But, she didn’t actually say “Go out,” did she? She said, “Go.” But of course I responded, “Yes!”
Having heard my very definite affirmative reply, guess what happened next? She gently began to nudge me out of the pew, towards the altar. That’s when it dawned on me that her question had nothing to do with “going out” with her—dating her, once the Florida boys had flown away. She was asking if I wanted her to accompany me to the altar to make a decision with which I was battling in my mind and soul.
Now, what would you have done? Look like a fool and say, “Sorry, I thought you meant ‘go out,’ not go down to the altar and make a commitment to follow Jesus”? So, I stepped out.
At this point, you will have every reason to suspect that under that particular set of circumstances—with the duress, one might say—my stepping out was just an act to save face, to avoid embarrassment. But, strangely enough, this was also Divine intervention, because the moment I stepped out into the aisle and headed to the altar, it was all me. It was my heart and mind and will actually saying yes to God’s call on my life. (By the way, I don’t know till today if that pretty Caymanian girl actually accompanied me to the altar. She’s still around, and a great friend; I must ask her.)
I knelt there and prayed. Not sure of the actual words I said. I just know that when I stood up and walked back to that pew, in my mind I was saying, “This is it. From this moment on, I’m going to follow Jesus.” No more Blue Horizon Club, Club Inferno, La Fontaine or Farmer’s Bright Spot.
That old guitar (which I still own) never got the chance to play in the Galleon Beach Hotel. But it would travel with me from Cayman to Indiana, to Greenwich Village, New York City, to the jungles of Peru and back to Cayman. This year, 2018, will be 50 years since God orchestrated that interesting piece of drama to rescue one skinny Boatswain Bay boy from the grasp of the devil (who says God doesn’t have sense of humour?)—to not only rescue him, but place him on a trajectory where one day another unexpected thing would happen: he would become the first Caymanian to pastor the “Chapel Church” in George Town for a period of over 25 years. It was the 5th of July, 1968 when it all began. So, now you know what’s so great about 68.
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