By Pastor Leonard A Johnson
President of the Atlantic Caribbean Union of Seventh-day Adventists
IT WAS just 12 months ago that we paused to celebrate our nation’s historic 40th anniversary. Now, a year later, we mark our 41st anniversary. Noticeably, the celebrations are not as hyped up and widespread as last year’s, and understandably so, as such celebrations are costly. Nevertheless, there are some characteristics and qualities relating to our country that ought never to be low-key or downplayed. Gratitude, a sense of pride and personal development, in my opinion, ought to receive daily attention, if we would build a better and stronger nation. As such, I share the following for consideration:
Each year, our neighbours to the north celebrate Thanksgiving. Though one may question the connection and relevance of some activities and celebration associated with the annual Thanksgiving holiday in relation to the original intent of Thanksgiving, inarguably, the setting aside of a day to commemorate the nation’s beginning and offer thanks to God is commendable. Similarly so, I feel that the marking of our country’s independence calls for thankfulness and gratitude to God for His blessing upon our country and us. According to Psalm 100, we ought to: “Make a joyful shout to the Lord...Serve the Lord with gladness...Come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God.”
Remarkably for a small nation of some 350,000 people, we have excelled in academics, sports, medicine, tourism and to an extent, a demonstration of democracy.
Markedly, we still have a sense of ‘god-ness’ or respect for the divine, as seen in the offering of prayer at most public gatherings. Even at both lower and upper houses of Parliament, prayer is offered. Nonetheless, I wish there was a greater and daily display of gratitude among us as a people for who we are, our uniqueness, what we possess, and of course, our God. Travelling to different places has awakened within me a greater appreciation for my being Bahamian and for the Bahamas, especially when I compare. No wonder many from the outside prize and value what we take for granted, the friendliness of our people, our marine environment, gorgeous beaches, an attractive chain of islands and favourable weather patterns, making the Bahamas a preferred site for year-round visits. In the words of a popular song, “We are blessed.” Therefore should we not wear gratitude on our proverbial sleeves? Certainly, we ought to.
Additionally, there seems to be a need for a greater display of national pride. As the name suggests, “national” is widespread, taking in the entire nation inclusive of every highway, roundabout, street, lane, alley and even every signage. Yes, it ought to include our seas, lakes and creeks. It speaks to where I live and the way that I regard and care for my surroundings, space and self. It also relates to respect for the past and current leaders, as well as other builders and contributors of the nation, irrespective of creed, politics and hue of skin. It refers to pride and appreciation of that which is Bahamian, our culture, our food, lifestyle and our uniqueness. In addition, it ought to speak to an abiding respect for God.
According to Deuteronomy 4:7-9, the Bible records that a nation who forgets God, His statutes and His blessings, is destined to ruin and failure. In fact, Jehoshaphat, king of Judah thousands of years ago, urged his people, “Believe your God and so shall you be established; believe in His prophets, so shall you prosper” (2 Chronicles 20:20, NKJV).
Could it be that some negative behaviour being manifested in some pockets of our society speaks to a lack of respect and pride for the nation, self and the things with which God has blessed us? Consider graffiti on buildings, walls and the like; unkempt parks, public cemeteries, and in some instances, historic buildings and sites; indiscriminate dumping of waste; lack of care and attention to our marine and national environment raise serious questions relating to national pride. One such question being, “Do we know the value and significance of what we possess?” Hopefully, a sense of national pride will enable us to comprehend the words of the hymn writer Maltbie Davenport Babcock, who wrote, “This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears all nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres...This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.”
To realise the above, government, church, educators, civic groups and the media must network. It is more than a periodic display of national colours and a reciting of the pledge. We need a mindset so that we would know our identity and be proud of the persons God has made and the islands He has entrusted to us.
Given the aforementioned, when practiced and embraced, our nation will demonstrate greater growth and maturity. Forty-one years later we ought to be a people believing in ourselves and our abilities; a people spurring one another on to greater heights. Forty-one years later, we ought to be demanding more of our students as opposed to lowering the bar to meet their level, and mediocrity ought not be a part of our vocabulary. “Higher than the highest human thought can reach is God’s ideal for His children. Godliness – godlikeness – is the goal to be reached,” says an inspired writer. Composer of our national anthem, the late Timothy Gibson, penned, “See how the world marks the manner of your bearing! Pledge to excel through love and unity. Pressing onward, march together to a common loftier goal...’Til the road you’ve trod lead unto your God, March on Bahamaland.”
God bless the Bahamas!