Jamaican pastor weeps as he reaches retirement after decades of 'miraculous' ministry

Rev George Simpson taking a baptism in 2011 after the church was gutted by arson in 2010Townhead Baptist Church/Facebook

One of Jamaica's most popular pastors has finally retired at the age of 72 after a life of extraordinary and even miraculous ministry. He and the church survived an earthquake, arson and even an attempt on his own life.

The Rev George Simpson burst into tears after hearing the tributes to him and and how he and his church survived nearly five decades of spiritual and not so spiritual warfare to take the final victory of a, hopefully, peaceful retirement.

After being ordained 46 years ago Simpson arrived in 1980 to pastor at Mount Carey Baptist Church in St James, a peaceful and normally-tranquil part of the Caribbean island. The 200-year-old church had already been rebuilt after being destroyed in the devastating earthquake of 1957.

The growing congregation kept faith through a multititude of break-ins and robberies.

Devastation struck with the murder of their organist, Delroy Reid, at just 24, in 2006. He had also been a hugely successful popular musician of growing fame in Jamaica.

Just two years later, there was an attempt on Simpson's own life.

And then in 2010, arsonists succeeded in gutting the entire church. 

Seated with Joan, who he has been married to for 45 years, Pastor Simpson sat calmly until Deacon Patricia Palmer began to describe the attempt on his life, on the veranda of his manse, the Jamaica Observer reported. Then he wept.

"The year 2008 was a year of adversity, pain and despair when you were brutally injured at the Manse. The road to recovery was long and daunted, but through surgery and pain you demonstrated forgiveness, through Christ you were able to defy the odds," Deacon Palmer read to the packed church.

Simpson's assailants, some of whom have since died and all of whom he forgave, shot him in the face, stomach and chest. They also knifed his hands, leg and stomach as he shouted: "The blood of Jesus! The blood of Jesus!" He suffered multiple operations and it was two years before he was back at work in what locals told the Jamaica Observer was a "miraculous recovery".

Rev Karl Johnson, general secretary of the Jamaica Baptist Union, said Pastor Simpson "was faithful to his vocation in good times and bad times and in sunshine or in rain."

He added: "He was a man consistent in his conviction, whether you heard him in the corridor or in the corridors of the executive room, the same views he held in quiet corner, he expounds it into open forum." 

Service of thanksgiving and appreciation for Rev George Simpson, left.JBU Mission Agency

At the time of the arson attack, Pastor Simson described it in the Jamaica Gleaner as "the latest in a series of demonic attacks on the ministry of a congregation that has served the community for approximately two centuries."

"The devil is indeed at work, with agents who have robbed, hurt and sought to intimidate members of the church relentlessly. Yet, the victory still remains in the hand of our redeeming God, whose church will prevail," he wrote.

"Let it be clear that the chapel is burnt, but the church is alive. It should not be forgotten by anyone, let alone the emissaries of evil, that the Christian Church in Jamaica, and particularly its Baptist denomination, remains firmly rooted in a tradition of struggle and survival against the forces of wickedness in high and low places; whether found in the proponents of slavery or in the advocates of gambling.

"Make no mistake, the Mt Carey Baptist Church will rebuild its chapel yet again, and before long, out of the ashes shall spring an edifice worthy to be called 'The House of God'. The vicissitudes being faced will not rob the resolve of our community of believers to march forward in the strength of the Lord. We know that 'through Christ, we can'."