Reverend Raphael Massiah is a ‘Special Person’
“I believe the man in our country has to get back to his rightful position. You have got to present to our young male folk a template that is working. One that says you can do ‘A’, ‘B’ or ‘C’, despite the chances of failure.”
By Edison Jefford
An admirable sense of humility subjugates an acknowledgment of his achievements as he chronicles a challenging journey in life. His perception and personal vision are intrinsic and characteristic rather than premeditated.
Reverend Raphael Massiah regards himself as a “regular guy” but the facts related with his existence certainly contradict that claim. He readily admitted to an unwavering focus, but other desirable qualities were revealed to me during an interview with refreshing candour.
Reverend Massiah leads the First Assembly of God flock at D’Urban Street, Wortmanville, where he has also pioneered the establishment of ‘Generation Next’, a training facility, with Headquarters obliquely located to the place of worship.
The Minister of Religion holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Management from the University of Guyana and a Degree in Theology from the Caribbean School of Theology and University and is a certified facilitator.
He was the first Guyanese to become an instructor at the prestigious Haggai Institute that is based in Singapore and Hawaii. The institute trains and empowers Third World leaders and Massiah is part of its respectable faculty. He is also Chairman of the Georgetown Ministers’ Fellowship and Executive on the International Third World Leaders’ Association, based in the Bahamas, with renowned author and orator Dr. Myles Munroe as its head.
The 55-year-old Reverend Massiah will celebrate 30 years of marriage on August 4 and has three children: Marrissa, Melinda and Martin.
The details of his successes only surfaced when questioned as opposed to haughty spontaneity.
Massiah was the penultimate sibling of five in a single-parent home and never had leisure of deliberate institutionalised education past primary school, which forced him to become a product of secondary self-education.
“I only had the privilege of attending primary school. I wrote O’ Levels on my own. I used different tutors. My cousin and I were the same age and when he came home from High School, I used to go through his books,” he said.
Massiah had his formative orientation at Pouderoyen and Vreed-en-hoop, in the presence of his mother, and recalled leaving there at around age six to live in Lodge, a ward in Georgetown, before returning to the West Bank of Demerara following his sitting of the Common Entrance Examination.
He admits growing up in meagre conditions but there were spiritual meanings inherent in his description of his childhood circumstances as he referred to both his parents as being “successful” despite the lack of economic evidence.
“Poverty is not politics, economics or social considerations holding people back. Poverty is the state of our thinking. The Word of God says that my people are destroyed because of the lack of knowledge,” his conviction offered.
“I believe that that in essence is the reason why people remain in poverty because of their thoughts,” he continued, adding that his consciousness arose very early in his life and he figured education was the only way out of poverty.
His father never married his mother, and that was an orientation that he was never able to fathom, even as an adult. He said he never woke up with his parents under the same roof and was determined to change that reality.
He attributed his characteristic value of being benevolent to his mother. His recollection took him back to times when he and his siblings would go to bed and wake up with three other foster children in the same cramped room.
The erudite and articulate Reverend placed his early determination to succeed squarely in the hands of one of his teachers, who encouraged his mother to find the money to pay for his College of Preceptors examination using any means.
“I remember a teacher saying to her as he had me turn my back ‘beg, borrow or steal the money, this boy will pass the exam’. I heard mommy say that she does not have the money but he insisted,” he modestly recalled.
“In the afternoons as the boys would sit and argue Shakespeare and recite long chunks of poetry, I wanted to be a part of that and so I read those same books, I read Shakespeare and poetry and I did the math,” Massiah added.
The Haggai Institute facilitator did several odd jobs that included working on a farm that was located at the D’Urban Backlands, leading up to his O’Level examinations. From what he earned, he was also able to contribute to his home.
“I learnt a principle very early in life and I heard my mother say it over and over again to me, ‘all honest work is honourable’,” he reflected, while indicating that his beginning did not matter as much as his end. He was hungry for success.
“It did not matter to me whether I was shovelling down, plucking chicken or working on the waterfront. I know that those were avenues and not my destiny. These jobs were only necessary because I had to earn money,” he said.
Asked if he always wanted to become a Minister, Massiah’s response was rooted in what he referred to as the “call of God” as opposed to his personal ambition. He believes that one cannot necessarily aspire to become a Minister.
“The call is the demand of God upon a person’s life and you can try to do a whole host of other things but you are not comfortable,” he noted, adding that he was unfulfilled as just a successful manager. There was more to his life.
But the transition was not as easy as it may seem. Massiah said that he struggled with the “call of God” on his life for a number of reasons, including the fact that he did not want to appear to be consistently dependent on people.
He said he discussed his issues extensively with his colleagues, some of whom were non-Christians. He was aged 19 when he felt God leading him in that direction, but stated that it took him another 19 years to accept the responsibility.
“When I made that decision, I was convinced that I should have made that decision much earlier than I did. It is the most fulfilling in terms of one’s destiny and purpose. I felt the call of God upon my life,” Massiah reiterated.
“Like the Apostle Paul said, it is hard for you to kick against the bricks,” he continued, while adding that he has had astronomical successes since he became a fulltime Minister of Religion and the evidence of such is obvious.
The establishment of Generation Next is a prime example. The facility is more than just a building, it has philosophical grounding and according to Massiah, its vision is currently being documented for immeasurable references.
“The philosophy is to empower young people and people in general. Generation Next is a structured approach. If a young man in this country wants to become an astronaut, the philosophy of Generation Next will be able to connect him to his vision. I certainly believe that you can become whatever you want to become,” Massiah proffered.
He said that the aim is to allow individuals who have significantly contributed to society to develop relationships with young people so that the disparity between aspirants and achievers will not be such a yawning chasm.
The Reverend, who is known for his political insight, said that the focus will be to breach the obvious divisive attitudes in Guyana. He offered an explanation for the reason behind so many anti-institutional responses in the country.
“Some of our politicians are friends but when they come into the public domain, they portray themselves as enemies, so young people are learning that the only way to become successful is to be an antagonist,” he explained.
“This has to be changed and I am praying that the young people that will get into politics will use different methods of conflict resolution like attempting to negotiate and listening, a very big word,” Massiah furthered.
He believes that Jonestown (an intentional community in northwest of the country where over 900 cult members committed suicide in mid-November 1978) brought darkness and infamy to Guyana. He said he is always associated with Jonestown whenever he travels but is trusting God for social, economic and ecological transformation in his lifetime.
“Guyana will fulfill its continental value. Never-mind the foolishness with Barbados and the Caribbean, whenever you see people acting up this way, they are just forces at work attempting to prevent this nation from realising its true potential and this nation has got tremendous potential,” Massiah asserted.
“Guyana will move at such a fast rate that the young men and women that are immersing themselves with integrity will be the ones handling those resources, not because of what they can get, but because of what they can give,” he prophesied.
Asked what one of his primary passions is, Massiah said that the displacement of the God-given responsibilities of the man is foremost in his mind and he wants to see men return to their rightful role within the home and society.
“I believe the man in our country has to get back to his rightful position. You have got to present to our young male folk a template that is working. One that says you can do ‘A’, ‘B’ or ‘C’, despite the chances of failure,” he said.
“You show me a person that has never failed and I will show you a person that has never tried. Somebody who never achieved failure, who never missed the mark, is a person who never tried to achieve something in life,” Massiah asserted.
The Minister indicated that the best biblical definition of the man is as a foundation, since his entire family is built on him. He said that society has distorted that revelation and he is working to return men to their rightful place.
“I want to encourage men. I believe that if a man and a woman are married and they lay a good foundation, they can break the back of poverty for their children. They will be able to set them up to succeed.”
Reverend Massiah is truly a source of inspiration for ‘Generaton Next’.
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