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From Rasta to pastor

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Personal journey: Kenneth Manders has been re-elected as president of the Bermuda Conference of Seventh-day Adventists

The Bermuda Conference of Seventh-day Adventists held its third quadrennial session last Sunday.

The purpose was to elect the executive leaders of the denomination for the next four years.

Kenneth Manders was re-elected as president of the Bermuda Conference for the third time, a position he first accepted in 2014.

“I am extremely humbled and thankful for the opportunity to continue to serve my conference, the Bermuda Conference, the conference that birthed me,” he said.

Pastor Dejaun Tull was re-elected as executive secretary and Aaron Spencer as treasurer.

For Dr Manders, the post of president is the culmination of an incredible journey in the Adventist faith, which began with his conversion and baptism in 1979.

“Believe it or not, before accepting Christ I was a Rastafarian. I went from a Rasta to a pastor, as I like to say.

“The lifestyle of uprightness, living a natural peaceful life is what drew me into Rastafarianism. But the initial transition came when I started to study the Bible in more depth and came to believe that Jesus Christ is the Messiah.

“I had to make a decision between Rastafarianism and the Bible. I came out of the Rasta movement and became a ‘Jesus dread’ because I acknowledged that I believed in Christ.”

Kenneth Manders (Photograph supplied)

On July 14, 1979 Dr Manders was baptised into the Seventh-day Adventist Church, after much Bible study and reflection.

“I was invited to an evangelistic series where Pastor Mac Wilson was preaching Bible prophecy. He was preaching from Daniel and Revelation. The message of the advent church was made clear to me, and I discovered how powerful the Adventist message is and I chose to be baptised. Bible truth just has a way of setting people free.”

Despite joining the church, it took some time before Dr Manders became fully involved.

“Rastas believe that your body is the temple, so we didn’t need to go to church. So I got baptised and just read my Bible by myself until someone came and showed me Hebrews 10:25, which says: ‘Let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves together.’ That is when I started to attend church more frequently.

“I really just had a strong desire to be a commandment-keeping Christian and I wanted to follow, to the best of my ability, the blueprint laid out in the Bible. It’s a simple religion. Love God with all your heart, love your neighbour as yourself, accept that Jesus died for your sins and come out of anything that is not of God and of the Bible.”

This desire eventually led Dr Manders into formal church ministry, although that was not his original intent.

“When I joined the church, I was working at Southampton Princess in the boiler room but there was a desire being birthed in me to move on. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew it was time to move on. Around that same time the workers went on strike and I made the decision not to come back.”

He quit his job on a Friday and the following Tuesday received a call with an opportunity to work as a colporteur, a Christian book salesman. He decided to give it a try.

“It was more than just selling books, it was meeting people, learning their needs and praying for them and their salvation. It was evangelism. It was ministry.

“That experience led to me becoming a Bible worker and deciding to go back to school. At the time I had no plans of becoming a pastor, I didn’t even have a GED. But I got one, and I went off to Oakwood University to learn more and sharpen my skills.”

He continued: “Long story short, I just knew God called me to work for Him and it went from selling books, to Bible work and then preparing myself for gospel ministry.”

Dr Manders graduated with a bachelor’s degree in theology in 1992 and received his master’s degree from Andrews University in 1994.

The following year he returned to Bermuda with his wife Claudette and their young children and assumed his first pastoral post – associate Pastor of Southampton Seventh-day Adventist Church. He was also assigned the role of youth director for the Bermuda Conference.

In 1997, Dr Manders was assigned to the Somerset Seventh-day Adventist Church. In 2002 he moved to the Hamilton Seventh-day Adventist Church, where he served as pastor for 13 years.

In April 2005 he was elected as executive secretary of the Bermuda Conference and subsequently elected as president in 2014.

In this his third and final term, he hopes to focus on evangelism and equipping others for ministry.

“Winning souls is always the goal. Evangelism is the life blood of the church,” he said.

“In order to effectively evangelise, we need to develop ministry leaders. My job is to equip others to minster. I want to see the church move from membership to discipleship.”

When asked if he is surprised by the trajectory of his life, he replied, “Yes, indeed!”

“If you told me back in the 1970s that I was going to be a pastor I would have asked you what you were smoking!” Dr Manders laughed.

“I never dreamt of any of this. The truth is I never really wanted any of this, but God called me to do it. And I wanted to follow God’s calling on my life.

“Being a minister of the Gospel is just sharing the greatest story of my life, which is my encounter with Jesus. My ministry is just an outgrowth of my relationship with Christ. I get to tell my experience over and over, every day, and I’m still fired up about it after all these years.”

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Published October 01, 2022 at 8:02 am (Updated October 03, 2022 at 7:36 am)

From Rasta to pastor

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