Jamaican pastor celebrates 70th birthday

Jamaican pastor celebrates 70th birthday|Jamaican pastor celebrates 70th birthday
Photo by Nelson A. King|Photo by Nelson A. King

Members of Isaiah’s Temple of Mount Hope Spiritual Baptist Church and well-wishers Thursday night celebrated the 70th Birthday of their Jamaican-born senior pastor in grand style.

The gala celebration for Archbishop The Most Rev. Dr. Voni B. Johyn took place at Vetro’s By Russo’s on the Bay in the Howard Beach section of Queens.

Well-wishers and friends travelled from other states, as far as Florida, throughout New York and from Jamaica for the grand celebration.

Archbishop Johyn’s two children, Debbie Ferdinand and Troy Paul, and their families and other relatives were among celebrants.

“Thank you, mom, for the love, strength and care, for, in this world, that is quite rare,” the children read in a poem to their mother. “For being our guardian and our guide, we are proud of you never gave up hope.

“When the times were hard, you kept going forward,” they added. “Through it all, you move through the unknown with strength, no matter how far the length. We will always stand by your side. We will give back and be your guide.

“We will fight for you in the hard times,” the children continued. “We will never lose faith in you. Our love for you is always true.”

Before serenading Archbishop Johyn with Lionel Richie’s “Lady,” niece Odette Buchanan and her husband, Patrick, who flew in from Florida, described the occasion as “joyous.”

Patrick Buchanan added: “The Bible tells us who finds a virtuous woman finds a good thing. I hope you see many, many more [birthdays].”

The Rev. Desmond Greene, who traveled from Jamaica, said Dr. Johyn is “an incredible woman,” disclosing that she has traveled extensively throughout the world on missions, including the former Soviet Union, Israel and the Korean Peninsula.

“There’s not a time Dr. Johyn does not give,” he said before signing “Just the Way You are.” “I love you.”

His wife, Beryl, chimed in: “We always love you. You are awesome.”

Church member Colleen Kuma, from Tobago, Trinidad’s sister isle, thanked Dr. Johyn, saying: “ You provided a home, where I can come to worship.

“You corrected me many time, and I’m thankful for that,” she said. “I know it’s the love of God in you why you scolded me.”

The Rev. Bruce Grodner, national executive director of the Manhattan-based Clergy Leadership Conference, said, in jest, that Archbishop Johyn was not celebrating her 70th birthday but her 50th birthday.

“She’s an amazing person,” he said. “She has a big heart. We’re just honored to work with you. You’re a Kingdom Builder. There’s no retirement in Kingdom building.”

Bishop Jesse Edwards, director of the American Clergy Leadership Conference, said New York is “lucky” to have Archbishop Johyn.

He added that she was a “beautiful, beautiful woman” before singing “You are so beautiful.”

Tobago native Hilton Samuel also serenaded Dr. Johyn, and Dr. Rev. Kelvin “Rappin” Tate, Ambassador of Clergymen to the UN, rapped: “You’ll see the love of Dr. Johyn. She’s like a mathematician. I salute you, mother, for everything you’ve given to us.

Rev. Samuel Evelyn, the Barbadian pastor of Mt. Paran Spiritual Baptist Church on Winthrop Street in Brooklyn, said Johyn was “the sweetest woman I know.”

“So, keep planting seeds,” said Trinidadian Bishop Dr. John Allsop, who serves at Isaiah’s Temple of Mount Hope Spiritual Baptist Church and officiated as Master of Ceremonies.

Grenadian Dale DeGale, community development director in the Office of Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, read a Congressional Citation from Clarke, after which Dr. Johyn sang “Fill My Cup, Lord.”

Twenty-five years ago, Dr. Johyn founded Isaiah’s Temple of Mount Hope Spiritual Baptist Church in Brooklyn, New York.

Besides being the senior pastor, she’s also the executive director of the community outreach programs.

Isaiah’s Temple provides an array of services to low income and homeless individuals. Hot meals are distributed from the soup kitchen and dry foods from the pantry program.

Dr. Johyn said she believes that the restoration of family values is “essential building blocks,” and she works diligently to counsel young mothers, HIV victims, substance abuse, and displaced individuals.

She said the acquisition of knowledge is also important.

Dr. Johyn earned her accreditation and distinction from diverse institutions, such as: New York City Technical College, earning a degree in Business Management, a Bachelor’s of Science from Nyack College in Organizational Management, a Masters of Divinity from Mount Olive Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Divinity from International Theological Seminary.

Grenadian Dale DeGale (L) presents Congressional Citation to Dr. Voni Johyn on behalf of Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke
Photo by Nelson A. King