Marcia Dixon shares her own personal experiences of travelling the world, including her first trip to Jamaica, her country of origin, and the different expressions of church
Being part of a Pentecostal church, I was brought up hearing stories about travelling. As a teenage Christian, I listened to sermons about biblical characters like Abraham, Joseph and Moses, who went on God-inspired trips for a variety of reasons. I also heard testimonies of church members with a calling to either do missionary or evangelistic work abroad.
My first pastor, Rev Dr Io Smith, regularly went to Africa, the Caribbean and America to share the gospel. Upon her arrival home, she would share all about the people she met, those who got converted and ways in which God moved.
I was also privy to stories of UK-based Windrush women, who were inspired by the Lord to pack a suitcase and visit a village somewhere in Africa to share the gospel. I’d always be so impressed – I didn’t think I’d be as courageous. These women would find that God wanted them to share a message to an individual in a village or preach the gospel to the whole village, and people would get saved as a result.
Such women did not receive backing from an international development or a charity dedicated to missions. They travelled using their own resources or financial gifts from friends and family – sometimes experiencing God’s miraculous provision – in order to share God’s message of hope and healing overseas.
Exploring faith and ancestry
I have enjoyed travelling in various capacities – sometimes as a journalist, other times to have new experiences with family or friends and on a few occasions to learn about my family history.
I didn’t get on a plane until the age of 22 or 23. I remember being both fearful and excited in equal measure as I boarded the plane to Jamaica – the land of my parents’ birth – for the very first time. What I particularly remember from that flight was that when the plane landed on Jamaican soil, everyone clapped in gratitude to God for a safe flight. This is a common occurrence on flights to the Caribbean.
I was privy to stories of UK-based Windrush women, who were inspired by the Lord to pack a suitcase and visit a village somewhere in Africa to share the gospel
My first Jamaican visit was eventful. I met some of my mother’s relatives in Kingston, the Jamaican capital, and travelled to Chapelton – the town my mother grew up in. While there, my aunt told me that 300 relatives lived in the area; I was amazed! I was also mesmerised by the beauty of the island as we travelled around by bus and
taxi, the energy and warmth of the people, and the joy of meeting members of my extended family. On a later trip I met my father’s family in St Elizabeth and was given a personal history of my great grandfather, who owned farm land.
I have visited the Caribbean several times since then – mainly to see projects funded by Christian Aid. I’ve always found it inspiring to write about the work and the difference Christian charities make.
I must confess I did find a visit to Haiti distressing (taken years before the earthquake). As I travelled around Haiti, I saw a landscape ravaged by deforestation, due to people cutting down trees to use as fuel. The poverty I witnessed was painful…hardly surprising as the country was, and remains, one of the poorest countries in the world. I was, however, encouraged to meet people sustained by a deep faith in God who had hope that things could get better. That was a quality much needed in a country that had so little.
I am grateful that my work has provided me with opportunities to travel to Africa, which I found very emotional. Some say the whole of humanity originates in Africa. It is certainly where black people of African descent resided before being captured and transported en masse to the Caribbean and The Americas via the transatlantic slave trade, which ran from the 16th to the 19th century. It’s due to subsequent migration from these regions that there are numerous black people in Europe.
Liberia was the first African country I visited. I went to write about Mercy Ships, a charity that provides free medical care in the developing world on a hospital ship. I slept in a ship cabin, met the crew (most were volunteers) and got to watch a cataract operation. I was particularly moved by the volunteers I met. Due to their faith in Jesus, they gave sacrificially of their professional skills to help others.
I went on a group trip to Ghana – led by Compassion UK – to see their work with children and families. It was a delight to meet children sponsored by Compassion, fuelled with ambition to achieve professional success, despite their poverty. I also went to Ghana’s west coast and toured Almina Castle – the building slave traders took captured Africans to before putting them on slave ships.
I was shocked at how small the castle was. I could only imagine the fear, degradation, hardship, suffering and unhygienic conditions Africans endured. I said a silent prayer thanking God that the transatlantic slave trade was ended – after 400 years! The Church is still combatting the fallout from this period of world history…racism.
Marcia Dixon MBE is one of the most well-known PR specialists within Britain’s black Church community and runs MD Public Relations. Marcia was listed in the Queen’s Birthday Honour’s List in 2020 and awarded an MBE for services to Inter Faith Relations. She is editor of Keep The Faith, Britain’s leading magazine about the black faith community. She was formerly a columnist at The Voice, Britain’s bestselling black newspaper.