Editors note: This is the third and final part in a three-part series. Part one appeared in the May 9-15, 2007, issue, and part two appeared in the May 23-29, 2007, issue.
Lennox Barnett was born blind, recovering eyesight, he believes, through prayer. After his mother died, Lennox was orphaned. A family from Rockford on a mission trip decided to take him home with them from where he lived in Kingston, Jamaica. Here, he has been discovering Gods plan for his life.
On their mission trip to Jamaica, Dave and Julie Bartel woke up every night feeling God calling them to do something. Lennox Barnett kept coming up in their prayers. They started the process of taking Lennox back to Rockford. He had just turned 16.
We continued chatting over lunch at Garretts.
Why did they fall in love with you? I teased. I would call you ebullient. Bubbly, like champagne.
Well, I do have joy, he said.
Paperwork that usually took months came through in weeks.
What made you want to come here? I asked.
Everybody in Jamaica wants to go to the United States…streets of gold…you can get whatever you want…eat whatever you want…peanut butter…ice cream…chocolate…more than one pair of shoes without holes…more than one Sunday best, he said.
How about when you got here? I asked.
I dont think it was different than what I expected, he said. It was better. I landed at OHare. Tall buildings, beautiful cars, big streets, highways, landscaping, no rusted, galvanized zinc, fences, shacks. Clean, no trash, but no beach. Shocking and amazing.
We do have rusted fences and shacks, I said.
I know that now, but not between OHare and Rockford, he said.
Lennox felt like he had a family; he belonged.
After my mom died, I felt like I didnt belong, he explained. My brothers were older. They were living in my moms house. It was scattered for me. I was in a dormitory…wide-open room with beds.
His mom had been the thread holding everything together.
In his new environs, he attended Rockford Christian and felt Gods plans were developing for him.
I had to adjust…learn about myself, my gifts and talents, he said. I started getting involved in music, learning about praise and worship. I got involved in starting praise bands.
Various parents of school friends helped him, which segued into participating in praise and worship at a newly-forming church.
When Lennox was ready to graduate, the Bartels decided it was time for him to make a change. He began studies at Rock Valley College, and became part of the household of one of his friends.
It cost $16,000 a semester to be an exchange student, he said. I lived through each year, not knowing if I was going to go back to Jamaica. There were times when my ticket was bought, or almost bought. I have a farewell video, he chuckled.
A friends father found an immigration lawyer who said there wasnt much to do except go to school…which meant raising $16,000 every few months. Then, she found a solution. Lennox could work as a religious occupant, a church missionary.
One day, my phone rang, he said. The lawyer asked if I was sitting down.
He had finally been approved for legal residency.
Just like your grandmother taught you… I said.
God never teaches us to swim to let us drown, he finished the sentence.
Hes been back to see his grandmother several times, and recently went on a Salvation Army-led mission trip to their Kingston, Jamaica, school for the blind.
Full-circle, I mused.
He works as program director and worship leader for junior high school students at his church in Rockford.
You were in junior high when all this started for you, I said.
I plan on finishing my degree in music ministry, he said. I would love to be a music pastor…getting my masters in divinity.
He said hes a homebody. He has an apartment, but still is a part of his best friend, Austins, family.
People ask Lennox where he gets so much energy.
I worship with my mind, soul, heart and strengthmy whole body, he explained. I know God for myself. Like David, who went through the worst of worst, God was always there to pick him up. I watch Americans go to basketball games, football games, and they go crazy. Why would I cease to move when I am in the presence of the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, God of the universe…in relationship with me? Why would I just stand? Why am I silent? his buttery voice increased in volume.
Jesus said if you dont praise me, the rocks will cry out, he added. The day I heard that, knowing about the goodness of God, His presence, His hand on me. I aint gonna let no rock out-praise me. There aint no way Im gonna do that.
Marjorie Stradinger is a free-lance writer residing in Roscoe. She has covered food, drama, entertainment, health, and business for publications in California and Illinois for the past 25 years. She can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
from the June 6-12, 2007, issue