A Jamaican Missionary in Greece
Sunday, September 09, 2018
It's rare to meet a young man who willingly gives up a corporate career in order to follow the Lord's voice and “serve the nations”. But this is the reality for Jermaine Laing, known in his missionary circles in Greece as Cephas Yonahan.
Raised by his grandmother Delores Hayden in Spanish Town, Laing fondly remembers his youth. “My grandmother was the main breadwinner and disciplinarian and any down time we got as children was treasured.” Weekends spent with less strict relatives felt like “freedom” for him and his three siblings. Besides grandmother Hayden, Laing's support group comprised his corrections office mother Althea Taylor, accounting officer aunt Sandia Edwards and accountant uncle Austin Perry.
After graduating from the University of Technology (UTech) with a degree in Business Administration, Laing was fortunate to land a job in the new business department at Sagicor Life Jamaica Limited. However, after two years he felt “stuck and unfulfilled”. He thought that this emptiness was as a result of him straying from the path of righteousness. After crying out to the Lord on his knees he heard His voice. “I heard Him saying, 'I'm not punishing you for anything. The reason you're here repeating cycles is because you've forgotten that I have something specific that I want you to do,” Lang shares.
He typed a resignation letter and within a few months was enrolled in the Youth with a Mission (YWAM) Discipleship Training School in Herrnhut, Germany. The programme is divided into two sections that last three months each — classroom-based learning and serving the nations. Laing served in the Middle East and upon completion of the programme felt God leading him to Greece. But not before getting married.
Laing met his Swiss-born wife Sofia while studying at the Discipleship Training School. “She came up to me one day and said 'I have a question for you' to which I replied, 'I have an answer,'” he informs. He proposed six months later and they got married within the year as he was convinced that he'd found his life partner.
It's been two years since the Laings moved to Greece. They have since had a daughter. “My wife, daughter and I have three different nationalities and whenever we travel together port authorities are always amazed,” he says. The couple is currently stationed in the Greek port city of Thessaloniki under the auspices of YWAM Greece. The organisation is working with local churches in handling the refugee crisis. YWAM volunteers in camps, distributes clothing, teaches English and German to refugees, and conducts discipleship classes for new converts. According to Laing, “Our overall goal is to see Greece revived to her God-given potential.”
Homelessness in Greece has significantly increased due to the economic crisis and “we cannot turn a blind eye to those in need”. As a result, YWAM Greece is currently going through the official NGO designation process and is about to lease an apartment building from which it will run training schools and establish an official YWAM University of the Nations. “Greece needs more missionaries and we want to see Greece becoming a nation that receives and sends missionaries. This can only be done through training and discipleship,” Laing explains.
Greece's debt crisis began in 2010 and after three consecutive bailouts, the economy is growing again. However, it is still difficult for young people graduating university to find work. Many have emigrated in search of opportunities and those who have stayed behind can mainly find food-service jobs. However, according to Laing, “even with such crushing circumstances the spirit of the Greeks still thrives”.
Laing sees many similarities between the landscapes and cultures of Greece and Jamaica. There's a church almost on every corner (the country is 90% Christian Orthodox), the weather is hot and the people are friendly and always “ready to chat over coffee or a drink”.
Growing up, Laing disliked his name until university. “After doing some research I found out that my full name, Jermaine Pierre Arlic Juan Cieto Laing had a profound message. It translates to 'brother Peter God is faithful.'” In that moment Laing felt like he had “that Simon Peter moment in Matthew 16:18 where Jesus spoke identity to him”.
Cephas means “rock” in Aramaic. It's also the name given to Simon Peter by Jesus because he was the foundation upon which the Christian church was built. So, it may be said that the missionary work of Jermaine Laing aka Cephas Yonahan is, in a word, destiny.