Very early in March 1992, our ecclesia enjoyed a visit from brother Brian Luke of Australia. We asked him if he would like to visit Alfred Brown, a ninety-two year old warrior for the Truth who was not expected to live longer than a few days at most. Very readily he agreed and scrambled up the rocks leading to Alfred’s tiny shack on a hilltop. Alfred was not only delighted to welcome Brian to his humble home and to his bedside, but took the opportunity to exhort him: “Let me urge you to hold fast to the faith, my brother: hold fast to the end!” and then offered a prayer for him. Four days later Alfred fell asleep to await his reward at the return of his Lord. Alfred Brown was a very remarkable saint. This is his story.

The life of our brother Alfred Brown covered almost the entire twentieth century. Four decisions he made divide his long and eventful life into five clear periods of very different character.

When he was born, the British Empire, of which Jamaica was a very small part, was at its peak. Britain was looked upon as the motherland. It was not surprising that after an education which was rare at that time for Jamaican boys, and which stood him in good stead later, his first big decision was to join the British Army at the tender age of fifteen.

Fulfilling prophecy!

He later admitted that he had falsified his age at the time so as to be recruited into the Jamaica Regiment.

The first World War was raging. The Jamaica Regiment was shipped away to the Middle East and set up camp at Beersheba in what was then Palestine. They were ordered to capture Jerusalem from the Turks. Young Alfred Brown was in the thick of the fighting and was both repelled at having to run a bayonet through a Turkish mercenary in hand to hand combat, and thrilled to enter Jerusalem victoriously with General Allenby, paving the way for the restoration of the state of Israel. Later in life it was a source of wonder to him that he had actually been directly involved in the fulfillment of Bible prophecy!

Jesuit priest

The experience of his war years directed him towards his second big decision, to become a Roman Catholic priest. To this end he was rigorously trained, and groomed to become one of Jamaica’s first trio of native born Jesuit priests. So important was this event deemed to be that a sea passage was arranged to Genoa and thence to Rome, so that he could receive the personal blessing of the Pope himself. But the third decision intervened, so that only two young priests made the pilgrimage to St.Peter’s. Alfred Brown for some time had been giving his attention to studying the Holy Scriptures seriously, and he began to have serious doubts that the Roman Catholic system truly represented original Christianity as Jesus taught it. Some very unsavoury experiences with fellow priests, which worried his mind all his life, led him to question the rightness and wisdom of the Roman church’s rule of celibacy. When he expressed his misgivings in the seminary confessional, for a short time as a penance he had to wear a placard around his neck declaring him to be an antichrist.

Abandoning his priestly career

Giving up his ambition of becoming a respected, high ranking member of the prestigious Jesuit Order was not easy. It was costly in more ways than one. Certainly instead of social prestige, fame and influence that this career would certainly have brought him in Jamaica – as it brought his two fellow priests, who became world renowned, one having a rank just below cardinal – he deliberately chose a very different path. He followed his Master in being despised and rejected of men. In later life, Alfred lived, and he died, in deep material poverty. Yet he was truly rich, and knew it.

Searching for truth

So the third decision was made: to seek for the true faith. A spiritual pilgrimage began which lasted the rest of his long life. He married a Seventh Day Adventist. But though he (like us) respected this aggressive and zealous denomination, and acknowledged that some of its doctrines are closer to Jesus’ teaching than those of the Catholics, yet there were things that did not seem to him to tally with the Bible, specially the exaltation of modern human leaders as infallible prophets, and the pharisaical arrogance which the Adventists often display. His search for truth continued for years. He came to a knowledge of that truth by a diligent study of God’s Word. He absolutely refused to be indoctrinated. He had had enough of that in his youth. Of the truth of the Bible, he became certain, and his mind settled: the problem was to find anybody who believed and taught as he had come to believe.

Home at last!

His fourth and final decision was to be baptized by immersion and join the Christadelphian brotherhood. After years of searching for a body of Christian believers that matched his Biblical expectations, he met the Christadelphians. His first contact was a simple pamphlet from the Australian Gospel Publicity League, with no local Jamaican contact address. An Australian had given it to a Roman Catholic friend of Alfred’s who said that he would burn in hell if he kept it, but as Alfred was going to burn in hell as a relapsed heretic anyway, he might as well have a look at it, because the doctrines outlined were the same as he, Alfred, had espoused from studying his ‘protestant’ Bible. Alfred heard somehow that there were Christadelphians somewhere in Jamaica. This destitute man of eighty-one years old, having got to learn about our existence, spent all the money he had at the time travelling around May Pen, walking around Kingston, to the University, even trying to reach Content Gap where he was told a brother and sister lived three thousand feet up in the Blue Mountains, all in a single-minded determination to achieve his goal of joining the brotherhood that he dreamed of, and share his love and fellowship with them. Finally, one day he knocked on the door of a home in May Pen. A voice from inside the shower asked who he was looking for. Alfred replied, “A Christadelphian, right now”. A still wet brother robed in a bath towel appeared and introduced himself. Alfred Brown’s long search was over. Ten days after meeting a Christadelphian for the first time, he was baptized on Sunday, December 13, 1981, following a confession of faith which we found to be powerfully moving and deeply sincere.

Unquenchable faith

Despite the frailties of advancing age, the last eleven years of brother Alfred’s life were spiritually the happiest, by far. He had a wonderful blessing: his mind was not only unimpaired, it grew increasingly vigorous, rich, devout and expansive until he fell asleep at the age of ninety-two. Not so his body. He was not a very patient old man: he wanted to live life to the full, and like the Apostle Paul, he found it hard to appreciate the value of bodily affliction. He decided to go in for farming, and sought some help from the ecclesia to lease some land to grow crops and raise animals – at the age of eighty-two!

On Sunday, March 15, 1992 Alfred Brown was laid to rest to await the call to judgment. Over one hundred people attended, including brothers and sisters from Jamaican ecclesias, a busload of Adventists, and a Jesuit priest who braved the disdain of his superiors and travelled eighty miles to pay a moving personal tribute to our brother’s sincerity, courage and vision. When we compare the spirit of brother Alfred Brown, his sacrificial decisions, his determination, and his unquenchable faith, with the wishy-washy self-indulgent, pointless life-styles of so many of our contemporaries, we all want to thank God for this man. Our brother will rise again. In the day of his coming, the Lord will call men of his calibre to help him establish his Kingdom upon this earth.

“Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law” (Psalm 119:18).

I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things … I want to know Christ, and the power of his resurrection (Phil 3:8,10).

Capture

 

Footnote

Brother Alan Eyre has provided the map overleaf and the photographs. Concerning the photograph above he writes: “This is the May Pen meeting hall to which Alfred Brown was providentially drawn and directed. Brother Melvin Gordon (right), presently recording brother, is Sister Gerzel’s husband. Melvin, like Alfred, was a zealous Roman Catholic before meeting sister Gerzel, and was baptised just a few months before brother Alfred.