By Lorna Archer-Stanley JP OD.
Little did I know, on the night of Sunday August 14, 2022, when I went backstage to congratulate Prodigal Son (born Calvin Curtis Whilby) on his captivating performance at a recent Gospel Concert in West Palm Beach, Florida that it would turn out to be the singular most awe-inspiring, gratifying and humbling experience in my entire life.
I hadn’t seen Prodigal for ages and upon recognizing me, he screamed “Mama Lorna,” as I dashed into his outstretched arms. He hugged and hugged me for what seemed like an eternity and with tears streaming down his face he gently pushed me forward over and over and stared at me in disbelief as he cried and cried while hugging me.
His colleagues in the room were obviously deeply moved and one of them started to cry when he told them that I had “saved his life.” “This woman, he wept, hold on to me and begged and pleaded with me until she stopped me from going to get a gun to go and kill the man who killed Sheldon.”
Both Sheldon and Calvin, as he was then known, were friends who assisted me at the remedial school I had founded in Trench Town. While Sheldon taught the older children literacy, Calvin also taught the younger ones and mostly helped me with cooking meals for the children.
Calvin left the Operation Restoration Christian School after his friend was killed. The school had only been in existence for a few years and due to the lack of funds to replace the loss of two staff members, it was tethering on the brink of closure. However, this was averted because of the timely intervention of Integrity Children’s Fund.
Many of these young men were graduates with several subjects from prestigious high schools but were unable to secure employment because of the stigma attached to these communities. Thankfully, with the support we started receiving from Integrity Children’s Fund, we were able employ five of these young men and rescue them from becoming involved in criminal activities.
Although they received less than minimum wage, they were happy to be at the school as it was a safe place from the volatile streets in the Rema community. The school will be celebrating its 28th anniversary in a few weeks, on September 12th and, with the continued support of ICF during these many years, the school has continued to transform a significant number of lives such as Prodigal’s.
Prodigal and I both sobbed when recalling the night that Sheldon was killed as he stood on a bridge sharing, with friends, the very first message he’d preached as a youth pastor earlier that evening at Church on the Rock.
Needless to say, I was shocked and awe struck when Prodigal, seemingly overcome with gratitude, dropped to his knees and knelt at my feet, thanking me over and over again for saving his life, thus enabling him to become the renowned international gospel singer that he is today.
And, as a token of his love and appreciation, he removed the fabulous expensive gold and diamond chain he was wearing around his neck and placed it on mine. Calvin left the Operation Restoration Christian School (ORCS) and Trench Town shortly after his friend was killed and embarked on a musical career as ‘Prodigal’. At that the time, the school had only been in existence for a few years but, with the lack of funds to replace the loss of two staff members, it was tethering on the brink of closure. However, this was averted because of the timely intervention of Integrity Children’s Fund.
ORCS will be celebrating its 28th anniversary in a few weeks, on September 12th, and with the ongoing support of ICF during these many years, the school has continued to transform a significant number of lives such as Prodigal’s.