SIXTY-ONE years and still going strong. That’s how long 87-year-old Reverend Olivier Dixon has been on the battlefield winning souls for God.
For the past 17 years she has headed the Norwood Evangelistic Centre in Montego Bay, St James — a branch of the Jamaica Evangelistic Association (JEA), founded by Apostle Vincent Theophilus (V T) Williams.
Rev Dixon was bestowed with accolades of gratitude for dedicating years of service to the residents of Norwood, and her congregants.
At a recent ceremony held in Norwood, Apostle Williams, along with officials from the JEA locally and overseas, extended the association’s appreciation to Rev Dixon for her years of dedicated service to the church and the community at large. They wished her well for the remaining years of her life.
“It was a hard decision for me to have moved to Norwood, leaving all my other family members, friends and parishioners, because in all my life I had never spent a Christmas all by myself,” she said.
“I asked the Lord: ‘Why did you send me to this lonely place?’ ” She lamented: “Gunshots were barking; everything was happening sometimes on a daily basis, sometimes nightly. It was very hard being here.”
But in acquiescence Rev Dixon knew God had a purpose for her to fulfil — wherever she was sent — and so she carried out the service of the Lord without a murmur.
In the midst of varying incidents of social unrest, predominantly caused by crime and violence that permeated sections of the community, salvation and deliverance came for many residents of all ages, Rev Dixon affirmed.
And as Rev Dixon retires from administrative duties in the church, her protégé, Acting District Pastor Rema Salmon, has been given the mantle to carry on all religious duties.
“I feel honoured to have been privileged to have sat under the leadership of Rev Olivier Dixon, and I can say that she is a one of a kind individual. Rev Dixon is a hard worker. Had I been a lazy person for the past 17 years I would not have been considered to be her successor,” Pastor Salmon stated.
Salmon has received the backing of the church’s membership as they collectively seek to win more souls for God’s kingdom.
Salmon had been Dixon’s lieutenant throughout her tenure in Montego Bay, as well as an acting assistant pastor for several years.
“I have a commitment to God and to do the work of God,” Salmon said.
Salmon extended her gratitude to her husband, Earnel, for his unwavering support and understanding over these many years, as she led a busy schedule in carrying out the work of the ministry.
“God has provided me with a wonderful husband. I could not have married anyone else.”
Salmon emphasised that there were many memorable intercessions with Rev Dixon but recalled one of the more poignant experiences. It was during one of the most notoriously violent periods when several people were being murdered in the Norwood community.
“They had severed someone’s head and Rev Dixon led a walk-through. When she got to the playfield where the person had been beheaded she prayed for two hours, non-stop. When she came out of that realm with God she could not relate to humans immediately,” shared Salmon.
Meanwhile, Apostle V T Williams said it was important for him and senior members of his team, locally and overseas, to have attended Rev Dixon’s retirement service, to see to a seamless transition of the guard.
“Olivier”, as she was affectionately called years prior to being saved and later ordained as a pastor, originally hails from Winchester and Danvers Pen in St Thomas, where she pastored at other branches in the ministry.
The memories are still fresh, as she recalled when she was told the ministry would be transferring her to Montego Bay. “It was terrible. Crime was rampant in Norwood, people were just dying everywhere. I was coming here alone, to be on my own. I didn’t know what to expect.”
The morning of New Year’s Day in 1962, then a young woman, Olivier and her friend had plans to attend a baptism to laugh at the young folks who were being baptised. But the laughter would later prove to be on her instead.
“From the moment I got into the crowd, I couldn’t laugh or talk. I couldn’t move; something came over me. After the baptism I was walking away but the spirit of the Lord asked me if I knew how far death was from me. I immediately gave my life to the Lord,” Rev Dixon recalled.
During their youthful years V T Williams, who was a young pastor, had often told her that one day he would be baptising her. “Me, sir?” She would retort. Incidentally, Williams baptised her that morning — a prophecy fulfilled.
“As a young Christian woman it was rough through the years to get where I am today. I didn’t have a job and had my children to take care of. It was hard to keep saved. There were lots of trials, hardships and tribulations, but God brought me through,” the mother of six (one deceased) said.
Admittedly, she took God for a joke as a youngster but subsequently realised otherwise. Her message to the wider society, but particularly young people, is: “If you knew the love of God, how much he cares for us all, you would give your lives to Christ.”
Now in retirement, Rev Dixon has been gifted a long, but well-deserved vacation abroad by her children. However, she tunes in religiously to prayer meetings with her parishioners between 5:00 am and 7:00 am on weekdays.
“I will remain active in the church as much as I possibly can until God says when,” she said. A proud spinster, Rev Dixon remarked: “When I got saved I decided that I would never marry anyone,” she revealed.