Often, it's the letters to the editor of Caribbean papers and web sites that tell you any of the stranger things that happen there.
As I recall, the most famous prophet of them all, one Phillip Phinn, hung up his mantle after his famous Portia and Hillary prophecies fizzled out like damp fireworks on New Year's Eve, and sought solace in managing other people's money in a foreign exchange fund called Faith. Well, we know how those fortunes went, and will wait to witness the promise of payouts in the months ahead.
The list of predictions is laughably much more vague than your average daily horoscope and its tepid non-committal statements lend it an air of mystery (or is it doubt?). The prophets and prophetesses feel constrained to leave a charming disclaimer to protect God from disrepute and themselves from public ridicule, just in case His words do not come to pass.
One thing they have never omitted over the years is their dire warning to the nation's leaders, businessmen and congregations far and wide, to tithe. God wants that 10 per cent!
And here is where it always gets ridiculous: the size of the seed you sow can be affixed to the numbers of Psalm or Jewish year! The 'word' claims that "God wants to give His people revelation in order to get wealth."
Pity God did not give His people any revelation on the collapse of Cash Plus and Olint, but these prophets are banking on the short memories of their readers.
This was such a refreshing change from the usual. But who was this writer talking about?
Impossible not to look up (Rev.? Dr.? Bre'r? Father?) Phinn, because that Faith foreign exchange fund sounds a bit rich.He appears to be quite the all-round guy.
From the bio near the bottom of the page:
Dr. Phillip Phinn is currently President General, Chief Executive Officer and Chief UN Representative of the Word of Life Ministries International and International Third World Leaders Association (ITWLA), General Overseer of the Word of Life churches and Senior Pastor of the Kingston-based church; Executive Chairman of the National Intercessory Prayer Network of Jamaica and Executive Trustee for the International Third world leaders Association based in Nassau, Bahamas. He serves as Director and Advisor to several Organisations around the world. He is special envoy of Word of Life Ministries International to the Office of the Governor General and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Jamaica. In July 2004, the America Biographical Institute - National Honor Society - conferred the noble Order of International Ambassadors on Dr. Phillip Phinn, with the right to use the word Honourable and the Letters OIA* as part of His official title.
(Link added by me joy joy joy joy joy happy dance.)
He is the author of four books and several publications. Dr. Phinn has appeared on several telecasts and spoken onradio MUSTARD SEED PRINCIPLE. He had been sharing this principle with thousands around the world and many, who have applied it, have testified to substantial financial breakthroughs. As a result he was invited to
participate in the first United Nations Global Conference on Sustainable Development for small Island States (SIDS) in Barbados, 1994 and the World Summit on Social Development in Copenhagen, Denmark, 1995.
In November 1996, under his leadership Word of Life Ministries International was accredited by the United Nations under the follow status: "NGO in special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nation' (ECOSOC)
I am not sure I want to know any more about all the affairs that this man gets himself up into.
But I see that he has a really big sword
. Well, I mean, a picture of one.
The Lord pays regular visits unto him and, in what with all due respect I am yet compelled to call a rather weird way of talking, gives the Hon. Rev, Dr. the news, before it has even happened.
"Know of a surety that my hand is upon this land. I am about to heal this land, about the revival that I have promised you: I will send it" says the Lord God Almighty. "You can declare it, you can proclaim it. It has begun even this night, for I am about to do my signs of wonders and my mighty deeds" said the Lord God. "Yes" said the Lord, "I will put my hand upon this land, and I will remove kings and I will set up kings", said he Lord God Almighty. "I will put my hand upon this land and I will apprehend the wicked and the treacherous" says the Lord God, ‘and I will root them out and I will deal with them." said the Lord God Almighty.
"Yes", says the Lord God, "Jamaica will see my hand, my hand will be felt, and THERE WILL BE A NATURAL PHYSICAL SHAKING BUT NOT A DEVASTATING SHAKE;
The Lord's grasp of formal English and seismology do not inspire me with confidence. Frankly, I am a little disappointed in Him. I would have thought He, of all people, would have had command of these things as well as of the fishes of the sea etc. And the use of all caps in that way I should have thought altogether beneath His dignity. Well, nobody's perfect I guess.
Or possibly something of the nuance is lost in translation from Tongues.
So what is the mustard seed principle? Um, it has actually been around for a long time though not perhaps with that name. Bear with me for a minute.
I picture the circulating world of money as twofold. There is the economy you read about in the business pages, where big money circulates, business, rise, fall, eat one another whole or in pieces, get loans or sell shares, etc. But there is also another, less formal, marginal economy that you don't read about. This is the economy of the poor. In the US, dip into it when you hire a couple of guys from the Day Laborer's hangout behind Goodwill to do some yard work. It's everywhere and takes up a bigger or smaller share of the time money spends moving around in the world. The funny thing in Jamaica, at least, is that the harder life gets, the bigger the economy of the poor gets. One reason is that as times get harder, people from the big economy begin to find it convenient to "drop into" the little economy; there's a guy with a rum shop who can change currency at a better rate than the government is giving; a friend who has migrated to New York flies home for a visit with several pairs of sneakers she bought in the wholesale district; A gives B a small loan; K. has a car trunk full of grapefruit; M. has a suitcase full of new fan belts from Miami; G. fixes cars in his back yard on weekends cheaper than a regular mechanic; the lady down the corner supplements her salary by making wedding cakes. This economy has certain real virtues: leanness (not a whole lot of money to spend on advertising or market research), adaptability, speed, inclusiveness, low barriers to entry, resourcefulness, and resilience, openness to diverses forms of commerce like barter, and the necessity of communication and trust. Without this informal economy, life in Jamaica would have been a lot harder over the past 30 years or so. There's some risk that the good or service may not satisfy, but chances are if it does you won't go back to the regular economy, for all sorts of reasons.
And yeah, it may provide cover for some illegal activity such as money laundering or substandard electrical work or selling produce of dubious provenance, but these things are not its purpose.
The Hon. Rev. Dr. really has this one genuine economic insight: he has noticed what the poor do to get on.
It's the same thinking behind microfinance--development via small, really tiny loans to entrepreneurs.
What has happened, meanwhile, is that this informal economy got big. Big enough for central bankers and development banks to start paying attention, for example, to the incredible sums of money that were flowing into developing countries in ridiculously small remittances -- a couple hundred dollars at a time, from the poorest workers. And big enough, now, to have its own investment schemes, taking advantage of the convenient proximity of so many offshore financial centers.
These schemes seem to take the form of crazes. Foreign exchange trading was huge. About a year and a half ago I was hearing about all these people who were investing in something called Cash Plus, that was delivering fabulous returns on foreign exchange trading. People in Jamaica were investing, and Jamaicans abroad were taking money to Jamaica to invest. You can see that this alternative economy is not strictly a "poor" economy any more. The typical investor might look like a lot of successful first-generation immigrants: not college educated, and even if he's been living and working here for 30 years, still feels himself to be inside of a little social bubble world of fellow immigrants. Made some shrewd purchases in real estate in a down market and now he is comfortably off, even if the only evidence of it is that he has a new truck every year. Aside from his city government job which secured him a pension, and his habit of saving, almost his entire financial life is conducted in this informal economy. It's where he really lives. Sure, now he deals with banks and lawyers and building inspectors because he's got all this rental property, but his financial home is that fringe world and as far as possible he wants to stay in it. And of course he has a reputation at home for financial shrewdness, so when he decides to invest, it's is a great vote of confidence in the scheme and encourages more.
So it should not come as a surprise that there are lots of these little investing groups and schemes, all of them on a continuum from perfectly legal and integrated into the formal banking and investment system (as Olint was), to some little private investment club to, well, whatever human ingenuity can cook up.
Are you getting sort of a picture here? In early 2008 the Jamaican government's Financial Services Commission (FSC) issued a warning about 15 "unregistered investment entities."
And we see that the Hon. Rev. Dr., the former Central Banker, is operating one of these entities. Or not. Possibly.
Phinn dismissed the FSC's claim as "completeley wrong", and suggests that the commission may have gotten confused with a "Phillip Phinn" that is apart [sic] of a registered investment club overseas.
"'Phillip Phinn' the individual is apart [sic--for the love of God, people!] of a church group club that has been registered, since December, outside of Jamaica," disclosed Phinn to this newspaper. "'(However) Phillip Phinn International' as a forex club is completely wrong.
"We only got notice from the FSC in February, saying that they 'suspect' something," he added. "Based on their suspicion, they published the notice."
Phinn did not say whether the referred "Phillip Phinn" from the registered church club was himself.
God only knows, then...
In the second half of 2008, Cash Plus and Olint went bust, after a series of actions taken by banks and the government in Jamaica brought all this to a screaming halt, and lots of people were wiped out financially. You could think of it as a dress rehearsal for the miniature financial Armageddon we are experiencing now. The loss of the banks' confidence was fatal to Olint, even before it began to emerge that the "investment scheme" had been a con. And at least one of the Hon. Rev. Dr.'s financial schemes also went bust, a whole other one separate from the "Phillip Phinn" entities of mysterious ownership and purpose.
How many of these things does he have? Possibly their numbers are legion.
The Daily Gleaner, as the letter writer above points out, has given generous space to Dr. Phinn's prophecies. The Observer, in the meantime, apparently sends out their most trusting and gullible reporter to cover the Reverend:
A source close to Faith International Investment said Phinn, who came to fame as a prophet, had been deeply troubled by the failure of the investment scheme.Young man, was this the person who spoke to you?Update:These people
"He has been in much prayer that a way be found to repay the many people who had put in their hard-earned savings and appeared to have lost it. He is a good man and a true man of God," the source told the Sunday Observer. [highlight added - kp]
are doing excellent work. I'd love to see more service blogging like this in the Caribbean.