Harrington Fitz Henry: Dialogue with an engineer-evangelist in Jamaica
His mind is sharp. His hands are strong. His heart is tender. With his hands he can fix things, design large plazas, or build attractive town SM. houses. With his mind he can see down, around, and up. With a vision focused so well, he also reaches out to draw thousands of people each year into the kingdom of God. Meet Harrington Fitz Henry—one of Adventism's leading lay evangelists.
Born in an Adventist family in Kingston, Jamaica, Fitz studied at Kingston College. He was the pride of his family, not just because he was the first of six children, but because even in childhood he showed so much promise. His grandmother, Sister Druss, who is 101 this year, gave him a model of what an Adventist ought to be. But at 17, Fitz, much to the disappointment of the family, strayed from the church to "run the world." It took another 17 years for God to turn him around and make him one of Jamaica's greatest soul winners. Evangelism is his blood, his breath, and he gives to it two to four months each year full time, and goes all over the world. So far, his ministry has brought 17,000 people into the truth.
A graduate of Voorhees Technical Institute in Manhattan, New York, Fitz is a mechanical engineer by profession, and specializes in the construction of large commercial buildings, plazas, hotels, warehouses, hospitals, schools, and town houses. In 1996, one of his firms. Global Construction, won in Madrid an International Award for the best constructed plaza in the Caribbean. His buildings are noted for excellence in aesthetics, quality of construction, and completion on time.
No less is Fitz Henry's passion for evangelism. He gives liberally his time and resources for evangelistic crusades that take him all over the world. He is a builder of people as well as buildings. It is this combination of the best of a professional life with a commitment to public evangelism that makes him an inspiration and a model to many Adventist youth.
Fitz and his wife. Ivy, have five grown children—Denise,
Quintan, Colleen, Douglas, and Simone.
Brother Henry, what motivated you to become an evangelist?
Evangelism is a spiritual calling from God. Seventeen years after leaving the church, I was incarcerated for something about which I knew the truth, but could not speak it, for if I did, I would be a dead man. I promised God that if He would set me free from the hands of men, I would serve Him for the rest of my life. God not only freed me from jail, but also gave me this gift which I now use for His glory.
To what do you account this overwhelming success in your evangelistic crusades?
The power of prayer. Throughout my preaching career, I have always had a strong prayer team. Although academic preparation and eloquence are important, real success depends on prayer.
Tell us about your early years.
My parents are Seventh-day Adventists and I am the first of six children. One of my brothers has been the first elder of the Penwood Seventh-day Adventist Church for more than 20 years, and my grandmother, Sister Druss, 101 years old, still walks three miles to church. Unfortunately, after graduation from high school, I became involved with older professionals who encouraged me to further my education, but insisted that the church was stifling and I would get nowhere. Slowly, I left the church.
How did you find your way back?
While in prison I remembered my mother's words that when I got myself into trouble I would find God. I requested a Bible and three books by Ellen G. White, The Spirit of Prophecy, vols. 1 and 2, and The Great Controversy. I read, studied, and began writing sermons. On two occasions, I was reprimanded for doing so, and the third time, the prison officer warned that I would be placed in maximum security, but he never acted. Later, I was given permission to preach and brought three men to Christ—a prison officer and two fellow inmates.
In your experience, have you found it difficult to manage two large business enterprises and at the same time give so much of yourself to the work of the church?
Not really. The Lord's business is foremost in my life. When our priorities are right, the Lord gives us strength to handle other things. God is a big God and He expects us to have a big mind. When we put Him first, He works out the rest.
As an evangelist, how do you maintain the balance between family, profession, and your spiritual life?
My family knows my commitment to the Lord, and they have accepted my absence and are quite supportive. I have taken very literally the injunction to leave mother, father, and family for the Lord's sake. In business, my philosophy is to make proper provision and preparation, leave the engineers and office personnel in charge and put Jesus in my chair; and He has never failed me yet. So I continue to leave everything in His hand.
Can you recall some of the dramatic experiences you have had as an evangelist?
One night a gunman came on the platform to kill me. Believing that God would protect me, I said: "In the name of Jesus, stand back!" The would-be attacker simply froze.
On another occasion, as I was interviewing 300 candidates for baptism, a Rastafarian man who had not been attending the meetings before came forward and asked to be baptized. I told him that conversion meant a change of heart and also an outward change. He replied, "So I must cut off my locks!" He agreed and we retreated to a private room and did just that. Today, he is a stalwart deacon in the church.
As a successful businessman, what is your modus operand!?
I do nothing in business without presenting it to the Lord in prayer, and wait on Him for a clear indication of the direction I should take. This does not exclude discussion of the project with other business associates in and out of the church, but the ultimate answer lies in seeking and following God's will. When we go to Him, He will never fail.
In addition to your business and church activities, are you involved in any other organizations?
I serve as a justice of the peace and as an advisor to the Minister of Justice on correctional services. I also serve as chairman of a secondary school board and as coordinator of prison ministries for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Jamaica. I also help out as the vice-president of the Regional Disaster Preparedness Committee.
How do you relate your faith and profession?
By my lifestyle. I endeavor to maintain a certain level of Christian ethics and behavior in all my operations. My colleagues respect and admire that. In fact, whenever they encounter problems they often seek my advice.
While lifestyle is important, I feel a Christian businessman should also be involved in sharing his faith whenever an opportunity arises. I always begin my business discussions with prayer. I do not accept invitations to social clubs for a drink or anything of that kind. That does not mean I am not social. I am, but in the Christian way. So my colleagues know I am different, and they are curious to know why. That gives me an opportunity to explain my beliefs.
What advice would you give to Seventh-day Adventist youth who may be planning to go into business?
Whatever the size of the business, plan wisely and plan with the Lord. God wants His people to be prosperous. However, if your business causes you to infringe on the Lord's time or commandments, consider it an attempt of the devil to ensnare you. Seek immediately God's help and guidance.
You have just returned from South Africa after completing the preparations for Pentecost '98. Tell us about this exciting evangelistic project.
Pentecost '98 is an attempt to reach an international audience of millions with the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ. The evangelistic series will be held at Vista University, in Soweto, which has a population of more than three million people. The theme for this crusade is, "The King Is Coming." It will focus on health, welfare, crime, and salvation. We want the people of Soweto to hear, to feel, and to get ready for the coming King. The Union of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in South Africa, along with a group of concerned lay businessmen, have organized this campaign. They are volunteering their skills, services, and means for the advancement and uplifting of the brothers and sisters of Soweto. The five-week campaign will begin on February 28, 1998 and will be transmitted via satellite to other countries in Africa, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, as well as South and North America.
I believe that the end time is upon us. People must be told about it. They must be given a choice to accept Jesus as Saviour and to prepare for His glorious return. Each Seventh-day Adventist should be involved in sharing his or her faith while pursuing his or her own vocation. The harvest is ready, but the laborers are few. Under the power and guidance of God, we will see this gospel exploding in all the world.
Interview by Iris Henry. Iris Henry is the Director of Education and Women's Ministries for the West Indies Union of Seventh-day Adventists, with headquarters in Mandeville, Jamaica. Harrington Fitz Henry's postal address: 22 Thant Place; Bridgeport, St. Catherine; Jamaica. Email address: Fitznick@TOJ.