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Hotseat - Myrna lake

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Methodist minister, lady prison chaplain and spiritual guide at Pointe Blanche prison, Myrna Lake has followed her calling since her childhood on St. Maarten as she has studied, lived and worked around the world.

Where were you born? Tell me about where you grew up.

I was born in Anguilla and raised in St. Maarten. My parents and my spiritual mom made sure I had a wonderful secure childhood. I learnt the value of relationships from them. I also learnt the importance of making others feel good. We were always engaged in doing things to help others, like preparing food or helping out with people in need.

What shaped your childhood?

My parents and helping in the kitchen with my spiritual mom. It's where I learnt to cook and the joy of service with others. We were always involved in activities for the community and the prison in particular. When it came to Easter and Christmas, we'd prepare meals for them. Because I was a child, I couldn't go to the prison, but I knew the meals and shared camaraderie of the occasion were important.

Where did you study?

I finished school on St. Maarten and then left to attend University of the Virgin Islands in St. Thomas. There I received my BA of Education in English language and literature. I wanted to teach and so I taught at St. Maarten Academy for a number of years before deciding to go to Jamaica to study ministerial studies at United Theological College of the West Indies.

When were you ordained? What happened after that?

Having studied to teach, I was a late starter in the ministry. I wasn't sure I had the call; but my spiritual mom and pastors really helped me with that and going to study theology. After that, I did my probation preparation in Dominica and I was ordained in 2005. I was assigned to minister in the British Virgin Isles. I was then reassigned to the Netherlands for four and a half years and then to St. Eustatius.

What do you love most about your job?

I enjoy building lasting relationships which serve as bridges to share the love of God. Life is about how you make other people in your relationships feel. I try to remember this in all my engagements with others. Each relationship makes a difference to each person. That's what people remember.

What motivates you?

Truly engaging with people; the experience makes everyone stronger. I remember sharing with a young man who had anger management issues. We worked together to learn that "you can control yourself but not others". I still see him and he calls me the person who helped him deal with his temper. We both grew stronger.

What is Faith Band?

Faith Band is an initiative of the prison and supported by the churches. Band members change and their musical instruments vary according to who is currently involved. They recently performed for the Prime Minister and at Phillipsburg Cultural and Community Centre.

Would you like to change anything?

There's no point in focussing on regrets. What's happened has happened and is part of who you are. I'm not in favour of changing things. Most people don't like change and I feel that working to try to repair something is far more beneficial. "Not about changing things, rather deal with what life throws at you." Our society creates pressures that often lead to the wrong choices. It's important to be content with what you have. Bloom where you are and make a difference. People respect you for the choices you make in your life. My decision to take a break was hard. It meant leaving my ministry in St. Eustatius and moving home to St. Maarten again.

Tell me about your options for family as an ordained Methodist minister?

We are all able to marry and have children. It just hasn't been a primary focus in my life. For now, I'm very content.

Do you have any advice for other women who might want to follow you?

I think it's really important to be sure of your sense of call. It's a lonely vocation and you need to be sure you are true. Then, it's really right. It's a close walk with God. There are times you have to make tough decisions and difficult choices. Be sure of who you are and what you are about. Then you will have the self-confidence to ride the storms and maintain the honour of God.

If you could invite three famous people (dead or alive) together for dinner, who would they be and what would you serve them to eat?

Rosa Parks, for all that she stood for as a woman who achieved change; John Newton, a modern day Paul, because I'd like to hear about the transformation that inspired Amazing Grace; and John Wesley, to understand more about his thinking and logic that in the 17th century gave rise to the Methodist church. I'd serve my famous fried rice, a seafood platter of lobster, conch, crayfish, whelks, shrimp and crab on a hearty bed of green vegetables accompanied by broccoli salad and my favourite stuffed eggplant. I'd also offer good old fashioned St. Maarten rice and peas and fried plantain.