Some people live their whole lives searching for what it is they really want to do. Some find out what that is, whilst others never do.
Jennifer had no doubt what she loved and was determined to do it, but the very culture that enabled her to facilitate her talents was the very culture that appeared to not be able to accept her passion as a serious or some would call a “respectable“ profession.
Born in England in 1964, Jennifer Shields, at the age of two was taken to Jamaica by her grandmother to ease the pressure of her parents’ growing family as well as for her to experience life there.
The vibrancy in Jamaica enabled her to experience so many wonderful things. Her childhood was filled with pleasantries and she readily embraced the freedom the culture exuded and so it didn’t take very long before her involvement in dramas, poetry, music and festivals expanded. Little did she know that she had the makings of an artist and her performances were so cherished by others to such a degree that she started to collect trophies and awards and this in turn exposed her to more musical delights.
And to add to the accolades she was nominated to represent her primary school nationally in poetry and to read the famous Louise Bennett’s’ (who was the worlds’ Caribbean colloquial poetry icon) poems.
Jennifer was mischievous and thoroughly enjoyed the dramatics and because of her animated and bubbly personality she was nicknamed “Gleaner Reporter”. The local Baptist Church recognised her singing ability and so gave her opportunities to the occasional public stage to perform. At any given moment she would even sing at her grandparents’ shop as customers wondered in. She just loved entertaining people.
High School created a space for her to focus on her education and to pursue her ambitions. As a culture Jamaica sees education as a primary route to open doors and success. However even though she could continue her singing and acting in her free periods, these were only seen as extra curricular activities and not at the time as viable options for a real profession.
This is juxtaposition especially because some of the most world-renowned artists came from Jamaica.
But ultimately because of not being able to pursue music as a profession, for her it made her feel stifled and stunted and she eventually lost sight of her purpose, and so began wandering aimlessly because of not doing what she new she was born to do.
Return to the UK
Leaving Jamaica behind, Jennifer returned to England at the age at 21. Her passion for education was so now honed into, to such a degree that she had an unstoppable desire to see others realise their potential. Once she had a family of her own, she encouraged her children to excel and be who they are. She ensured that they received the best education. All her energies were focussed on being a wife and a mother. For many years she poured all her time working for organisations that promoted book reading and yet there was this silent voice that still would appear from time to time with a small utter of hidden desire.
Eventually a sense of experiencing who God is found a place of empowerment and enabled her self worth to arise and therefore the gift of music that lay dormant was awoken and her passion for singing was revived restored and refreshed.
With her many duties her priority involves now writing songs and poetry. This has even been extended to her going to the Philippines and other places overseas. Her community involvement has open doors for her to now be the present Dean and the south east London regional director for an international worship school where she writes songs, sings and lectures students in promoting worship as a life style.
As the Dean, she ensures that the school is run effectively. She speaks at weekend retreats and organises courses and runs a youth programme in the community. She also works as a learning support officer for the students at the famous Surgeons’ College where she graduated from with a Bachelor of Divinity Degree. Even now she is facilitating them to ensure their potential is realised.
Jennifer believes that she has come full circle as it were. The creativity that she enjoyed as a child in Jamaica has now been realised but even more than just exposure, she has found purpose in it.
And as a result she is more destined focussed and loves to serve others. She now knows her reason for being. Her renewed purpose is to bring worth to God and to ultimately help others recognise their own uniqueness. And so she uses her gifts to help others. She believes that when one lives out ones’ purpose to serve God and mankind their sphere is unlimited and one will inevitably leave an inheritance for others to follow.
Jennifer is not just aimlessly wandering anymore, but she has a vision that she believes in and is working towards. She now knows that her purpose is to charter a path to allow others to be their unique self and live out their purpose. And as an artist she has also come to realise that the heart of a true artist is not necessarily just to entertain but also to liberate.
These are now the best years of her life.