In the 37 years he has spent ministering the Word of God, Seventh-day Adventist pastor Clive Dottin has faced death on more than one occasion, including threats from a notorious drug dealer in his native Trinidad and Tobago.
However, like the apostle Paul, he has not allowed this to deter him from his mission of preaching the gospel and reaching out to disadvantaged young people.
The pastor, who is in Barbados as the featured speaker at a five-week crusade in Thorpes, St James, shared his journey in ministry with Barbados TODAY in a recent interview.
“I grew up in Belmont, a low-income area, in an extended East Indian family, and my father died when I was 15 years old. He was a vet that specialized in racehorses and one of them kicked him and he ended up with a blood clot to the coronary artery. That was a chilling experience for me, and since we were among my father’s ‘outside children’, my main obsession was to give my mother what my father never gave her, and I went out to work shortly after my father died,” he recalled.
“My main goal was to become a missionary doctor, because I have always loved science. But when I did my GCE exams I only passed one the first time around, and I believe the teacher at the Catholic school I attended only gave me a chance because my language was unique!”
Dottin repeated his exams the following year and passed seven subjects. But he had to continue working for a few more years until he could get a scholarship to pursue studies in medicine.
“After I finished teacher training in 1975, I applied to do pharmacology, but there was a complication regarding my qualifications with ‘A’ level Zoology and Chemistry . . . . At that time, a Syrian minister advised me, ‘If you have two options and don’t know where God wants you to go, try one, and if that doesn’t work out, He will find a way to get you across to the next one’, and that was exactly what happened.
“In 1976, I went back to Maracas and taught for a year at the Barataria Junior Secondary School, but I could not teach from 8 to 3 and get the chance to study theology, so I told the Lord, ‘if you want me to do theology you’ll give me a morning shift, and if you don’t want me to do theology you will give me an evening shift’. It was rough for me to work and study, but one morning the principal landed eyes on me and said, ‘You, I want you on the morning shift!’ So, I said, ‘OK Father, you want me in ministry after all!’”
His decision to focus on youth ministry came in 1980 when he saw two magazine articles that piqued his interest.
One was an academic magazine about marijuana being “a bad thing that messed up the brain, at a time when everyone was saying it was harmless and they should legalize it”.
The second publication featured a girl who obtained eight distinctions in Cambridge ‘O’ level exams but was planning to commit suicide.
“She had run away from home and the only answers she gave to the interviewer’s questions were ‘No’ when they asked her if she wanted to live, and ‘Yes’ when they asked her whether she would continue smoking marijuana. I bought the magazines immediately, because I had a dream of ministering to people in crisis,” Dottin said.
“In 1990, we started Heart to Heart Ministries for children of drug addicts, and Heart Home, which supports children with HIV/AIDS. In 1991, AIDS was a big thing and we had a 14-month-old child with HIV/AIDS who the Port of Spain General Hospital did not want, so I took the child in and started the home. Eventually, the country spoke of the Heart Home as a safe haven for children.”
Since then, he has created a group to help drug addicts, gang members and their relatives. That ministry involves people from various denominations as well as representatives from the army and police, and the head of Security Services at the University of the Southern Caribbean, a private university owned and operated by the Caribbean Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.
Pastor Dottin’s work has generated some controversy over the years, however. He has been threatened more than eight times.
“I remember leading a march against Dole Chadee [Trinidadian drug dealer who was executed along with members of his gang in 1999] that attracted over 1,000 people, and the T&T Mirror newspaper published a death threat against me from him,” he recalled.
He also served on the Police Service Commission where he examined, among other things, an alleged drug cartel in the police force. In his words, “Our findings were so hot they brought in Scotland Yard to check it out”.
Pastor Dottin reiterated that a desire to give his mother a better quality of life was one of the key things that have driven him in life.
“And I always remind young people of the fifth commandment – Honour thy father and mother that your days may be long on the earth.”
The 67-year-old man of God said he is “just blessed to be a Seventh-day Adventist”.
“I don’t want people to just call me a Christian. I am happy to be a Seventh-day Adventist pastor, happy to honour my mother’s memory and I am alive because God is alive.”