Thursday, July 12, 2012
‘Man on a mission’ is honored by Queen Elizabeth
Former Senator Jean Le Maistre has been made an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honors List
By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries
ST. HELIER, JERSEY (ANS) -- The phone rang in the newspaper office in Ealing, West London, England where I was working as a reporter. I promptly picked the receiver and the man at the other end of the line was Jean Le Maistre who told me he was calling from the island of Jersey, just off the British mainland, on behalf of the Jersey Overseas Aid Committee.
It was a big surprise for me, and always up for a challenge, I asked my editor if I could take some off and go over to Kenya from August 6-31, 1976, and he agreed – as long as I wrote a story about it. (I wrote several, not just for my paper, but also many Christian ones in the UK).
So soon I joined the team at London’s Heathrow Airport for the flight to Nairobi, where we then headed off in a bus to Maua, located on the northwestern slopes of Nyambeni Hills and west of Meru National Park.
In fact, there were also hundreds of other people who, over nearly four decades, had taken part some 100 mercy trips many of which were organized by Maistre, for the Jersey Overseas Aid Committee.
Why am I telling you this? Well it because I have just learned the “excellent news” that Jean Le Maistre was recently made an MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in the Queen’s Birthday Honors List. This award is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 4, 1917 by King George V.
And if anyone deserves such an award, it is Jean La Maistre, a committed Christian, who has worked tireless to help alleviate suffering around the world from his tiny island, located just off the Normandy coast of France and was occupied by the Germans during the Second World War.
Journalist Lucy Mason recently wrote a special feature for the Jersey Evening Post in which announced the award and said, “Mr. Le Maistre, a former States [Jersey Parliament] Member and tireless volunteer both in Jersey and abroad for the past 50 years, was one of four Islanders honored by the Queen last month. The Bailiff, Sir Michael Birt, was knighted and John Hodge, manager of the Shelter Trust homeless charity, and Dawn Woodhouse, founder of Holidays for Heroes, Jersey, were also made MBEs.
“One look at Mr Le Maistre’s CV [resume] is enough to put most of us with our occasional charity challenges and membership of a sports club or two to shame. There are, of course, his 33 years in the States – 15 as a Deputy and 18 as a Senator – and the committees on which he served as a result, including the Jersey Overseas Aid Committee – which he is often credited as helping to establish – Agriculture and Fisheries, Education, Public Health, Defense, Tourism and Postal.
“He was also chairman of the Jersey Youth Service – another organization he helped to found – as well as chairman of the Jersey branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, and he was elected to the world executive committee of the CPA.
“Add to that his ‘day job’ as a farmer for 35 years, directorships at the Highlands Hotel and the JEC and the many conferences around the world of the Association des Parlementaires de la Langue Française at which he represented Jersey, and countless other achievements and you get the picture – he has been a busy man over the years.”
Mason went on to say that today he is "as busy as ever:, with his involvement with the Leprosy Mission based in Peterborough, his presidency of the Don Balleine Trust which oversees the Jčrriais teaching program in schools, and the Jersey One World Group, to being the chairman of the overseas aid charity Jersey Side by Side, vice chairman of the Jubilee Sailing Trust and founder member of the St Ouen Coutanches Twinning Association Committee, a member of the council of the National Trust in Jersey and trustee of the Jersey Church Schools’ Society.
She added that “his breadth of interests and knowledge extends far and wide.”
Writing about his early life in Jersey, she quoted him as saying, “TV wasn’t what it is today and there was no Internet, so in the broad sense you had to make your own entertainment. We then linked up with other churches for barbecues and scavenger hunts and that kind of thing and that led to me being elected the youth club leader at around the age of 17, which I shared with a young lady the same age.”
Lucy Mason that that it was while in that position that the young Jean began to come into contact with Christian missionaries – teachers and other professionals who would visit developing countries and report back to communities in places like Jersey about what was going on.
“It was a natural process where we got to know about life elsewhere and it enabled me to get a good picture of what conditions were like, never having visited these places,” he told Mason.
“I suppose that was the starting point of my awareness being raised of the vast difference between the developed world and places like Africa and India and so on.”
He added: “I wasn’t a churchgoer until I joined the youth club but I think it became all quite relevant when you consider the role of the church overseas.
“One of the comments I have made is that obviously, when you are in a position to go overseas to see what I call the ‘real Africa’, then you do meet people who are really inspiring, amazing folk, so you come back with a feeling that you have actually got to do something.
“I think it would have been very unusual for anybody to have those experiences and not feel motivated.
“It is not a question of doing good, that isn’t the motivation, the motivation is the recognition that in Jersey we were helped during the war at our time of need and it is recognizing that we have got a responsibility to do the same for others.”
Mason then wrote that Jean’s first opportunity to travel outside of Europe was when the Rotary Club of Jersey nominated him to join a group on an exchange visit in Israel.
He told her: “We saw amazing examples of unbelievable advances in technology and medicine alongside some of the poverty and difficulties, particularly on the West Bank.
“A year later I was invited to take my first work group on a project to Nazareth, through Tearfund. That opened my eyes because it was the only hospital in the area serving in excess of 400,000 people. It totally convinced me that we had hit on something really special in being involved in practical help and we were welcomed, and that led to a second project to a blind school.”
Meanwhile, on the “home front” Mr. Le Maistre was just as active. He was first elected to the States as Deputy for St. Helier No 3 and 4 in 1972 and quickly set about developing what is now the Jersey Youth Service.
“Along the way in whichever role he has been in or whatever country he has been visiting, Mr. Le Maistre has always been keen to promote Jersey and benefit the Island as much as possible,” said Mason.
“I have always been very keen to use the opportunities that I have had to benefit the Island and not to keep them to myself,” he said. “Through my friendships with certain people I hope I gave a lot of people a lot of pleasure.”
Mason concluded her feature by saying, “It is tiring talking to Mr. Le Maistre – not because he is hard work or difficult (he could not be further from both of those things), but because there is so much to take in.
“One has led to another and another and another, and it all goes back to that first position as a youth club leader when he was 17.
“And 51 years later Jean Le Maistre MBE shows no signs of slowing down.”
All I can noq do it to echo the words found in Matthew 25: 32 (NIV) “His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'”
Jean Le Maistre, we certainly share in your happiness. It is most deserved.
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