For young McDonald Jean-Louis faith in action has taken him to a place that he once thought was not possible and he has yet more dreams and goals to fulfill as he seeks to inspire others to achieve their own.
Born September 4, 1993 to Acephie Toussaint in Marsh Harbour’s small clinic, 23 year-old McDonald was raised in the shanty towns of the Pigeon Peas and The Mudd.
He tells the story of how his father and mother migrated from Haiti to the Bahamas where he was born a short time after they settled here.
When he was only a few months old his father left his young immigrant mother in a foreign land to fend for herself.
“Fighting for her life and the life of her son, we moved from house to house in our little shanty town community,” he said. “Sleeping with roaches and rats was inevitable for my mom and me. When it rained, it rained on us. She cried every night because it was very tough on her.”
He said that as a kid he often went to school hungry which resulted in him stealing other kids lunch money and at other times taking their unfinished food plates out of the garbage bins when no one was watching.
“Having limited notebooks to write in, I would go back and erase old lessons so I could have blank pages to write new lessons on,” he remembered.
McDonald said that growing up in a neighborhood that was built on drugs, sex, violence and extreme poverty was a very great challenge.
“Dysfunction was all I knew and at an early age I started to accept the lie that my circumstances were normal. I was waking up and going to sleep in poverty every single day but had no realization that we were in poverty because everyone around me had also accepted this form of normal,” he said.
Poorly built wooden houses with no proper water or sewage system made up his neighborhood, and gas lamps and gas stoves were found in most households. Ramen noodles, sardines and rice was their five-course meals. He said that a jug of marbles was his most prized possession and was the only toys that they could afford.
“Things were so tough for my mother and me that I started working at the age of ten, packing bags at a local grocery store and after leaving there I would go to various resorts on the small island to help incoming tourist with their luggage.”
“From early on I knew in my heart that there was a better life somewhere out there but I had no clue of what this better life looked like. I would constantly tell my mother that I would buy her a better home one day and that she would never have to work,” he said.
He said “this drive helped me to remain among the elite in all my classes throughout elementary school while still using a gas lamp for light to do my homework each night. I was always put in the class with the most elite kids whose parents were managers, accountants and doctors. All my classmates wore better clothing than I did and were driven to school while I had to walk to school most days.”
He added that throughout all the struggle, he was a happy, ambitious and optimistic kid, uncharacteristic of his handicapped environment.
“I started playing basketball at the age of twelve and my basketball team would travel to the more developed islands to play in tournaments,” McDonald said. “These trips started to spark my optimism even more because I was seeing new environments, new people and new things and it was through these trips that my inner belief was confirmed; there was actually a better way of living.”
He said “so for me, growing up in a shanty town helped me to develop real faith.”
At the age of thirteen he had an encounter that changed his life forever. He was invited by a friend to church and he said it was as if the preacher knew he was in the building because the word preached was exactly for him.
He said “I dedicated my life to Christ on that night and begun a journey like no other. My faith in God grew daily from that point on. I began to study the Bible and started receiving revelation that my environment doesn’t have to be my reality forever. I started believing that nothing is too big for God and that once I put my faith in Him, He’ll take care of my family and me.”
It was through the eyes of faith McDonald began to see the potential of a brighter future for himself. He remembered that graduating high school is a big deal for the kids in his neighborhood but he started to believe that through God he could graduate high school and play college basketball.
“I started to believe in the fact that God is no respecter of persons and just as others had more, my family and I could also have more,” he said.
At the age of fifteen he was granted a scholarship to move to a different island to attend one of the more prestigious schools in The Bahamas, Sunland Baptist Academy in Grand Bahama, where he worked day in and day out to improve as an athlete and a student.
“I excelled there academically and athletically and was blessed with a scholarship to play college basketball in the United States,” he said. “Receiving a college scholarship is something that was not supposed to happen for a kid like me considering the environment I came from; however, through my active faith, I was able achieve the things that I felt deep down within my heart from a young age. I realized that the best sign of true belief is consistent action that supports that belief and that’s what I did.”
McDonald went to Webber International University – a small business school located in Polk County, Florida – on scholarship and began his studies in August of 2013 and he expects to graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in December 2017. He is majoring in Marketing with a minor in Business Management.
“I chose Marketing because I want to be an entrepreneur – Consulting, Life Coach, Speaker, Best-Selling Author – so I figured that Marketing would be the perfect major to sharpen my skills to be able to market myself in the self-development industry.
In his time at Webber he has earned Academic-All American three times, has a 3.55 Grade Point Average. He is currently a junior on the basketball court and is a starting shooting guard on his team. He is leading the team in three pointers made and attempted so far for the season, and just scored his career high in late January scoring 29 points and making 8 three pointers.
He encourages any kid, especially those faced with the same circumstances that he was faced with, to start by putting God first.
“I know that this may sound cliché but my faith has been the driving force and anchor that’s gotten me to where I am today,” he said. “Secondly, I would tell them too dream big and know that no dream is too big. And finally, I would tell them to work hard day in and day out for whatever it is that they want to accomplish in life.”
He added that “kids need to know that taking their studies serious is extremely important. You can be a great athlete but you may not be able to showcase your skills because of poor grades, especially at the college level, there’s professional talent sitting on various team benches because of grades.”
He said that kids wanting to pursue a higher education must prepare themselves mentally for the distractions and high demands that come with being a college student.
He said he is thankful to Ishmael “Stretch” Morley for being a coach and father figure to him, and to Bonnie Basden who was a coach and mother figure to me, as well as his Sunland Baptist Academy Family, Pastor Mildred Ferguson and the Church of God of Prophecy Family. He also thanks his former track coach, Vogel Williams and the Abaco Central High teachers that took the time to teach him.
He thanks his mother, Acephie Toussaint and Grandmother, Fluorine Laurent the most along with the Island of Abaco and everyone who has ever invested in him.
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