Friday, December 02, 2005
Haiti at the Cross
By George ThomasCBN News Sr. Reporter
CBN.com – PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - From a distance, the tiny tropical island of Haiti looks like a great vacation destination. Tropical weather, sandy beaches, green valleys and breath-taking views offer visitors a taste of heaven on earth. But the closer you get, the more this heaven on earth feels and looks like hell on earth.
CBN News asked Eris Labady, a pastor who oversees 15 churches, how he would describe Haiti today. Labady replied, “A sick nation who needs a doctor."
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, and is getting poorer every day. Half the population is undernourished. One in five children dies before he or she reaches five. The majority in the country do not even have access to clean water.
Dr. J. L. Williams, an American based in North Carolina, has ministered the Gospel in Haiti for 30-plus years. Dr. Williams is the CEO of New Directions International. He said, “It went from this incredible place of prestige, a place of beauty, to what it is today -- just almost a barren, lifeless island.”
It is an island where hopelessness and despair are captured in the faces of needy Haitians.
One Haitian girl said, “Our life is so difficult here. We have lost hope in all earthly solutions to Haiti's problems.”
Many had pinned their hopes on Haiti's experiment with democracy, but that too has failed to produce much of anything.
Still, the man in charge of running this country, Prime Minister Gerard Latortue, is optimistic about the future, despite his country's catalogue of problems.
Latortue said, "We know that democracy is difficult to implement, but we know there is nothing better than that."
Yet the nation's top evangelical leader says there are deeper issues that plague his nation.
Chavannes Jeune is the pastor of Mission Evangelical Baptist Church. When asked if he felt that Haiti is cursed, he replied, “Yes, because our forefathers, when they were celebrating their independence, dedicated Haiti to a voodoo spirit.”
Haitians made a blood pact with the devil 200 years ago, after a witch doctor by the name of Boukman dedicated the island to Satan.
Labady was asked what impact voodoo has had on his country. He responded, "The result is all around us."
According to Labady, voodoo permeates every level of Haitian society.
CBN News got a glimpse into this dark world where African witchcraft mixes with Catholic rituals.
A voodoo priest asserted, “Voodoo and the spirits on these walls have more power than the God of the Gospels, and all this power is now in me, and I can give that power to those who want it!”
CBN News asked the priest, “So these are kind of demonic spirits on the wall?”
The priest responded,“Yes!”
Lesly is one of the voodoo priests. But Lesly is not his real name; he says that is only his spirit name. Lesly runs a voodoo temple on the outskirts of the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince. He says that for the last three decades he has tended to the desperate needs of many Haitians.
He said, ”Many come to me with all kinds of sickness. Some have evil spirits in them. They ask me to solve their problems, and I do. I also help them get voodoo spirits that can look after them in the future.”
In between gulps of Haitian moonshine, which he said helps to calm the other spirits roaming inside him, Lesly tried to sell our CBN News reporter a voodoo spirit.
CBN News asked, “How much does it cost to buy a spirit?”
Lesly responded, ”To buy a good spirit will cost you five, eight, maybe 25,000 Haitian dollars. It all depends on how powerful a spirit you want. Now, if you want to take a spirit with you home to America, you have to pay in American dollars!”
Our reporter was clearly not interested in buying a voodoo spirit. But many Haitians are, and they are paying lots of money for these spirits.
We found a man at a major intersection in downtown Port-au-Prince singing about the voodoo spirits he bought, and who now rule his life.
The man said, “Voodoo is everything to me. The spirits help me survive in my country, and I love to sing about them.”
There is a saying in this country that Haiti is 70 percent Catholic, 30 percent Protestant, and 100 percent voodoo. But things are changing. An army of believers says it is enough that for 200 years this nation has suffered under the curse of voodoo.
Spearheading that change is Pastor Jeune, Haiti's most prominent evangelical leader. On most days, you will find him traveling around the island with one goal in mind.
Pastor Jeune said, “What we are trying to do to our country is to claim it back for the Lord.”
Thousands of Christians are joining that campaign with fervent prayer and fasting.
Church attendant Reginald Estarid said, "Second Chronicles 7:14 says that if my people [will] humble themselves and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear them and will forgive their sins and heal their land. That's what I am clinging to today for my nation.”
Last Easter, when Haiti's former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide officially declared voodoo as a religion, "...that become a galvanizing event that woke up the Christians in a special way,” said Dr. Williams.
Weeks later, thousands of Christians began earnestly praying to see victory over voodoo. They held rallies officially declaring Haiti for Jesus.
In one rally, Dr. Williams declared, “This is the blood of Christ, and we lift it up tonight."
This past week, Pastor Jeune and Dr. Williams held another series of prayer events called "Haiti at the Cross." It included the first-ever Christian prayer convocation at the Haitian White House. It was led by the president of Promise Keepers USA, Dr. Tom Fortson.
Dr. Fortson said, "God wants to show himself strong here in Haiti. He wants to demonstrate His power, and what better place in all the world to demonstrate who He is, by changing the situation here in Haiti.”
Rumor has it that former president Aristide used the Haitian White House to hold voodoo celebrations, making this week's event of Christians gathering and praying in the presidential White House all the more historic.
Dr. Williams said, “And so to have it, as it were, swept clean by the presence, by the prayers, by the praises of God's people, is historic beyond comprehension.”
Other "Haiti at the Cross" events included a four-day Promise Keepers-style outreach to the men of Haiti.
Haitian pastor Daceus Abcoste said, “Men hold the keys to my country's future. When men understand the Godly roles in their families and in their communities, then they will see how God will use them mightily to overthrow the kingdom of the devil and replace it with the Kingdom of Jesus Christ!”
Today, Haitian Christians are becoming catalysts for spiritual change in their country.
Edmond Chantal said, “God has put a burden on my heart to bring my country to the foot of the cross because I know that only God has the solution to our problems.”
According to Pastor Jeune, the evangelical community is experiencing tremendous growth, and now makes up 42 percent of the population. He says, “Haiti is on the brink of revival."
And Christian radio is playing a significant role in that revival. With equipment donated by CBN, Radio Luimer, Haiti's largest evangelical radio station, reaches every corner of the country with the Gospel.
Radio Luimer director Varnel Jeune said, “We get a number of calls from voodoo priests who want to serve Jesus Christ and not the devil. We praise God when we get such calls, because it is often dangerous to go and witness directly to these voodoo practitioners. Radio allows us to reach them right into their homes.”
Pastor Labady said that the key to turning his country around is Jesus. He said, “Our people need to come to realize that this country has a problem, [and] there is someone who can solve it, and that's Jesus!”
Back at the Prime Minister's office, a group of Haitian and American Christians gathers to present the leader of the country with a Bible, and to speak a blessing over the nation.
Prime Minister Latortue said, “I believe Christianity has a big role, and has had also in the past a big role, and even for tomorrow, in order to free Haitians from hunger, from unemployment, God only could help us. That's why one thing I'll ask you: in your prayers, think about me, think about the members of my government, think about the Haitian people -- because we are fighting a difficult task, and only your prayers could help us to reach the objectives we want to reach.”