|Haiti: May 2003|
This was the third time that a team from Chi Alpha Campus Ministries @ Mizzou traveled to Haiti on a missions trip. I have been privileged enough to be a member of all three of these trips. God has shown us tremendous favor and continues to astound us every time that we go.
We have a relationship with a missionary who has been working in Haiti for 30 years. God has blessed his ministry to be able to build a large, nice complex to run an orphanage and allow teams like ours to visit. When we are there, they really try to make us feel at home, and they do a great job.
A Voodoo stronghold crumbling...
During our first trip in May 2002 we saw a powerful Voodoo priestess accept Christ. She had us come and destroy all of the figures, tools, potions and symbols that she had used in her Voodoo rituals. The trip this past January we were confronted with a major Voodoo celebration. It lasted several days with drumming around the clock. We saw God work, though, and I had a strong feeling that He was beginning a major change in this region. We received a report in February that there was another Voodoo celebration scheduled near the orphanage. The man who was hosting this celebration approached Andre (Poppy) and told him that he couldn't do anything about hosting it, but out of respect they would not have any drums this time. (Drumming is an extremely important part of Voodoo, so this was a major sacrifice of what they were trying to accomplish.)
On this trip, after one of the services, we were told that this man had been at the service. He came back the next night and came to the front to accept Jesus as his Savior and renounce Voodoo. He asked us to come destroy his Voodoo paraphernalia, so the next day, we happily obliged. That night his daughter came to the service. She didn't come to the front during the altar call, but the next evening (our last in Haiti) she visited us at the orphanage wanting to accept Jesus herself. There is another powerful Voodoo priestess nearby who has come to talk with Vialene (Mommy). Pray that she will turn away from Voodoo and accept Jesus.
This region (Fond Deux) is reputed to be a Voodoo hotbed. It is considered one of the worst areas in Haiti for various criminal activities (including drug smuggling) and violence. It is plagued with poverty, malnutrition, and fear. God has a plan for this area, though. He placed this mission here for a reason. They reach out to the community, serving them with the love of Christ...and they are seeing results. Voodoo is falling.
The power of prayer...
How do we get to see all of these incredible things happen? Why do we see a harvest when for so many years, people have dedicated their lives to sowing seeds and watering them? Paraphrasing a question one of the members of our group posed..., "How am I so privileged that God choose me to be a part of what He's doing here?"
We can't answer those questions, only God can. We aren't so special or so different from everyone else that we deserve or somehow earned it. For whatever reason, God has shown us favor. Something God revealed to me one day, though, was that there was a lot of prayer behind this trip. As a group we prepared with prayer and fasting and meeting together. We each recruited and challenged people to pray for us before, during, and after the trip. We took things seriously. We knew that we were heading to battle. Satan would not let us go unopposed, but "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective" (James 5:16).
Pastor Bob has been trying to raise enough money to build a church on the orphanage property. It is planned to seat 1000 people, and would be by far the largest church in the area. It would also be the first Pentecostal church in this region. A foundation is mostly completed, but right now is being overgrown with weeds. They don't have money to be able to finish this project, which has already been worked on for several years. There are people who have promised to come when the church is completed, and that is a sincere promise. People respect what Pastor Bob, Poppy and Mommy have built there. They see how our God has blessed while their religion has gotten them nowhere. People are hungry. Some of them are willing and ready to turn away from their beliefs and accept Jesus, but want to do it at this church.
Malnutrition is a major problem in Haiti, and especially in this area. Income is so low that sometimes families simply can't afford food to eat. The orphanage has a feeding program to provide three free meals a week for kids. For some, this is all that they will get in a week. Less than 100 kids' names are on a list to be able to receive these meals. There are many hundreds in this area, but funding is not available to care for all of them. If money doesn't continue to come in, then this program may have to be reduced or stopped.
The orphanage just recently hired a nurse to travel to the orphanage twice a week to run a medical clinic. In our May 2002 trip, we laid the foundation by bringing supplies and having a very successful clinic. In January, we built on what we had started, and really stepped up prayer for those who came for treatment. This time, the medical treatment was at a new level, and the prayer team worked to refine what they did. Jake, the medical student in charge of the clinic was excited, saying, "I think we're really helping people here." His strategy was to diagnose problems and give people enough medication or instruct them on steps to take that would actually fix the problem. People received prayer before and after treatment, and a few accepted Christ right there at the clinic. By ministering to physical needs, God can open doors to meet spiritual needs.
Marvik, the baby at the orphanage, needs to come to the U.S. for a surgery. They tried to get him a Visa so that he would be allowed in, but he was denied. Just to apply, it cost $120 American, a huge amount for them. The rule now is that they will have to wait a full year before applying again and by being rejected once, it's likely that he will be rejected again. Please pray that this decision will be overturned.
We did services in four locations, two services each at the three churches we have previously visited, and three on the orphanage property (just behind where the church will be built) under two large advertisement banners tied together to form a large tarp-like covering.
The first church was about a ten minute walk down the road. This pastor's wife is one of our favorite people in Haiti. She has an infectious passion for God, and won't let anyone get away with not worshiping. The worship time lasted so long that we had to change our service format. The plan was that every service, half of the team would give testimonies, and then Pastor Winston would preach. We ended up having to change that to the first night at a church everyone testified and then the second night, Winston would have plenty of time to preach and give an altar call. This approach worked out pretty well, since the first night, we could encourage the people and challenge them to bring unsaved friends, family, or neighbors and get there on time (service always starts late - sometimes 45 minutes or more). The second night, more people were there and we had time to pray for them, even if we started late and there were a lot of special songs.
The second place we went was a small church a few miles away and a short climb up the mountain from the highway. It is the neatest church to visit. The walls are made of palm leaves that have been woven together and lashed to wooden poles stuck in the ground. A wooden frame holds up its corrugated sheet metal roof (a surprisingly common feature for buildings in the mountains). They light candles and hang them on the poles, which always makes me nervous since most of the building is highly flammable.
The first night to visit this church, the truck was occupied on an errand that took much longer than anticipated. One of the members of our group suggested that some of us could try to go anyway. Pastor Winston agreed and selected a few of us. A tap-tap is a Haitian taxi. They travel along the roads, letting people on. When someone needs off, they tap the side to signal the driver and then pay for the ride. Tap-taps are usually small pickup trucks that have benches installed for seating along the sides of the bed. As the back fills up, people end up standing, holding on to whatever they can, including each other. As far as I can tell, capacity is only limited by the number of people who can manage to cram in.
You may have guessed that this was the method of transportation that we decided to use. A couple of Haitians went with us to make sure everything went alright. The tap-tap that they stopped was full around the sides and front of the bed so we all had to stand in the middle of everyone. Matt got a hand on the top of the cab. I held on to him and one of the Haitians there grabbed my other arm. I couldn't see behind me, but I know my backpack was a handle for a couple of people, and I think the rest held on to them. Needless to say, I was pulled and pushed with every acceleration, braking, or turn. The Haitians seemed to enjoy the spectacle as there was quite a bit of talking and laughing as they all watched us. It was a fun experience and the service went really well.
The third church was the one that we are most familiar with from past trips. It is just a five minute walk from the orphanage, and it is where several of the kids attend school. They run a generator to have electricity for service and have a couple of musicians and a worship leader come while we are there. This is a fairly traditional church, but during our trips they've become more active in worship and more responsive to altar calls.
We had the awesome opportunity to go with a couple of the pastors to visit people's homes and pray for them. Ministry takes on a new dimension when you actually go to the people instead of letting them come to you. It is amazing to enter a family's one- or two-room home to pray for a sick mother who wants to be healed so she can take care of her children. The houses are so much hotter inside than what we were "used to" outside.
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