I’ve struggled writing this post because I cannot fathom how my words can possibly grasp and convey the glory and power of God. After wrestling with what to say to portray the way He revealed Himself in the small Haitian village of Source Matelas I came to this conclusion – they can’t. All I can do is channel the raw emotions I experienced and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.
I’ve seen God do miraculous things. I’ve seen Him change hard hearts. I’ve seen Him heal. I’ve seen Him provide in perfect timing. And I’ve seen Him send down His Spirit in a way that makes it impossible to doubt His power, grace, and goodness. That’s the story I want to share.
March 12, 2013:
The morning was physically, spiritually and emotionally exhausting. I have never seen more pain or a greater need for a miracle. It was our first village outreach day in Haiti and I expected to walk the streets, play with children, pray with people, share the Good News of Jesus. We did all of those things, but what I didn’t expect was the roller coaster of emotions and exhaustion I felt at the end of the day.
The first lady we talked to was a street vendor. After asking enough questions to know her name and make her feel comfortable around us we began asking her about her faith, her family and her struggles. Her eyes revealed the deep hurt she felt. She was barren after 20 years of marriage. Her husband left her to work in Miami. She was alone and desperately desired a child. Lindsey (one of our incredible adult leaders) related to her pain and so did I. Last year Lindsey and her husband, Joseph, wanted to start their family, but after miscarriages and a current pregnancy Lindsey worried about her son who was still in the womb until God spoke into her heart and gave her peace that John David was going to make it. Today their “little bean” is learning to crawl and hamming it up every time me and the other girls come over for a visit. John David is proof that God is bigger than barrenness. In that moment, as Lindsey shared her story, I lost it. I wept uncontrollably as I thought about how much Lindsey’s story related to my own parent’s. I am a result of God being bigger than barrenness. I thought about Hannah, who was barren and cried out to God for a child. God answered her cries and blessed her with Samuel. She dedicated Samuel to God and he became a prophet and judge of Israel (1 Samuel 1). Samuel was used for God’s glory, John David is being used for God’s glory, I am being used for God’s glory. The magnitude of those Truths hit my heart hard and the day had just begun.
Our group of 18 split into smaller groups of six and we continued our walk through the village. My group had trekked about 50 feet from the vendor before being summoned to a woman’s home. We were welcomed into her concrete home without hesitation. A puppy greeted us on the front porch as we walked through the front door. The only light in the home shone through the windows. The first room was the family’s dining and living room. We thought that was going to be where our journey ended, but then the woman motioned to a bedroom off to the right of the living space. I was one of the first to enter the room and stopped abruptly at the sight of a small, disfigured body lying in bed. Maxon-louie was 11 years old and had never spoken. The only noise he made was a quiet grinding of his teeth. His head was swollen to the size of a volleyball and His arms and legs were two to three inches in diameter.
Tears. I was speechless and felt completely helpless. When we asked his mother whether she had accepted Jesus as her Savior, she said she wanted to but needed to clean up her life before she could believe in Jesus. We followed up by asking why she asked us to pray for her family if she didn’t believe. She responded with a shrug of the shoulders. She didn’t know why she asked, but it was evident that she saw a Power in us that could heal her son. We laid our hands on Maxon-louie and prayed. We wept. And when we didn’t have the words to say, we sang.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.
Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.
Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.
When we’ve been here ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun.
I wish I could tell you that Maxon-louie spoke for the first time and got out of bed to walk. He didn’t. Although we fully believed that God could heal him of his illness, it wasn’t His plan for that moment. He wanted us to love this little boy and his family for that brief period of time and leave them with part of our hearts and our prayers. My heart broke for this family and for this little boy who has never known the joy of playing soccer with his fellow villagers. I left more broken than I came, but was hopeful that this family would realize they don’t have to clean up their lives before accepting Jesus. He takes us as we are and makes us new.
By lunchtime my emotions were on a roller coaster ride. Joy, pain, happiness, awe, hurt. You name it, I felt it over the course of a couple hours. I didn’t think I could take anymore. After meeting the vendor and Maxon-louie we played with school kids and prayed with a woman who accepted Jesus that morning. It was a beautiful sight to see her drop to her knees in awe of the grace and love she received from Jesus. We walked back to our canter along a stream. In Haiti, there are goats and chickens roaming freely throughout the villages, but on this walk we noticed a pig. When we got back from our lunch break our group marched back through the village along stream. We saw the same pig, in the exact same spot, but this time we noticed a huge tree the pig was resting by. How we didn’t notice the tree the first time is an act of God. Haiti is 98% deforested and this tree was GINORMOUS! You don’t miss this tree unless God really wants you to miss it.
Naturally the five year old in all of us came out and we started climbing the tree. After a few minutes of climbing and taking this picture we heard a voice start yelling at us in Creole.
Crap. The jig is up.
In the yard next to the tree was a woman. Short ombre micro-braids fading from black to gold fell from her scalp. Two necklaces hung from her neck, one depicting an image of Christ. The atmosphere changed the moment she walked over to us. The cold look in her eyes instantly warned us that something about this place was dark. She came out of her yard and started asking us what we are doing. Our translators explained that we were missionaries from the United States that were praying for people and talking to them about Jesus. The translators informed us that she was a Voodoo Priestess and that the tree we were just climbing was used for Voodoo worship. The following conversation ensued:
Us: Do you believe in Jesus?
Voodoo Priestess: No.
Us: Why not?
Voodoo Priestess: I can’t.
Us: Why can’t you?
Voodoo Priestess: Because I’m afraid.
Us: Why are you afraid?
Voodoo Priestess: There are evil spirits in the tree. I’ve lost seven children and every time I’ve tried to go to church I’ve fallen down and can’t make it.
Translator: Is it alright if they share a story about Jesus with you?
Voodoo Priestess: Yes.
Translator: Does anyone have a story about Jesus they would like to share?
Alicia, one of our group members, started sharing this story from Mark 9:14-29.
And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?”
And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.”
And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?”
And he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”
And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can!’ All things are possible for one who believes.”
Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”
And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.
And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?”
And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
Most of our group had started praying while Alicia was telling the story. It was evident that this woman had a battle between good and evil raging inside her. My eyes were closed until Alicia finished telling the story and when I looked up the Voodoo Priestess was gone. Our translator remarked that she had been moved. She gave Alicia an out-of-this-world look and stormed off after hearing God’s Word. We prayed over the tree and her home, began singing “Whom Shall I Fear” by Chris Tomlin and continued our journey through the village. The encounter frightened me, but by the time we made it back to the Mission of Hope campus, an afternoon of playing soccer in a skirt and racing with a small child on my back had successfully distracted me from my fears.
During our debrief that evening we talked about our experiences with the Voodoo Priestess. After the meeting, I was unsettled and sent a message to a few family members and friends in the States asking for prayer for the Voodoo Priestess. I had never witnessed such extreme spiritual warfare. I was afraid and wanted to stay as far away from Source Matelas and the Voodoo Priestess as possible. One emotion began to paralyze me.
(to be continued…)