"The Witch Doctors Are Liars" - Haiti 1993You might say that we had a Murphy’s Law trip: Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Nothing went as we had planned. Most things weren’t even close to the way we planned. Yet God moved above and beyond our expectations. And through the chaos and trouble, we saw the power of God unleashed on our behalf in some remarkable ways.
I suppose the tone of the trip was set the night before we left when Bruce Smith called to say that while playing at the church gym he had torn out all the ligaments in his right ankle. He was in a cast up to his knee, on crutches and in pain. He was calling to say he couldn’t go.
What do you do? I said, “Bruce, why don’t you go anyway?” So Bruce became our chaplain and our prayer warrior. Crutches and all, he hobbled on the plane with us for the trip to Miami.
An Unlikely Crew
Eighteen of us left Chicago on Wednesday, July 24–Immanual Baptiste, Gary Olson, Dawn Olson, Nicole Olson, Justin Olson, Kevin McCullough, Vicki McCullough, Alan McLeod-Smith, Bruce Smith, Danny Risley, Linda Korbus, Mary Mattucci, Mike Williams, Reg Overstreet, Ray Pritchard, Marlene Pritchard, Josh Pritchard, Brian Hoppe. We were definitely an unlikely crew. I told them that only God could have assembled this team because no human mind would ever throw such a diverse group together. We were junior highers, high schoolers, college age, singles and three married couples, all with our own personalities, backgrounds, gifts and interests. I wondered how we would all get along as the days wore on.
So we made our way in the darkness to the church at 4:45 A.M. for the bus ride to Midway Airport. So far, so good. Everyone showed up for the initial flight–except for Reg who was meeting us in Miami.
Our first crisis came when we switched planes for the flight to Haiti. The man said, “We can’t carry all your luggage.” What?!! The airline had overbooked and didn’t have room for our stuff. So we flew to Haiti leaving most of our supplies on the tarmac in Miami, including my suitcase with a check for $2500 and $1200 in cash.
Heat and Dirt and a Crowded Van
Three hours later we arrived in Haiti. First impressions: Heat and dirt and crowds of people. Everywhere you look you see abject poverty. Shacks, shanties, lean-tos, rutted roads, and the smells. Poverty has its own unique odor–pungent, deep, acrid, dirty, a mixture of dirt, sweat, sewage, and rotting fruit. Never overpowering, but always hanging in the air.
We were soon introduced to Haitian transportation as all 18 of us crammed into an ancient van the size of a Ford Aerostar for the trip to Pignon. Only 39 miles away, we traveled a dirt road that was more like a river bed–pitted, rutted, narrow, rock-strewn, filled with potholes. We arrived at our destination 3 hours later.
We were working with Caleb Lucien, his father Pastor Sidoine Lucien, his brother Enoch Lucien, and the good people of the Jerusalem Baptist Church. Enoch and Caleb were born and raised in Haiti, studied at Dallas Theological Seminary and now have returned to help their people. Working with next to nothing, they have built a church, six schools, an orphanage, a string of widow’s homes, and a three-year-old Christian camp. This fall Caleb hopes to break ground on a high school.
For the next 10 days we called Camp de la Grace home. By American standards primitive, by Haitian standards palatial. No electricity unless Caleb hooks up the generator. But there is solar power for the lights at night. We slept in separate bunks around a common gathering area. As the days wore on traditional modesty gave way to familiarity. We all wandered around in shorts or night shirts, barefooted, lounging in too-small wooden chairs to find relief from the heat.
For three days we rested, the guys painted the basketball court, the women prepared for VBS and we all prayed for our bags to arrive. On the third day God answered our prayers. By that time some of us had become pretty gamy. We were washing our underwear in the sink and hanging it on the limbs to dry.
By and large the Haitians are a friendly, courteous people. Many of them speak broken English. They laughed at our amatuerish attempts to speak Creole.
Soon after arriving Caleb told us about “Haitian time.” He said there is American time, German time and Haitian time. If you have an appointment, an American will arrive 15 minutes early, a German will arrive precisely on time and a Haitian will arrive at least 30 minutes late.
Why? It is not due to any natural laziness but to the rhythm of life in the Caribbean. Life is slower in Haiti, there being no special reward for hurrying through the day. If you need to go somewhere, you walk–even it means walking for two hours. There aren’t many tools, so things like construction take lots of time. There aren’t papers to read or TVs to watch or cars to drive or places to go. Life is mostly getting up, finding some food, walking to the field, talking with your friends, eating, resting, working again, all in a slow, steady rhythm.
Gary Olson and I discussed one day how difficult it is for us Americans to slow down enough to work with the Haitians. We want to see some action now! Move it, stay on task, get the job done. Haiti is not a good place for Type A personalities.
So we spent many hours waiting–for the plane to come, for the Haitians to come, for the meals to be ready, for the pump to be fixed, for Caleb to return with gasoline, for the services to begin. It’s a good place to be patient because in Haiti there is no reward for impatience. People don’t move faster because you get angry. If you don’t have gas, you don’t have gas, and that’s that.
Which leads me to mention the political situation. As you know, several months ago the UN began enforcing a fuel embargo on Haiti in order to force the country to accept Jean-Bertrand Aristide as the president. (He was ousted by the military in 1991.) Without going into all the details, suffice it to say the American media has presented a very one-sided story. (Are you surprised?) While we are led to believe that Aristide is like Abraham Lincoln, he’s really more like Nelson Mandela. As a Roman Catholic priest he hates the Protestants and the Evangelicals. Caleb Lucien doesn’t like him for many reasons–not the least of which being that Aristide’s men tried to kill him and his father three years ago. But that’s another story. When I asked Caleb what he would do if Aristide returned, he replied, “Buy a .38.” He wasn’t kidding.
The embargo has had its effect. The poor suffer the most, as they always do. The rich find a way to buy what they need. Gasoline is almost nonexistent. If you can find it, a gallon costs $3.75 in Cap-Haitien, the same gallon costs $9 in Pignon, and we met one guy who offered to sell us gasoline for $20 a gallon. Truly Haiti has become a “no man’s land” where black marketeers, thieves, hoodlums, and assorted entrepreneurs fend for themselves.
No Gas, No Ice, No Water
Perhaps our greatest early crisis came on Monday of the crusade week when Caleb announced that we were out of gasoline. To us that’s no big deal, but for him that meant making the tortuous trip to Cap-Haitien. No gas meant we couldn’t travel and we couldn’t run the generator. To make matters worse the pump bringing water from the river into the elevated cistern broke, but we wasted two hours of gas before we realized what had happened. That meant we had no water for toilets or for showers. On top of that we began running out of drinking water (which Caleb brings in from Cap-Haitien) and ice (also from Cap-Haitien). For 36 hours things were a little grim. No movement, no showers, toilets only when absolutely necessary, an embargo on drinking water and no ice. It was a tough, grimy, hot period when tempers were a little on edge.
Finally some of the men enlisted the Haitians to help form a human chain to haul water from the river to the cistern. It was sweaty, hard, back-breaking work, and so slow that after 3 hours the water level rose by a meager 18 inches–barely enough to cover us for the rest of our trip.
During this period we never missed a meal. Thanks to Caleb’s sister Naomi, we enjoyed a steady diet of fried plantain, rice and beans, stringy chicken, goat meat stew, hard rolls, butter and cheese, along with some fresh mango juice. It helped to keep reminding ourselves that we were eating better than the average Haitian.
Nights were long and hot. And broken by a succession of roosters, noises and bizarre sounds. One night we were awakened at 3 A.M. by the sound of distant drums and wild, hysterical screaming. It was a voodoo funeral. Several times we heard people prowling around the camp late at night and once we heard someone climbing on our roof.
No one slept very well–Josh snored, Bruce talked in his sleep, Mary snored like a freight train, Gary and Allan slept lightly, ready to jump up at the first sound. Allan was our “Chief of Security.” Several times he made a perimeter check in the middle of the night and toward the end we starting fastening our windows shut.
Sickness? Mostly “Haitian Happiness.” Everyone got “happy” sooner or later. We must have run through several hundred Lomotil pills and Imodium A-D caplets. That was the worst, however. We also used our antibiotics and our Seldane D quite a bit. But I’m happy to report there were no major illnesses.
Sights and Sounds
–Playing spades with “The Judge”
–"The sky is blue and I am too”
–The Pignon market–an indescribable aroma of dirt and smoke
–The rooster crowing at 4 A.M.
–The women who brought souvenirs to the camp
–Walking to and from the church
–"Give me one dollah.”
–Painting lines on the basketball court
–Jumping on the rocks as we crossed the muddy creek
–Danny and Mike installing the new rim
–Meeting Debbie, Caleb’s calm, patient American wife
–Arguing late one night about which pizza is worse–Domino’s or Little Caesar’s
–"This is a basketball.”
–Bruce giving us detailed Greek exegesis for our noon devotions
–Who pulled out the wire to the generator?
–Kevin and Vicki falling in love with two orphans–Roseminda and Rosemond
–Why can’t we get those nails to go in straight?
–Chicken-bone soup, dried mango, and oatmeal for dinner
–"Go easy on the ice.”
–Allspice, the universal spice for every dish
–"If your neck is strong, you can’t be wrong.”
–"I saw his feet dangling over the edge of the roof.”
–The honeymoon suite
–"Give me your shoes.”
–"Good night, John boy.”
–Nicole holding court on the hammock
–Pastor Lucien jumping for joy
–Clay, the man who can fix anything
–"Let’s kill that rooster as a message to the other roosters.”
–"If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down. “
–Hurry up and wait
–"I am lonely for you only.”
–The little red pickup with the very bad clutch
–White clouds in the plane
–Climbing Pignon mountain
–John and Sam, Pen and Betsy
–De plane! De plane!
–"Don’t tell Pastor Caleb.”
–Playing more spades with “The Judge”
–Arkansas football, Oak Park football
–Mary meets Boaz
–Nicole and Linda sleeping on the trampoline
–"Turn out the lights. The embargo’s over.”
–"I’ve had a lobotomy but the doctor says I’m socially sound.”
–Brian, Josh and Justin roaming through Pignon
–Who stole the basketball?
–Is it going to rain tonight?
–The Butterfly Song
–Reg and Mary singing “Somewhere My Love” in the gazebo
–Long private discussions, personal confessions, praying together, sharing together
–What happened to the Kool-Aid?
–Do you have any Lomotil left?
–Wait! I think I hear the witch doctors.
On the first Sunday the women ran a Bible school for 350 kids. Imagine our sanctuary on the hottest day of the summer–then add 10 degrees. Matthew (the interpreter) led the service–oh, how those kids love to sing … and sing … and sing. A quick Bible story, an invitation, 10-12 hands raised. Then we served the children huge bowls of bulgar with noodles. Every morsel eaten. For some children, their only meal of the day. One child with orange hair–a sign of malnutrition. So sick she can barely eat.
Basketball camp was great. Gary and Kevin kept saying it was unlike any camp they had ever run in the states. To begin with, the skill level was equivalent to an American elementary school. Then we had one court to handle 50 guys and gals. We had to teach them everything–how to dribble, how to pass the ball, how to shoot a free throw, how to play defense, how to throw the ball in, how to run a basic offense. Four hours a day–two in the morning, a “chapel” talk in the gazebo and a scrimmage late in the afternoon. The campers stayed with us on the property so we were crowded but I think we all got along very well.
I taught a couples conference each morning to 50-60 husbands and wives. For most of them, this was the very first time they had heard any biblical teaching on marriage. It was wild! My talks were very basic, very simple, but the people laughed, cheered, and sometimes interrupted me so they could excitedly talk to each other. I would stand there helplessly watching as the whole place dissolved in laughter. On Thursday, when I talked about biblical sexuality, you would have thought it was a raucous high school pep rally. When they thanked me, the people said, “We don’t ever talk about these things in church.”
One brief word about the church in Haiti. It makes church in America seem boring. These Haitian believers have nothing. Most of them get by on a few dollars a week. By the world’s standards they are a pitiful lot. But they know how to worship! Each service lasts two hours. When they sing, they all sing. Their only instrument is a cheap, table-top electric keyboard. The man who plays it isn’t good enough to play in any American church. It doesn’t matter because they sing with all their heart and soul. There are 8 or 10 special numbers in every service. The congregation claps, cheers, laughs and cries.
Many of their songs have motions: “Satan is a liar. Jesus is the Lord.” “Satan, if you’re here, get out.” (Accompanied by the waving of hands as if you are shooing Satan out of the building.) One favorite was a song that sounded like “Louie, Louie.” (The title, not the tune.) The words mean “Praise, Praise,” and the people dance together, lifting their hands before the Lord. Another favorite was the “Butterfly” song. “I feel like a butterfly flying up to heaven.” (Waving your hands like wings over your head.) “Satan is a caterpillar crawling on the ground.” (Crouching down low to the floor and swaying left and right.) By the end of the crusade we had shed our inhibitions and were joining right in.
I find that their songs generally have a strong message–no fluffy stuff in Haiti. I also found it very easy to preach there because their hearts are so open to the Lord.
One change from my previous two trips: Voodoo is much more in evidence. To most Americans, voodoo is where some guy sticks a pin in a doll. Therefore, we are surprised to learn that voodoo is really the national religion of Haiti–practiced in some form by over 90% of the people. Witch doctors? Sure, there are many throughout Haiti and many in the Pignon area. They are like voodoo “pastors” who serve the people by casting spells, offering animal sacrifices and contacting the spirit world or talking directly to Satan.
One day as we were driving down a dirt road Enoch stopped the truck and pointed to a little boy about five years old. He had orange hair with dreadlocks. “That boy has been dedicated to Satan.” His parents dedicated him to Satan to be a witch doctor soon after his birth. How do they know which child to choose? During a voodoo ceremony the spirits pick out the child they want. According to Enoch, the parents will never cut the child’s hair (cf. Samson), believing that if they do Satan will hurt their child in some way.
The very next day that little boy came to our Bible school. But Marlene and Vicki both commented on how unresponsive he was. While the other children were clapping and singing, he sat there glassy-eyed, as if he had been drugged or was in a trance.
By the way, it’s easy to spot a serious voodoo practitioner. They wear red–a red shirt or a scarf or a bandana or a handkerchief. Witch doctors hoist a red and blue flag in front of their homes. If you see someone wearing bright red, he is probably a follower of voodoo.
The National Voodoo Festival
Enoch told us that each year thousands of people gather in Cap-Haitien for a national voodoo festival. People come from all over Haiti and even from other countries. Haitians come from America just to attend the festival and renew their vows to Satan. The ceremonies include spirit possession, swimming in a pool of mud (a kind of voodoo baptism), wild music, drinking, open sensuality, and every kind of immoral activity. Our final weekend in Haiti coincided with the festival. As we drove toward Cap-Haitien on Friday we saw more and more people wearing red, heading toward the festival. In retrospect, I think the evil spiritual activity going on in Cap-Haitien accounts for some of the things that happened on our trip.
We learned something about Satan’s hold on Haiti when we asked, “Where do the voodoo people live?” “Oh, they are all over.” Enoch explained that every house that is not a born-again Christian house is a voodoo house. Virtually everyone follows some form of voodoo. Only the Christians refuse to participate.
Incidentally, the Catholic church made peace with voodoo long ago. The voodoo rituals recognize Mary and many of the saints even though the vows are made to Satan. And some of the voodoo rituals have crept into the Catholic Church. In Pignon the Catholic priests encourage people to visit the witch doctors if the regular doctors can’t help them.
This is a major problem in the evangelical church because many people have difficulty giving up all connection with voodoo and witch doctors. Enoch said that some church members will visit the witch doctors secretly–even though that is a sin that could result in serious church discipline.
Voodoo, of course, comes from Africa and when the French brought the first black slaves to Haiti, they brought their religion with them. Enoch said that Haitian historians speak of a crucial moment in the battle of independence from France in the early 1800s when the Haitian leaders held a voodoo ceremony in which they told Satan that if he would give them independence, Haiti would belong to him forever.
A Cursed Country
Enoch not only believes that Satan kept his part of the bargain, he also believes that Haiti is a cursed country because of voodoo. He feels that until the country renounces its allegiance to Satan it will remain impoverished.
Here’s a fact you probably didn’t know. Haiti is the second-oldest independent nation in the Western Hemisphere. Can you name the oldest independent nation? The United States of America. We got our independence in 1776, Haiti in 1806. Yet consider the vast difference between our nations. Is the difference simply education, politics and economic privation, or is there also a spiritual explanation why we have come so far and why Haiti has virtually gone backwards? I believe that Enoch may well be correct that Haiti is cursed because of voodoo and that no amount of political change will alter the situation. Until the nation turns away from Satan it will remain in chains.
Our eyes were slowly opened to this reality during our trip. Looking back, I believe the long series of difficulties we faced was Satanic in origin. I also believe the fact that we never slept through the night was due to spiritual opposition from the enemy.
Satan Vs. JesusDuring the early days of the crusade we had good services but there were no decisions. Then on Wednesday Enoch talked seriously with us about Satan’s hold on the people. That night I scrapped my prepared sermon and preached on “Who is greater–Satan or Jesus?” I began by talking about the big voodoo festival in Cap-Haitien. Then I talked about who Satan is and where he came from. Then I explained Satan’s character–a liar, a murderer, a deceiver, a slanderer, one who hates God and his Son Jesus Christ, one who comes disguised as an angel of light. Then I asked, “Who is greater–Satan or Jesus? If Satan, then serve him. If Jesus, then you must follow him.”
To answer that question, I traced Satan’s attempts to destroy Jesus–at his birth, in the temptation, through the demons, through Judas, in the Garden, and finally at the Cross. On Friday night, I said, the demons sang with joy and Satan danced in the fiery corridors of Hell.
Then came Sunday and from the inside of the tomb a stirring, a sound, a movement. Jesus stood up, walked to the opening, walking through the stone and stood outside the tomb. Jesus had come back from the dead!
When I said that, the whole place erupted. Cheering, clapping, shouting, laughing, the Haitian believers joined in the great celebration. “And in Hell, silence. The party was over. Satan had been defeated once and for all.”
“The Witch Doctors Are Liars”
As we came to the invitation, I put the matter this way: “If you are following Satan, you are following a loser. He’s been beaten. Jesus defeated him 2000 years ago and he’s still defeated today.” Then I said the words that seemed to be the turning point of our whole trip: “The witch doctors are liars.” I shouted it out and the people roared with approval. I shouted it again: “The witch doctors are liars.” Then I said, “They are going to Hell and if you follow them, they will lead you straight to Hell.”
That was the galvanizing moment, the fulcrum, the turning point. Suddenly everything became clear. We had come to Haiti to do spiritual warfare against Satan and his followers.
Then came the invitation, which in Haiti is a little different. They set a chair in front of the tabernacle facing the audience. None of this, “Let’s go to another room.” No, if you are going to accept Jesus, you’re going to do it in full view of the audience, facing them so they can watch what happens. No halfway conversions in Haiti. Either go all the way or forget it.
So we began to sing–the Creole version of “Hold the Fort.” When we got to the part “Raise the standard high to heaven,” everyone lifted up their hands in victorious praise. An awesome moment. After several minutes one person came forward. Then another. Then another. Then another. Eventually the tiny aisle was clogged with people coming forward and pastors dealing with them.
Breaking Satan’s Grip
Who were these people? An assistant pastor’s daughter. The daughter of a deaconess. All those who came forward had been part of the basketball camp. And all of them said the same thing: They had been afraid to accept Christ because of fear of what Satan would do to them.
Afterwards Pastor Sidoine was ecstatic. The whole congregation clapped and cheered and stood and sang and rejoiced at the great victory God had won.
Later on Enoch would tell us that Wednesday night was the greatest service he had ever attended. Many of the team members felt the same way. I was reminded of the words of an old gospel song: “Heaven came down and glory filled my soul.” This much I know: God was there that night. Nothing else can explain what happened.
Late that night–again about 3 A.M.–we awakened to discover someone trying to climb on the roof of our building. Allan MacLeod-Smith actually saw his legs dangling over the roof. By the time we got outside he was gone. It was an eerie moment. Was it a thief? Possibly. Caleb speculated that it might be someone putting a voodoo curse on us by pouring some blood on our roof. (Such things routinely happen to him and his parents.)
The Final Day
Thursday was another story. Our final day in Pignon began with a two-hour couples conference on biblical sexuality. Then the final session of the Bible school and the final scrimmage of the basketball camp. As the afternoon wore on Enoch came by with some striking news. He had been out and about in the community that day visiting the jail, the local judge and a family from the church. Word filtered back, he said, that some people in Pignon were upset with me and with the team. Why? Because of what I said last night about the witch doctors being liars. That line, spoken off the cuff, had aroused the opposition. They didn’t want anyone challenging their spiritual authority. The battle was now fully joined.
I sensed a different atmosphere the moment I arrived at the church that night. Gone was the joy and excitement of Wednesday night, replaced by a pensive awareness, a feeling of tension that you could almost reach out and touch. Something was about to happen.
Mad Men Muttering
Just before the service started three men walked by dressed in red–voodoo practitioners on their way to a meeting with the devil. It was as if Satan was saying, “You may own the church, but I own the country.” Meanwhile, as people continued to file in, motorcycles roared up and down the dirt road, revving their engines, trying to intimidate those who had come to worship.
As the service began the singing was not as joyful as the night before. The people seemed burdened, nervous, exhausted. Over an hour passed before time came for me to preach my final message–"What will happen when Jesus returns?” I took as my text Matthew 24:37-39 which compares the days of Noah to the days when Jesus returns. I spoke of the unconcern and outright evil that marked Noah’s day and compared it with modern-day Haiti. “There is no difference. The people of Noah’s day weren’t ready; the people of Pignon aren’t ready.” Unlike Wednesday when preaching seemed easy, every sentence on Thursday was a struggle. I was aware of a strange muttering in the back of the sanctuary as I preached but I didn’t know what to make of it. Later I discovered that 20-30 of the voodoo people had entered the back of the church, intending if possible to disrupt the service. They stayed in the back muttering curses and incantations as I preached.
Just before the invitation I reminded the people of Jesus’ words: “Two shall be taken and one shall be left.” “What will happen to you when Jesus returns? Will you be taken or will you be left to face the judgment?” Then I walked up the middle aisle touching first one person and then another on the shoulder: “One will be taken, another left. One taken, another left.”
“His Goat Has a Better Future Than He Does”
As the invitation began I was aware of enormous heaviness in the room. It seemed as if Jesus was in the front and Satan in the back with the congregation hanging between heaven and hell. For nearly 20 minutes we sang with no response. The pastor continually pleaded with the people to leave Satan and come to Jesus. At one point he told of a witch doctor who was traveling on a bus with his sacrificial goat when the bus was wrecked and the witch doctor and his goat were both killed. “That witch doctor went out into eternity without Jesus. His goat has a better future than he does.”
Long after we would normally have ended the service the invitation continued. It was now almost 10 P.M. and no one had come. Yet we were all aware of a vast struggle in the unseen realm of the spirit. Suddenly one girl came forward, then another–both in tears. The pastors dealt with them for a long time as we continued to sing. Finally, Enoch came and told me the problem: “Those two girls have been demon-possessed in the past. They come from a voodoo family. They’re afraid to accept Jesus because they fear Satan will attack them somehow. They keep begging us not to stop praying because if we stop praying, they fear Satan will inhabit them again.”
This was far beyond anything I had ever experienced. I stepped off the platform, walked to find the other team members, told them the story, and asked them to pray. At that very moment others began to come forward. One by one they sat facing the audience, many with tears, confessing Jesus Christ as Lord.
Hanging Between Heaven and Hell
The most dramatic moment came when a girl in her late teens stood up to come forward and her friends grabbed her arm to pull her back down. There was a struggle, then she broke free and came forward to accept Christ. Enoch prayed with her personally. She didn’t want to pray herself but he said, “You have to.” She was scared to pray, scared of what Satan would do to her, but Enoch told her that if she wanted Jesus in her heart, she had to ask him herself. She prayed and asked Jesus to be her Lord and Savior.
In the end 12 people came forward, making a total of at least 30 people who trusted Christ during our trip. Most of them were young adults, most of them came from some voodoo background and most of them were afraid of what Satan would do to them if they accepted Christ.
I have never seen anything like it. It was heaven or hell, God or Satan, streets of gold or the fires of hell. And nothing in between.
At the end of the night I walked out into the darkness utterly exhausted, every ounce of strength drained from my body. I remember sitting in the darkened road feeling not victorious but as if I had just finished a 15-round boxing match. That night as I considered what had happened, I felt like Satan was whispering, “You won a few, but it doesn’t matter because tomorrow you’re leaving and I’ll still be here.”
Pray for these precious new believers. Pray they will have the courage to stand firm for the Lord Jesus. Pray for Caleb and his father as they disciple them. Caleb told me that very often when young people come to Christ from a voodoo family they are immediately cast out. It’s happened before and Caleb’s family has helped raise those children. They are prepared to do it again.
The next day we left for Cormier Plage–a resort on the Caribbean Sea in Cap-Haitien. Caleb likes to go there because it makes a good transitional point for teams heading back to the States. After the poverty, the dirt, the sweat, the grime, the suffering of Pignon, Cormier Plage seems like another world. We went snorkeling, the boys played backgammon, we ordered all the Coke we could drink, and they served us lobster that night.
Looking for the Passport Man
Meanwhile Caleb spent the better part of two days trying to solve the problem of Emmanuel Baptiste’s passport. He is from Haiti, a legal resident of the U.S., living with his mom and aunt in Oak Park, a student at OPRF high school. He is one of Gary Olson’s football players. He was a good addition to the team because he could speak both English and Creole. The Haitians looked up to him because in their eyes he was one of their own who had “made it” in America. But he had managed to somehow travel to Haiti on an expired Haitian passport. His “Green Card” had also expired. To make matters more confusing he had just become an American citizen in June but didn’t have his passport yet. We didn’t know most of this when we took him on the trip but when we arrived in Haiti we were told that unless he got his papers in order, he couldn’t leave the country!
We couldn’t very well get him a Haitian passport since he was technically an American citizen. So Caleb spent hours dealing with the top immigration officer in Cap-Haitien. “You have to go to Port-au-Prince.” Impossible, the team is leaving tomorrow. “Sir, back at the camp many people are praying right now that you will say yes.” A smile. “Let me see what I can do.” He ordered his secretary to type up a highly-irregular letter stating that Emmanuel could leave the country. But he left before he could sign it. Caleb spent hours tracking him down in Cap-Haitien. He finally found him drinking in a bar at the Hotel Mont Joli. “See me tomorrow and I will sign it.” The next morning–our last day in Haiti–Caleb went to his house at 6:30 A.M. The man was fully dressed and about to leave for the voodoo festival. He signed it and said, “Did my secretary charge you for this letter?” (Deep breath because in Haiti the man could charge anything–Caleb said it could be $250 or more–for such a “special” letter.) “No.” “Good, because I gave special instructions that you were not to be charged.” Thank you, Lord!
No Room at the Inn
Saturday we loaded up at Cormier Plage, spent two hours waiting at the Hotel Mont Joli, then traveled to the airport. We came two hours early because this time we wanted to make sure that our luggage went with us. We weren’t about to leave anything behind in Haiti.
That afternoon we arrived in Miami and checked in at our hotel at 6:30 P.M. There we discovered that our rooms weren’t ready! So 18 of us camped out in the lobby of the Airport Regency Hotel for nearly 2 hours while the maids cleaned our rooms.
At 8:30 P.M. we left for a Welcome Back party at Jerry Hansen’s house. Jerry and his wife Beverly are old friends from Texas days who moved to Miami 7 years ago. He had prepared a huge feast of hamburgers and all the trimmings. Gary Olson ate three and declared them the best hamburgers he had ever had. We made it back to the hotel at 11 P.M., completely exhausted.
The next morning we ate at the Holiday Inn next door, then took the hotel shuttle to the airport. We arrived back in Chicago late in the afternoon and went our separate ways.
Back to the Basics
In the days since the trip, I have found that many of the team members have struggled with various sicknesses, exhaustion, fatigue and mild depression. It’s not easy to come back from Haiti and jump back into the rat race in Chicago. It doesn’t seem right somehow to go back to worrying about so many petty details when just a few days ago we were worrying about whether the generator would work and whether Caleb would get gas in Cap-Haitien.
I think all of us were profoundly changed by the trip. We went down expecting to do our ministry and come home. We weren’t expecting to be involved in major spiritual warfare. We didn’t expect to be so moved by the plight of the Haitian people. We weren’t ready for their exuberant joy and their incredible faith in God. We didn’t think we would do hand-to-hand combat with Satan. We were surprised when nothing in our trip went as we had planned. We worked together as a team better than we had hoped. We became a family as we lived together in such close quarters.
This was indeed a Murphy’s Law trip but as I look back I can see that God was in it every step of the way. It was more than we expected; it took more out of us than we wanted to give; it stretched us in every direction; it brought us back to the basic essentials of life; it taught us to trust God for everything.
Most of us would go back to Haiti at the drop of a hat if we could. God met us there in a powerful way. We will never forget those momentous, difficult, joy-filled, life-changing days in Pignon. As long as we live, we will never forget those wonderful days.