The past few months, Jamie and I have been working with our friend Pierre and Lorphine St. Louis to start a church here in Jacmel.
Pierre is an Air Force Reserve chaplain, and the son of a Haitian pastor who immigrated to the U.S.
Lorphine was born and raised in Haiti, and just recently finished up her naturalization as a citizen of the U.S.
Down here, God has called them to start an orphanage, called Faith House, and they have been led to start Bible Studies and focus on outreach and discipleship, which now includes two Sunday service.
Typically, we do a morning service at their house, where Jamie and I lead the music and Pierre preaches, both in English, though we translate the sermon as the crowd is still mostly Haitian.
Then, in the afternoon, they hold a service at the orphanage, and I am helping their Haitian band with preparations and play guitar as needed.
However, about 10 days ago, Pierre and Lorphine went started a month-long trip to the U.S., leaving me in charge 😉
So, despite “not being a preacher”, I started with a sermon last week, and continued in a sort of “series” this week.
I’ll start by posting last weeks sermon, plus some additional comments to get across some of the cultural context that Haitians understand more easily.
Also, for the sake of humor, I must admit that this is “mostly” what I preached, though a miscommunication caused me to preach in Kreyol as I didn’t have a translator present, and therefore, it was not as clear as what I’ve written here. 🙂
“The One True God in a land of many false gods”
This weekend is the celebration of Fet Gede within Voodoo culture. Gede is a celebration of “Gede” family of lwa (spirits) in Voodoo. It’s also a big “tourist” thing to do I guess, because the ministry of tourism publicizes Voodoo celebrations as some simply “cultural.”
I cannot claim to speak as an expert on Voodoo, but I have learned some things over the past 5 years that I want to share now.
It is obvious, from the time someone comes to Haiti, that Voodoo has a strong hold on this country. The ministry of tourism celebrates it, and many of the holidays are connected to it, including Kanaval, Rara, and Gede.
As a stupid blan (foreigner), that did not understand anything, I didn’t think much of Voodoo when I first came to Haiti. I figured it was a completely fake teaching, and that it had no power at all. I even tried to tell some haitians that there was nothing to be scared of because Voodoo had no power.
This was due to my upbringing in the U.S. In short, we typically disregard ghosts, mediums, spiritualists, demons, possession and the like as superstitions or irrational fears, even to the point of using them simply for their entertainment value.
Now, I have come to realize that I was wrong.
First, I was hit by a passage in 1 Samuel 28, where Saul goes to a “Witch” to raise the spirit of Samuel, and it works, and the ghost of Samuel rebukes Saul fiercely for using this evil magic. This told me that the Bible acknowledges witches and evil spirits, and there are also plenty of times in the Gospels/Acts and speak of demons and possession, so they must also be true.
Second, I had my eyes opened to the power of Voodoo firsthand.
Sure, sometimes the “magic” that Voodoo claims to use is fake.
But, sometimes, the “magic” is real. Sometimes, there is something very spiritual going on during Voodoo rituals, and that there is a power in it.
One night, in 2010, I was at an orphanage and saw firsthand the work of evil spirits possessing 2 of the girls. These tiny 10 and 11 year old girls required 3 or more grown men to restrain them, to keep them from throwing themselves on the ground and hurting themselves with sharp rocks.
They didn’t respond to their own names, but claimed different names which I couldn’t understand.
So, I had a practical experience to highlight the knowledge I had gained from scripture. There are supernatural events which are not of God, and are of other “gods” of this world.
As I began to realize this, I learned that Christians in Haiti are in a similar place to the children of God in the Old Testatment.
In the times of Moses, and later, Elijah, the children of God were living in a land where they were the minority. Most of the people in the land believed, and feared other gods, other spiritual beings.
In Haiti, it is said that the country is 80% Catholic, 20% protestant, and 100% Voodoo.
Everywhere you turn, there is evidence of the followers of Voodoo, and the spirits they worship.
But I want to talk today, not just about the spirits of Voodoo, but what God has done in situations like we are in today.
First, we will talk about Moses.
In the time of Moses, the children of God were in Egypt, living as slaves under the Pharaoh. The Pharaoh believed himself to be a God, and called upon spirits of this world in his practices. He had magicians and sorcerers that worked for him to put spells and curses.
So when God called Moses to go to Pharoah, he gave Moses certain signs to perform to prove that He was the One True God, that He was more powerful than the spirits that the Pharaoh believed in.
So we read in Exodus chapter 7 through 11.
God sent Moses to Pharaoh to demand that Pharaoh would let the people of God out of their slavery. The first sign God gave was that moses would throw his staff on the ground, and it changed into a snake.
At this, Pharaoh has his magicians do the same thing, proving that they also had some power. (though Moses and Aaron’s snake did eat all the other ones)
Second, God commanded Moses to turn the water of the river into Blood. Again, the magicians of Pharaoh were able to do the same.
Third, God sent a plague of frogs into Egypt, but, again, the magicians did the same.
Finally, God decided to show his true power.
He sent plagues of Gnats, Flies, and Locusts, which the magicians could not do, proving that he was the God over all the animals and insects of the earth.
He sent Hail, large chunks of ice, which fell from the sky and was strong enough to kill animals and damage houses, proving He was the God of the weather.
He caused Boils on the skin of the Egyptians, proving He was the God in control of sickness.
He caused 3 days of darkness, to show his power over even the Sun in the sky.
And, he caused the death of all the animals belonging to the Egyptians, before finally showing his ultimate power by causing the death of the first born child of all the Egyptians, proving that he was the God over life and death itself. The one God above other spirits.
As we look around this country, and we see the power of the evil spirits worshipped by Voodoo, it is important that we remember clearly that we serve the God above all Gods.
We cannot deny that there are other spirits which have power, but the God we serve is the all-powerful, the almighty God.
We should take courage to know that any evidence we see of the power of spirits is smaller than the power of our God.
Our God is greater, and therefore any display of power we see from the evil spirits of this world should serve to INCREASE our faith, because we know that God is bigger than each of these displays.
However, there is a second part to this sermon as well.
All throughout the Old Testament, we hear the stories of the children of Israel.
Unfortunately, since they were living in a land that was full of people who worshipped other spirits, these people of God often started worshipping those spirits as well.
In our lives, we must heed the lessons learned from these Old Testament times.
Just as we are not to fear the spirits of this world, we must also be careful to not fall into trusting in, or worshipping these spirits.
Our God, the God of Israel, the one True God, is a jealous God.
He gave his children, in Exodus 20: 1-3, clear instructions.
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods besides me.”
All the days of the Old Testament, there is a pattern that is easy to see.
God Blesses his children when they are obedient, and must discipline them when they turn to other spirits and away from Him.
We must learn from this pattern. We should take this passage in our hearts as this…
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of your sin, out of the bondage of death by the blood of Jesus. You shall have no other gods besides me.”
I have heard many stories in Haiti of “pastors” and “christians” who still seek the voodoo priests for direction, or for blessings and curses.
(This was even confirmed as each member of our church nodded in acknowledgement that they know of a “pastor” like this).
Jesus told us the problem here in Matthew 6:24
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.”
So, we are called to live in devotion to our Father, the one True God.
We are called to live, not in fear, but as a light and a testimony to the power of God in this land of darkness.
Elijah, in 1 Kings, also lived in a land of darkness.
In 1 Kings 18: 21-39, he says he is the last remaining prophet of God, yet there are 450 prophets for the spirit called Baal.
In this passage, God had Elijah prove that he is the one true God.
We must never grow complacent to the point that we dismiss the supernatural occurrences in life, and we should hold firm to the histories and testimonies we have of when God has indeed proven himself greater than all that we see and know.
Remember Elijah, remember Christ and the apostles casting out demons and performing miracles, and hold firm to any miracles you have seen in your own life. Do not downplay them as happenstance or luck, but acknowledge that the God you serve is mighty and has performed miracles on your behalf.
Be ready to show to other that the God you serve is the One, True God.
Again, this is “mostly” what I spoke, both due to a lack of a translator and the fact that I don’t read from this page, but simply used this as a basis to get my ideas in order. I just wanted to share it with you so that you more people can hear what God lead me to say last week.