God, the Madam, and Voodoo

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SonSet Solutions is a partnership ministry with engineers, technicians, equipment, and technical knowledge. Our partners around the world have a passion to reach their fellow countrymen with the message of freedom and salvation in Christ. Often, radio is an excellent tool to facilitate this process. New Generation Ministries (NGM) is our newest ministry partner. Their aim is to minister to the poor, the hurting, and the orphaned in Haiti. They attempted to start a small radio station but were struggling with old equipment, a less-than-adequate antenna, and a dilapidated tower. A friend of SonSet Solutions put Mike Leland of NGM in touch with us and a new ministry partnership was born! While SonSet Solutions is eager to upgrade this new radio station in Haiti, our real excitement is about how this radio station first came about.

It’s a thrilling story of God’s redemptive work and his love for the people of Haiti. So, sit back, relax, and prepare to be encouraged as we share this account of God’s deliverance!

Voodoo. Witchcraft. The dark arts of magic. Many people know of Haiti as being a country steeped in these practices. Many Haitians give credit to Voodoo for the overthrow of the French government and the resulting freedom of the slaves in Haiti in 1791. It is said that a ceremony dedicating the island nation to Satan was the beginning of the slave revolt led by slave leader Toussaint Louverture. The vast majority of Haitians today practice a combination of Catholic rituals syncretized with Voodoo. Sadly, the freedom from the French did not result in freedom in the hearts and lives of the Haitian people. The religion of Voodoo keeps them ever dependent on pleasing the many “gods” and leaders of the Voodoo religion.

Within Haiti there are places where Voodoo is not only practiced, but is a training ground for those seeking to learn. One such place is the small village of Pass Rien located in the northeast hills of Haiti. The people of Pass Rien have lived in poverty, illiteracy, and deep oppression. They have rampantly practiced witchcraft and Voodoo for the past 100 years, giving themselves over to become slaves to the very thing they thought would bring freedom.

One day, Mike Leland’s co-laborer with NGM, Pastor Nathan, was driving north through Haiti. He couldn’t explain it, but he felt a very strong leading from the Lord to turn onto the road leading to Pass Rien. He turned down the road and spent time in prayer. This scenario played out several times on his travels through this part of Haiti, and he continued to stop and pray for the village of Pass Rien. Pastor Nathan eventually shared these experiences with Mike. Together, they agreed to take the next short-term mission team to the village, and they wondered what God had in store for them!

A month later, in May of 2011, Pastor Nathan and Mike led a small team to the hills overlooking the village of Pass Rien. Mike prayed as he assembled the team and explained how God had been burdening their hearts for these people. He asked them to simply walk, pray, and report back any words, visions, or impressions they were given from the Lord for this place.

Mike closed his eyes and prayed, “God, I’m willing to come and minister in Pass Rien. I just want to be sure I’m hearing from You, and that this isn’t simply our plans and desire.” As Mike was praying, he felt a tap on his shoulder. He opened his eyes and turned around to see an old man. His dark skin was wrinkly and weathered, and he had only a few teeth left. He was frantically asking Mike something in the Haitian Creole language. The interpreter said, “Mike, this man wants to know how he might be saved!” Mike knew his prayer had been answered! Over the next 45 minutes, seven more people were led to salvation in Christ!

As Mike, Pastor Nathan, and the team continued to speak with the villagers of Pass Rien, they were introduced to “the Madam.” She was a large, intimidating older woman who was a prominent witch doctor. She seemed pleasant enough, but everyone felt a bit uneasy in her presence. Mike explained to the Madam why they had come and that they hoped to plant a church and a school there. She was supportive and even offered them a piece of land to use! However, they still had deep forebodings about the Madam.

Mike and Pastor Nathan have found an open door to Pass Rien, a village in the northeast hills of Haiti, steeped in the Voodoo tradition.

The next team trip to Pass Rien was in July. Mike and Pastor Nathan brought along some food to share as well as some sound equipment to host a revival meeting. The people of the village were excited and grateful for the plans to start a church and a school. Later that night during the revival, a blind man who had grown up in the village received his sight! Many others were led to the Lord. It was an incredible experience to witness God pouring out his light into the darkness of Pass Rien.

Meanwhile, Mike was able to further his conversation with the Madam. He spoke to her about salvation in Christ. She thought this was fine for others, but not for herself. She then took him on a walk, down into the local Voodoo camp. It was a deep ravine with a small stream at the bottom. The Madam asked Mike if he was scared. “No. I am not. I have Jesus with me,” he replied. She got an incredulous look on her face and asked Mike to come further into the dark ravine. Mike saw flags, ribbons, and candles used in the Voodoo rituals. People came from all over the world to pay this Madam to practice her witchcraft. Mike learned that the Madam was very high up in her profession, and exerted a lot of power and control over the people.

Pastor Nathan and Mike began meeting regularly with the Madam, but something was different. She was no longer friendly. She tried to sell them the land that was originally offered as a gift. Whenever Mike and Pastor Nathan would try to pray for the people she would sit nearby and attempt to stifle their spiritual efforts. Mike began to feel frustrated but every time he cried out to God, he received the same answer, “Just pray. Just wait. Just pray.” Pastor Nathan and Mike began asking their prayer partners to pray for Pass Rien. People all over the world began to pray for this small village in the hills of Haiti. Almost a year and a half later Mike was preparing for a team of pastors to come from South Carolina. The leader of the team called Mike and said, “I want you to put my team to work! I don’t want them preaching in the evening and napping in the daytime. I want them to serve the people of Haiti in all ways!” As he prayed about it, the Lord clearly impressed on him, “Have them feed My people of Pass Rien.”

The team of pastors arrived. They helped prepare food for over 300 people. Mike and Pastor Nathan loaded up both the food and the preachers in the truck and made the journey to Pass Rien. The team took turns serving food and giving brief Gospel messages to the people. There was a lot of excitement, and the villagers were grateful for the plates of beans and rice offered to them. Strangely, all seemed to be going very well.

In the throes of managing all the activity, Mike had not noticed one very important person was missing. The Madam was not there! The crowd finished their meal and began to worship. The team of pastors milled about the villagers, offering to pray for people. Suddenly, a small commotion broke out. People began asking why the church they had promised hadn’t started yet. Mike tried to explain about the Madam and the property, but as he was speaking he realized it just sounded like excuses to the people.

A voice cried out from the crowd, “You can have church at my house!” Mike strained his eyes over the crowd to see where the voice was coming from. He could see a hand above the people, but not a face. Slowly the people parted and he could see that the hand belonged to the blind man who had been healed during that first revival meeting. Before Mike could even respond, more people began offering their homes as well. Mike looked at Pastor Nathan and said, “I think we are supposed to move forward now. I think it’s time to plant this church!”

A tent was erected that Saturday, and the first church service for Pass Rien was planned for Sunday. The crowd was unusually large. That day, 65 people came to salvation in Jesus Christ! That began the real revival of Pass Rien. Mike reflects, “I don’t use the word revival lightly. But when there is a move of God that brings people who have been so steeped in the practices of Voodoo and witchcraft to their knees in repentance, and multiple people to salvation in Jesus Christ every day since our first day, this is revival!”

Revival in Pass Rien had broken out, but the battle for the hearts and souls of the villagers was not over yet!

Once the tent was erected, the people of Pass Rien begged to have church every day. Often, before the service even began, people were asking how they might be saved. Their favorite meeting was the Friday all-night prayer and worship. They started at 7:00 p.m. and worshiped until 5:30 a.m. Hundreds of demonic spirits were cast out of people, mostly women and children as they were the most vulnerable ones. Mike prayed for hours for one woman who was rolling and slithering around on the ground like a snake. Each time a demon left her she would fall limp on the floor. That happened eight or nine times. Finally, a smile came to her face. Mike said, “She suddenly became a beautiful woman!” Later, she gave an amazing testimony of how God had saved her from all the demons. “I just didn’t see how Jesus could stay with me through the casting out of demon after demon until the complete work was finished!”

But as the spiritual revival of Pass Rien intensified, so did the opposition. The Madam would not relinquish her control so easily.
As the freedom found in Jesus began to spread throughout the whole village, the Madam began to feel threatened, and even went so far as to hire two men to kill Pastor Nathan. But the intended assassins were themselves mysterious killed before they had their chance.
Then, one night after Pastor Nathan led the church in worship, Mike began preaching. Pastor Nathan had a funny feeling and wandered into the surrounding woods to check things out. Not too far away he discovered three witch doctors trying to cast a spell on Mike as he preached. As they were chanting their incantations, Pastor Nathan could hear Mike’s voice in the background saying, “I am not afraid to die. I have already died to Christ and to die now will only bring me closer to Him. I am not afraid of the witch doctors because they can do nothing to me.” The witch doctors became so frustrated at their inability to affect Mike, they soon left. During that time Pastor Nathan and Mike were wondering what had become of the Madam, as they had not seen her.

Sometime later, Pastor Nathan received a phone call from a man in New York City, who was the son-in-law of the Madam. He had left Haiti 37 years ago because his mother-in-law had killed one of his children. However, he had heard reports about what was happening in Pass Rien. As a Christian, he was thrilled. He wanted to not only offer his encouragement, but also to be the first to donate $10,000 Haitian dollars to build the new church in Pass Rien! He finished his phone call with a warning. “The Madam is a very evil person who has killed dozens of people over the years who have gotten in her way.”

Later, Pastor Nathan invited a friend to go with him to Pass Rien. While there, several people came to know the Lord. That night, the friend had a dream, in which he saw two little girls who looked like twins coming out of Pass Rien. The girls had marks on their backs which represented the Voodoo in the area. As the man prayed for the girls, the marks disappeared. Soon Pastor Nathan would meet these two little girls in person.

Pass Rien was changing, but God wasn’t finished yet. He was about to use visions and dreams to bring more local witch doctors to Him.

A few weeks later, Pastor Nathan arrived home after a long night of services at Pass Rien with two little girls who looked like twins. They were sisters whose father, a witch doctor, had just died. The girls were dirty, unkempt, and malnourished. After taking them in and caring for them, Pastor Nathan and Mike prayed for the girls, and they felt the power of the Lord increase over Pass Rien.

In the span of one month, six witch doctors completely turned from their wicked ways and asked Jesus to be their Savior! These men testified that they had been set free from generational ties and curses that had locked them in a prison of evil. They were overwhelmed and amazed that God would extend, even to them, His amazing grace!

One evening while they were worshipping in the tent at Pass Rien, a man who had been worshiping Satan was wandering aimlessly in the area. He came across some people from Pass Rien, and said that in a vision he had seen some people in a tent. They immediately led him to the church. The man listened to the service, weeping. He asked if he could be forgiven and enter a new life in Jesus Christ! He then begged Pastor Nathan and Mike to come to his house. That night, they sent out prayer requests asking God to be with them as they visited this man’s dwelling. When they arrived the next day, they were confronted by his wife, who was also a witch doctor. She met them by swearing, cursing, and spitting at them. Pastor Nathan said boldly, “We are here in the name of Jesus.” The woman fell backwards onto the ground. Her screaming and cursing turned to crying as they prayed and worshipped around her. She asked if she could receive forgiveness for her wicked lifestyle, and Pastor Nathan led her to salvation. This couple and their two children have since become warm and precious members of the church in Pass Rien!

The church in Pass Rien has matured quickly. The new believers are compassionate towards their lost and hurting neighbors. The transformation in these young Christians has been miraculous and rivals that of many older, more established churches. When Pastor Nathan and Mike first came to Pass Rien years ago, the people looked like a lost mountain village out of a dark place in history. They didn’t have all their teeth or all their clothes. They stared at Mike and Pastor Nathan as if they had not seen people from the outside for years. It definitely did not feel like a safe or peaceful place. Today, when Pastor Nathan, Mike, and their families go to Pass Rien, they visit from house to house and are greeted with the warmest of welcomes, and are offered fresh fruit and smiles. The generosity and unity of the community is overwhelming. The people hunger and thirst for God and still insist on church every night. They are a new people…a new creation in Christ! “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” II Cor. 5:17 NIV

Since the transformation of Pass Rien, New Generation Ministries and the people of Pass Rien desire to reach more people with the Gospel using radio. SonSet Solutions has no doubt this will be a powerful ministry tool in the hands of these believers! In the nation of Haiti, one cannot apply for an official radio license until a station has been up and running for a full year. In a few months, Pass Rien’s station will have been on the air for a year. SonSet Solutions has already provided the station with some cables and new microphones. However, once they have their official Haitian radio license, SonSet Solutions will be honored to assist them with an upgraded transmitter, more functional antenna, a taller and safer tower, training, and other needed equipment.

We look forward to seeing the story of God’s redemptive work continue in and through the lives of the people of Pass Rien and to see this freedom from bondage spread to other communities.

By Alysia Kinney. Haitian story retold from article by New Generation Ministries missionary, Mike Leland.

“Flag map of the first Empire of Haiti” graphic courtesy Wikimedia Commons

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