RE: Christians vs. Voodoo
Originally posted on Corbett Haiti List-Serve on 8/22/03
As a Christian, and as someone who did one year of training with Youth With A Mission (YWAM), then spent numerous years as YWAM staff on the Latin American mainland, and overall had good experiences within the organization, I find Patti Cunningham's recent posting of YWAM-Haiti leader Terry Snow's missionary letter in the post "Christians vs. Voodoo," to be a prime example of things undertaken by Christians in the name of Christ and evangelism that, in truth, do damage to both, and crucially, to the Haitians who are intended to be helped thereby. I also personally found the letter to be painful to the depths of my Christ-controlled being.
Few would argue with the fact that an inherent requirement of the Christian faith is for adherents to convey the gospel, i.e., to seek by deed and word
to bring people into the Christian fold. While many in the name of tolerance both in Haiti and elsewhere dislike this aspect of most manifestations of Christianity, and would blanketly direct energies toward preventing missionaries from evangelizing, taking such actions, especially while appreciating any philosophy of "the marketplace of ideas," are themselves only an exhibited intolerance, as Corbetter Lori Zachary has pointed toward. The hard fact is that Christians WILL evangelize, plain and simple, because that is among the core-most requirements of the Christian faith. Therefore, the most room for true debate lies in HOW missionaries evangelize, the spirit which they do it in, and most crucially, their views of the cultures, peoples and their histories, to whom they "go"--in this context, Haiti and Haitians.
Few would also debate whether Christians throughout history have undertaken actions in the name of Christ and evangelism that have called forth resistance to their activities, including withi
n Haiti. While Christians tend to uniformly cry "persecution" to such resistance, I suggest that, many times, it is instead divine chastisement behind the persecutions, directed by God at some because of their underlying views of the peoples and cultures with whom they work, and their tactics undertaken toward them in the name of Christ and evangelism that warrant association with neither.
Terry Snow has reportedly been recipient of "persecutions" in Haiti. One web-page at YWAM-Haiti, and quite widely reported in broader YWAM circles, details this by explaining some relatively mild events, and then stating, "Terry didn't suspect that a certain [Haitian] political group was dismantling his ministry and his reputation. He didn't know he was being persecuted." The same report then naively asserts, "He had no reason to be [persecuted]." Yet the same article later categorizes the mentioned political group as "fascist." Elsewhere at the same website, the naivety continues. Snow quotes Zechariah 8:13, and
applies it to Haiti to assert that the country is a "curse among the nations." Snow then brazenly asserts that Haiti was "the point of entry for the Gospel into the western hemisphere through Christopher Colombus in 1492." Since Haiti was privileged in this way according to Snow, he goes on to wonder in apparent dismay and sincerity why Haiti "is known today for voodoo, poverty and government turmoil" (sic; http://www.ywam-haiti.org/
With this view of Haiti and Haitians as his backdrop, and confident that he has had "no reason to be [persecuted]," the focus of Snow's recent missionary letter from Haiti is what he says is a campaign where "the Churches of St. Marc came to together in one voice to declare Jesus as Lord and renounced voodoo, with its destructive influence as it has affected Haiti's past (sic)." In what he asserts as "the climax" to the campaign, Snow preached to an assembled group of mostly Christians that "voodoo had never helped them," and cited what he reported to the group as a
"resent adduction of a baby from the hospital, presumed to be dead, killed at the hands of a witch doctor for a special sacrifice for the August 14 celebration of the Boukman pact" (sic). Finding basis for his symbolic actions in the anti-Vodou campaign within the symbolism of the Judges 7 campaign of Gideon, Snow then led groups of YWAMers and Haitians to go to six "particular location[s]." In unison, they were to each "launch a large firework bomb into the air" while Snow waited elsewhere "ready to launch the final explosive end." Snow says that the "BOOOOOOM!" that followed caused demons associated with Vodou to flee.
Most who know any fair number of Haitians and who have a good understanding of Haitian and world history (and His-story, to use YWAMese) would consider Snow's take on Haiti, Haitians, and Vodou, and his recent anti-Vodou campaign, to be ridiculous at best, and virulent at worst. It is these undergirding beliefs about Haiti and Haitians, exhibited in Snow, that are prime examples of t
he sort of shallow thinking held among certain missionary groups in Haiti that have led them to conduct most of the country's various "Christians vs. Voodoo" campaigns throughout history, including this recent one that Snow celebrated. I am again suggesting that the attitudes and underlying beliefs that are foundational to these campaigns are a prime reason for certain missionaries' experiences with "persecution" in Haiti, but that the supposed persecution should instead be viewed by the pertinent missionaries as a sort of gift that has come their way to help them re-evaluate their ways of thinking and doing in Haiti.
The sort of worldview that would cause missionaries in Haiti to think and behave in such a way certainly requires picking apart--even picking apart from the perspective of Christian missiology. Don Richardson is a prominent Christian missiologist and a teacher in many if not most YWAM missionary training schools. *Ironically, YWAM-Haiti leader Terry Snow very probably sat under Richard
son in one way or another during his own YWAM training school or schools.* In Richardson's book, Eternity in Their Hearts (which was assigned reading at the YWAM School of Evangelism I attended in the late 80s) he argues that the God of the Bible has from the most ancient of times made Himself known in measure to all peoples of all cultures of all times. The God of the Bible has done this, Richardson argues, by planting certain and strong truths and knowledge of Himself within the religions, rituals, and histories of all peoples. While Richardson cites some very interesting ethnographic data to back up some of the practical sides of his assertions, he centers the core of his argument in Christian theology, most particularly Hebrews 6:29-7:21. Speaking of Christ and quoting Psalm 110:4, the author of Hebrews wrote, "The Lord swore and will not change his mind, You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek." Though the details of this are beyond my scope here, for Richardson, the implications
of it are profound and even revolutionary; in short, Christ has in measure been a priest of all peoples, including Haitians, long before the missionary ever thought to arrive or was even born.
For Richardson, the job of the missionary is therefore to first build very close relationships with people, which includes learning, appreciating, and even emulating their cultures very deeply and in every appropriate way. Within this spirit, Richardson says that the missionary can then discover the antecedent God-placed truths that Richardson says exists among a people, and then bridge from the truths to, in essence, fill in puzzle pieces of the faith of those who perceive missing pieces in what they already have. Many other prominent Christian missiologists have added to Richardson and argue for what they call an "incarnational" model of missionary activity. Their theological basis for this is the kenosis passage of Philippians. "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider oth
ers better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant" (2:4-8). I would like to suggest to all readers what most are already well aware of, namely, that when missionaries in Haiti fail to undertake their activities incarnationally, and within what Richardson has pointed out above, they are probably, in the vast bulk, hurting not only the Haitians they say they love, but the Christ they say they love.
And they are failing on many other points besides. As another Corbetter in this debate named Kawolin has accurately observed, "The individualist westerners can learn from vodou practitioners, what it really means to live with your neighbors as sisters and brothers: sharing of the little that you have; making your neighbors's needs
and concerns yours." As one who has been part of and moved about within various Christian circles in the West, I can back up Kowolin. Extreme individualism permeates most Western Christian movements, and missionaries from the movements very often export this individualism to Haiti and elsewhere, both deliberately and unawares. Perhaps this is one explanation for the fact that the number of lakou settlements from the first some decades of the Haitian peasantry has declined, having given way to kinship patterning surrounding nuclear families. Adding further to Kawolin's observation, I can attest that many Haitian social organizational forms, such as Sosoyete-s, Artibsyon-s, Gwoupman Peyizan-s, and others, put most Western Christian churches and movements to utter shame in exhibiting true community. Missionaries in Haiti: if you have not first stopped to deeply live-learn with *and from* those you say you are trying to reach, you may very well be doing more damage than good, despite any external hard "projects"
you may be able to point to.
Apparently, none of this is a perspective that Snow has adopted during his missionary activities in Haiti, particularly as regards Vodou and Vodousaints. This recent anti-Vodou campaign that was the focus of his missionary letter is only yet another mis-characterization and misrepresentation of not only Haiti and Haitians, but the Christ the missionaries say they serve. Thankfully, there are at least some Christian missionary groups in the Haiti who do otherwise, and who may therefore more truly help Haitians, as well as be accurate representatives of Christ. As a prominent Indian evangelical has said to activities correlative to this anti-Vodou campaign, "God has called us to be peacemakers, not troublemakers." YWAM-Haiti and all observers of their recent campaign would do well to give careful heed.
----- Original Message -----
[quote]From: "Bob Corbett" <firstname.lastname@example.org
To: "Haiti mailing list" <email@example.com
: Wednesday, August 20, 2003 7:44 AM
Subject: 16425: Cunningham: Christians vs Voodoo
From: Patti Cunningham
This was sent to me from Haiti just this week!!
What a day, August 14, 2003!
August 14 will go down in the history books. A day that the Churches of St. Marc me to together in one voice to declare Jesus as Lord and renounced voodoo, with its destructive influence as it has affected Haiti's past.
August 14, the day started at 12:00am. Yes, midnight! Christians from many churches began gathering in the Nazarene church, located in the market area, in prayer on August 13 at 8:00pm. This prayer meeting carried through the night. By 5:00 am, August 14, more had joined, as they rallied together in a march around the city of St. Marc, numbering in the 1000's, it was clear there was something abnormally happening in the city. By 6:45am they returned to the city park where the main gathering was to begin. As the crowd of shouting, singing people appr
oached the park, it appeared they made a dash to see who would be first to step inside the gate entrances. It looked like a damn of people that had burst forth from Grande Rue, ‘Main Street', engulfing, flooding the surrounding streets and park entrances gushing inside the fenced area. The air was electrified! This march was different than the normal ‘manifestations' or protests that Haiti is so commonly known for. These people were happy, joyful full of excitement!
With Christian music blaring and the people all finding a place to cool down under the many trees, a break was announced along with the plans of the day. The city fountain that had not ran since 1985, repaired last year by us, Youth With A Mission, began to offer relief and refreshment as many stood in it or stuck their heads under it's gushing water to cool down from the long march. Noticing that many came unprepared, I quickly saw the need for drinkable water. Finding a local street vender I quickly asked; ‘how much for all the water and
refreshment you have?' I had place in my wallet $1000 Haitian Dollars the night before for such emergencies, but I didn't know how far that would go, later I would be surprised? Buying all the vendor had and seeing the people beginning to press for the needed liquid I quickly assigned a local Pastor to control the crowd and stepped aside. It worked! Truly God was with us. Throughout the day, I continued purchasing from vendors. This morning, the day after, when opening my wallet to see the financial damage I was shocked to fine $820 Haitian Dollars! How could that have happened I thought? I was handing money out in the 100's and 50's. I can only explain it by God's provision.
It was a good morning. The plans went well, music, prayer for the city and nation and messages. One message that stood out as prominent was given by Pastor Evenson of the Church of God. Pastor Evenson read through the history of Haiti. Especially from the accounts of the night that Boukman sacrificed a pig, drinking its blood an
d calling on the spirits for victory, continuing through to the endorsement of that sacrifice by the leaders on the day of Haiti's declared independence, January 1, 1804. Then he began to point out how voodoo has not offer freedom or deliverance, pointing to facts like, Haiti being the poorest nation in the western hemisphere. It was a challenging and strong message that provoked applause at times and sobering thought at others. The morning festivities ended with a declaration and prayer, followed by announcements that there would be a time of recreation and rest before continuing at 4:00pm with music and 6:00pm worship.
At 5:30 as I made my way to the park I began to realize that without doubt rain was on its way. Historically, when it is apparent that it would rain everyone simply stays home, but not so on this day. However, at first arrival to the park it appeared that history would prove itself. Only a couple of hundred people had gathered making the park look empty compared to the thousand that h
and consumed it earlier that morning. Word had come to me that Pastor Chavannes Jeune, President of HAVIDEC, had surprisingly come. He was trying to get in contact with me immediately.
HAVIDEC is an abbreviation from their French name, but translated it means ‘Haitian Association with a Vision for the Third Century'. This organization had recently been birth and I was most happy to see it in many ways. Mainly, because they were a national movement, recognizing that since Haiti's independence in 1804, voodoo had done more to destroy the land and people than help it. They are rallying protestant churches from across the nation for the cause of seeing the end of voodoo and renouncing its hold on Haiti's historical roots, replace it with our values found in Christianity.
Meeting with Pastor Chavannes Juene who was accompanied by Dr. JL Williams, Founder/President of New Direction Ministries and other Dr.'s and great men of God from the US and India, I was greatly encouraged. They had heard of our
progress and meeting. Coming from Port-Au-Prince, 2 hour drive, with an additional engagement that they had to return too, they had come to see what was happening in our city. But, the rain!
Talking with Pastor Chavannes and his party I sheepishly said I don't know how many will come with the rain that had now begun. Standing under trees in the park, drips hitting our heads, Pastor Chavannes said; ‘The meeting in Port-Au-Prince will not end till 11:00 tonight. Let's stay and wait for the rain to stop.' Not saying anything, but thinking, from experience, this kind of rain is the kind that last all night, I said good then. Going about our plans and making final preparations in the schedule with the change in Pastor Chavannes now there, wanting him to speak, I honestly wondered. How was this going to come together?
Then I began to notice, people were still coming! I looked across from the park and many people were all huddled under every porch building that could be seen. They were still coming e
ven though it was raining! The rain began to stop, calling quickly for the worship to begin we started our meetings only 15 or 20 minutes behind schedule. Wow, I thought, God is doing something. People continued to come and come and come until the park was filled once more. Pastor Chavannes said a word of greeting and then delivered a short message. Taking note of the rain he compared it to God washing our city clean. As he shared on stage someone suddenly brought a cell phone to him. It was ‘Radio Lumier', a national broadcasted radio station, hearing of the news coming from St. Marc they wanting to listen in live to Pastor Chavannes, patched through the cell phone, and to what was happening in St. Marc! The other men with him brought good news and greetings as well, and out they ran, returning to Port-Au-Prince once again.
After a short time of worship we were ready for the climax. I came to microphone and began to share my heart. Once again, I too reminded them that voodoo had never helped them. I
pointed to the resent adduction of a baby from the hospital, presumed to be dead, killed at the hands of a witch doctor for a special sacrifice for the August 14 celebration of the Boukman pact. ‘How long will we sit blindly and allow this to happen!' I challenged. ‘Enough is enough! No, more!' Encouraged by many hearty amen's. I proceeded to share of the story of Gideon as found in Judges 7 of the Bible. Gideon was directed by God to surround the Midianites camp with only 300 men armed with horns and empty jars. At a certain time they were to blow their horns, break their jars and shout to God! As they did their enemies fled. Pointing out, that we are in a spiritual battle for this nation, I challenge the people that our enemy, satan and his demonic forces, were going to flee before them tonight. We were going to do a similar demonstration as what was spoken of in the Bible with Gideon.
With earlier preparation in place, I gave some quick instructions to all the people. We will divide into six groups
. Each group will be lead by a pastor accompanied by an YWAM volunteer. The groups will go along a pre-determined route to a particular location by way of foot. Once at their location a trained YWAM volunteer would launch a large firework bomb into the air. The group will then begin to shout/sing/pray for the city. When all six groups had shot their individual bombs it would then show that we had surrounded the city and the church, in one voice, would be shouting/singing/praying for God to come and our spiritual enemy, satan, to flee. At that moment, multiple bombs and rockets would be launched into the air from the park, signify that all had made it to their locations and we were all praying in unity! I then passed the microphone to Illioney St. Fleur, YWAM leader, who then introduced the pastors and teams.
Each Pastor shared a moment about their locations and the planned route so that it would be clear. Once the groups were organized, Illioney prayed one last prayer commissioning all the teams under
the authority of Jesus Christ. As soon as Illioney said amen, three rockets streaked into the air exploding as a starter's gun might in the commencement of a race. Faster than the people had enter the city parks gates earlier that morning they flew out towards their areas, with the Pastors racing to keep up.
I stayed in the park monitoring the progress, ready to launch the final explosive end. I remember looking at one of my staff before the climax began and saying; ‘Oh Lord help us all!' Armed with cell phones I began to call. Barely able to hear each the leader on the other end, due to the shouts and singing of the groups, they stayed in close communication with their progress.
First report, all groups doing well running/walking/shouting praises to God, singing songs of victory. Group 2 was the first to reach their designated spot. Illioney was with that group. He reported that they ran the whole way not stopping once. When the bomb shot into the sky they irrupted with thanksgiving and pray
ers. Group 1 was next, lead by Brain Shipley, YWAM St. Marc Operations Coordinator. Calling in, he proclaims; ‘We are here and have shot our bomb. I could hear the people shouting and screaming as he reported they too had begun praying. Then news came from group 5. A problem, a car parked close to the bomb launch site, what to do? The decision to go for it was made and once again shouts and loud cries were heard. The bomb was fine and there were no problems. Group 3 and 4, no communication, but Group 2, Illioney, reports in their behalf, both the teams' bombs have been launched. It wouldn't be till later that we would hear of the glorious news of their experiences. Now, just one more, Group 6, why was there a delay? Calling Roberteau, YWAM Coordinator, he reported they had been slowed down as the group was compelled to stop and several voodoo temples to pray along their route. Finally, BOOOOOOM! Group 6 made it! Multiple Bombs and rockets were immediately launched from the park! Shortly afterwards the calls b
egan to come in. First Rosvelt, YWAM Coordinator from group 5; ‘Terry, the people are crying, shouting, sobbing, God's presences is so real. I'm shaking, my arms are shaking!' Click, he hangs up. Others begin to return to the park with similar reports. Every team reported that as they march their group doubled in size. At every intersection more people dropped what they were doing, ran out of their houses and joined the victorious march. The next day Group 4, Lead by Pastor Marcel Destiny, shared that their group didn't want to stop, so he led them back to the park. They arrived at about 10:30pm. Everyone was gone, so they turned around and shouted more, sung and marched back to their zone and homes. Pastor Marcel said; ‘Terry, where we went was a long ways and they marched all the way there, back and back again!' By the time they arrived back at the park only to find it empty, Pastor Marcel reported, the group size had grown so large he could not see the end. ‘I could not have been able to count the number o
f people that had joined us.' he proclaimed!
Stories and reports are still coming in of things that had happened. From emails I have received and people contacting me, I estimate that there was a minimum of 20,000 people joining us in prayer outside of Haiti at some point during that day or night. A day that once celebrated the man that slaughtered a pig to find freedom for the oppressed will now be known in Haiti as the day the church rose up and forsook the blood of a pig for the blood of Jesus Christ, God's own son.
August 14 is just the beginning. The rock pushed off the mountain that starts the spiritual avalanche that changes the course of a nation. Already, the people have heard of our next city gathering, September 7-14. This afternoon, the day after, our planning committee meet, making final preparations. In September we will be unveiling the first Christian Monument in the city park (an eight foot high by eight foot deep by thirteen foot wide cement image of the Bible turned to Exodu
s listing the ten commandments, with a large granite stone with the engraving ‘Christ for St. Marc, St. Marc for Christ, 2004, New Beginnings.) Also, we will be praying over our new city entrance. A four lane, verses two lane, entrance way that will stand 16 feet high, with the writing ‘Welcome to Saint Marc', sponsored by the protestant churches. We are also planning to fly a Haitian flag with the Christian flag on the top.
I had mentioned in one of my emails that some had asked if they could participate in the August 14th event in a financial way. I sent back a address and information on how they could, and asked if they could send a email so we might know if they have plans to send a gift to help cover the expenses undertaken to reclaim this day for God. In the end, through so much cooperation from the churches and Christians the whole days events basic cost was only $800.00 USD. In that same email I also stated; ‘If proceeds exceeded the amount needed, they would go toward the Monument or new city
entrance.' I am happy to report that we have received from emails a committed $5,900.00 USD.
Yet, it seems people are still wanting to give to guarantee that the church take this city completely. As stated the additional proceeds will be going to complete the cost of the construction of the monument and entrance. However there is still more funds needed for these projects. If you would like to make an investment in this movement to help keep the momentum rolling in a practical way you may send a US check payable to: YWAM Haiti, writing in the memo: 2004 New Beginnings and mail it to:
PO Box 407139
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33340
All gifts from the US are tax-deductible. We thank you in advance for giving to see this nation become a blessing, not a curse.
Taking the High Places for Christ and wishing you were here to see it!
Terry W. Snow
Edited to fix typo and URL.