‘Sometimes it Gets Scary’
There are many national success stories in the Western Hemisphere. Unfortunately, Haiti isn’t one of them.
Haiti has been an independent nation since 1804. In the West, only the United States is older. The tragedy of Haiti is that it has been ruled and ruined by unscrupulous dictators, the worst of them being François (“Papa Doc”) Duvalier (1957–1971), who terrorized the people with his murderous secret police and brought the country, already the poorest in the hemisphere, to financial ruin.
The average per capita income among Haiti’s 8 million inhabitants is about $310 a year; the average lifespan, only about 50. Although most Haitians are Roman Catholic, voodoo, spirit worship, and idolatry are rampant.
The devastating floods and property damage caused by the tropical storm Jeanne left 1,500 dead and virtually the entire country destitute and desperate. The situation has caused looting, violence, and even murder.
On September 13, a well-known Baptist minister who hosted a Christian radio program was murdered as he was on his way to work.
According to an article by journalist Deann Alford, a Haitian pastor now living in the United states commented, “Crime is something they don’t have control over in Haiti. Everybody in the church is affected, including evangelicals because we’re part of society. You’re dealing with spiritual warfare, and the devil will do anything to stop us. You have to be on your knees all the time and constantly in the word of God.”
The experiences of another pastor, Enoc Lucien, a church planter and minister of the Cap Haitien Evangelical Free Church, are prime examples.
“Sometimes it gets scary,” Lucien said. “It’s unpredictable, it’s frustrating, but that’s life in Haiti.”
Lucien estimates he was mugged by street gangs a dozen times in 2003, most often with a gun held to his head, Alford reported. During one week alone, he was assaulted three times.
“In Haiti,” the pastor said, “if you’re not killed, it isn’t a crime.” A thief is considered “somebody trying to find a way to survive.”
Alford reported that veteran mission-ary Boxley Boggs, international director of UFM (formerly Unevangelized Fields Mission), believes the root of the problem is voodoo: “spiritism is very real and very powerful, and one doesn’t have to live in Haiti very long to notice that. It’s very fatalistic.”
Wrote Alford, witch doctors tend to be the most respected people in the Haitian villages “because their drums have the power to conjure spirits.” Many Haitians, as well as foreigners, view voodoo as the country’s “cultural heritage.”
Consequently, it is not difficult to understand that believers there are engaged in intense spiritual warfare. It is a battle for the soul of Haiti, which for centuries has seemed to be firmly in the clutches of Satan and his human emissaries.
Yet, in spite of the suffering, extreme hardship, deprivation, and persecution, the church is growing. Enoc Lucien believes individuals are responding to the gospel despite the risks, and he told of a congregation he planted in August that had 200 people in attendance by late September, Alford said.
“As we are preaching the gospel, people are coming to Christ and people are changing.”
Such growth amid oppression should not surprise us; it’s been happening for more than two thousand years.