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Seminarians learn of spiritual warfare in battling voodoo at Haitian temple

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (BP)–A hands-on experience in spiritual warfare was received by a team from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary as they worked in Haiti in evangelism and church planting during a 10-day trip in January.
Led by Ron Rogers, associate professor of missions, the nine student volunteers worked with International Mission Board missionary Jim Ziler and Haitian Baptists to establish new works in Port-au-Prince, the capital city of the Caribbean nation.
One of the new work sites, in an area known as Delmas 75, was only 30 to 40 yards from a voodoo temple. It was here that the students experienced the most direct clash between the gospel and spiritual darkness.
Several of the students visited the temple and prayed in and around it that God would be glorified and Satan bound. Kent Coffey also witnessed to a voodoo priestess, who divides her time between Haiti and New York City.
Charlie Henthorn, one of those leading the Bible study, described the struggle: “I have heard stories about spiritual warfare on the mission field before but had never experienced it until the second night of the Bible study.
“As I began to lead [the Bible study] there was a certain heaviness in the air. I knew that something there was not quite right. The people [there were around 15] would not listen. People would talk during the study. I suppose if I could use one word to describe it, I would use the word confusion. I must admit that I left very dejected that night.
“But that night our group began praying for the situation at Delmas. Every day, some of us have prayed in the [voodoo] temple that God would be glorified and he would do whatever it takes to bind Satan and remove the demonic presence in Delmas.
“On the third night of Bible study and again the next night, the people were attentive and showed a great desire to study the Word. [We had] rearranged the seating and replaced the candles we used on the first and second nights with much better lighting, but there was a completely different spirit there as well.
“In fact, the pastor shared with me that there were 11 in our Bible study the fourth night who did not know Christ and that this week the voodoo priestess has not been able to perform any voodoo.
“By the sixth night of Bible study three teenage girls, two of them nieces of the voodoo priestess, had come to Christ.”
The volunteers were briefed on spiritual warfare by Ziler during the week. The Southern Baptist missionary told them when Haitian slaves revolted against their French masters they held a ceremony where they delivered Haiti to Satan for 200 years in exchange for help in gaining their liberty.
The 200 years have now expired and “now it’s Jesus’ turn,” the missionary said he had been told by voodoo leaders.
Rogers and Ziler first knew each other as language school students in Campinas, Brazil, where they were new IMB missionaries in the 1980s. Later, Ziler came to Midwestern Seminary to study during furlough. They talked about a possible project in Haiti, where Ziler has worked in drilling water wells and now heads the team of church planters for Port-au-Prince.
In addition to giving the seminary students on-the-field missions experience, Ziler said he hopes their use of church-planting materials would give the Haitian men he has trained a vision for starting churches. The missionary has trained the men in well drilling and pump repair, but he wanted them to see the Bible study material demonstrated to catch the vision to start Bible studies in the villages where they go.
The men he trained were those who went with the Midwestern volunteers in house-to-house visitation, transported them to the Bible studies and were co-leaders of the Bible studies. Some who can speak English also served as translators into Haitian Creole, a mixture of French, African and other languages. The Haitians will continue with the groups, seeking to develop them into churches.
“Most of these men come straight out of voodoo. They are first-generation Christians,” Ziler said.
Typical is Marc-Yves Philidor, who spent part of his youth in New Jersey and New York and thus is fluent in English. He has started two Baptist congregations in rural settlements outside Port-au-Prince. With the training received from Ziler, he is able to help the villages’ water situation, thus gaining a favorable hearing for the gospel.
Philidor related the struggle he had to win his mother, once a voodoo priestess, to Christ. Now, after years of struggle, she has finally become a Christian and gotten rid of her voodoo paraphernalia.
“Four of the five sites seem likely to grow into congregations,” Rogers said after returning to Midwestern’s Kansas City, Mo., campus from Haiti. “We’re very pleased about that. The people in each site said they wanted a church to be established.”
On the closing night at one of the Bible studies, about 120 people were present and 16 people accepted Christ. Rogers said there were a total of 33 professions of faith in the Bible studies.
While it is hard to give exact figures, the missions professor estimated a total of 40 to 50 people accepting Christ in all of the activities the group participated in, including a Vacation Bible School and Sunday services at various churches.

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  • Wally Poor