Let the Oppressed Go Free

Let the Oppressed Go Free

Sam: Where’s your mommy?  Isn’t she coming to the beach?
Sofie: No, my mommy’s at the witchdoctor with her friends.

Yikes.

It doesn’t happen often.

But Friday afternoon the film crew came to me with a problem after we got back from shooting the evangelism team.

While they understood our staff’s explanation of darkness in Haiti, while they could feel it and see it in many ways, they hadn’t been able to capture it…to show it.  How to you SHOW darkness?  How do you show the great need for Light?  On film?  In a few seconds?  How do you show transformation?  How do you show the clutches of fear?  The enslavement of mind?

We talked for a long time and brainstormed, and finally someone asked if we couldn’t just go see a witchdoctor.

I know I pound the relationship pavement hard, but this was no exception.

I wasn’t taking them to the witchdoctor as tourists, or for an informational experience, not even for interesting footage.  But we COULD go through a relationship, I supposed.  If Matt was here, we could go visit Noah.   Better yet, HE could take them to go visit Noah.  There was lots of darkness to capture there.

But without Matt?….I finally called him, and asked what to do.  “Call Lucner!” he said.  “He has five or six witchdoctors living in his community, and I know he has relationships with them.  He’ll take you!

I wasn’t quite as sure he would.  While a lot of people love and follow the Lord and are in full pursuit of the light, there is a persistent fear of voodoo, of witchdoctors…a lingering trail of fear that drives deep even in those plowing hard.

I was wrong.  There was no lingering scar of fear in Lucner.

“Sure, let’s go, that is no problem” Lucner said without hesitation.  “I’ll go visit a few tonight, and set it up for tomorrow.”

The next morning at 9 am, we wove through the alleys that make up Lucner’s home village, the place he grew up, the neighbors who knew him as a boy but now all call him nothing more than, “Pastor.”  I don’t think we passed a person who didn’t know him, and the respect and love the community has for him touched me.  I see it daily at Emmaus, but it was beautiful to see it in his home land.

I asked who we’d be seeing, and was surprised when he said, “Innocent.”

I thought Innocent converted, years ago, I said.

Oh, he did, Lucner affirmed.  He said the (evil) spirits killed him for converting, and when his family took him to the morgue, Satan offered him one last chance to serve him faithfully forever, or to die.  Innocent repented and agreed, and they say Satan brought him back from the dead, and ever since he’s been his faithful servant.

My western brain tried to follow along as my feet tried to keep up with Lucner’s strides.

I heard the clanging and knew we had arrived, though they wouldn’t let us in until Innocent came to the door and splashed his bottle of pungent red liquid to the North, South, East and West, all over the skull and the knives.

 

Lucner’s relaxed self didn’t change, though he sobered, and with no doubt or fear in his eyes, he entered, and with a silentprayer we followed.  He led us through the yard, littered with strategically placed junk, through the “temple” where all the parties and late-night services happened, though today it was mostly full of chickens and young men, lounging about.

Lucner introduced me as Pastor Matt’s wife, and Innocent smiled, remembering, and shook my hand…but the rest of the morning he was distant and slurry and mysterious. There was no question asked that he directly answered, and he led us into a tiny shed in the back, full of bottles and books and dolls and talismans hanging from the ceiling, and as soon as he sat down, motioned one of his “servants” to shut the door.

It was pitch black and full of smoke and 100 degrees, and I was so thankful that he allowed the door to be reopened when Sarah insisted more light would be needed to interview him.

Lucner was fabulous, calm and respectful and strong, and we talked for over an hour.  Innocent never referred to himself as “I”, but always referred to “his son, Innocent” and spoke to us as an evil spirit, possessing Innocent.

It all should have been far creepier than it was, but more than anything it was a show, more than anything the only thing choking was despair and sadness and anger.

I was flaming by the time we left.
 
I was flaming because it’s all such a lie.  I was fuming because it’s all such a trap.  I was livid because it is little by little, in the name of “help” and “service” and suddenly you owe something, forever, and the claws are in and you are lost and deep.

He, of course, is not one of those bad witchdoctors that hurts people.  No, no, he is one who helps people!  If someone is sick, you just come and see him, and he’ll pour a little of this and a little of that into this here skull and you will drink it, and you will be healed, by the magic of his spirit.

Oh yes.  And anyone can come, anytime they want, yes, just as they are, there is always a place here, and he will always help, he just wants to serve the community.

And he’ll just write down your dossier right here, on these stacks and stacks of papers full of indistinguishable marks, and just write down what you needed, and what he did for you, and oh, yes, what you owe.

And if you don’t pay what you owe, or can’t, that same medicine he gave you to help you will become a poison and it will kill you and you will belong to him.  Forever.

Or if you traitor, if you reflect on the Gospel or think a bit of Jesus, all that ‘help’ will poison you bit by bit, so live in fear, live in darkness, live ever faithful.

It’s all poison and lies and death and darkness in the name of friendship and community and help.

Heavens, even his sheer name, Innocent, is the boldest of lies.

And people are poor and desperate and sick and hungry and in an instant, they will owe him forever.  In an instant they are enslaved.

I was ANGRY because it is NOTHING but Satan…a guise in the name of help and prosperity that thinly covers death and destruction.

An image of intent to help and to trust that is actually a plot to kill and destroy.

Don’t be creeped out by the skulls by my feet or the dolls hanging from the ceiling, it is NO DIFFERENT than Satan anywhere else, no different than his pretense from EVE ON OUT…that he is offering something good of your best interest, only to realize his heart was always your death and destruction…

I was angry because it. is. working.

Who could ever enter that yard and choke on that smoke and see that man chewing on glass and rubbing hot pepper oil all over his face and think, “This is my friend…this is going to help…this is what is good.”??  How could anyone not see the trap, the destruction, the hatred, the business, the lies?

Innocent’s mother, who both praised her son, and in the same breath begged Pastor Lucner to pray for him.

Because everyday, we too are deceived.   Every day, we TOO do not see it.

This is only one of the faces of Satan…there are many more we’re far more comfortable with.

I was angry because he has NO file for anyone who didn’t come to him freely, he insisted over and over simply that he is always there, always welcoming, and only helps those who come to him freely.

I was angry because so so so many do.  I was angry to see the CRAP, the lies, that continue to deceive and control and kill SO MANY.  I was angry to see the enemy, and to shake his hand and to see the root of so much struggle and so many fallen away and so many in-too-deep to abandon and follow Jesus.

There is no peace in it.  All the while he is appeasing one demon, he is doing ten more things to defend against 100 others.  There is the Eternal, he said, and there is US.  Two kingdoms.  And mine is always fighting.

There is no peace? I ask, Never peace? Only continuing to manipulate evil so it won’t do you harm while it is harming you?

Anyone is always welcome, he answered in a haze, avoiding my question, filling up the cups and horns of the neighbors in the yard anytime they asked with klarenwhiskey.

As we left, I realized that Lucner was angry, too…but for a very different reason, his pastoral heart.

This is where the church comes up SHORT, he said passionately.  Here he is in the middle of the neighborhood, welcoming ANYONE, feeding and serving ANYONE, anytime, come as they are, anyway.  Here is where people find help and community, and again and again the church makes it too hard.  You have to dress a certain way.  You have to come a certain time, you have to live a certain way, you have to follow all these rules, you have to talk a certain way, and you have to come when the gate is open.

 Where are our Christians with open yards, feeding anyone who comes, ready to be a friend to ANYONE, at anytime, in any place, ready to pray and help and love them, with their BEST at heart and in mind?  

This is where the church comes short, he said again, walking quickly, and I could see his passion forming into an exhortation for tomorrow’s sermon.

He was right.  I never thought about that.

We finally made it back to his church, and sat on the front pew as Lucner shared his heart.

This is why what we’re doing at Emmaus is so important Lucner exuded, and Sarah quickly pulled out her camera and Matt started taping an entirely different kind of interview in an entirely different place.

In this ‘ministry’ there is NO hope, there is NO peace, there is NO help, there is NO freedom, there is NO truth, and my people are SLAVES to it.  It is ONLY the Gospel that stands up to such darkness, it is only the Holy Spirit that frees and convicts and leads peoples minds to freedom, it is only in Christ where our true good lies, and there are still so many who do not know.

Satan uses men like Innocent to dig in his claws so deep, so deep that men and women owe everything they have, their homes, their lives, their children…all debts that only JESUS can pay.  That Jesus HAS paid.  In Christ alone is there freedom from such darkness, and we must tell people, we must teach people, we must persist with people, for FREEDOM.

His interview was fabulous and powerful and passionate and I can’t wait to show it to you…can’t wait to show all of the day to you.

Listen, friends.

There is no fear of Satan in this form or any other.  There is only righteous anger at the deception, and Christ’s strong love and burden for the world being deceived.  If we KNOW the truth, it is impossible, inexcusable, inexplicable not to share it.  If we LIVE the truth, our lives must ALSO be ALWAYS available, always ready, always welcoming, always feeding and caring and loving, HIS love.

Satan is alive and well and at work in Haiti…and just as alive and well and at work in your world, and we must be the church, church, and be living the freedom, free brothers, and be about our Father’s business, which. is. this:

“[Rather] is this not the fast which I choose,

 

To undo the bonds of wickedness,

 

To tear to pieces the ropes of the yoke,
To let the oppressed go free
And break apart every [enslaving] yoke?

“Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry
And bring the homeless poor into the house;
When you see the naked, that you cover him,
And not to hide yourself from [the needs of] your own flesh and blood?

“Then your light will break out like the dawn,
And your healing (restoration, new life) will quickly spring forth;
Your righteousness will go before you [leading you to peace and prosperity],
The glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.

“Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
You will cry for help, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away from your midst the yoke [of oppression],
The finger pointed in scorn [toward the oppressed or the godly], and [every form of] wicked (sinful, unjust) speech,

10 

And if you offer yourself to [assist] the hungry
And satisfy the [a]need of the afflicted,
Then your light will rise in darkness
And your gloom will become like midday.

11 

“And the Lord will continually guide you,
And satisfy your soul in scorched and dry places,
And give strength to your bones;
And you will be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.
 
Isaiah 58

 

The Fire at Difou

The Fire at Difou

The church plant in DuFour (Dee-Foo) will be celebrating a year soon, and while I have rejoiced to receive so many pictures and powerful testimonies, (remember “The Narrow Path”  or “God at Work?”) I have not been.

Once again, it’s been one of those precious and precarious new plants that didn’t need the distraction or the diversion of foreigners, frequently seen in Haiti as money-money-money-money-MO-NEY! and not as spiritual support. We didn’t want to hinder all the progress happening there by making anyone think that perhaps Jesus was actually money, that perhaps Good News was actually just mediocre news.

We wanted to support utter sincerity in following Jesus. So we’ve been doing so from afar-ish, close in our support and prayers.

But it’s good and established now, and the students working there–who are even better aware of all the complications that we are–finally asked us to come.

And I am so thankful to have been.

It is not the same as having heard. It is not the same as having seen.

I carry that same frustration for you, every post. Me telling you about it is just not the same as scraping the deep mud off your feet with me, not the same as holding their hands.

But I sure am going to try.

The first thing I loved about going to DuFour (yes, I always spell it a different way, which is Creole for you, all spelled however it sounds, but I SAW it painted on a wall this weekend, and it’s DuFour) was that you have to go past Fev to get there. Fev is no longer a baby, growing well under the discipleship and care of our first student-church plant (now some alumni!) team, Walnique and Rujerry and Jorgia and Luddie. But it was Fev that first pointed us to DuFour.

“There is a place further still,” Fev said, “That doesn’t have the Gospel that we now have…and now that we have it, it must be taken there!”

We drove past Fev, keying up for their Sunday morning service, sent a prayer, and drove further on…

Now I say far, but I mean 20 minutes. Twenty minutes towards the mountains, twenty minutes further from town, but it might as well have been hours.

How surprising, truly, to drive only 20 minutes, walk only 20 more, from the seminary, and find a place SO simple, SO dark, SO remote, SO impoverished, SO…so unreached.

It was DuFour that made the students sezie, be taken aback. It was DuFour that shocked them, because it wasn’t only un-churched. The didn’t only not follow Jesus.

They had never HEARD of Him. They had never dreamed of a church. They’d never touched Him, never studied Him, never slipped through the pages of a Bible, never known any other way than the way they had always known, the dark magic, the deep superstition that explains everything from the stars to the rain to sickness.

As we picked our way through the mud with our chairs on our heads—winding in and around yards and homes and temples waving all the shredding flags of the demons, of the lwa–I wasn’t shocked at all that this was an unreached place.

You could TELL it was. You could FEEL it was. You could see it in the empty eyes of each person we passed, inviting them to join us on the narrow path to DuFour. You could see it in the battrie scattered all along the trail, piles of specifically arranged garbage symbolizing curses and trying to mislead evil spirits and trying to manipulate forces.

I love walking through people’s homes to get to church, because by the time you get there, to this place called “church”, you have seen where everyone comes from. You have seen what everyone has grown up believing and seeking and living. You have seen the games the children play, the women at work, the men arguing and talking, and you approach the little three-point tarp church in a pineapple prickled clearing, and you are in awe.

You are in awe because you have experienced now what the Gospel was up against, you have tripped over the deep roots of darkness, and when you see the Gospel prevailing, with your own eyes, you are in awe. You are glorifying, praising, praying…already.  

I see them everyday, but today as Phida and Nosebin and Simon reached out their hands in welcome, I wanted to kiss them, and hug them, and pray over them, and stuff treasures into their hands, because it is utter obedience to His calling and utter perseverance for the Gospel and NOTHING ELSE that has them there.

There is no glory, there is no praise, there are no crazy successes, there is no mega-church, there are no “easy” people, there isn’t even a stinking road, for heavens sakes.

There is nothing but mud and plantain and persecution and threats and a group of people mostly still very lost and in it for the entertainment value + hope of handouts…but then.  Then, a very very few clear-eyed, spirit-filled, gentle-smiled, truly transformed, truly hungry, truly changed people.

You could pick them out of the crowd immediately. Immediately.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

It’s a miracle, these few people. It’s almighty God at world, it’s Jesus through Phida, Nosebin, and Simon’s perseverance.  The three-point tent. The young man who wanted baptized, no matter what.

All of it. Miraculous.

We stuff our chairs in, holding everything on our laps, our feet sinking in mud, filling every last inch of the tent, it seems.

Our students know the people well. They know the heartbeat of the community, of the lost, of the seeking, and everything in town churches that is eloquent and beautiful and theological and liturgical was, under the tent, simple and pure.

As if speaking to spiritual children, they opened in prayer, they led worship, they read from the Word,  all in the simplest of language in the least-frilly of ways.

It was milk, and the people needed milk, and I was proud of them.

The young men who converted last week were asked to come forward to testify to the congregation what they had decided. They did, and I was blessed to see their faces.

A small group of radiantly dressed children sang a short song, A is for Adore Him, B is for Bless the Name of the Lord, C is for Christ, D is for Devotion…and a group of young women sang a simple song, too. Everyone was hitting every note under the sun except the same note, but no one was laughing, no one was ashamed, worship wasn’t for us, anyway, and I imagined it beautiful in His ears.

Matt led communion, as simply as he could and with very few people reaching out to take…just the ones we’d already identified (like the young man next to me who was radiant and digging through his little worn Bible like it was food, like he was hungry).

Phida preached the most basic sermon I’ve ever heard her preach…more of a mother’s devotional time with her children, than anything. She read three verses, and she talked about them. Talked about following Jesus, what it DIDN’T mean (good health, a new house, nice clothes) and what it did mean (peace, obedience, grace, forgiveness, new life, salvation).

She spoke for 15 minutes, soft and stern, loving and admonishing, and finished, and I shared a short image that God’s been using to help me with Lily and Sofie.

I introduced Nora, who was kind of the belle of the ball Sunday, the first baby foreigner many of the community had ever seen. I talked about how she is stubborn, about how she knows EXACTLY what she wants all the time, and WANTS to be able to have what she wants, every time.

I talked about Nora and fire, something everyone could relate to with many toddlers afoot and a cooking fire by every hut we’d passed. I talked about how Nora sees it and wants to touch it. How it looks sparkly and interesting and fun and exciting.  She thinks she knows what is best for her, and she wants it.

But I do not let her.  I know that I know what is best for her.  I have more wisdom than her.  I have great love for her, so even though she might think I am mean, or unfair, or unloving to not let her touch the fire….I am right, and I am a good mama.  I will do all I can to urge her from it.

Sofie however, over the years, has learned to trust.

She doesn’t try to get in the fire anymore. Not because she learned her lesson by suffering terrible burns, but because she learned to trust (at least in the fire area 🙂 that mommy is wiser, that mommy loves her, that Mommy is Mommy, not her, and through that trust, she obeys.

I talked about our loving Father, who is infinitely wiser, who is filled and overflowing with great love for us, and who tells us to love one another.  Who tells us to follow Him and leave our nets.  Who tells us to love our enemies.  Who tells us to flee from evil.

Sometimes it might look mean, or unfair, or not right.

But we can TRUST that He is infinitely wiser and has only our best in heart and mind, and so when we suffer, when obeying is hard, when things are incredibly difficult, when we are persecuted, when we are disciplined, we can truly rejoice….because our great and loving and wise Father loves us infinitely, has a reason (which we may or may not every understand) for each of His instructions, and can. be. trusted.

If we trust Him to be God instead of battling Him to be god ourselves (the very base of sin itself), He is ready to be all the we need, and then some.

There were a hundred smiles over the girls, and many heard the whole service without truly understanding.

But they heard. And they are hearing. As I looked in each face and saw those few full of understanding and true joy, I pray that it will be JUST SO, for each of them.  I see those new believers, living among the lost, in their midst, growing each day and hungrier still, and they will lead them. Phida and Nosebin and Simon, they are leading them.

In a zone where Satan has misled and deceived for hundreds of year, Light is leading them. He is leading them. As we walked the path back to the car, chatting to neighbors as we passed, I realized that He is not leading DuFour anywhere new.

Just back to Himself. They have never been in Him, they have never heard His name.

But He. Knows. Them. Fully.

They are HIS. Entirely.

And the current unfathomable gap between them and God broke Him even to the point of sending His own Son.

The sheep still missing, those who don’t even recognize His voice, He will never. stop. searching. out.

And as long as there is a Fev, and a DuFour and a million like them,

neither. will. we.