Jerry, John, and Jean Baptiste wade into the river
We arrived at the river and my dear friend and co-worker, John Martinez, waded into the water with Jean Baptiste (the associate pastor at the church) and Jerry Woodcox, a fellow Louisvillian checking out the ministry. Gathered at the waters edge, the crowd continued to sing and pray as those who were being baptized were led into the water one at a time. The first baptism went as expected. The next young lady was being baptized. Her head was about to go under when her body first went rigid and then threw itself into a violent convulsions. Jean Baptiste told John firmly to baptize her. They took her down and brought her back up as she twisted, turned, and screamed out. John and Jerry managed to hold her steady while Jean Baptiste, with one hand firmly on her shoulder and one hand raised in the air began to pray fervently over her. This went on for about a minute and a half. Suddenly, the young lady became calm and came to her senses. The spirit that oppressed her was expelled. I glanced around at my Haitian peers at the rivers’ edge while all of this went on and no one looked surprised or amazed. They went on singing and praying as if nothing out of the ordinary was taking place. Of course much of their prayer and singing were on account of and in response to what was taking place. Another victim of the spiritual oppression that grips much of Haiti was released in our presence and was now free to worship God.
A young woman desiring to be baptized resists out of spiritual oppression and influence
Jean Baptiste (John the Baptist) prays over the young woman and against the spirit that burdens her
Another young woman is oppressed by a spirt at the moment of her baptism
Jean Baptiste prays over her as well until the spirit leaves
The other baptisms took place without incident, as we would expect here in the West. Each of the newly baptized Christians was offered new clothes, dresses for the women, shirts and slacks for the men. A make shift changing room was made there on the bank with a few people of their respective genders holding up sheets as curtains for each of new brothers and sisters.
Christians pray on the river's edge during the baptisms
We walked back in song and prepared for church.
I had the opportunity to speak with Jean Baptiste later that day. I asked if this head ever happened to him before. For him, it had been the first time and it had taken him a little bit by surprise. When he discovered what was happening, however, he knew just what to do. He told me that this sort of thing happened all of the time in the communities in the interior of Haiti, especially the rural areas, but this was the first time it happened in his presence in Quanamenthe. He thought that the spirit is the first woman was so strong due to her grandfather being a Voodoo priest. He said that it was not uncommon for families so closely related to servants of Voodoo to have similar experiences when they attempt to forsake the gods of their fathers.
Young observers watch us pass by
Again, we bump up against a culture and an understanding of the world that is far different from our own. Those in Haiti caught up in the powers of spirituality characterized by Voodoo know about spiritual power. They attempt to manipulate it; they fear it; they recognize it when they see it. When they encounter Christians who know the True Spirit, who know the One in whom true power resides they come to recognize a Power that they can not manipulate, a Power that frustrates their own fallen intentions, a Power that seeks them out. Haitians know and believe in the spiritual world; it’s just that many of them are unfamiliar with Jesus. But when they are confronted by him they discover that even the spirits they serve bow before him, as ultimately we all must, and they begin to pay closer attention to this Jesus often surrendering their lives to him. They discover that his yoke easy and his burden light, a stark contrast from their former spiritual masters.