by Mike Lawson
This story takes place a few years back just before the earthquake in the country of Haiti, a land rife with political upheaval and difficulties. Drug trafficking and gang activity have been a part of the complicated mix of problems for many years.
THIS STORY TAKES PLACE A FEW YEARS BACK just before the earthquake in the country of Haiti, a land rife with political upheaval and difficulties. Drug trafficking and gang activity have been a part of the complicated mix of problems for many years. At the time, I had been working in Haiti for about eighteen years. I had observed the coming and going of presidents, the burning of tires in the streets, the embargo, and buying of gas for vehicles on the side of the street from vendors. Haitians always live with difficulties, but the country had come to a place where people had lost hope.
During this time, I worked for a Christian college in Haiti and had the ability to use my students to do surveys in the community for gathering information. We sought to understand as much as we could about the community. My students made it possible to find out the types of things people would not tell the missionary. As they came back to sharing what they learned, I began to compile the data and even made a map of our community, identifying the problem areas—both physical and spiritual.
This went on for three years. One of the indicators we were looking at was an increase in the number of witch doctors in our community. They had begun moving to our community from other places and setting up shop. It had become quite a concern. In addition, the evangelism team in the local church had been frustrated for some time because of a hardness in people’s hearts and a lack of success.
With the needs identified I organized my students—volunteers from the local church prayer ministry and evangelism ministry, as well as volunteers on a mission trip from the U.S.—to do prayer walking. Each group received a small map with only a piece of the community in it with targeted sites and instructions of the type of problems in that place and the type of prayer needed.
They were free to let the Spirit lead, but I also wanted them informed. One example would be an old mango tree where people would burn candles and making sacrifices to a specific spirit while making their request. Another example would be a witch doctor’s home and yard, which is his workplace. The community had a dark history that few would talk about, but we compiled enough information about it to orient the prayer list.
Open-air showings of the Jesus film were going on, along with evangelical movies translated into Creole. The movies showed stories of people deep in voodoo whose lives had become a mess and how Jesus had saved them, restored relationships, and repaired many issues from which they had been suffering.
In addition to the prayer walking, our local church and students were organizing prayer services to intercede for their community, address specific problems, and intercede for their nation.
While all these activities were happening, we were putting together a community development/ soil conservation project. We came to understand the need for jobs among the youth and the sense of hopelessness which had developed. We had funding to do soil conservation, so we managed the funds to maximize the effort by putting together a trade school teaching soil conservation and tree planting for the young people in the community. They could attend for free, but they were required to give a specified number of hours to helping farmers put in soil conservation systems and plant trees in their community.
Instead of paying people to do the work, we used the opportunity to teach young people a job skill and still get the work done. The young people in training had to be faithful and learn all the materials, including the scripture used in the lessons, to emphasize why we must take care of the land.
They had to practice everything they learned and demonstrate their abilities while working alongside farmers as they taught them. We used the project funds to give scholarships to some needy students at the college who were in the agriculture program. They became the teachers and supervisor workforce for the trade school and the supervision for the tree nursery.
Only if the students did everything that was asked of them would they get a diploma as a technician in soil conservation and tree planting. They were amazing. Young people flocked to sign up for the school. We were astounded at the number of people who were categorized by the community as trouble-makers and lazy but who enrolled in the program.
The results of all this were astonishing. The evangelism campaign put on by our local Christian radio station (who also handed out radios tuned only to their station) had more conversions in our community than we had ever seen from one effort. Some of the young men and women who were raised in the church and had become complacent or nominal came back to the Lord and became more serious about their faith.
A number of people accepted Christ who were in the program. There was even a young man who joined the program who had finished high school but began having mental problems which manifested as destroying others property. This caused great worry and concern for his family along with financial burden. He was able to attend the school, graduate, and get a job while no longer having episodes. What a difference it made to his family.
I visited the area where the witchdoctors lived to see myself how they no longer had business. No one was coming to seek their help. Eventually, some began to move away to other communities. One local witch doctor gave his life to Christ, but that is a story of its own.
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Michael Lawson is currently the missions director at Hope for the Hungry. With a Bachelors in horticulture and a Masters in international development, Mike’s experience includes twenty years as a missionary in Haiti as a college professor in agriculture, project manager, international consultant, conference speaker, and Global Day of Prayer coordinator for Haiti.
EMQ, Vol. 52, No. 1. Copyright © 2016 Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMQ editors.