In my 26 years of life, I can say with all assuredness, I have never been to a place quite like Belle-Anse, or as it's known in Kreyol, Bélans.
Bélans is a place where people have a simple, yet endearing and peaceful way of life. It sits on the coast of the southeast of Haiti, in between Jacmel and the border of the Dominican Republic. About six hours south of Port-Au-Prince, this little fishing village is pretty cut off from more hurried and metropolitan ways of life.
Their smiles are overwhelmingly beautiful. Filled with so much light, joy and sincerity, there truly is nothing like the Haitian spirit. From small children, to the most elderly, Haitians walk with pride and carry themselves with the common mantra, "m'ap kenbe fem", "I'm holding strong."
I love waking up and starting my day with these smiles and greetings of, "Bonjou Maria! Kijan ou ye?", "Good morning Maria, how are you?" No matter what happened the day before, the joy truly always comes in the morning here.
I often wonder how one could live a life so repetitive and so primal. Waking up before dawn to feed livestock, draw water from the well, prepare for the market, or begin cooking. Going out to fish, sell goods, or open a shop. Ending the week with dressing in Sunday best for church and preparing to do it all again the very next day.
I'm certain I have been spoiled by my privileged life of endless entertainment and recreation. Growing up living within a society that conditioned me that simplicity could not satisfy. Being taught by media that the fast cars, big screen TVs, and constant distractions are what life is made of. But I'm beginning to believe that we have been raised with a lie. A very big lie.
Life is far more than sporting events, weekends at the mall, cruises and promotions at work. Without family, without a sense of purpose and without the ability to enjoy life, even in the seemingly dullest of moment, we are missing it. Truly missing it.
But in the midst of the laughter, the ability to enjoy life, there's a darkness. A haunting presence that shrouds this nation, Enslaving it to generational oppression.
Here in Haiti, especially in the southeast, there is a strong sense of spirituality or religion rather, and acknowledgement of God. Nearly every boat, tap-tap or moto (public transpiration) has either a scripture reference, a "Mesí Bondye" or "Mesí Jezi", "Thank you God," "Thank you Jesus" in brightly painted colors across the vehicle. Despite the lighthearted, carefree nature of most Haitians, there is a deep, dark, ominous spirit, which hovers and claims authority over the nation of Haiti.
Haitian Vodou is practiced by an overwhelming majority of Haitians. It is rooted in the very fiber of the culture and history. It originated as a combination of African Vodou and Catholicism, created by the slaves who were first brought to Haiti by the Spanish and French. Haitian Vodou has an influence so strong, even after one coverts to Christianity or Catholicism, traces of their native religion continue to have a hold.
Most Americans have little to no extensive knowledge of vodou. Some find it even laughable, as they picture almost cartoon-like images of people having drum circles and dancing with tambourines and funny masks, or sticking weird looking dolls with pins. This could not be a more dangerous outlook on Haitian Vodou. With an overwhelming majority of the population believing in the manifestation and power of vodou, thinking of it as a comical practice is entirely ignorant.
Many of the Africans brought to Haiti as slaves came from tribes such as the Fon and Ewe in Nigeria, Benin, and the Congo, tribes that had a highly developed spiritual worldview. In this worldview, the creator god is largely unknowable. Instead, worship is directed to lower spirits call Lwa who control various aspects of life. Each lwa has a distinctive personality. Voodoo practices are focused on gaining the favor of specific lwa through acts of devotion, ceremonies, offerings, and by cultivating personal relationships with the Lwa, even to the point of spirit possession. During Voodoo ceremonies, the Lua are often invited to come and manifest themselves. - Child Hope Blog
We are fast approaching Fet Gede, the Haitian celebration of All Souls Day, observed on November 1st. To give you a better idea of Fet Gede, is Haiti's "Day of the Dead," or Halloween, if you will. Subtract cute kids dressed up like cowgirls and superman with pumpkin baskets, asking for candy, and insert grown adults making public displays of worship to demonic spirits.
Yep. Still picturing cartoon drum circles and voodoo dolls?
Fet Gede, the Haitian Day of the Dead, focuses on a spirit named Baron Semedi who is head of the Gede family of Lwa. Baron is a particularly evil Lwa. He is noted for disruption, obscenity, debauchery, and having a fondness for tobacco and rum. As lord of the dead, he can also remove curses that cause death and receives offerings to do so. - Child Hope Blog
The pushback from the forces of darkness in Haiti, particularly in Bélans, in incredibly strong. As a believer of Christ, I do not live in fear of the powers of darkness, for I have not been given a spirit of fear, but of love, power and a sound mind. However, I do not take this lightly. I know that the enemy is real and he has blinded these precious people to the light of true hope and freedom with the perversion of God in the form of Vodou.
For the past week, I've heard ceremonies in preparation for Fet Gede commencing right outside my bedroom window. I've heard the most terrifying shrieks and noises unlike ever before. I'm well aware of the sheer demonic activity taking place only steps away from where I lay my head down at night, but as I said before, I do not live in fear. Neither do I live with disdain and a hardened heart for the people engaging in said activity.
They are lost. They are blinded. And they are who I have been called to.
As I lay in my bed the other nights, wincing with every piercing shriek, my initial fright slowly turned into love. A love for the people I have grown to call my friends. The people I laugh with, learn from and do life with.
Though I always respect our cultural and religious differences, my heart can't help but believe for deliverance from the forces that plague them. This shroud of darkness must be removed and my prayers will not cease.
These forces of demonic persuasion have enslaved and oppressed the people I have come to love with a great and deep love for hundreds of years.
They deserve to find true freedom. The freedom that comes from knowing and accepting the beautiful love of Christ.
As we approach Fet Gede, and are actively fighting to push back darkness in Bélans, we ask that you would stand with us. Here's how you can be praying:
- Pray for protection over the minds and hearts of the children, that they would attend to their work in school and that the Holy Spirit would guard their minds and spirits as they sleep; protecting them from nightmares and fear.
- Pray for physical health and protection from disease and accidents..
- Pray for protection for the staff and all those that serve Reimagine Haiti. Pray also for their families and children. Ask God to give them discernment over the works of the enemy, that they would be clothed with the full armor of God, and that they would be strong and courageous and full of faith.
When Jesus was crucified and lay in the tomb for three days, he went to hell and took back the keys of death. Death is a weapon the enemy uses to oppress and control, but he is a liar. The Savior of the world already came and conquered sin and death. It is because of Him that I have life and breath in my lungs. It is because of Him that I have come to serve the beautiful people of Bélans. And it is because of Him that I live to see lives enter true freedom.