To be read on Sabbath, December 31, 2011
The Special Sabbath School Offering will be gathered on January 7, 2012
When a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, at 4:53 p.m. on Tuesday, January 12, 2010, the city and its surrounding area were decimated. It was the worst earthquake to strike the country in 200 years, and no one was prepared for it. Pictures of the destruction showed countless collapsed structures, made all the worse because they had been built with little or no steel reinforcement; and little infrastructure was left to facilitate the distribution of aid.
Over the centuries, numerous outside nations have sought to dominate, subdue, and populate Haiti. Today 95% of Haitians are descendants of freed slaves of West African descent. The country’s history has been marked by war, political upheaval, cruelty, oppression, exploitation, and even genocide. By almost any economic measurement, Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas and is ranked as 149th out of 182 countries so ranked in the world. About 80% of its 9 million people live in poverty, and half of them are illiterate.
While most Haitians can be categorized as Catholic (80%) or Protestant (16%), many also believe in and practice Voodoo, an amalgamation of various African spiritualistic traditions. It is reported that many people practice Voodoo and Catholicism side by side, but evangelical Protestants are bitter enemies of Voodoo and constantly denounce it as devil worship. Many of them claim that Haiti’s misery is because the country is being punished by God for the sins of this worship.
It is strange that many who believe in Satan’s first lie, “Ye shall not surely die” (Genesis 3:4), condemn the practices of that lie carried to its logical conclusion. “Through the two great errors, the immortality of the soul, and Sunday sacredness, Satan will bring the people under his deceptions. While the former lays the foundation of Spiritualism, the latter creates a bond of sympathy with Rome. The Protestants of the United States will be foremost in stretching their hands across the gulf to grasp the hand of Spiritualism; they will reach over the abyss to clasp hands with the Roman power; and under the influence of this threefold union, this country will follow in the steps of Rome in trampling on the rights of conscience.” –The Great Controversy, p. 588.
While most Protestants condemn Voodoo, they are hard pressed to counteract its influence. Having turned away from the clear truths of the Bible in this and other matters, they can’t help but be swept into the vortex of spiritualism.
Recently the work of Reformation has dramatically expanded in Haiti, seeking to bring the gospel of salvation to minds darkened by the sophistries and errors of Satan. This outreach first began with Haitians living in the Dominican Republic and the United States. They in turn contacted friends and relatives in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. From there the message has mushroomed in Haiti, especially in regions outside of Port-au-Prince. For this reason, many visits have been made by paid workers and volunteers in order to share more of the message with those who hunger for the true Advent doctrines. Brother Martin Lagunas, from Mexico, the Assistant Regional Representative for North America, and others have made several visits there to better establish the new contacts in present truth.
We thank God for the willing sacrifice of individuals who have already given willingly of their means and time to reach souls in Haiti. The beginning of any work has special difficulties. The life and death of our Lord reveals the spirit of sacrifice and service; so it will be with both the beginning and the progress of the work of God! More seminars, conferences, and evangelistic campaigns need to be held; a headquarters needs to be established; more printed materials must be prepared and distributed in the French language; and a well-thought-out humanitarian and educational work needs to be established in this country, which is poor in both physical resources and a knowledge of the true God of heaven and His Son. Jesus encouraged us to help in this work when He said twice: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.” Matthew 25:40, 45.
With the disaster from the earthquake still surrounding the people there, it is an opportunity to open the Scriptures and present the light of the gospel with power and grace. It is hard even to conceive of what these people face every day and what it would be like to have been born into their situation. Nevertheless, the great Creator has blessed us and put in our hearts a desire to help, so let us help generously and sacrificially. He promised that “He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given will He pay him again.” Proverbs 19:17.
May God give each of us that inspiration and dedication to His service that will use the blessings He has entrusted to us both to save souls and to honor Him through our own tests in the coming days.
General Conference Regional Representative for North America