Turmoil in Haiti Turns Woman from Voodoo

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- As a teen, 83-year-old Anne Marie Polestier made the decision to become a voodoo mambo or priestess.

"It was back in 1941, a long time ago," she recalled.

But the recent earthquake in Haiti has turned her away from the witchcraft she once believed in.

Polestier moved to a neighborhood in central Port-au-Prince and gained quite the reputation. When Pastor Camille decided to open a church in the area, he got an earful from her.

"She told me that we had one year to get out of the neighborhood or else she'd kill all the members of my church," Camille said. "She really dominated this community."

Then came the earthquake.

"I was in the living room with my daughter when it happened," Polestier said. "I managed to get out, but my daughter died. This is what's left of our home."

A few yards away, Camille experienced similar loss. His church and home were also destroyed. Polestier and Camille are now homeless. And in the process, both have now become friends. And Polestier is happy to lean on him as they walk the streets of their neighborhood.

"No matter what I need, he helps me. When I almost died in the earthquake, he was there to help me," she said. "His church took me in. I now live here in this camp with other Christians who have also lost their home."

The Christians in the camp hold nightly praise and worship and to the surprise of many, Polestier regularly attends.

The Haitian government officially recognized voodoo as a religion in 2003. More than half of the country's 9 million people are believed to practice voodoo.

But for Polestier, the earthquake brought serious doubts about her religious practices.

"I'm going to leave it. I'm going to leave Voodoo," Polestier vowed. "It has brought me nothing but anguish."

It's a sentiment Camille has heard repeatedly over the last few days as Haitians struggle to understand their hardships.

"So many people are accepting Christ," he said. "Almost everyday, right after the meetings some walk forward to proclaim their new faith."

Haiti's problems aren't just physical. Across Port-Au-Prince, many churches have been destroyed, others severely damaged. And several prominent Christian leaders have lost their lives in the quake.

Some point to a crisis of spirituality. Yet, others like Camille are trusting the hand of God.

"This is a time of revival and God's going to restore our country and more people will deepen their faith in Christ," he said.

*Originally published January 21, 2010.

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