Yesterday was a very long day. I hadn’t gotten much sleep at all the night before, then I left the house at 6am so that I could meet my class in Clinton at 6:30 and head to New Orleans. Once we made it to New Orleans, we did alot of walking, and we didnt leave until after 6pm to head home. We made it back to Clinton a little before 10pm, then I still had to drive back to Gluckstadt. Nate wasnt home when I got back because he was at an overnight church retreat, but he did leave a sweet card for me saying how much he would miss me (: That always makes a long day better!
Although the day was a long one, it was a really interesting one. We started the day by meeting with Ray Cannata, the pastor of Redeemer PCA in New Orleans.
Ray is a church planter and was able to give us lots of information and insight into what it’s like to minister to the very unique population and culture of New Orleans. Though we didn’t have alot of time with him, we were excited to spend some time hearing about what it’s like for a minister to work in that area. His friend, Mike decided to spend the rest of the day with us, and we were very glad to have him along. Mike has been living in NOLA for about 10 years, and he originally moved there from Indiana in order to do mission work. He has an MDiv and is one of the few members of Redeemer who was already familiar with the Reformed faith when the church was started. He knows alot about the city and its people, and it was great to have him as a part of our group for the day!
After we finished with Ray Cannata, we headed over to Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel to meet Ava Kay Jones, the Voodoo Priestess. We were meeting at the chapel because she is also a Roman Catholic and was attending mass there right before we arrived. She showed us around the chapel, which she has been attending since she was in her mother’s womb, as she put it. The Chapel is one of the biggest and most well-known shrines to St Jude. Read the history here.
We went straight from the chapel to the graveyard across the street, where Marie Leveau, the voodoo queen, was supposedly buried.
After touring the graveyard, we went to grab some lunch (cant remember the name of the restaurant!) and spend some time talking with Ava Kay Jones. After lunch, we walked over to a park where we could all sit around and hear her a little better.
After spending a couple of hours in the park talking and asking questions, Ava Kay Jones had to go to another appointment, so we headed to Cafe Du Monde for coffee and to “debrief” about our day.
Now that you have a feel about what we did, let me tell you a little about the priestess and our conversations with her. First though, you have to understand that it is EXTREMELY difficult to explain because it was very confusing and often extremely convoluted. We expected to meet a Voodoo priestess who was practicing traditional voodoo and could tell us all about it from an educational standpoint. We were not expecting a woman who claimed to not only be a Voodoo priestess, but also a Yoruba priestess, a Roman Catholic, and a Christian who could quote Scripture.
It was difficult to sort through our discussions, because she could weave Scripture in and out of her answers and she knew all of the “Christian lingo.” She could easily make you think that you are completely on the same page about something, but once you started to dig a little, it was obvious that her beliefs and foundations are totally different and are not Christian. She claims to be using Voodoo as a means for evangelizing people and getting them into Christianity, and that she is just using the traditional voodoo practices but applying Christian meanings to them so that they are glorifying to God. She talked all about Christ and his authority and sacrifice and deity, and that he was the only way to come to God, but when we started asking her more questions and looking for more explanations, she began talking about spiritual forces, gods, potions and oils, dolls, and animal sacrifices that cleanse evil spirits.
It was clear that she has a foot firmly planted in both camps, and that she is quite dangerous to Christianity… even more dangerous than if she was only a traditional voodoo priestess. Instead, she applies the Christian name and part of the christian belief system to some of her practices, which are definitely NOT Christian. If you need any clarification that her voodoo practices are not as Christian as she tried to make them sound to us, check out her website, particularly the “Products” section. Read that and tell me if there’s anything on that page that sounds remotely Christian to you. But, if she’s doing what she says she’s doing, then she brings people in using these products and services, then tells them about using these products to get to Christ.
The scary thing about this is that she is horribly misrepresenting Christianity and the Bible, but it is difficult to see at first. It is veiled in all of the right words, phrases, and Bible verses, you don’t realize the heresy that she is teaching unless you start actively trying to pull back that veil.
When I was telling Lacey about the trip, she posed an interesting point: If she had not known beforehand that we were RTS students at a conservative seminary, would she have approached our discussions from the same angle? Did she purposely “christianize” everything because she wanted us to feel that we were both coming from the same place? If we had been a group of students from a liberal secular university, would she have taught us about voodoo without bringing the Christian aspect into it? Would she have represented herself as a believer of all that Voodoo and Yoruba teaches? I dont know. Maybe.
Either way, the only thing I have to go on is the discussions we had with her… and based on those discussions, I walked away thinking how scary it is that there are people who distort the Word of God like that, and that it’s even scarier that there are so many people who are drawn in and honestly feel that they are gaining a true understanding of Christ based on those teachings. I also walked away feeling very convicted about my own personal studies of Scripture. If those whose purpose is to distort it study it so well, those whose purpose is to proclaim it need to know it even better! Having a better knowledge of the Word would have helped me sort through much of what she was saying yesterday, and I am ashamed that I don’t know it better than I do.
Overall, yesterday’s trip was a great one in the sense that I was given a first-hand glimpse of syncretism and my eyes were opened to how diligent we as Christians must be to know the truth so well that we can spot discrepancies in an instant. It was also sad, though, because we spent the day with a very confused woman. My heart aches not ony for her, but for the people that she counsels and teaches. If you think about it, say a prayer for her today. Pray that God will use some of the knowledge she already has of scripture to transform her heart by the power of the Holy Spirit. And pray for our class, that God will use what we learned to show us more about himself and how to serve him better.