A spiritual showdown with witch doctors

This is one in a series of daily excerpts from “The Legend of Morris Cerullo: How God Used an Orphan to Change the World.”

By Morris Cerullo

The spiritual showdown was going to be witnessed by every class of people that resided in Haiti.

The stage was packed with nearly two hundred dignitaries and high-ranking military officials, many of them sitting with their wives. The nation’s controversial president himself, François Duvalier, had invited them to hold the event, and everyone who was someone wanted to be seen at the spectacle. The military leaders were decked out in their full dress uniforms, complete with the array of medals, ribbons, and other symbols of their skill and courage. The political leaders, not to be outdone, were in their finest evening wear and eager to be seen by the crowd.

The stadium was filled with about fifteen thousand people on that opening night. They were by far the loudest and wildest assembly that Morris had ever faced.

What made the crowd so unusual was their constant noise and activity. In the 1950s and early 1960s, church crowds everywhere practiced a reverent silence during religious services and events.

The memo on such behavior apparently never reached Haiti. The crowd was a study of turbulence and chaos. Everywhere you looked people were in motion. Some were laughing and jeering, others were seeking to stir up trouble, and yet others were simply waving their arms to gain attention or making strange noises.

Many of them knew what was coming — or so they thought. They were pointing at Morris as he took his seat on the stage and began shouting and laughing.

They knew the witch doctors were ready to rumble.

There were some three hundred witch doctors wandering slowly and intently through the large crowd. To the untrained eye they were simply Haitians who had shown up for the big event, part of the intrigued masses.

But as Morris sat through the mind-numbing introductions of the seemingly endless number of esteemed people on the stage, he was able to pick out every one of the witch doctors. God showed him each one; they could not hide from his perusal of the audience. It was as if they had been sprayed in an invisible paint that only Morris could see. He watched with interest as they filtered through the crowd and people quickly gave them space to move. Nobody wanted to mess with the witch doctors.

Finally Morris was introduced. The unruliness decreased a notch or two as the main event was poised to begin.

Morris took the microphone at center stage and raised his right hand, holding his Bible, and said, “I greet you tonight in the name that is above every name, Jesus Christ, Son of the living God.”

The uproar that ensued was as if he had declared war against Haiti.

An eerie chant rose from every section of the stadium. The witch doctors, who had clearly orchestrated their plan in advance, sang out the same chant from every corner of the arena.

People’s eyes grew wide with fear or concern. Heads turned back and forth, watching the man of God on the stage and the closest bevy of witch doctors as they steadily increased the volume of their chant.

A person here, another one there, then small groups of people and eventually larger numbers of onlookers joined in the chanting, giving a massive voice to the cry of the voodoo masters.

The witch doctors began to move about the stadium heading toward the platform where Morris stood watching them.

“Everyone, please be quiet. I have life-changing things to share with you tonight. I ask for your attention please.”

For a moment the movement and noise in the stadium came to a halt. For a moment. Then it accelerated in both volume and pace.

Game on!

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From the twitching and bodily repositioning taking place among the officials on stage behind him, Morris knew that the nation’s leaders were getting nervous. If past events were an indication of what was to come, their concern was well-founded.

Again Morris politely but firmly requested silence so he could proceed.

Again the movement and noise ceased for a moment and then reignited. The volume of the chanting continued to grow as more people joined in and people’s sense of security grew. The chanting reached a point at which it was difficult for anyone to hear what Morris was saying into the microphone.

His third call for silence drew a third moment of quiet followed by a more vociferous resumption of the chants.

By now some of the dignitaries on the platform were scoping out their exit route in case the stadium broke out in a riot. Even the host pastors looked frightened and appeared to be calculating ways to escape. To everyone’s consternation, there was no escape path, however, because the platform was surrounded by people.

As Morris watched this unruly mob begin to lose control a sense of righteous indignation rose up within him like none he had ever experienced. The Holy Spirit had taken command of his mind and emotions and was about to change the course of Haitian history.

Morris’s interpreter for the meeting was a young student from a local Bible school. With fire in his eyes, Morris turned to the youngster and sternly pointed his index finger at him. “Son,” he shouted above the din of the chanting witch doctors and Haitian crowd, “I want you to interpret exactly what I say — every word! Do not dare change a single word. Not one syllable!”

With that, he turned his full attention to the crowd and began his presentation.

Morris’s eyes had gone steely, and his voice was hard and unwavering. “People of Haiti, this is the last time I am going to speak. I have asked for reverence and quiet three times now to be able to give you God’s Word.

“I want you to know that it was not my decision to come to Haiti. God sent me here. The true and living God sent me to you.

“He sent me to Haiti to share with you the message of His love. He gave me a message of healing for you. He loves you. He wants to save you. He wants to forgive your sins, to bless you and heal you. That is the message He sent me here to bring to you.

“But that God is also a God of judgment.”

Morris paused and took account of the crowd. They were still restless and chanting, but the volume had decreased, and people were beginning to focus on his words.

“Today, in my room, God showed me that there were hundreds of witch doctors who would be here tonight to disrupt this meeting.” He pointed to some of the red-shirted witch doctors who were circling the platform. “I am going to be here in this city for some time, so we had better find out tonight — this first night — whether you and your devil have more power than me and my God!”

It was as if a boxer pushed into a corner of the ring had thrown a strong punch back into the face of the aggressor: people’s attention was now riveted on the man who was calling out the witch doctors in no uncertain terms. Morris’s nostrils flared as God’s indignation poured out of him. He turned to look at the dignitaries who were uncomfortably shifting in the seats on the platform.

“I now serve notice that I take no responsibility for what happens from this point on. The next person in this stadium who opens their mouth and says one word to hinder or destroy this meeting, I will take no responsibility before all these dignitaries on the platform when they carry you out of this stadium dead!

Immediately the stadium was filled with silence. The chanting stopped. The bodily movement ceased. The air grew still. You couldn’t even hear the usual ambient noise, like crickets chirping.

To the amazement of thousands in the crowd, even the witch doctors seemed unwilling to test the fury of God for disrupting His service.

Satisfied, Morris spent the next twenty minutes preaching a powerful message of salvation. He was indisputably under the anointing of God as he spoke to the now-silent throngs.

As he completed his message, a piercing scream from the far end of the stadium cut through the evening air, causing many to gasp in shock — or fear.