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6156: Progress is slow but Haitians Pilgrims Pray on (fwd)




From: nozier@tradewind.net

   December 6, 2000    Progress Is Slow, but Haitian Pilgrims  Pray On
                       By DAVID GONZALEZ NY TIMES
   PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Dec. 1  An endless buzz  of urgent prayers
 echoed through  the streets of the Delmas  neighborhood, where a thick
   crowd of pilgrims had gathered. Whispering hosannas and  desperate
 entreaties, they fasted and prayed for their sacrifices to  bring peace
       to their battered country. They have followed this ritual 
with much fervor but little success  for 27 years now. In Haiti, where
"hope" is a word spoken more in relation to leaving   the island than
healing it, and many  go hungry by fate and not faith,  hundreds of men
and women journey three times a week to  Jesus of Miracles, a prayer
center  founded in 1973 by Marie-Louise   Jeanvier.  She died five years
ago, a prophet   who went back to be with her  maker, her followers say.
But the  crowds still come to hear her son Billy preach words of comfort
and  confidence. The pilgrims who come have endured rain, hot sun or
flaming barricades  and rioting on the streets. They keep coming because
they, like many  Haitians, want change.  "We believe and we want peace
for our country," said Madame Jean-  Charles, a short woman with a no-
nonsense glare. "God created us to   eat, to sleep and to live in peace.
We pray for God to deliver this  country." But should that fail, she
said with a gleam in her eyes, she'll settle for  another delivery: that
of a visa.  "We pray to find a little money to go live in another
country," she said.  "New York or Miami. That's a small thing for Jesus
of Miracles."  The faithful recall that Marie-Louise was a preacher's
niece who became     popular singing in a Port-au- Prince church in the
early 1970's, even  before she embarked on her mission, which is
unaffiliated to any formal  religious denomination.        Like a
prophet in the wilderness, they said, she took to the mountains up  by
the sanitarium in Carrefour Feuilles with a dozen followers. They said
she could look at you and tell what was wrong, and with a touch, she
could heal.  Her son Billy, who put aside his dream of becoming a doctor
at his  mother's request so he could follow her in her ministry, said
her following  grew with her reputation.  "My mother said everyone who
wanted to glorify Jesus, if they wanted something  money or a house 
they had to climb up a tree they had  on the mountain and shake it to
give God glory," he said.       Some dollars might have fallen off the
tree, at least for Marie-Louise,  since thankful pilgrims often gave her
money. Among the crowd outside  the Delmas house, people talked about
the houses and four cars she  once owned. Her son, who said he lived a
much simpler life, said he was not one to   judge.  "This changed her
life because when she started out she was nothing," he  said. "That was
her standard of living. She was a servant of God, like  King David. God
blesses you. King David had land, rubies and jewels.   These days, like
with preachers in the States, you can't have these things.          But
if God blesses you, you should be able to do what you want."  She came
down from the mountain in 1986, right after the dictator Jean- Claude
Duvalier fled the country, which soon was swept up in looting  and
revenge. She had been targeted, her followers said, because she had
once prayed for him and peace in Haiti.  The peace she sought has been
elusive. She died of a respiratory illness in 1995, and her son David,
then 19, found himself leading prayers in the courtyard of the Delmas
home, where he sat before the crowds in the same high-backed dining-room
table his mother had used.