By: Devin Vanderpool, Director of Communications
I still remember the first day Maizie (Marie Therese) came into the clinic. I was a team leader for an ACU spring break group of pre-med students in 2011. The LiveBeyond base wasn’t even a dream at this point. We were operating a mobile clinic out of the orphanage that LiveBeyond supports. I was working on organizing supplies when I heard the rumor that was spreading like wildfire through clinic: a voodoo priestess had just come in for treatment.
What does a voodoo priestess look like? Act like? My mind raced with questions. Curiosity took over, and I dropped what I was doing to make my way over to Mama Laurie’s station where I knew the woman was. I passed several other volunteers who had already gotten the message that she was here. An electric buzz of excitement charged through all of us. I wasn’t sure what to expect exactly, but I was concerned that this interaction could be far from pleasant. I expected to see a woman clothed in red, boisterously cursing those around her.
What I saw was a quiet woman thankfully accepting treatment for her severely burned legs. A thin red cloth wrapped around her head was all that proclaimed her background. Her legs were horrific. Years of walking on fire during voodoo ceremonies had taken their toll. Fourth-degree burns ran from her feet to her knees, bones and charred muscle completely exposed. The bottoms of her feet were so thick with callouses that we couldn’t find any shoes to fit her. Mama Laurie, a woman who has treated many horrific injuries in clinics all over the world, was visibly perturbed at how extensive the burns were. After consulting with Dr. Vanderpool, she was using anything and everything she could to debride the wounds and set them on the path to healing.
Maizie came back a few times that week to be treated. After that, she became a regular in LiveBeyond clinics throughout Thomazeau. Each month Mama Laurie spent several hours treating Maizie’s legs. Dr. Vanderpool made sure the supplies used to treat her were stocked each trip.
We are still always on the lookout for Maizie slowly and quietly making her way into the clinic. When she was pregnant with her seventh child, Angelou, she became part of our Maternal Health program.
Mama Laurie has spearheaded the effort in evangelizing to Maizie. Since that very first meeting, Maizie has heard so much about the healing power of Jesus. She has been prayed over and loved on by hundreds of people. Her house has been visited by everyone who felt they were able to make the treacherous climb. The incredible view and Maizie’s welcoming nature makes it a favorite At Risk visit among team members.
A few years ago, when Maizie decided to give up voodoo in pursuit of Jesus, many did not realize how difficult a decision this was for her. The CIA estimates that 50% of Haitians practice voodoo, but most believe this rating is very low. So not only was she ostracized by practicing Christians because of her previous status as a priestess, but she was also shunned by her fellow voodoo worshippers. Giving up voodoo left her with almost no community support or interaction. I can’t even imagine what it felt like for her to be so immediately isolated from everyone around her. It is another testament to the strength of her character that she was able to take that step.
On July 9, 2017, Maizie accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior through baptism. When David and I got the text from his parents celebrating the news (during a sermon about turning off technology to pursue a relationship with God, I might add - guilty), tears shot from my eyes and a smile spread across my face. I can’t imagine how it must have looked to those around me, but I didn’t care. I was rejoicing the fact that I will see my sister Maizie in the Kingdom of God.
Her injuries are still extensive. It was about five years of consistent, monthly treatment before the wounds on her legs ever closed, and it is a battle to keep them that way. I still wonder how she will be treated by those in her community? Will the Christians welcome her? Will she and her family be the target of attacks from voodoo priests? I don’t know. But I do know that people across the world rejoiced when she entered the Kingdom, and we will continue to rejoice as we share the story of her redemption.