Transformations or re-transformation?
A Paradigm shift for evangelism
pt.3 Transformation in Almolonga, Guatamala
pt. 1 INDEX
Claim in the Transformation video - After prayer and fasting it gave them victory over principalities. “The cities 20,000 some inhabitants have, made a conscious choice to sever the continuum with ancestral spirit worship. As a consequence Almolonga is one of the cleanest most prosperous towns in all of Guatemala, it is a city of churches.” The people practiced idolatry as Maximon a patron saint was worshipped. Before the 4 jails in Almolonga could not hold everyone now all are closed. There were 34 cantinas now there are only a few left. 8-out of 10 are born again Christians of a population of 20,000. (But this is not claimed to be the same conversion rate in Cali’s transformation for its revival, or any other place. So they are applying a different standard).
We find this encouraging report from Charisma magazine (which would be more reassuring if another news service carried the same statistics.) “Locals consistently refer to it in terms of two eras: the period before the power of God came in the mid-1970s and the period after, when 90 percent of the 19,000 residents became born-again Christians. Before revival, Almolonga was gripped by fear, poverty, disease, idolatry and alcoholism. Today the town is called “The Miracle City” because of the radical changes that have occurred among these Quiche Indians, who are descendants of the ancient Mayans…. Donato Santiago, Almolonga's chief of police, doesn't have much work to do today. He can be spotted resting in the shade while the vegetable markets do brisk business. Armed with a whistle, this tranquil believer has watched the Holy Spirit change his town in the last 25 years. The last jail in Almolonga closed nine years ago” (Charisma News Service)
Actual Facts - As in Columbia the Government statistics state the prevailing form of religion in Guatemala is Roman Catholicism. There are few Protestants and Jews. The story of a small town having many converted is true, but it did not happen overnight or using spiritual warfare techniques as the video insinuates. It started back in the mid 70’s. While this is fantastic news to hear I think it is a misrepresentation to use Almolonga as part of the video implying that it was due to spiritual mapping or anything connected to the spiritual warfare movement. It happened long before they were implementing their tactics in this city. Certainly prayer changes conditions and peoples hearts, but to incorporate it with the other places as part of spiritual mapping is not honestly representing this fact. It is not our intention to question pastor Riscajché conversion or others. What we do question is the reporting of what has occurred through the narrator. Are there really that many Christian in this town? Most stories range from 80-92% depending on whom you talk to. In an article Evangelicals and Competition in Guatemala by Edward L. Cleary his article which is quite an extensive history of Guatemala’s religious history does not mention Almolonga’s massive conversion to being born again Christians. ( http://www.dominicans.org/~ecleary/conflict/conflict09.htm#2 )
Christianity today ran this article in April 1999- “A realistic figure might be close to 65 percent evangelical,” says Isaias Colop, a native Quiché trained at Dallas Theological Seminary. That is impressive in a historically Catholic country. But Colop says the change is often only skin deep.” “There's sensationalism, but a lack of maturity,” Colop says. “There are former witch doctors who are now 'prophets,' but they're still doing much the same thing.” By Stephen R. Sywulka in Guatemala City. (http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/9t4/9t423c.html) Christianity today’s article agrees with the re[ort from the mayor who states “Mayor Machic talks of 85% Evangelist and 15% Catholics” (Hablamos El Diario de Hoy, April 9, 2000)
It may not be 92% but even if it was over 50% that is an incredible thing. But why are there so many discrepancies in the numbers. But Colop makes a good point of syncretism just like in Catholicism. Encyclopedia Brittanica reports-- Religious affiliation (1995): Roman Catholic 75.9%, of which Catholic/traditional syncretist 25.0%; Protestant 21.8%; other Christian 1.3%; other 1.0%. http://www.britannica.com/bcom/eb/article/statistics/0,5716,127378,00.html. To be realistic there must be a good percentage of Catholics in Almolonga. There is always a danger of pagan customs culture being synthesized into Christianity. It was in the early church and it is today in certain areas.
We find syncretism is a problem, “Roman Catholicism is the dominant religion. Among Indians ancient non-Christian traditions are incorporated into their Catholic faith” (“Compton Encyclopedia”). “Nominally Roman Catholic, the Quiché are organized into village cofradías, religious societies that maintain the church and organize fiestas for the local patron saints. Pagan myths and rituals are widely practiced, however, and the saints, the Virgin Mary, and the devil are often identified with Mayan divinities.’ (http://www.britannica.com/bcom/eb/article/4/0,5716,63834+1+62259,00.html)
[In 1962 the Protestant population was 60,000 Guatemala - Scotchmer, David G. “Life of the Heart: A Maya Protestant Spirituality “ in South and Meso-American Native Spirituality, ed. by Gary H. Gossen. New York: Crossroad Publishing Co. (1997), pg. 503. By 1998 there were 3,300,000- Gall, Timothy L. (ed). Worldmark Encyclopedia of Culture & Daily Life: Vol. 2 - Americas. Cleveland, OH: Eastword Publications Development (1998), pg. 206-207. “Location: Guatemala; Population: 10 million “ “Some 67% to 80% of all Guatemalans are Roman Catholic... Perhaps 25% to 33% of the population are Protestant.”] Among these would be considered the Evangelical which are numbered in 1996 2,730,00 1997 Britannica Book of the Year pg. 781-783. (we could not find anything else more current.)
How exaggerated are the claims getting? From the small exaggeration of Almolonga we now have Caballeros who states on his site “More than 40 % of the population are evangelical Christians and they gather in almost 20,000 churches.” http://www.elshaddai.net/WorldCongress2000/SilentRevival-en.htm Ruth Ruibal from Cali goes much - much higher as she writes in her Newsletter: “The Lord is working powerfully throughout Central and South America. As you may know, 55% of the population of Guatemala is made up of born again believers.” (Mar.2001 Newsletter) I guess if you count Roman Catholics one can realistically have these high numbers. One needs to realize the Roman Catholicism that is practiced outside the US is vastly different than what we normally see and very syncretistic. It incorporates more pagan and foreign religious practices.
Streets and buildings are named after biblical places. One of those interviewed says “how can you say you love God if you don’t show it, didn’t Paul say I am not ashamed of the gospel” We don’t find anyone in the early church naming businesses or streets or buildings after God. Did they not love God? I don’t think this has to be the way one shows their love for God. It is a known fact that Catholics name numerous streets, buildings, and businesses after God and saints. This is common practice in many Catholic countries-- Guatemala would be among them. This does not mean they were all named after the revival, some could have been added. Many cults name their church after Christ but this does not prove they are genuine. (I’m not saying these people are a cult, but only give this example of the concept that names equal love as faulty.)
Claim in the Transformation video -The video states “ In 1994 the last of Almolonga’s 4 jails closed.” However in another report “The last jail in Almolonga closed nine years ago.” (Joel News quoting Charisma News Service.)
Actual Facts - Once again we are confronted with different statistics. This would be more like 5 years ago from the videos release. 9 years ago from when the film was made it would be 1990 or before. It may be true that the jails closed but we continue to find different stories on the facts. It would be inconsequential if it was only once or twice but it is not, it is consistent embellishments.
Transformation video claims- Almolonga is said to be one of “the cleanest most prosperous towns in all of Guatemala.” Otis Jr. makes a direct correlation to the people becoming Christian and the soil producing massive crops. From the vegetable scenes the insinuation is that the vegetables grew so large as a result of God’s blessing from prayer. We are told it is because the Christians in Almolonga united in prayer and fought “the principalities and powers” God had outpoured His blessing. Jesus broke the power of Maximon and the priests of Maximon lost power and left the city. God even changed the fertility of the soil. God did this through casting out the strongholds of Satan. Not only tearing them down but also by casting them out. This brought about a healing of the people and a healing of the land. Intercession, spiritual warfare and evangelism transformed the city.” (http://www.prayerwatch.org/almolonga.html) It is now a “Bustling commercial district.”
Actual Facts - Guatemala is located in the tropic zone. Agriculture accounts for one-fourth of Guatemala’s GNP, employing more than one-half of the work force, and generates more than three-fifths of all exports. Guatemala is Central America's leading producer of coffee, which is the country's largest export commodity. Other major agricultural exports are sugar (from cane), bananas, cardamom, cotton, beans and legumes, and fresh meat. Although production of basic grain crops (principally corn [maize]) has increased, it is not sufficient to meet the needs of the population.
Exports: $2.4 billion (f.o.b., 1999) The agricultural sector accounts for
one-fourth of GDP, two-thirds of exports, and half of the labor force. Coffee,
sugar, and bananas are the main products Exports - commodities: coffee, sugar,
bananas, fruits and vegetables, meat, apparel, petroleum, electricity. Can
Almolonga realistically be one of the most prosperous towns in Guatemala with a
population of only 20,000? Coffee is the chief agricultural export 23.3%, (next
is sugar 9.9%, bananas 7.6%, vegetable seeds 3.6%) fruits and vegetables are
last in the exports of goods.
Transformation video claims- The video reports “Arid land and poor work habits but when the people returned to God they have seen a remarkable transformation of their land.” That the crops suffered from laziness now it is a fertile field, with 3 harvests a year, now there are 8. Before there were 4 truckloads a month now 40 times a week. A 1,000% increase. The vegetables grow huge from their prayer, at the same time people believed the vegetables started to grow. cabbage, carrots, potatoes, radishes, onions, cauliflower and herbs. The video when interviewing a local states “Almolonga became a fertile valley it is so fertile that the land is so so good they produce the best vegetables. They get as many as 3 harvests per year, they sell their vegetables to Guatemala south of Mexico and El Salvador. Before the spiritual turnaround growers were exporting 4 truckloads of produce a month now they leave town 40 times a week.” “The wisdom that God gave the farmer in Almolonga produced a better crop than the scientific methods yielded, and the farmers give God the glory for the bountiful harvest.” “At the same time people believed in Jesus Christ the vegetables started growing.”
“Intrigued by the dimensions of these vegetables and the towns 1,000% increase in agricultural productivity, researchers from the US and other foreign countries have come to Almolonga to learn their secret. But the answer is not what they expected.”
Actual Facts - The vegetable growth improved as the people became more diligent in their work habits. Nothing shown in the video or in reports proves anything supernatural had occurred. There was an ongoing war lasting 36 years in Guatemala which brought agriculture to a near standstill with fields being burned, people disappearing, farmers being killed. This ended in the early to mid-1990s. When the land rests it becomes more fertile when crops are planted. When Otis Jr. describes researchers going there to learn the secret, saying, “the answer is not what they expected.” It will not be what you expect either!
The farmers give God the glory for the bountiful harvest. This may be true, but what they are not telling you in the video is what additives helped. Beside good volcanic soil and an abundance of water the only thing we found from researchers proved they are using pesticides for boosting the growth in the vegetables. This very well could be why they have such an increase in agriculture.
This is a report from one researcher “As the case in Almolonga, Guatemala, a lot of Latin American cities see the need to keep both traditional and export crops full of pesticides. However, the same pesticides that keep the food from having blemishes and insect bites may very well make the inhabitants sick. For instance, the public health records show that there is an increase in certain aliments that can be directly related to over-use of pesticides”(Arbona, 1998). DR. ARBONA is a geographer and had worked at the time as an epidemiologist with the Texas Department of Health, Austin, Texas 78756.
Sonia Arbona visited Almolonga, Guatemala in March and collected another set of water samples as part of her research work in that community. The research focuses on the environmental health impacts of pesticide use. (http://www.utexas.edu/depts/grg/office/fieldnotes/fnfall97/fnfall97.html)
If those who made the video are aware of researchers going down to Almolonga, they must be aware that pesticides are also being used. It is also reported that by using illegal pesticide and people are getting sick. Health conditions in Guatemala are generally poor outside the capital. Many people suffer from such health problems as enteritis, acute respiratory infections, avitaminoses and other nutritional deficiencies, skin infections, and anemia. The country's infant mortality rate is high; life expectancy is only 60 years.
“Large amounts of synthetic pesticides are used in Guatemala to increase the production on nontraditional crops. Almolonga, a township in the western highlands, produces vegetables for markets in Mexico and Central America. Almolongueños make intensive use of limited cultivable land and abundant water resources, as well as sizable amounts of synthetic pesticides. Among Almolongueños, congenital malformations, cancer, anemia, and respiratory infections await substantiated links to exposure to pesticides. The prevalence of infectious and parasitic diseases and nutritional deficiencies--the dominant health concerns--may be heightened by excessive use of pesticides.” http://18.104.22.168/GR/issues/GR%20Vol%2088/GR-Jan1998/Jan98-Arbona.html (also found in Arbona, p. 47)
High Quantities of Poor-Quality Pesticides Sold in Developing Countries March
It appears the rate of illness due to pesticide use in Guatemala is quite high: The Danish Agency for International Development (DANIDA) reported that annual acute illness rate due to pesticides ranged from 11,000 to 30,000 in Guatemala, a country of 10 million people, and 10,000 in Nicaragua, a country of 4 million people (Development and Equity, 1998). http://www.oac.uoguelph.ca/www/CRSC/faculty/eac/myths.htm
Why did they overlook the sicknesses from pesticides being used?
Its not how big the vegetables are but how nutritious they are. The scenes of the bountiful harvests and giant vegetables are really not the whole story. There is NO mention made of the use of chemical fertilizers and soil conditions in the video. Not to mention the report of people can become sick from the pesticides used. So if the vegetables are big but filled with the overuse of pesticides how good are they? Carrots that were shown of this size have also been seen on sale in the street markets of other countries as well where there is no revival. The climate in all of Guatemala is excellent for growing vegetables even without pesticides. When one considers all this there is no claim to fame like the video presents.
These poor people are being used as they will become very sick from the huge amount of pesticides they are using. Instead of commending them someone should have warned them of the affects from this. Otis says “This is the way things are suppose to be. Things attract his presence, holiness unity faith humility." (I would add truth in this respect)
Yet it is reported of Almolonga being prosperous long before this, here is one example: “Almolonga In 1974 a man named Riscajche (Wagner: a ‘pagan’) converted and began healings and exorcisms. He reported hundreds of healed and exorcized individuals. Gradually the city began to prosper economically and socially” (R. Holvast – Spiritual Mapping: The Turbulent Career of a Contested American Missionary Paradigm, 1989-2005 citing Wagner 1996, 220 (p.95)
Harold Caballero’s El Shaddai Church
A scene was shown of crowds of people, like in the other two other cities, waving flags (branches). Why? What are these flags to represent? We find people marching in the streets; a March for Jesus event.
It is said that we need to “assault the forces of darkness through prayer and fasting.” This is an intentional misrepresentation if the cities conversion that began long before the method of spiritual warfare was implemented in the late 80’s and 90’s. Wagner and associates were not teaching or practicing this at the time this revival was under way, it was not invented. Why is this included with other cities that they claim had a revival from spiritual warfare prayer? They state “Prayer and fasting gives us victories over principalities.” This is not based on what the Bible teaches. Prayer and fasting are biblical, but not when they are attached to their new methods of spiritual warfare. The bible teaches having the armor of God on gives us victory. It becomes even more evident when one reads what the spiritual warfare books that are being circulated teach. Instead of it being God’s grace of answering prayer it becomes a method of man to have authority over Satan’s kingdom in an unbiblical way. I don’t think the people in Almolonga have this view but this is what is presented to us in the video.
Pastor Caballeros states, concerning the transformation that has taken place in Almolonga: “I believe that the primary reason for the change of the spiritual condition of the people in Almolonga is because the pastors began practising the ministry of deliverance. The power of the Name of Jesus broke the power of Maximon and the priests of Maximon lost power and left the city. God even changed the fertility of the soil. God did this through casting out the strongholds of Satan. Not only tearing them down but also by casting them out. This brought about a healing of the people and a healing of the land.”
Intercession, spiritual warfare and evangelism transformed the city! Is the devil blocking peoples healing from God and hindering the fertility of the land? If the Devils kingdom is now gone, one would think the Millennium has come to Almolonga!
We are told “What happened in Almolonga, Guatemala, can happen in cities throughout Europe as God's people begin to pray with power and authority over the powers of darkness, believing God to tear down and remove Satan's strongholds.” “Pastors, Church leaders, Ministers and Evangelists from every nation in Europe need to be at this conference as we agree, in prayer, and command the evil principalities and demonic forces to loose their hold off the cities, nations, and people groups throughout Europe.” (http://www.prayerwatch.org/almolonga.html)
What is he proposing? That we can bring the kingdom on earth. It is completely unbiblical to believe that WE will take authority and kick the kingdom of darkness out of cities and bring God’s kingdom here now. But this is the subtle theme woven throughout when they say when God comes to____.
The bio on pastor Caballeros states: “Five years ago, the Lord gave Pastor Caballeros the vision for the “Jesus is Lord of Guatemala ministry”, which consists of an army of 50,000 prayer warriors all over the country that pray every day for revival in Guatemala with the aid of Dr. Cho’s book, “Prayer, Key to Revival.” Here we have a likely connection. Of course Cho is a good choice if your ambition is to take cities and countries but he is not a good choice for practices and doctrines of Christianity. He has combined occultic techniques, and Buddhism concepts with prayer (I refer to his book the 4th dimension).
We find that pastor Caballeros travels all over the world teaching on themes such as Spiritual Warfare, Spiritual Mapping, Prophetic Intercession, Gates and Power Points along with sharing the Word of God.
http://www.elshaddai.net/pastor/pastor-en.htm [This has nothing to do with Bill Gate’s of Microsoft or power point. ]
Ana Mendez who is involved in Peter Wagners Spiritual warfare of the NAR was appointed by Harold Caballeros as the Coordinator of the Spiritual Warfare Network for Southern Mexico. We find that Caballeros’ own involvement with Spiritual Mapping started with a dream of a woman in his church.
Caballeros had bought land in Guatemala City. Through archaeological research in the Spiritual Mapping process he concluded that the land was a section of an image 14 miles long of a Mayan spirit named ‘Quetzacoatl’, built in pre-Columbian days....Caballeros directed his El Shaddai church in ‘highlevel’ prayer against this ‘stronghold’186 and developed his findings into a variation of Spiritual Mapping,187 the ‘typical El Shaddai approach’, which meant three research teams, concentrating independently on historical factors, physical factors" He became an apostle, part of the NAR and remained focused on Spiritual Mapping. (p.96) (source: R. Holvast – Spiritual Mapping: The Turbulent Career of a Contested American Missionary Paradigm, 1989-2005)
Under the heading of the time is now- The Body of Christ in Guatemala is the one who must fight the battle. The Church has to go into spiritual warfare, because it is She who has to dethrone all those principalities that have ruled for centuries over our nation and its people. Let us pray together one hour a day for our Nation. Let us go into spiritual warfare, and we will learn what it means to be “more than overcomers” in Christ. This vision is a challenge. A challenge from God to you, to become part of the army of the Most High God. http://www.elshaddai.net/jesus-senor/ahoraes-en.htm
He uses scriptures such as Ezekiel 12:27, 28 Isaiah 13:2-4.He takes these completely out of their context applying this to today. These are people gathered from all nations to fight against Babylon and the timing is during the day of the Lord. Is this the army one would want to join?
Just as the prophet Daniel describes the existence of principalities over nations and kingdoms (Daniel 10:12, 13 and 20), today God is revealing to us, not only the presence of these principalities, powers and the demonic activity in general terms over our land, but He is also the strategy to defeat the strong man. This is the time when the Church has to come into action: “For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. That the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:19, 21). http://www.elshaddai.net/jesus-senor/guerra-en.htm
This is all Kingdom Now, Latter Rain teaching and the concepts are clearly evident through his short descriptions shows how deep all this runs through his theology. One small town has been affected by the gospel and a more than half of it we can be fairly sure of became Christian. But the story is now stretched to upwards of 55% of the country of Guatemala is Christian, why? Kingdom Dominion teaching, the kingdom has come NOW.
Recently Almolonga’s name has been officially changed to Ciudad el Dios- City of God. Think about that title!