Created to live in freedom and light
Aklobessi didn’t understand why she was taken by the voodoo priestess when her parents were not at home and kept at the temple for 30 days. The six-year-old just knew that she was missing her Compassion children’s project and not knowing when she would be allowed to return. Aklobessi’s parents are members of a voodoo shrine across the street from their home and they volunteer there as fetish experts. In other words, they ensure that the priest has all the materials he needs to conduct ceremonies.
When Compassion came knocking to tell Aklobessi’s parents about their new program at the church in their village, her parents said no because they were afraid of offending their gods. They turned down food, healthcare, education and Bible lessons for Aklobessi at first. But then they saw how the other children in the village were receiving those benefits and so much more.
Her father, Lossou, changed his mind but not without the threat of death hovering over their family. “Our situation is just complicated,” he explained. “If we dare to leave the idols, we don’t know how it will be. Some of us tried it and they died. That’s why we are afraid, because we are intimidated every day.”
Alkobessi attended the Compassion children’s project for one month before she disappeared. Her father returned home to find his daughter gone. Fernand Hloinvi, director of the Compassion center, immediately went to Alkobessi’s home and found that the voodoo priestess said that Alkobessi must like in the shrine for three years of initiation. Fernand and the church then started an 11-month fight for her freedom. They met with the priestess who just shouted incantations and threats at them. They turned her in to social services and recruited other churches to fast and pray.
On Alkobessi’s birthday, Fernand went to visit her and brought along a social worker to observe. When it came time to leave, Alkobessi broke down crying. “When they were going back, I kept on crying because I wanted to follow them,” she explains with tears flowing down her cheeks now.
Under the pressure from the church, social services and Compassion International, the priestess agreed to let her go but first her parents must provide animals and drinks for 30 days of ceremonies (she knew they did not have that amount). Alkobessi’s parents turned to their families to help and she was released. Compassion put together a feast to celebrate and she knows she is welcome at the project to this day. All because someone called and sponsored her.
Her parents are still trapped in the darkness that is the voodoo temple but Alkobessi hears every day that she was created to live in freedom and light, not in the fear and darkness that keeps so many Togolese in bondage.