Yonel Alcius

Yonel Alcius’s career was decided for him at birth. As the firstborn son of the local voodoo priest in a small village in Haiti, he knew his family expected that he would inherit his father’s duties. “I grew up seeing my parents worshiping voodoo spirits,” he remembers, “and it was clear that I was being trained for that.” But God chose a different path for him. Yonel’s parents were voodoo worshipers, and they also attended a Catholic church—but they chose a Protestant Christian to be Yonel’s godfather. As Yonel grew up, his godfather took him to church and told him, “I know what your parents are doing, but God loves you so much, he sent Jesus to die for you.”

When Yonel was about eleven years old, his father told him he wanted to share some of his spiritual power with him, including the ability to vanish instantly and reappear somewhere else when in danger. Yonel felt intrigued but conflicted. “Every time I thought about that power,” he says, “I remembered the words of my godfather about Jesus. I had an internal conflict about whether to obey my parents or seek after Jesus.”

At that same time, Yonel moved from his home village to the capital city—a bus ride and a five-hour walk!—to continue his schooling. In the city, he lived with his aunt, who was a Christian. One night, God gave him a vision that convinced him to dedicate his life to Christ. He went to church and told the pastors about his decision. Soon Yonel engaged in leadership both in his community and in his family. “Right after I became a Christian,” he says, “I really fell in love with God’s Word, and I started doing ministry, even without formal theological education.” Through the rest of his school years, he taught Sunday school, participated in evangelistic groups, facilitated Bible studies, and helped lead a church plant.

Realizing his need for more training, Yonel completed studies at STEP Seminary (Seminarie de Théologie Evangélique de Port-au-Prince), where he met a number of graduates and faculty members of Dallas Theological Seminary. Dr. Wadestrand Jean Baptist, president of STEP and a DTS graduate, identified Yonel as an excellent candidate for studies in Dallas. Applying to seminary in the US required a successful score on the TOEFL exam, financial assistance through scholarships, and a visa. Each step was a challenge, but God remained faithful to Yonel and his family as they moved to Dallas so that he could begin a master’s in theology.

Bible exposition classes made the biggest impression on Yonel. “My first class was Dr. Yarbrough’s hermeneutics class, getting an overview of the whole Bible, and it all made sense.” For his degree, he chose a dual emphasis in Bible exposition and New Testament studies. He completed his ThM and is now in his second semester in the PhD in Bible exposition at DTS.

Living in the US hasn’t hindered Yonel from continuing in ministry to Haitians. He teaches virtually at STEP Seminary every summer and leads a weekly livestreamed Bible study for the Haitian community, in addition to serving as a Bible teacher to lay leaders at the Opened Bible Academy in the US. But his most significant outreach was to his own family in Haiti. “I am extremely grateful that God allowed me to lead my father to Christ,” he proclaims. “God made him realize that his trust was in the wrong place, and he came sincerely to Christ.”

For other people outside the US who are considering seminary education at DTS, Yonel has this advice: “Get the training for the ministry God has called you to. Get formal education so you can serve better. The more you read the Bible, the more you allow the Holy Spirit to sharpen your tools. God invites us to join his mission—so get the training you need so that he can send you!”

About the Contributors

Neil R. Coulter

Neil R. Coulter

Neil R. Coulter completed degrees in music performance and ethnomusicology from Wheaton College and Kent State University. He and his family lived in Papua New Guinea for twelve years, where Neil served as an ethnomusicology and arts consultant for Wycliffe Bible Translators. In 2015, he helped design and launch the PhD in World Arts at Dallas International University. He teaches doctoral courses in theory and ethnography at DIU’s Center for Excellence in World Arts. At DTS, he teaches about art, literature, film, and theology, and he is senior writer and editor of DTS Magazine. Neil is married to Joyce, and they have three sons.