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Mad about Jesus

2005-2006 - United States, Ukraine
Evangelical Christians, out of a very emotional mode, "save" souls by hundreds of thousands worldwide. A converting power that leaves far behind the good old Catholic Church.
Personal project supported by a 3P Grant, 2005.
Personal projects

The New Life Church

Colorado Springs is a peaceful and conservative town of 300 000 inhabitants, located at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. It is also a sort of “Vatican for the Evangelicals” : over a hundred Christian evangelical and/or evangelistic associations have set up their main office in Colorado Springs, thanks to attractive tax policy. In 1984, pastor Ted Haggard settled in the city, at the time renowned for its hippies, bikers and others of the kind…He experienced visions, praying and fasting - became a pioneer, aroused by an unshakeable faith in his mission: bring back the Gospel into this city, chasing away evil cults ( such as hippies ! ).
Pastor Ted's New Life Church of Colorado Springs is one of the most important evangelical congregations of the country (a megachurch of approximatly 11.000 members). A congregation becoming very influential in the USA because of its modern ways, adapted to nowadays religious needs and behaviours. New Life Church is turned towards young people – the essential leaven of changeover (all evangelical congregations own their “Youth Ministry") - aware of the importance of preparing future generations on a biblical basis. Moreover, Ted Haggard is head of the NAE ( National Association of Evangelicals ), the powerful Christian lobby of the “Born Again Christians”, of which president W. Bush is extremely dependant.
Is it a sign or pure chance ? Five days before the Bush administration actually looses its political domination on the Congress and Senate during the midterm elections, pastor Ted Haggard, close to President W. Bush on religious and moral issues, was falling from his pulpit because of a drug and sex scandal. « In the first week of November this year Mike Jones, a former male prostitute in Denver, came forward to claim he’d had a three-year sexual relationship with Haggard, a vocal critic of gay rights. Married with five children, Haggard initially denied even knowing Jones. But then Jones produced recordings of a voice that sounded like Haggard’s asking Jones to help him secure some crystal meth. (…) New Life’s Board of Overseers had determined Haggard was guilty of "sexually immoral conduct" and dismissed him as a pastor of the church » - (Newsweek November 13, 2006).
On the church’s website, one can now find a letter of excuse and repentance from the fallen pastor who admits his fault, his "monstrous sin".
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Entrance to the nature center “Garden of the Gods” nearby Colorado Springs.
The MILL, Friday night service for the twenty-somethings, at the New Life Church of Colorado Springs. Rachel, 22, is a member for seven years now. She leaves on a evangelistic mission to Ukraine in a week’s time.
The MILL, Friday night service for the twenty-somethings, at the New Life Church of Colorado Springs. The father of this family used to be a California punk who experienced drugs and alcohol. Today, he is a trainer for groups of young evangelicals.
The TAG is the Wednesday night service for teenagers, at the New Life Church of Colorado Springs.
The TAG is the Wednesday night service for teenagers, at the New Life Church of Colorado Springs.
Welcome / Registration counters at the New Life Church, for newcomers and guests.
The main auditorium at the New Life Church of Colorado Springs – 7500 seats capacity.
Sunday morning service at the New Life Church of Colorado Springs. Use of considerable technology in the 7500-seat auditorium.
Sunday morning service at the New Life Church of Colorado Springs. Baby-sitting service to enable parents to attend peacefully church service.
A Megavoice – it was ordered by Bibles for the World organization. Enables to listen to pre-recorded versions of the Old and New Testament, in numerous languages (here in Hindi). The Megavoice is given out during evangelistic missions for illiterate populations.
Storage of bibles of the Bibles for the World organization. Translated in numerous languages (here in Bengali), the Bible is thus sent throughout the world, mostly where Christianity has not being established.
Residential neighbourhood of Colorado Springs.
Residential neighbourhood of Colorado Springs.
The TAG, wednesday night service for teenagers, at the New Life Church of Colorado Springs. A ” cool hangout ” luncheon follows the preachings.
THE MILL, Friday night service of the New Life Church of Colorado Springs, for the twenty-somethings. Nate, 21, member of the church for four years now. Has already gone on evangelistic missions to Mexico and on the West Coast.
Meeting of the New Life Church of Colorado Springs staff on Wednesday mornings.These meetings are held like a classic sermon ( prayers, singing and bible texts support…).
Meeting of the New Life Church of Colorado Springs staff on Wednesday mornings. These meetings are held like a classic sermon ( prayers, singing and bible support…). Here, a young girl who came for a summer camp, organized by the church.
Portrait of pastor Ted Haggard in the World Prayer Center, premises of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs. Prayer journeys for international as well as local causes are carried out day and night.
At the TAG, wednesday night service for teens, at the New Life Church of Colorado Springs.
At the World Prayer Center, premises of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs. Prayer journeys for international as well as local causes are carried out day and night.
The MILL, friday night service for twenty-somethings, at the New Life Church of Colorado Springs.
Sunday morning service at the New Life Church of Colorado Springs. The parking lot is as big as a supermarket’s.
A pro-life and anti-gay Christian activist, during Gay Pride “Pride Fest” in Colorado Springs.
A pro-life and anti-gay Christian activist, during Gay Pride “Pride Fest” in Colorado Springs.
The editorial staff of the monthly Toilet Paper, left-wing provocative and anti-clerical magazine, published in Colorado Springs.
During a stage setting, set up by the editorial staff of the monthly Toilet Paper, a provocative left-wing and anti-clerical magazine, published in Colorado Springs. This subversive scene starts the column Church Whipper series.

Sexually Pure

This reportage was supported by Elle France magazine, which produced it in 2006.
Purity Balls are an initiative of the Clearinghouse Abstinence Organisation in South Dakota, and represent one of the concrete examples of sexual abstinence among American youth. The balls are exclusively reserved for young girls escorted by their fathers.
During the ceremony, the father commits to being the protector and guardian of his daughter’s virginity, with the Christian community, his daughter and God as his witness. His daughter makes her own commitment - that of staying pure until God puts on her path the husband he has chosen for her. Everything is organised to make the young girls believe that marriage is the most beautiful dream that could ever come true. As a result, the good old fairytale hero, prince charming, sneaks his way into their unconscious. The young girls usually wear a purity ring to remind them of their commitment when faced with the inevitable temptations to come.
Aside from this ceremony, the religious message of the abstinence advocates is hidden behind the smokescreen of public health campaigns warning about the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases. This facade is mandatory in order for them to intervene on college campuses and schools, and to collect federal funding - in the U.S., one must respect the separation of church and state.
Their meetings and conferences are based upon the manichean stigmatisation of relationships out of wedlock… If you listened to them you would think that all relationships outside of marriage are doomed to be unhappy and destructive, and that emotional suffering and sadness is the only outcome. True love simply cannot exist without being married.
The promotion of sexual abstinence before marriage is one of the many wars waged by the ultraconservative religious right. Since they believe that traditional American family values are in danger, they are often the same people that want to ban abortion, the birth control pill, and who reject homosexuality.
Controlling the sexual activity of young people, and young girls in particular, results in having control over a woman’s freedom, and therefore her position in society. At home, voluntarily admitting their inferiority to men, women become safe-keepers of the return of family values.
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Humbracht family’s home, residential area of Spearfish, South Dakota.
Liza, 13, and Kelsey, 14, getting ready for the annual Spearfish’s Purity Ball, South Dakota.
In one of the Merkle daughter’s room, handwritten psalms. Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Kelsey, 14, getting ready for the annual Spearfish’s Purity Ball, South Dakota.
The Merkle family is getting ready for the annual Purity Ball in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Sarah, 12 years old. The Merkle family is getting ready for the annual Purity Ball in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
South Dakota roadside.
At the annual Purity Ball in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
At the annual Purity Ball in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Mackenzi, 12, and her father.
At the annual Purity Ball in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
At the annual Purity Ball in Spearfish, South Dakota.
Purity Covering and Covenant. I, …….. , choose before God to cover …….. her authority and protection in the area of purity. I will be pure in my own life as a man and leader. I will be a man of integrity and accountability as I lead, guide, and pray over her. This covering will be used by God to influence generations to come.
At the annual Purity Ball in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The pledges and covenants time has come. Promises both sides to stay a virgin and to be the protector of that virginity. My Pledge : With confidence in His Power to strengthen me, I make a promise this day to God, my family, myself, my future husband, and my future children; to remain sexually pure until the day I give myself as a wedding gift to my husband. I know that God requires this of me, that He loves me, and that He will reward me for my faithfulness, in this life, and in the next.
At the annual Purity Ball in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The pledges and covenants time has come. Promises both sides to stay a virgin and to be the protector of that virginity. My Pledge : With confidence in His Power to strengthen me, I make a promise this day to God, my family, myself, my future husband, and my future children; to remain sexually pure until the day I give myself as a wedding gift to my husband. I know that God requires this of me, that He loves me, and that He will reward me for my faithfulness, in this life, and in the next.
Rachel, 14, and her father, Spearfish Purity Ball, South Dakota.
At the annual Purity Ball in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. A father buying a Purity ring for her daughter, to remind her to her pledge when faced with the inevitable temptations to come.
At a Silver Ring Thing evening in Charleston, West Virginia. Young girl showing her purity ring as a pledge to keeping abstinent, marked with Thessalonians 4:3,4 verses – For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality – That each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor. The Silver Ring Thing is a teen abstinence program based on high-tech presentation style incorporating music, laser lights, fast-paced video, drama & comedy performances. Teens attending just love it, because it’s fun and without taboos in the speeches. Consequently, they become very open to the message.
Father and his daughter Sarah, 13, listening the sermon and some testimonies at the Spearfish Purity Ball, South Dakota.
At the annual Purity Ball in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Angela, 14, with a sticker I’m Worth Waiting For.
Fathers invite their daughters for a dance at the end, Spearfish Purity Ball, South Dakota.
Brittney, 14, at the Rapid City’s Purity Ball, South Dakota. White rose symbolizes her virginity.
At the annual Purity Ball in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. All the girls have put their white rose, symbol of their virginity, at the foot of the Cross.
At the annual Purity Ball in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Fathers and daughters will get a photograph back home.
Leslee Unruh, founder and president of Abstinence Clearinghouse organization, South Dakota. She’s supposed to be the one who launched the Purity Balls concept.
Taya, 17, became receptive to sexual abstinence until marriage through the ” Truth 4 Youth ” program, designed for teens and created by Abstinence Clearinghouse organization in South Dakota.
The Love and Abstinence store on the premises of Abstinence Clearinghouse organization, South Dakota.
The Love and Abstinence store on the premises of Abstinence Clearinghouse organization, South Dakota.
Heidi, 15, became receptive to sexual abstinence until marriage through the ” Truth 4 Youth ” program, designed for teens and created by Abstinence Clearinghouse organization in South Dakota.
Bekah, 17, became receptive to sexual abstinence until marriage through the ” Truth 4 Youth ” program, designed for teens and created by Abstinence Clearinghouse organization in South Dakota.
Alan, 18, became receptive to sexual abstinence until marriage through the ” Truth 4 Youth ” program, designed for teens and created by Abstinence Clearinghouse organization in South Dakota.
A Purity ring, to remind these young people of their commitment when faced with the inevitable temptations to come.

Embassy of God

Founded by the Nigerian pastor Sunday Adelaja in Kiev in 1993, the Embassy of God has become the biggest megachurch in Europe, with almost 25,000 members in Kiev alone. Present in 32 countries, with 425 churches, the goal of the church-goers here is to attain a thousand churches in 2007. The pastor Sunday doesn’t hide his desire to evangelize muslim countries, or his political ambitions.
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L’Ambassade de Dieu

Sunday afternoon service at the main church. A man who claims to have been touched by the Holy Spirit, after having been treated by a woman who they say has received from God the gift of healing and soothing.

L’Ambassade de Dieu

Friday evening prayer night at the main church.

L’Ambassade de Dieu

Serguei, 29 years old, pastor. I looked for God in all directions, even in Krishna, and I ended up depressed, on the verge of suicide. I finally came back to Christ, and only Him. I was born in Bielorussia, where I directed a charismatic church of 100 people since 1996. I met pastor Sunday in 2003, he invited me to Kiev where I’ve been living for the last year. I’ve believed in God since 1994 but it was in 1999 that my life as a christian really changed. I had a very serious encounter with God. Before I was a lowly servant of God, rather empty actually. That summer of 1999, God made me understand that church could never replace Him, that I needed to spend more time with Him on a daily basis. I started by spending two hours in prayer. Today my daily encounters with Him last up to five hours, and even sometimes 24 hours. I’ve become a completely different man. We shouldn’t look for his benediction, or what He can do for us, but simply look for Him, and get to know Him. Sooner or later, if there is not a real relationship with God, one will go back to their old ways, or fall into religion ! And I don’t know which one is worse. Loving God doesn’t consist of repeating the Lord’s Prayer or the Psalms, what He wants is a real dialogue with us. In 2000, God asked me to travel and share my experiences. I wrote a book. Russia, India, Spain, Kazakhstan… even the Orthodox, Catholics and Baptists invite me to speak at seminars. Many people have changed thanks to my book. My ministry today is about travel, and to as many countries as possible, especially to the USA because it’s a strategical country. My message speaks exclusively of this personal relationship with God.

L’Ambassade de Dieu

Friday evening prayer night at the main church.

L’Ambassade de Dieu

Irina, 19 years old, language and foreign literature student. I’ve always believed in God. Since I was six, my mother brought my two sisters and I to the Transformation Baptist church. When I was 16, I prayed to God that he bring me to a higher spiritual level, and my mother, youngest sister and I found ourselves here. I’ve been with the Embassy of God for three years. God has always been very present in my life, and I’ve always had the conviction that I would serve Him my whole life. Today I don’t yet know where He will lead me, but in the meantime I’m learning as much as possible. I feel like I might go evangelize in France, where I’ve been going on vacation for 10 years. One day I’ll form a group and that trip will be different. I have many friends in France, one of whom is the mayor of a small town. Since I was 13, I’ve decided to stay sexually abstinent and pure, and not even to date. It’s not a struggle for me because God has given me the Grace.

L’Ambassade de Dieu

Friday evening prayer night at the main church.

L’Ambassade de Dieu

Friday evening prayer night at the main church.

L’Ambassade de Dieu

Alexander, 40 years old, pastor. I’ve been a member of the Embassy of God since 1995, and pastor in the city of Odessa for three years in a church of 300 members. I’m a former drug addict, and shot up for 11 years. The church tore me away from all of that. I wasn’t religious. I had just barely freed myself from drugs when God made me understand that I would become a pastor. I couldn’t believe it, but with time God makes you able. Today God has started to make me see images from Paris and France, as he did before with Odessa. At first, I refused the idea, knowing the secular policy of France and the quantity of muslims over there. I don’t have any particular tie with the country, but everything around me is making it more and more clear that my next mission will be in France. And now I’ve fallen in love with the country. My church won’t be created for the russian community in France, but for the French people. I want to be well prepared, so I’m planning on going and implanting the Embassy of God there within four to seven years. Right now I’m looking for a French teacher.

L’Ambassade de Dieu

Sunday morning service at the main church.

L’Ambassade de Dieu

Julia, 18 years old. My mother has been coming here for four years, and myself for two. She’s the one who introduced me to the church, but it has become my own choice to come. My father goes to another church, which is charismatic as well. I work in AIDS prevention. Pastor Sunday often talks to us about the potentially dramatic consequences of fornication. The ring I wear (vow of sexual abstinence) helps me resist temptation, and reminds me that until marriage, God is my spouse.

L’Ambassade de Dieu

Friday evening prayer night at the main church.

L’Ambassade de Dieu

Jelena, 21 years old, linguistics student. A friend of my best friend needed English lessons for her daughter. The first time I went, an apartment bible meeting was taking place. There was a moment when I felt something extremely strong. I felt the Holy Spirit and I started crying, without knowing why, and that brought me to repent. I was with the Embassy of God in Jitomir, where my parents live, for 14 years, and have been with the church here in Kiev for 4 years. My parents aren’t religious, but they don’t disapprove of my choice. My mother thinks that in any case this is better than hanging out with bad influences, or taking alcohol or drugs, even though she thinks I’m a fanatic because I speak to her openly about my life as a christian. I’m sexually abstinent of course, that’s a very strict subject in our church. Today I’m in my seventh day of fasting for my older sister who came to the church after me, because I can feel that she’s slipping away, and sense that she might leave God. I’m fasting so that God touches her heart and keeps her from leaving.

L’Ambassade de Dieu

Friday evening prayer night at the main church.

L’Ambassade de Dieu

Friday evening prayer night at the main church.

L’Ambassade de Dieu

Ludmilla, 24 years old, stylist. I’ve been with the Embassy of God for five years, and am the leader of three groups. I have a home bible discussion group, a musician’s group that glorifies God through music, and a group at the Image School that glorifies God through style. We teach students there to work on their image, make-up and attitude. It’s about breaking the old-fashioned image people have of religious christians, but also about developing one’s personality. With my own image, I want people to see Christ differently. All talents are useful in God’s Kingdom.

L’Ambassade de Dieu

Sofia Jukantaskaia, one of the head directors of the Embassy of God, during the Friday evening prayer night at the main church. Founded by the Nigerian pastor Sunday Adelaja in Kiev in 1993, the Embassy of God has become the biggest megachurch in Europe, with almost 25,000 members in Kiev alone. Present in 32 countries, with 425 churches, the goal of the church-goers here is to attain a thousand churches in 2007. The pastor Sunday doesn’t hide his desire to evangelize muslim countries, or his political ambitions.

L’Ambassade de Dieu

Sofia Jukantaskaia, one of the head directors of the Embassy of God. I’ve been here since 1997. At the church, I was pastor Sunday’s right arm for a long time, and I also directed several ministries, was head pastor at the main church, directed our Bible Institute as associate professor, and was director of the Spiritual Academy. Today I am at the head of the Ukrainian organization of christian women, and president of our Personality Reconstruction and Society Formation center. My role is partially inter-church so as to unite the body of Christ. And political. We submit law proposals and social projects to Parliament. We were very active during these last presidential elections with conferences and meetings, and pushed our followers to vote. Undoubtedly 50,000 people. We prayed heavily for Iouchtchenko, with 1000 to 2000 people regularly performing evening prayers. We gathered 10,000 to 15,000 people at the Independence Square the evening. I can see why politicians are at an impasse, because they act with their strength as mere humans and reject the strength and wisdom one has when we lean on God. The christian philosophy of life should be the base of people responsible for others, they are stable principles about the construction of the world. Power that is in God’s hands is in good hands. Unfortunately, today Europe only brings us bad examples, and the West is just as harmful. Ukraine has always been a moral country of family values, and all of that is lost. It’s the influence of the West.

L’Ambassade de Dieu

Embassy of God, Kiev, Ukraine. Sunday afternoon service at the main church during pastor Sunday Adelaja’s preaching. Adelaja is the founder of the church.

L’Ambassade de Dieu

Sacha, 26 years old. I work full-time for the church, aside from a small furniture transportation and export business I do on the side. My parents work at the transportation ministry. It’s been a year now since I heard God’s call. He freed me of my alcohol and cigarette addiction. This fall I started the Personality Reconstruction and Society Formation Center, led by the pastor Sofia Jukantaskaia. The goal of the center is to change society and people’s mentalities. It’s a public organization founded on the bible. I chose to study Politics and Law there, how to establish relationships between the church and politicians, and how to go all the way to the Parliament. I’m a member of Ioulia Timochenko’s party, where we’ve created a spiritual and religious section. That also exists with Iouchtchenko. Leonid Tchernovetsky (Parliament Deputy) is a member of our church. We’re developping all of that as much as possible. We’re also going to create a club in January where we can invite politicians and talk about all sorts of issues.

L’Ambassade de Dieu

Embassy of God, Kiev, Ukraine. Sunday afternoon service at the main church. Worshippers take notes during pastor Sunday Adelaja’s preaching.

L’Ambassade de Dieu

Anatoliy Bilonozhko, 50, Bishop of Embassy of God Churches, President of the Evangelical Christian Center of Ukrainian Good News Churches. I supervise all the Embassy of God churches, 425 throughout the world. Most of them are in the Ukraine and in Belarus, there are 11 in the U.S.A., a few in Germany, India, Central Asia… In 2007 we will reach the mark of 1000 churches world-wide. It’s my ministry, my goal, to evangelize all nations. I have to find missionaries, prepare them, send them out and support them. We want influential churches that make things happen and provoke change. We also have projects in muslim countries, that was one of the objectives set by the pastor Sunday. We must find the key that will allow the hearts of muslims to accept Jesus. There can’t be two Gods, and two truths. Just as it’s impossible for you to be 5’7″ tall and 6′ tall at the same time ! In appearance there are several paths, but only one of them is the right one. Buddhists look for God, muslims look for God, but Jesus is the only path, he said so himself (John 14 :6).

L’Ambassade de Dieu

Group meeting of the church’s ministry of healing. Certain christians have supposedly received the gift of the Holy Spirit that allows them to miraculously heal many types of pain and sickness.

L’Ambassade de Dieu

Group meeting of the church’s ministry of healing. Certain christians have supposedly received the gift of the Holy Spirit that allows them to miraculously heal many types of pain and sickness.

L’Ambassade de Dieu

Elena, 51 years old, pastor at the ministry of healing. I have the gift of healing those around me ; God uses me to heal. I’ve been at the Embassy of God for five years, and a pastor for three. I was in the spare parts business for automobiles for 12 years, until 2000. The business was a disaster, with dishonest partners, etc. I owed $150,000. I felt like nobody could help me except for God. He ended up offering me a way out. Today we have created an international university of healing. I’m an associate professor at the institute. At the end of the program, the christians who have completed the course with us can use their gift anywhere, even in hospitals if they wish. The Holy Spirit and prayer are the best remedies that exist.

L’Ambassade de Dieu

Group meeting of the church’s ministry of healing. Certain christians have supposedly received the gift of the Holy Spirit that allows them to miraculously heal many types of pain and sickness.

L’Ambassade de Dieu

A group of teenagers of the Embassy of God gets together to read and study the Bible. The organization is typical for an evangelical assembly : pyramidal structure, grouping by affinities and interests out of the Sunday cult. This is how the permanent contact with the biblical principles on everyone’s lives is maintained and fed.

L’Ambassade de Dieu

Olia, 16. Seven years in the church. A group of teenagers of the Embassy of God gets together to read and study the Bible. The organization is typical for an evangelical assembly : pyramidal structure, grouping by affinities and interests out of the Sunday cult. This is how the permanent contact with the biblical principles on everyone’s lives is maintained and fed.

L’Ambassade de Dieu

Igor, 17. Six months in the church. A group of teenagers of the Embassy of God gets together to read and study the Bible. The organization is typical for an evangelical assembly : pyramidal structure, grouping by affinities and interests out of the Sunday cult. This is how the permanent contact with the biblical principles on everyone’s lives is maintained and fed.

L’Ambassade de Dieu

Nikita, 17. One year in the church. A group of teenagers of the Embassy of God gets together to read and study the Bible. The organization is typical for an evangelical assembly : pyramidal structure, grouping by affinities and interests out of the Sunday cult. This is how the permanent contact with the biblical principles on everyone’s lives is maintained and fed.

L’Ambassade de Dieu

Blessing of the food. A group of teenagers of the Embassy of God gets together to read and study the Bible. The organization is typical for an evangelical assembly : pyramidal structure, grouping by affinities and interests out of the Sunday cult. This is how the permanent contact with the biblical principles on everyone’s lives is maintained and fed.

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