The Cuban Call
God is at work in Cuba, where life is difficult for everyone, including Christians, who must use their energies just to survive. Repressive centralized socialist planning, a U.S. trade embargo, and the collapse of Cuba’s Communist block trade and aid after 1989 have impoverished an already poor country. Rationing, hunger, and lack of many essentials are deeply affecting the country. It is difficult for people to have the basic necessities of life such as food, transportation, and clothing. Their restricted lifestyle is stressful beyond words, and believers need to know and utilize the provisions God has for them: the Word of God, the Holy Spirit, and prayer. They need to understand their role in witnessing as faithful stewards. The message of the Lord Jesus Christ is sounding forth in over 4,500 churches, in addition to 10,000 house groups. A high percentage of believers are young people, ready to use their lives for His service. In spite of the rapid growth, 80% of the people are in no church. The fields are white to harvest.
The Macedonian Call. A significant turning point in the spread of the gospel is recorded in Acts 16:6-19. The paragraph heading in my study Bible is simply “The Macedonian Call.” Paul, Silas, and Timothy had set out on the second missionary journey, intending to travel to Asia. As they traveled along, they visited churches established on the first missionary journey with good results: “So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and strengthened in number daily” (Acts 16:5). Amazingly, the intended direction for Paul and his entourage was changed when the Holy Spirit forbade them to preach the Word in Asia (v 6). In a vision one night, Paul saw a man from Macedonia, Europe, standing and pleading, “Come over to Macedonia and help us” (v 9). Because Paul answered The Macedonian Call, the Gospel moved into Europe, and consequently to America.
The Cuban Call. My first overseas ministry came in 1960 when I traveled to Placetas, Santa Clara Province, Cuba, to preach the Gospel. I was twenty-four years old. Around seventy people were saved during an evangelistic crusade at First Baptist Church. Shortly thereafter, Cuba was closed to such endeavors. Christians underwent intense, unbelievable persecution with churches closed and pastors arrested. As the years passed, the church continued to thrive. Once the nation was opened again, Sue and I answered The Cuban Call in 2000 (April 13-28)—forty years after my initial ministry, but this time to teach—sharing the prayer seminar. The response to the prayer seminars has been exciting beyond words as illustrated by the two testimonies shared on the back side. Many have been sharing prayer seminars with other believers. We returned for prayer seminars in 2003 (Feb 28-March 17), and 2004. (Jan 17-28) Several thousand from many evangelical groups—Baptists, Church of God, Friends (Quakers) Methodists, and Salvation Army— have participated in the prayer seminars in five provinces in eastern Cuba.
Although there have been invitations to return to Cuba, the Holy Spirit led us to schedule 2010—the fifty-year anniversary of my first overseas ministry. Seminars are scheduled in Havana. Then we will minister in Placetas, Santa Clara province, the site of the 1960 ministry. The itinerary has been completed for the September 15—October 1 ministry. Eight seminars have been scheduled in Havana. We will spend three days in Santa Clara Province. Since wages/salaries are extremely low (a medical doctor receives $30 a month), we plan to provide a hearty meal (rice, beans, chicken and a drink) for each participant) providing funds to each church to prepare and serve the meal. We will provide a Spanish prayer seminar workbook for each person. The budget is $6,360 and includes travel (international and domestic) for interpreter Adam Nathanson (who will be coming from Caracas, Venezuela) and me, lodging/food, and workbooks. DURING THE TRIP, I WILL CELEBRATE MY 75th BIRTHDAY ON THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 30 (as I have done several times in South Africa) conducting Prayer Seminar #1,450, the Lord willing.
Over the years, we have found that when one hundred partners join with us, we have the needed funds. Once again, we are trusting God and sharing the need, depending on the Holy Spirit to touch hearts to give. We know the need in Cuba and the readiness of believers to receive our ministry. Thank you for making the prayer seminars possible in so many nations.
Testimonies from Cuba
“This seminar has been a blessing and it has impacted the believers greatly. During the seminar, the Body of Christ didn’t want to drink water or get up so that they wouldn’t miss one word. What they have learned will motivate them to pray and seek God in ways that they now understand perfectly. I hope you will return to Cuba many times to teach the prayer seminar.”
“Today, I am very happy because I’ve been able to learn things that I did not know before about the Christian life. Although I am sad that I have wasted so much time, even in what I thought was prayer, I separated myself to pray and would ask myself many times why my prayers were not answered. I have a Bible study with my neighbor at 9 a.m. and other friends. Now I understand what is required to be on praying ground and to have the Word of God become alive in me. Oh, God, how happy I am to know now what You want and require. I am a retired teacher of 39 years. I will share what I have learned with others. I know that I can talk about God’s way to everyone and all the time, now that I understand clearly. I will teach what you have taught. I give thanks to God for what I have learned to help my own spiritual life to grow. I am thankful for the workbook and will use it in my teaching. I will “war” through prayer for our church, our nation, and the world—those near and far.”
Cuba is only about ninety miles from Key West, Florida. Although it is a rather small island in the Caribbean, its irregular coasts run 3,590 miles and there are 288 beaches, most with splendid, virgin white sands surrounded by warm waters and endless sunshine. There is generally a breeze blowing and the mean temperature is 75 degrees. The island is slightly smaller than Pennsylvania. The official language is Spanish. The literacy rate is 96%; workbooks are greatly appreciated. The population is 11,423,952.
One of the few remaining communist nations, the government is the employer and provides for the people through socialized medicine, food ration coupons, among other things. Most educated persons earn less than $300 U. S. equivalent per year. What is provided is not adequate to meet the needs of the people. For example, the monthly food provision is only sufficient for about three weeks. Most everything is as it was in the late 1950’s when Castro took office—even vehicles and buildings.
When I was in Placetas in 1960, I was impressed with the beauty of the well maintained houses—painted in beautiful pastel colors. Now walls are cracked and paint has pealed away almost universally.
A LITTLE HISTORY
Christopher Columbus discovered the island in 1492 and it was developed as a Spanish colony. Havana became an important port for departing ships to Spain filled with treasures from Central America. Diseases from the settlers and sailors decimated the native population. In the early 1900’s large numbers of Africa slaves were imported to work in the coffee and sugarcane fields. Spanish rule became more and more repressive and US intervention during the Spanish-American War in 1898 overthrew the Spanish. After Cuba was freed from Spanish rule, a treaty made Cuba an independent republic under U. S. protection. Cuban independence was granted in 1902. Although U. S. occupation ended that year, it had brought large American investments. A group of army soldiers overthrew the Cuban president and in 1940 Baptista began running a corrupt police state.
Fidel Castro launched a revolution in 1956 and received as liberator. In 1959, Castro took over the government forming a communist state. Religious persecution began.The U. S. broke relations with Cuba in 1961. Castro strengthened his ties to the Soviet Union. Cuba experienced a severe economic recession in 1990 following the withdrawal of Soviet subsidies. The U. S. has had embargos against Cuba since 1961.
Before Castro took power, 88% of the population was considered Roman Catholic. Today, the government controls many aspects of the churches, including church size and number of churches permitted. Most important of all is that today the people are open to the Gospel. Believers are eager to grow in Christ and to share Him with their countrymen.