FROM R.K.’s CORNER
There is a fire of revival in Cuba! Some compare the growth of new believers to that of the house church movement in China! In 1994, when Steve and I began serving the indigenous Pastors in Cuba, there were approx. 400 home fellowships on the island. Some estimate that today, there are in excess of 16,000 house churches!
Steve and my relationship with Christian believers in Cuba began in 1994. The Spanish Pastor of our local church in Fort Lauderdale, Ed Negron, had begun traveling with suitcases full of relief aid which was given to the local pastors for distribution among the starving population in the country. At the time, Steve and I were leading the Missions Department at our church, thus helped accommodate his ministry. A couple of years later, Dru Anderson,joined our church, and began helping Pastor Ed in his outreach to Cuba. She not only traveled numerous times with the teams as a “mule”, but spent longer periods of time in Cuba and came to know many of the local pastors and believers in the country.
In spite of the economic embargo between the United States and Cuba, our church obtained a license from the State Department in Washington, permitting us to bring in needed supplies, to travel within Cuba outside the restricted areas for tourists, and to bring visiting Cuban Pastors to the States . In 1997, when Pastor Ed’s health prevented him from continuing, and the church ceased the Cuban outreach, The Bridge undertook that responsibility. Dru became our “Ambassador” to Cuba, and continued traveling to Cuba under The Bridge’s auspices. Several Cuban pastors were permitted to visit the States, and Steve and I came to know many of them, which brought us much mutual joy!
One of those pastors was Jorge Urra. It became obvious to us that he had the apostolic gift for his people, with a vision and burden to reach all of Cuba for Christ, and work in unison with all Christian churches on the island, regardless of denominational affiliation. He became a frequent visitor to our home. A beautiful, twenty year friendship and partnership ensued between Jorge and Steve. Jorge brought from the Cuban pastors the list of the specific needs, and Steve used his entrepreneurial skills and personal finances in partnership with our Bridge donors, to meet those needs. It translated into monthly support of 100 pastors for three years; mules, bikes, wellingtons, and lanterns for rural evangelists; restoration of houses for the use of home churches; a tractor, a fish farm, a pig farm, a wood working business; funds toward distribution of Bibles, and establishment of 100 small micro businesses—the list goes on. We are privileged to serve the Cuban people through Jorge Urra, a man of faith and integrity whom we fully trust!
APRIL 2016 TRIP REPORT FROM CUBA – by JORGE URRA
2015 was a challenging year, as we saw an enormous increase of thousands of Cuban athletes, children and young people surrendering their lives to Jesus Christ and receiving Him as their hope for the future. They truly are a living testimony of Psalm 121, as they lift their eyes to heaven, well above their trials and tribulations with songs of hope, while looking to the grace and mercy of God! “I lift up my eyes to the mountains– where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip, He who watches over you will not slumber…” (Ps. 121:1-3)
THE SPORTS MINISTRY
The top Cuban professional baseball player and his team have come to faith in Christ. The leader of the Sports Ministry reported that in 2014, a total of 15,000 decisions for Christ were made in baseball and soccer stadiums throughout the country. Cuban professional baseball players, the big stars, respectfully remove their caps in the stadium when the leader of the Sports Ministry publicly offer a prayer to the Lord before the they begin playing the game. Christian literature is made available to those who attend the game.
More than 20 pastors have opened new house churches, using a powerful evangelistic tool — they first reach the children and through them, they reach their parents, as well.
VISITING PASTORS AND CHURCHES
I visited a Pastor in the central part of the country. He told me that the number of new believers grew so fast in the last six months of 2015 in the central and eastern part of the country that it is difficult to accommodate them all. They have opened more than 25 new churches, and the need for more keeps growing! In order to reach those living in inaccessible areas, they are rebuilding roads, and establishing new churches and village parks. They are using new strategies in order to expand the Gospel and also to each the people who have gone astray.
Hector Palacios is a young pastor from Matanzas, Cuba who works with young people. He told me that he preached at a camp in Villa Clara to 500 young people who had attended this camp for two years in a row. Through the blood of Jesus Christ, God has conquered their hearts and made them brand new in Christ! Hector continues in his quest to win young people for Christ. He disciples and teaches a young couple from his church who moved 200 kilometers west of his church.
Through this couple, Hector Palacios has planted a new church in the town of Hatillo. When I gave him a financial gift, he told me “We pastors have so little to work with, yet we share what we have. When we receive extra resources, it encourages us so much—it makes us bring a fresh breath of life to those in need.” In the midst of their poverty, they experience the reality of Psalm 37:25, “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken nor their children begging bread.”
I met with an army of young pastors with a passion for the Lord. I fed them with the Word of God and encouraged them to take to the streets with guitars and impact people, and pray for the sick— Christ is our medicine. Often they have no food, but Christ is the bread of life.
Someone once told me that the time in life to give one’s best to God is at the age of thirty. This is the average age in the group of the young missionaries who are winning Cuba for Christ!
They are saturating the country with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and planting churches, especially in the mountainous areas where others do not go. They conduct Leadership Training seminars and prepare new missionaries to go out and together win Cuba for Christ.
A FEW FACTS ABOUT CUBA
Cuba is a long, narrow island. It stretches 750 miles from the East to the West, which is located only 90 miles from the continental United States. It is 120 miles at its widest part and only 20 miles at its narrowest portion. The landscape is predominately flat and fertile, but in different parts of the country, relatively high mountains run across the island. The highest peak stands 6,000 feet above sea level. Cuba has a moderate subtropical climate with mostly warm temperatures. The dry season spans from November to April, and the rain season lasts from May till October. The official language is Spanish. The population is 11.2 million, of which 75% live in urban areas. The capital is Havana (or “Habana”).
In spite of Cuba’s close proximity (only 90 miles) to South Florida where the median annual income is $50,000.00, most Cubans are paid a meager $240.00 a year ($20.00 per month). A professional earns approx. $50.00 per month—$600.00 per year. Yet—the Cuban people are known to be extraordinarily resourceful and generous with the little they have. “We want to share with others what we have, not we what have left over!”