Story by Samantha Young
A group of 18 pastors and lay members recently conducted evangelistic meetings in Cuba. They held meetings in 11 churches in Pinar del Río, an area with extreme poverty, food scarcity and a typical monthly salary equivalent to about $25.
“Our pastors are enthusiastic about their meetings and the congregations were very receptive,” says Rick Remmers, conference president.
According to Gary Gibbs, conference evangelism director, church members and about 1,100 adults and 440 children from the local neighborhoods attended the nightly meetings.
The conference sponsored a Bible worker for each church four months prior to the meetings to help them prepare for the initiative. Local church members funded the meetings with donations and gave regular attendees a quality Bible. “A Bible cost about 20 percent of an average income,” says Gibbs, “so you can imagine their joy in getting one.”
More than 706 people decided to join the church during the 10-day campaign. Seventy-five were baptized during the meetings and the others began Bible studies with pastors, church members and Bible workers.
César González (pictured above with Denaida Fort Defaus), pastor at the Cambridge and Beacon of Light churches on Maryland’s eastern shore, says his Cuban friends in West Palm Beach, Fla., asked him to look up Cenaida Fort Defaus, a relative living in Cuba. Upon arrival in his assigned church in a Cuban city with more than 100,000 residents, he inquired if the pastor knew Defaus. To González’s surprise, the pastor said that in the 1980s Defaus and her relatives started the church where he was preaching, and that she still lived there. Building churches has not been not permitted in Cuba, but meeting in an existing building or a house is allowed. The congregation meets in Defaus’ home and she has continued to add on to the structure to accommodate the growing congregation. Her relatives all moved to Florida years ago, but Defaus, now elderly and widowed, chooses to remain alone in Cuba, fearing if she leaves her home the government will take it and her church family will no longer have a meeting place.
“Our mission trip left a huge impact on the island,” says trip coordinator Ricardo Cala, Jr., pastor for the Federalsburg/Harrington/Sussex Central district in Delaware. “So great was our impact that a report on the government’s television channel thanks the whole team for coming to Cuba, helping out the churches and the communities, and giving out Bibles and materials. This kind of report from the communist-run media is unheard of…. The Lord is working and opening doors for our church [there].”