Tuesday, February 17, 2015

IMPRESSIONS OF CUBA - PART 3

(Please scroll down and read parts 1 and 2 if you have not already done so)

From my journal
9:30 AM – Our small group boards the bus that will take us to the town of Cespedes, where the graduation is to take place.  But first we will drive a little beyond to another town called Camagüey. There we will check into a hotel and which will serve as center of living for the next few days. The drive will be seven or eight hours, traveling east of Havana.

I enjoyed the drive over the countryside of the island. Cane sugar has long been the major crop in Cuba, and I think that it still plays a major role of agriculture, but I see other crops being grown as well. I expected to see a lot of tobacco for the famous Cuban cigars, but the people tell

I did not get a photo of animals pulling a plow,

but here is the taxi that we hired in one town
me that most of this is grown in the far western end of the island. There is also some machinery for the field work, but I mostly saw a lot of animal draught power.

8:00 PM – The graduation at Cespedes.

I am little surprised how large the church is in Cespedes. It is not huge, like a mega church, but I am sure it could seat three or four hundred people. They tell me that this is a little unusual, as most of the church buildings in Cuba are very small, house-type churches.

The people in the church are very happy and animated.  This is to be the first class of the training program to graduate in Cuba.  It is a big event.  They have purchased cloth and one of the ladies of the church has sewed a graduation gown for each graduate.  They even made traditional “mortar board” caps, complete with tassels made from yarn.

I am also excited for them.  This night is to be the culmination of three years of studying.  These are men and women all have families, work, and ministries in the church. In addition to all of these responsibilities, they have also had to carve out several hundreds of hours over these years to meet together for class.

The graduation ceremony is very nice and quite long (as all services tend to be in Latin America) with much singing and a couple of choreographed dances.  The graduation message I had been asked to bring went fine, even though I had jumped back into Spanish only a few hours before.  I had written it out, so I could rely on the script to help me through.

The situation reminded me of another time that I gave a
commencement address, this one in Honduras. The difference was that the one there had been much more difficult to prepare and to deliver. I arrived in Honduras the day before the graduation was to take place. That evening, as I was getting to know some of the students, one of them asked me, “Are you giving the graduation address?”

“No, I am just here as a representative,” I answered. No one had mentioned to me anything about giving any kind of speech or commencement address.

The next morning, the same student found me. “I guess you have not been told, but you are the speaker,” he informed me.

I checked it out, and found out that he was correct. The ceremony was in about four hours, so I headed for a quiet place and wrote out a message. God helped me, and I think that it went well. People seemed to be listening, and I later got several comments to that effect.

But for this message in Cespedes, I had prepared long and had gone through it many times. I basically knew it from memory.

It seems to be a very strategic time for the church in Cuba.  The church is experiencing an explosion in growth.  We were told the story of one church of 500 people who one day had a service where 500 visitors also came.  The building only held 500, so the members stood outside to make room for all of the visitors.  At the conclusion of the service, 340 of these stayed to give their lives over to Christ.

The establishment of churches is very restricted by the communist government in Cuba.  These restrictions, I think, are less than in previous years, and at the end of it all, I am not at all sure if they are very detrimental to the church.  A government may restrict buildings, but it cannot restrict hearts of faith.

What has occurred is much the same as we hear of in China.  The flood of new believers with no places to meet has led to a sudden and rapid growth in home churches.  “How many?”  I asked a few people.  “I don’t know - thousands,” was the only response I received.

I also asked why Cuba is now beginning to experience such a rapid growth in Christianity.  Was it because the relative security provided by the once great Soviet Union is now gone?  Was it because the atheistic teachings of communism are not stressed so forcefully as they once were?  These were reasons that I thought seemed logical.  Their answer was better:  “The Holy Spirit is working in Cuba,” they told me.

Such phenomenal growth in the church here and the existence of so many home churches (they call them “houses of praise”) points out to me the importance of an uncomplicated and available system of pastoral and leadership training.  The training group that I work with presently has about 600 students in Cuba, mostly being carried out through a partnership that we have with the mission that I traveled here with.  Men and women are being trained to remain true to the teachings of Jesus and to carry out their ministries.  

And of course, the Holy Spirit is working in Cuba.

No comments:

Post a Comment