Sunday morning, as I mentioned, the churches in Matanzas had a combined service. They rented several minibuses and vans to bring in some of the people from the mission churches. The church meets under a tin roof in what would be the yard of a house; there’s no way you could get 600 people in there. It was packed with the 400 or so that were there.
They asked Steve Ridgell and I each to speak. Tony Fernandez also asked one of us to be prepared for some baptisms; the mission churches can’t get enough water together to baptize, so they use the baptistry at the church in Matanzas. I argued from 1 Corinthians 1 that a local person should do the baptizing, but Tony insisted that that was not their tradition. We gave in… this time. Steve spoke on Bartimeus; I talked about Jesus healing the paralytic that was lowered from the roof.
One touching moment was when a woman in a wheelchair was among the 9 that came forward. I had been a bit uncomfortable talking about paralytics with her in the audience; it really touched my heart when she came forward.
I had to carry her into the baptistry as she only had one leg. Rarely have I seen such joy as someone gives themself to God.
All in all, Sunday morning in Matanzas, Cuba, was a wonderful time.
Since we didn’t arrive until 4 a.m. on Saturday, we didn’t start our activities until the afternoon. After eating lunch with Tony Fernandez and his wife Liudmila, we went and visited a couple of the new “mission churches” in the province of Matanzas. The Versalles church in the city of Matanzas started planting churches in February of 2006; since then they’ve planted 14. They baptized 185 people last year. We went and visited two of the newest churches, one in Cárdenas, one in Limones.
The church planting methodology is fairly simple. They’ve chosen one road and proposed to plant a church in each town along that road. Prayer is an essential element. The church has a group that meets for prayer every morning, as well as a group that spends all afternoon praying on Sunday while members go out to help with the services at the mission churches. A contact is found in the target town, either through the radio program that I get to do or through acquaintances of other Christians. When the first person is converted, they are informed that the church will meet at their house the following Sunday. A group of prepared men share the work of helping these new churches; they say that they’ve never gone and found just one person waiting. They always gather friends and relatives to participate with them in the service.
Both congregations that we visited were encouraging, though we were especially touched by the spirit of the brothers in Limones. As we neared the house where they meet, a brother met us along the road. He was excited because he was obtaining materials to make a baptistry (drought conditions make it difficult to gather enough water for baptisms). This same man had also gotten a truck and worked repairing the road to his house so that Tony’s truck wouldn’t get beat up any worse than it already is. And this brother has only been a Christian for 3 months. Contagious enthusiasm.
On Sunday, the churches in the province gathered for a combined service. There are over 600 active members in Matanzas, though I’m guessing there were only about 400 at the service. I’ll tell you about that in my next post.
Last Friday I got to make my third trip to Cuba for Herald of Truth. Admittedly, Cuba is my favorite place to go among the trips we make, especially now that I’m doing a radio program that is heard there Monday through Friday. I especially enjoy meeting people like the ones in the photo who say, “We listen to you regularly.” It can be tough to keep that in mind when sitting in front of a microphone; visits like this help me keep in mind what is really going on.
Steve Ridgell and I traveled from Abilene to Dallas, Dallas to Cancun, Cancun to Cuba. Everyone says, “Ooh, Cancun…,” forgetting that Cuba is a Caribbean island. I won’t hide it; we stay in hotels overlooking the ocean, with breathtaking views. Cancun isn’t exciting to me when I’m headed for Cuba (although I’m told the resorts in Cancun are beautiful; hotels in Cuba are nice enough, but far from fancy). We arrived in Havana at about midnight, spent time clearing immigration and got away from the airport about 1 a.m. By the time we stopped by a church building in Havana to pick up some materials, visited Tony Fernandez’ house in Matanzas and drove to Varadero it was close to 4 when we got to the hotel. Poor Tony was too sleepy to drive back home and ended up pulling over and sleeping in his truck on the way home. (Cubans can’t stay in hotels, so he couldn’t stay with us)
Over the next few posts on this blog, I want to share with you some of our experiences. The church is growing by leaps and bounds in Cuba and God is doing great things there. I’ve got exciting things to tell!
I find myself in a strange position. I have advocated that our churches spend more time in public reading of Scripture. Now I’ve been involved in several classes practicing what they call lectio divina, although from what I’ve read, lectio divina is a personal activity featuring much mediation and prayer. Anyway, these classes read long passages of scripture, then ask people to comment on words or phrases that jump out at them. One benefit of this is that the newest convert and the longtime student of the Bible are on equal ground; everyone can comment, as it’s all subjective. The problem I see is that we tend to treat the texts very superficially. No thought given to context, no thought given to genre, no thoughts given to the purpose or themes of the book, etc.
What do you think? Is this a good way to let the Bible speak for itself? Or is this akin to the old “What does this verse mean? — It means what it says”? Let me comment that I’m currently in a class with a few longtime Christians and a good number of new Christians. Is there a better way to share in Bible study in such a setting?
Years ago, when I was in college at ACU, a speaker at our chapel told the story of being on a campaign. He went into a store and told the man that he’d like to talk to him about being a Christian. The storekeeper asked, “How does it work?” The question caught the campaigner completely by surprise and he stood there in silence. The other man said, “Forget it. If it doesn’t work, I’m not interested.” And he went back to the storeroom of his shop.
So, what would you say if asked that question? How does Christianity work?