Contributing to the conversion process

baptismWhile doing research for the book A History of Churches of Christ in Cuba, I ran across an article written in the 1950s that had addresses for the church in Cuba. I sent the list to Tony Fernández, my co-author and Herald of Truth representative in Cuba, to see if it might prove useful.

Tony noticed one of the addresses was for a church in Agramonte, a town where there was no longer a Church of Christ. Tony traveled to Agramonte and went to that address. The property owner was suspicious at first, thinking that Tony was wanting to lay claim to the house. When he realized that Tony was merely seeking former church members, the owner directed Tony to several of them.

If you know Tony Fernández at all, you’ll not be surprised to learn that there was soon a growing, active congregation in Agramonte.

When we were in Matanzas several weeks ago, a man was baptized. His wife had been baptized in Agramonte 60 years before. It was a wonderful continuation to the story.

In Church Inside Out, I talk about all the different ways you can contribute to someone’s coming to Christ, noting that conversion is a process, not an event. Last month I saw that even library research can play a small part in reaching someone who needs God.

2016 Cuba Men’s Conference

Men's conferenceAs part of my work with Hope For Life (Herald of Truth), I get to go once or twice a year to Cuba. I usually get to go at the time of the national men’s conference, which was held last week in Varadero. In some ways, the conference is an excuse; that’s how we get the religious visas that allow us to freely teach and preach. (And yes, despite what you may have heard, you can freely teach and preach in Cuba, within certain limits)

The conference brings together church leaders from across the island(s), with somewhere between 250 and 300 men attending. I got to deliver two keynotes, as well as teaching a class.

Our main purpose is to visit Tony Fernández, Herald of Truth’s representative in Cuba. He continues to do amazing work, planting churches and ministering to those in existing churches. Our radio programs generate hundreds of responses every month; Tony follows up by mail, phone, and personal visits. No media outreach can be successful without consistent follow-up on the ground. We’re blessed to have people like Tony and his team.

Spiritual hunger in Cuba

tonyOne of the great things about working at Hope For Life / Herald of Truth is the fact that I get to work with some amazing people in other countries. One of them is Tony Fernández, who continues to inspire with stories of his work in Cuba. I’ve shared the following in several places, but wanted to share it here as well:

Neat story from Tony Fernandez in Cuba. He was coming back from Havana, and several other drivers warned him of a police control on an upcoming bridge. Sure enough, as Tony approached, the policeman was waving him over. Tony started getting his papers ready, but the policeman said, “Please, put your documents away. I just want to know if you can get me a Bible. That’s always been my dream, but I’ve never been able to get one.”
Tony didn’t have any with him, but told him where to hear the Herald of Truth radio program and gave him the post office box number so he could write in.
Reminds me that the thousands Herald of Truth raises every year for Bibles in Cuba are going to good use. And reminds me that we have faithful brethren around the world working hard to spread the message every day.

Travel update

airplaneJust a note about where I’ve been the last few weeks:

  • Cuba — Feels funny to say that I went to a women’s conference. Actually, I wasn’t at the women’s sessions much, but did get to speak to a group of preachers that gathered at the same time. I also translated for some of the group from the Beltline Church of Christ in Decatur, Alabama, as they addressed the men. Beltline sponsors the women’s conference. Most of the time, however, was spent with Tony Fernández, visiting radio listeners and studying a part of the province where he hopes to begin new mission churches soon. (Tony’s congregation has planted more than 40 churches over the last 10 years)
  • Kansas — I got to go to Lawrence, Kansas, doing my Christ and Culture seminar for the Southside Church of Christ there; that’s part of what I do for Hope for Life / Herald of Truth Great people, and they felt like the content I shared was very timely for their group.
  • Nicaragua — This is part of Herald of Truth’s Central American Project. Steve Ridgell and I travelled to Managua, meeting with radio listeners and preaching an evangelistic campaign. We also met with a brother who works in the area south of Managua, making plans to expand our work to that area in 2016.
  • Silver Spring, Maryland — I was invited to do a men’s conference at the Silver Spring Church of Christ, as well as speaking for their whole Hispanic group on Sunday morning and for an areawide event Sunday night. Another great group. It’s always encouraging to see what God is doing around the world.

What have you been up to?

Manuel Manrique

I shared this in a private group on Facebook yesterday:

A week ago, I stood at the bedside of a giant. Manuel Manrique is 90 years old. He was a preacher in Cuba before the Revolution and never wavered from that. He would go out on a bicycle with a sign saying “Only Christ Saves,” handing out Christian literature. Ruffians would regularly beat him up, tearing off the sign, saying “Let’s see Christ save you from this.” He would go home, make a new sign, and head out on his bicycle.Now Manrique is lying in bed with a broken hip. Inoperable. He’s in terrible pain, waiting for death. When Tony Fernandez and I walked into his bedroom, he got very excited. He spelled out for Tony exactly which Bible verses to put on his tombstone so that other people can continue to hear the Gospel after he’s gone.The next day we took a group of preachers to visit Manrique. We sang with him (sounding like a bunch of preachers!), and some of these younger preachers got to see a man that I hope will stay in their minds and hearts as an example.You’ll never see him on the lectureship circuits. Probably never hear of him again. But he’s a giant of the faith.