Last week I was in Cuba with a group from the University Church of Christ in Abilene. Our church sponsored the conference, along with 3 churches in Tennessee and some other individuals. It was especially nice for me to travel with my wife, Carolina, and daughter, Andrea.
I feel like a broken record when I tell about Cuba. It was wonderful, great, exciting…. The work in Cuba continues to be one of the most encouraging works I’ve been a part of. Half a century of socialism coupled with an economic embargo imposed by the U.S. have left the island’s economy in shambles. People live constantly on the border of disaster. Yet being there makes me think of James’ words:
“Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?” (James 2:5)
I’ll share some pictures from the trip:
The ladies from our mission team
Tony Fernandez, Herald of Truth rep in Cuba
Tony leads singing Sunday a.m.
One of several baptisms Sunday a.m.
Worship at the church’s farm Sunday afternoon
Baptism at the farm
Paul Rotenberry and Steve Austin, elders from UCC
Some of our team with a family from the province of Las Tunas
Andrea sharing her story with the young ladies
Ladies sent by the Madison church in Tennessee
Lighthouse built by the young people. Each box had a Christian virtue printed on it.
Tony Fernández and Ammiel Pérez, two of the principal leaders in Cuba
Alejandro Ezquerra speaks to the young people
There were 3 baptisms the last night of the youth conference
The church had a party for the elderly of the congregation
Me and one of my favorite people: Pastor Cardenal. I call him “Bishop,” which always makes him laugh.
I’ll be traveling to Cuba next week with a group from the University Church of Christ in Abilene. UCC is helping sponsor the national youth conference in Cuba this year, and we’ve got 8 of us going to participate in the event.
The general theme is “Let’s Build Together,” based on the book of Nehemiah.
I got to choose my topics, so I chose three building themes, even though only one of them comes directly from Nehemiah:
- We Are Doing A Great Work (Nehemiah 6) — I’ll use the stories of how the opposition (external and internal) tried to stymie Nehemiah’s work and how he remained focused. We’ll talk about handling criticism and focusing on building the Kingdom of God.
- Doing The Task God Has Assigned To Us (1 Corinthians 3:5-15) — This one isn’t related to Nehemiah, but it does talk about how the church is built by different people doing different tasks in different ways. We’ll talk about jealousy, rivalries, and staying focused on the task.
- Some Wept While Others Shouted With Joy (Ezra 3:10-13) — This is the story of the ex-exiles relaying the foundation of the temple. The older generation wept, while the younger generation shouted for joy. We’ll talk about how one generation has built something, while another generation is wanting to build. One focused on what is and was; the other focuses on what can be. Both perspectives are needed in the church.
It’s not too late. Do you have any suggestions?
Illustration courtesy of Sweet Publishing
I made a trip to Huntsville, Alabama, on behalf of Hope For Life (Herald of Truth). I attended the Cuba Day meeting at the Mayfair Church of Christ in that city, along with 45 other people. The guest of honor was Ammiel Perez, a preacher from Havana who acts as the liaison between the government and the churches of Christ (“president” of the association of churches of Christ in Cuba). [That's a picture of the two of us at the conference]
I got to speak twice, once talking about the youth conference that Herald of Truth supported for many years, then again, telling about Herald of Truth’s current ministry in Cuba.
Then on Sunday, I was invited to preach for the Mayfair church. Mayfair is a very mission-minded church, and this past Sunday was their Service Day, where members carry out service projects throughout the city. It was a great weekend.
OK, hiatus is over. Let’s get back to work. I’ve spent the last few weeks traveling with Tony Fernández, my friend from Matanzas, Cuba. Tony has been the Herald of Truth representative in Cuba since 1995, doing follow-up on our radio ministry all across the nation of Cuba.
Tony arrived in the States on September 11; he’ll leave October 9 to return home. While he was with us, he did the following:
- Spoke twice for the bilingual group at the University Church of Christ in Abilene
- Taught three classes at ACU’s Summit
- Spoke to students at Faulkner University in Montgomery, Alabama
- Spoke to the main assembly of the University Church of Christ in Abilene
- Spoke at Coventry Christian School in Pennsylvania and met with area church leaders
- Spoke to the Chesmont Church of Christ in Pottstown, Pennsylvania
- Spoke twice to Harding University’s student chapel
- Gave a keynote lecture and taught three classes at the Harding Lectureship
After leaving here, Tony spoke yesterday for the church of Christ in Clinton, Mississippi. Busy times!
A number of Tony’s talks can be found online. Let me share here a video that was prepared for Harding. It’s only four minutes and well worth your time.
If the video doesn’t play well, you might try watching it on Facebook.
Facebook videos don’t always embed well.
OK, so I made my 15th trip to Cuba. Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? Each trip has been different. This one was special for me for a couple of reasons. I got to take my whole family with me. And I got to go with a group from my home congregation, the University church of Christ in Abilene, Texas.
The trip had the expected highs. 25 baptisms, which isn’t all that unusual for the church we were working with. Fascinating stories of faith in the midst of hardship, of the power of prayer, of God’s faithfulness. Lots of connections and reconnections. An outstanding national youth conference.
There were unexpected joys, like getting to see the impact the four young people in our group had on their peers in Cuba. My son Daniel and Daniel Austin got to jointly baptize 3 young men. My daughter Andrea led an outstanding drama workshop. The rest of our group also led workshops, which were well received. Paul Rotenberry did a 2-night marriage seminar which was quite a hit. The visits to Consolación del Sur and Santa Cruz del Norte were an encouragement to our group and to those we visited.
We were privileged to work with a group sponsored by the Madison church of Christ in Tennessee. They were the financial sponsors of the youth conference, and they brought an excellent team of men to work at that conference. Men like Carlos Gonzales, Luis Estrada and Alejandro Ezquerra made the conference an outstanding success. Herald of Truth’s Juan Monroy added some thoughtful lessons; his presence at the conference is always a highlight for the Cubans.
I may share some more, but I want to steer you to an insightful source of information this trip. My daughter Andrea wrote about it on her blog. It’s refreshing to read about this trip from an 18-year-old’s perspective. Let me encourage you to read her article: Cuba Mission Trip 2013