Sometimes, there is good news regarding the Persecuted Church. Sometimes, we have reason to praise God for more than just walking with our brothers and sisters in their time of trouble, as essential as that is. Sometimes, our prayers and their perseverance result in a lifting of oppression and open doors for the Gospel!
For years, the church around the world has prayed for our brothers and sisters in Cuba, suffering under a repressive Marxist dictatorship. The Christians in Cuba have displayed amazing tenacity and resilience over several difficult decades. Now, their perseverance is paying off in numerical growth and new opportunities to impact their culture with the gospel. Here are some highlights:
Un Grano de Arena (A Grain of Sand)
A national Cuban evangelical denomination Los Pinos Nuevos (the New Pines) requested governmental permission in 2010 to start a pilot program called Un grano de arena (“A grain of sand”). Under this program the local church provides meals delivered to the elderly in their neighborhood, offers training and care programs for neighborhood children, and uses their expanded facilities as a training center for pastors and lay leaders from Havana and its outlying areas. They were granted indefinite permission for the project contingent only on successfully running and maintaining it for two years. Through them, one of the dirtiest, ugliest, and poorest neighborhoods of Old Havana, is being transformed.
Legal Recognition allows House Church multiplication
In the last ten years the church has grown quickly as a result of the increasing religious freedom and the legal recognition of house churches. This has produced over 16,500 new house churches and outreaches. With these blessings, however, come challenges, including a serious shortage of trained leaders. One leadership training center has now blossomed into 250 locations nationwide where 12-25 pastors can receive ministry-specific training in five day intensive retreats. They take this back to their own locale and share what they have learned; in some areas training has reached the 7th and 8th generation of leaders.
The growth of the church in Cuba is not just numerical, either. One pastor writes:
I’ve been developing relationships with the pastors of other denominations and it is quite possible that all the pastors of this province will be taking a course on the gospel with me.
Calvary Church was privileged this past year to partner with other Grand Rapids churches and the Institute for Religious Research to sponsor Joel Groat, who speaks fluent Spanish and understands the culture from a childhood in Latin America, to lead three weeks of training sessions with pastors in Cuba. Please continue to pray for this new season of blessing and growth to continue in Cuba to the praise and glory of our Lord!