When my mom first asked me to join her on a trip to Cuba with Proclaim Cuba I will admit, a selfish thought arose within me. I must preface my explanation of this thought by saying that my full-time work is with an incredible nonprofit organization that offers economic empowerment solutions to the underserved. My committed passion is to bring hope to areas of minimal opportunity, oppression, and a need for Christ. That said, the selfish thought was that I could not imagine my vacation days as having anything other than a “mojito-on-the-beach” kind of vibe. Since my everyday work is focally centered on poverty alleviation and ministry, a part of myself didn’t want to go to Cuba because I wanted a break from missions, to dedicate a week to myself, and truly spend time lying on the sand pampering self.
The minute this thought passed my mind however I felt an immediate tug on my heart strings. This tug not only caused me to realize the selfishness that was in this desire, it was also partnered with a stern, almost audible voice which said “you are going to Cuba.” In all sincerity, I believe that voice to have been my God, and all I can say is that when He tells you to go somewhere, you go.
Not too long after my realizing that the Lord was bringing me to Cuba, I wholeheartedly and excitedly committed to spend a week in the country with Proclaim Cuba blessing the Church in any way possible. Looking back on it now, I am overwhelming, humbly grateful that I said “yes”.
Though there are many memories than I could expand on from my time in Cuba, I will discuss three aspects of Proclaim Cuba’s work that impacted me greatly and left me incredibly impressed by their refined approach to “to reach Cuba and the nations for Christ through evangelism, seminary training, church planting, pastor support and any other means necessary”. These three aspects left me awed by Proclaim Cuba’s committedness to the Great Commission and honored to join efforts in bringing the hope of Jesus to Cuba and its people.
Our time in Cuba was spent assisting the Pastor Carlos’ church with their summer VBS, youth camp, and women’s ministry. One aspect of summer camp that surprised me most was that in the best way, I was actually a lot less help that I had anticipated to be.
For example, on the Americans’ first night entering country we were immediately welcomed with a huge production lead by the youth encompassing various performances in dance, piano, song (all in spanish of course), and even an art show! Additionally, once immersed in our weekly camp activities, each aspect of the ministry was lead by Cubans, for Cubans. I found this approach not only inspiring, but also sustainable and empowering to the local church.
As a professional in international development, I have become attuned and sensitive to the harm that can result from Westerners entering emerging economies and “running the show” in terms of development or missions. There is a book by Steve Corbett titled “When Helping Hurts” which offers profound thought on this concept. One of the statements says, “We are not bringing Christ to poor communities. He has been active in these communities since the creation of the world, sustaining them, Hebrews 1:3 says, by His powerful Word. Hence, a significant part of working in poor communities involves discovering and appreciating what God has been doing there for a LONG time.”
It was a true honor to witness and partner alongside Proclaim Cuba as they lead and together we worked to discover and foster what God has been blessing the church with for many years.
The second aspect of Proclaim Cuba’s work that greatly inspired me was the expansive reach the ministry had across country. In one sense, this reach was strictly geographic. Children, youth, and adults were transported to Cespedes for summer camp from all over the country including Havana and other regions.
The reach however was also expansive in terms of ministries established. As mentioned above, we joined Proclaim Cuba to serve VBS, youth camp, and a women’s ministry. One of the gifts during our time serving summer camp was that we were not limited by who we could spend our time with. For instance, I had the opportunity to do a lot of “hopping” from each ministry, joining the sweet 2-4 year old children in playtime, running alongside the youth in friendly competition, and engaging in devotional and crafts with the faithfully, fervent women. By this expansive reach of ministry, I saw the Lord work in many unique ways, providing joy to all people no matter their age.
We later in the week also learned later that Proclaim Cuba reaches beyond the ministries we saw during our week at camp. In addition to the ministries mentioned, Proclaim Cuba is also comprised of theology seminary, house churches, and equipping and training local pastors. The organization is truly reaching the entirety of the country for Christ. I can’t help but have Matthew 28:18-20 come to mind when I think of this approach is it says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
Dependency on the Father:
The final aspect of Proclaim Cuba’s work and the church that truly impacted me was witnessing the committedness, dependency, and resoluteness with which the church body held onto the hope they confessed. There was a true joy of worship in every individual I met, and it did nothing other than spur me on to love and have more confidence in the God we serve. One of the ministries that clearly demonstrated this ferventness of faith was the women’s ministry. Kim Pinot is a magnificent teacher and lead the women’s ministry during our week in Cuba. She focused our attention on John 15:5 which says, “I am the vine and you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit. Apart from me, you can do nothing.” My full confidence in being with Proclaim Cuba and the church was that their impact was not as a result of solely man’s work, but instead by man through God’s hand because of their rootedness in faith and dedication to Jesus as savior.
I also witnessed dedication of faith during our time spent with the local house church pastors. The American volunteers had the opportunity to visit a few house churches towards the end of our trip, and I was amazed at the sacrifice and faithfulness of the pastors. With governmental regulations over the use of housing, these pastors truly risk their lives to offer up their place for worship. However, their committedness to the Great Commission made them unwavering in their work, and it was an honor to see them live out their faith.
To say I am thankful I didn’t go for my mojito on the beach would be a massive understatement. My time with Proclaim Cuba not only brought me to the beauty of a vibrant country, joy of a resilient and tender-hearted people, but also to the power of Christ dwelling in another region of the world. It is without barrier that I say Proclaim Cuba, the church, and its members have impacted my heart not only by their work but also by the evident presence of the Lord’s Spirit dwelling in their being.