Campo Amor, Cuba
Life Line Christian Mission and Campo Amor Mission Trip 2018-09-17 through 24 by Keith Shields
Pastor XXXXX (names have been redacted to protect the churches) leads a network of house-churches and sports ministries in Cuba. Their primary facility is called Campo Amor and is used as a ministry centre, meeting area, church building, and guest house; and is situated in the town of Alamar in central Cuba near Havana. The ministry extends to 104 house-churches in Alamar, Arroyo, and Havana. The need for this ministry is great. In January of 1959, under the leadership of Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, the Communist Party of Cuba took power and began renovating the country and the constitution to make it an atheistic, communist, and socialist country. Churches that existed in church buildings at the time were allowed to persist but strict guidelines on renovations and control of the congregations were put in place.
Today, in order to propagate the gospel in Cuba in places that do not have vital churches, the people of Cuba rely upon “underground” house-churches. The authorities tolerate these house-churches but are ever watchful to see that they do not become too popular. When we were in the country we were taught to be very careful with who we photographed, and we were told not to put any pictures of events or people on social media because the government is watching. I preached at one house-church filled to capacity with courageous Cuban people whose place of worship had been closed down and torn down just a few months before. They had been meeting in a small shed in an alley next to about 10 apartment blocks each consisting of approximately 20 apartments in a 5-storey walk-up. A member of the communist party began attending and was turning toward Jesus. The church was popular, and many came to sing, worship, and hear the Bible preached. One day the authorities came to the location and tore down the shed. The people courageously began meeting in an apartment owned by one of the women in the church. On the day I worshipped with them, they were playing a keyboard through a loud speaker that played out into the streets and the worshippers sang joyfully.
While we were there, we led seminars on topics like discipleship, principles of house-church, and prayer. We also preached in house-churches and led children’s programming and sports games. The rest of the team who travelled with me were 5 senior leaders from Crossroads Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, the fastest growing church in North America. I took the time to learn from them and asked many questions about how they do ministry in their context. They have truly created a culture where “everyone is welcome” and a place where all people will feel like they could fit in. I will stay in touch with these leaders and learn more from their successes and failures.
Pastor XXXXX who leads the house-church ministry in Cuba is also a Spanish citizen and has recently started a Ph.D. program in Spain. While he has been there, he started a network of house-churches in Spain. The leaders from Crossroads and I spent some time speaking with him and suggesting that he needs to write a book and present at Exponential and other church-planting conferences. He is open to this and we need to find ways to do this that would not disrupt the great work he is doing or endanger the Cuban Christians. Perhaps there is a role for me to play in helping get his message out in book form.
While we were down there we heard stories of miraculous events that had taken place in their midst. XXXXX, a 22-year-old Christian had been, as she described it, a “wild child” who drank excessively, went with several men, and was in a self-destructive mode. She had learned English and was hired by Pastor XXXXX to do some translation work. One night, while she was drunk, she had a vision of herself dying and having to pass through the cross of Jesus to get to “the other side.” The vision scared her and she investigated the claims of Christ and became a Christian. Last week she was translating for one of the pastors from our team as he preached in a house-church.
One day, we went out into the streets of Arroyo and spoke with people and prayed for them. Through a translator Pastor XXXXX and I had a lengthy conversation with a man who had dabbled in voodoo and witchcraft. He felt that Jesus could never forgive him for his sins and was content to stay a believer in witchcraft. We tried to reassure him that Jesus is stronger than his idols and that no sin was too great. As we listened to him, spoke with him, and prayed, his two friends also listened and received the benefit of these words of life. We wait to see what God does with this. Voodoo is common in Cuba. You can often see a voodoo woman or man dressed all in white sitting in the square and puffing on a cigar. They have idols and prayers that they offer to the idols.
XXXXX, our translator, many years ago prayed to Jesus and said that he would turn his life over to the lordship of Jesus and do the work of a pastor and preacher. He had been an up and coming baseball player and may have gone on to the Major Leagues. He asked that God might take care of his needs and has found God to be truly faithful in all of this. He and his wife and son are able to live well and they have an excess of clothes that they give away to others. He says, “I used to think I was given clothes, so I could give them away; now I know that I have extra clothes because I give them away.
XXXXX, a young man in one of the house-churches is the son of the pastor but got caught up in gangs and was a powerful gangster in Alamar. Guns are notoriously hard to get, but XXXXX had one and ran his gang with power. Jesus took control of his life and changed him. Now, he still has contacts with other gangsters and speaks to them in the streets, but he speaks to them about Jesus.
We prayed for healing and trusted God to care for families. We told of successes and failures (ask me to tell you about translating the word calzone in this Latino culture) and laughed and cried with the people. I am considering what all of this means for me and how I might help more. I have come back changed in many ways.
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