Joel’s story of the Cuban mission trip May 2018
When I remember Cuba I have wonderful memories and unforgettable experiences, but if I had to define all this trip in a single word that word would be EXCITING. This is how PASSIONATE this trip was for me, because with this experience I discovered qualities of my life that I did not think I had. When I started all this journey I had many expectations. At the same time I went through not very easy moments in my life, but always trusting in God. When the time came to travel I was prepared. I knew it was going to be a great challenge and I was going to grow to a new level. I have always believed something and that is when you go up another step in life there is nothing better than doing it with someone else and then God put two other wonderful people who were part of this process and they are Donald and Jesus Chavero. They, with their personality and spirituality, were a determining part for the trip to be successful. Donald, a man of advice and authority, guided us to study the place where we were very carefully. He helped us to focus on this trip and to give us the opportunity to learn more about how to grow (in God) and be more capable (of serving) people everywhere we went. Chavero on the other hand was very observant and led me to see the positive side of things, not to judge the others but to support them and be part of the transformation of each person. I believe in the truth that Chavero is very clear about the biblical concept of disciples as children of God. And so, with a very well-formed team we arrived in Havana Cuba on May 2, 2018 at 2:30pm. We arrived in a warm city that received us with certain problems. In the first place, the Cuban authorities expressed a certain degree of doubt towards us for the articles that we brought and those articles were study bibles, discipleship material, solar powered audio-devices with Bible and discipleship material among other things that we knew were going to be very necessary tools to bring biblical education to the pastors and brethren who were there. Being in that I understood that the country where we had arrived was not easy, the opposition was very strong, but we trusted God and he gave us grace in front of the authorities and we managed to get out. Rackie and Ali, two great servants of God, were eager to meet us. With their love and simplicity they treated us in the best way, their hospitality was wonderful, finally we were able to have contact with the brothers who congregated in the church that Rackie and Ali lead. They expressed their needs and situations and we thanked God and prayed for them.
Later we traveled to the Province of Santa Clara in eastern Cuba, where another great servant of God, Adis, welcomed us with great warmth. And being there I discovered what for many years I had only read in books and newspapers in Colombia, that the Christian Church in Cuba was persecuted and it was something really strong that touched my heart. I listened and analyzed to understand the difficult situation of the church in Cuba plus the restrictions and rules. They are very difficult to live and carry out. The economic situation is precarious and when we saw such a dramatic scene, we took on Christ’s strength so that Donald, Chavero and I teamed up and we began to bring a biblical life education for the pastors in this place. We encouraged them, and urged them not to lose their faith and hope in Christ Jesus who gives us grace to transform us spiritually and mentally and also to understand that the best church we can pastor in life is to our families. At the same time, we observed how the evangelical Cuban Christian church, despite its difficulties, flourished. They have established a system of house churches that in truth has been a total success and has consolidated the church. In this way the church expands and grows exponentially and it has come to be more united and more prepared spiritually, intellectually and materially to face the difficult spiritual and economic conditions that the country is experiencing.
They talked about many things that we could pray for, both physical and economical and most importantly we were agents of change in a place that screams for FREEDOM AND CHANGE. There we learned a lot from them, their teachings for us were very enriching. We spent some days there and analyzed the cosmovision of the place and the strong communist political influence that all the inhabitants of Santa Clara have since that is a very strong bastion of communism in Cuba, which sadly infected some sectors of the evangelical church of Cuba. After those days we returned very moved to Havana, Cuba. We left in Santa Clara great friends that with the help of God we hope to see again soon.
Already installed in Havana we participated together with Donald in a glorious Sunday service where God let his presence descend in this beautiful congregation. The people were spiritually enriched in a great way, while we met another good friend, Tomas, who was visiting Cuba, we also learned a lot and was of great support for the development of this trip. Towards the evening we were all together enjoying a wonderful night in the historic center of Havana, where we learned more about the reality of the Cuban citizen.
We said goodbye the day after to Cuba but hoping to return very soon to that beautiful land to serve in the work of God.
Cuba was an edifying experience, we built bridges instead of establishing walls, we adapted and in one way or another. We managed to understand their reality and their needs. The truth is, it has been a very special trip; God glorified Himself greatly. I feel very fortunate to count first of all with the company and support of God because without Him it would have been impossible; I would also like to thank God for Donald and Chavero, because the three of us together make up a memorable team and, in passing, I hope in God is not the last time we undertake missionary trips together.
Finally I want to leave a biblical quote found in 1 John chapter 3 and verse 17 that says “But whoever has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need, and closes his heart against him, how does love dwell?” of God in him? It is necessary that we rise up to serve and be supportive in this country, we who have it all because we really have it all: life, health, freedom, and many other things. We have everything to help our Cuban neighbor, let’s not stop because in this way we will demonstrate that Jesus Christ completely lives in our hearts and in turn shows that he is our Lord and Savior.
Written by Joel Andrés Panadero