A laid-off sugar mill worker in Cuba with a third-grade education was shocked when his children returned home with a bag of food for the family prepared by a local church.
Since the sugar mill closed, David Montoya* had made charcoal to try to support his wife and five children; he didn’t believe in God, and they didn’t go to church because he feared priests would ask for money.
Montoya knew nothing about the evangelical church that had invited two of his children to a luncheon, and he had never heard of church leaders giving food to someone they didn’t know.
“He is an honest man, but his heart was sad and empty, without God and without hope,” the leader of a native ministry said. “The local missionary at the church prepared a bag with food to send to David and his wife and the other children who had remained at home, and this gesture shocked him. He said, ‘People told me that the only thing the church did was ask for money. I want to go meet this pastor.’”
When Montoya met with the local missionary who pastored the church, they talked for four hours, the leader said.
“There David surrendered his entire life to God,” he said. “He and his wife were baptized. And now David is the one who cleans the church yard and helps clean the yards of the local brothers. His life changed, and now he has started a home-cleaning business. He is a hopeful businessman for Christ.”
The local ministry recently held three lunches in three towns for children, the leader said. At the end of these events, a total of 64 children put their faith in Christ as Lord and Savior.
The island country’s population is only 11.3 percent evangelical, according to the Joshua Project.
Nearly half of the population identifies as Roman Catholic, and many of them mix folk religions like Santeria and the practices of other cults into their rituals. Nearly 20 percent of Cuba’s population practices folk religions; their practice of Santeria includes devotion to a blend of the West African goddess Oshun and a local version of the Virgin Mary that is the Catholic patroness of Cuba.
Another folk religion practiced in Cuba, Palo Mayombe, originated in Central Africa and holds that sticks and other objects of nature are infused with powers of spirits.
Besides the diluting effects of syncretism, there are more direct threats to Christianity. While amendments to Cuba’s constitution in 1992 removed atheism from Cuba’s Marxist-Leninist foundation, Christians have continued to face opposition. COVID-19 has compounded problems.
“This pandemic has affected the whole world but, for Cuba, the country with the worst internet and the most expensive, things get more difficult every day,” the ministry leader said. “Thousands of pastors in the country saw their churches completely closed for months, and even four provinces keep them closed; the curfew remains active in the capital.”
In spite of pandemic restrictions and their effect on Cuba’s already battered economy, local missionaries remain active, he said.
“The lines to buy something to eat are kilometers long, there is hunger, there are no essential things to live, and yet each missionary manages to share the message of Christ,” he said. “Young people on bicycles take devotionals written by missionaries on sheets of paper from house to house and share them with the elderly and young people who do not have a cell phone.”
Local missionaries in one area record messages on five USB drives and then go house-to-house for two hours so that congregation families can hear teaching and preaching on God’s Word, he said. Pastors at the ministry’s churches send devotionals by text message to congregation members every two or three days.
People confined to their homes have turned to God as they read the 110 Bibles and 344 New Testaments that local missionaries recently distributed, he said. Among those receiving Bibles was the daughter of an 88-year-old woman whose senile dementia sometimes brought on violent episodes.
The pandemic had plunged the elderly mother’s daughter into deep despair, the leader said. The local missionary who brought her a Bible maintained contact through text message, providing her a plan to read the Gospel of John and Psalms.
“Reading the Bible, her life took a 180-degree turn – her mind was filled with joy when she read the Word,” the leader said. “One day she began to read the Bible aloud to her mother. The change was tremendous: Peace came to her mother’s mind, and the tranquility was supernatural since she used to be violent due to her senile dementia.”
The Bible became a powerful tool for calming the elderly mother’s volatility, he said.
“She reads the Bible aloud to her mother every day,” the leader said. “She still cannot go to church due to the pandemic, but hope, life, joy, and healing have come to her house through a Bible delivered there.”
Local missionaries are bringing the message of eternal life to hurting people throughout the island. Please consider a donation today to provide the tools and means for them to cultivate disciples in Cuba.
*Name changed for security reasons