Cuba (MNN) — The United States is “normalizing” relations with Cuba, something that few thought would ever happen.
With the re-opening of an American embassy in Havana, the two countries are officially talking again, after cutting off diplomatic relations 54 years ago.
25 years ago, when Global Advance was still in its infancy, Cuba was a closed nation. Global Advance’s David Shibley says, “We did go and strengthen the hands of the pastors on a small basis. At that time, we had to meet in the center of the country. We had to close all the windows, all the shades. There were 58 pastors.”
Why risk trouble with the Castro regime? ”There are opportunities for the Gospel that need to be seized. I think back about 25 years ago when suddenly, Eastern Europe opened up and the former Soviet Union opened up. It took a lot of ministries by surprise.” Global Advance was trying to lay the groundwork, planning for the day the paradigm shifted. “Cuban young people today now are searching. They’re breathing freer, and they feel that there are opportunities. It’s a tremendous time to get the Gospel in front of these young men and women and challenge them to invest their lives for great things.”
It’s noteworthy that even as Cuba and Russia have relaxed somewhat, extremism has made some formerly accessible areas off limits. “Even though doors are closing to the Gospel in certain places around the world, windows of opportunity like this open all the time around the world,” says Shibley. “It’s incumbent upon us to be ready to crawl through those windows and to seize the opportunities that are there.”
The mindset was already present in Cuba. Shibley shared this story after a recent visit to Cuba.
Some years ago a Christian prisoner in Cuba was being interrogated by his communist jailers. He was asked to sign a statement containing charges against fellow Christians that would have led to their arrest and imprisonment. The Christian replied to his interrogators, “The chain keeps me from signing this.” The communist officer protested, “What chain? You’re not in chains!”
“Oh, but I am,” the Cuban Christian replied. “I am bound by the chain of witnesses who throughout the centuries have gladly laid down their lives for Jesus Christ. I am now the link in this chain, and I will not break the chain.”
This very day in many areas of the world, gallant brothers and sisters in Christ are literally laying their all on the line to serve Him and honor Him. I want to encourage you to remember them in your prayers today. “Remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” (Heb. 13:3, NIV). Also we are to pray for all people who are ill-treated for the testimony of Jesus. The Bible says we are to identify with their suffering. “Bear one another’s burdens,” Paul said, “and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
Let’s not forget that even though we worship in relative freedom, we too are living links in a great chain of courageous witnesses for Christ that have made this freedom possible. God help us as well to never break the chain.
What it means is: the time spent laying a foundation is paying off now. ”We intend to really strengthen the hands of pastors. It looks like there is going to be more liberty and that even eventually, Cuba could lead the way in the Caribbean as being an evangelical powerhouse and sending Cuban missionaries to other nations.”
Through Frontline Pastors & Marketplace and Marketplace Missions, Global Advance partners are encouraging a beleaguered Church. It’s also one of the greater challenges Christians face in the emergent Cuba. “We could see, of course, a very unfortunate shift toward materialism after having been denied so much for so long. Certainly, we want that economy to prosper and be vigorous and for people to be lifted in every dimension of their lives. As believers, we don’t want materialism to choke out the opportunity of the Gospel.”
Please pray that the leadership that remains in Cuba would be strengthened and refreshed as they carry the burden to see their people equipped in their faith. Would you also please consider helping the Cuban church through Global Advance?