Cuba (MNN) – The Castro rule over Cuba has officially come to an end after decades of leadership under Fidel Castro, and more recently, his brother, Raul.
A New President for Cuba
“Miguel Diaz-Canal has been voted in as the new president of Cuba. They had a secret ballot,” he says.
In fact, only one vote among hundreds cast by Cuban lawmakers went against Diaz-Canel. On Thursday, Diaz-Canel was sworn in as president. Shantz says given his political stance and placement by the Communist Party, it’s not likely that much will change under his leadership.
“He did say in his inaugural address—his acceptance address– that there’s ‘no room for those who strive for the restoration of capitalism.’ So, it’s quite clear that this is a really stay-the-course type of a government—very much supporting the revolution, and that the revolution of Cuba continues to march forward under his leadership.”
Meanwhile, we can’t forget that Raul Castro is still in the picture. Shantz says he will be the head of the Communist Party for at least the next two years.
Therefore, he says, “I don’t think we’re looking at radical changes happening in Cuba anytime soon.”
In the same way, Shantz doesn’t believe much will change with the Church, either.
The Cuban Church
“What we are aware of from our ministry to Cuba by radio is that the Church in Cuba continues to grow and that the Church in Cuba is able to practice their faith and evangelize people with the Gospel. So, that’s a very good thing.
“And, I don’t see that really things are going to change radically in terms of suddenly, Cuba being opened up to missionary visas from people overseas to be able to pour in and do mission work in Cuba. Cuba will still remain a very difficult place to go and do ministry in terms of obtaining visas and such.”
Either way, he says the Gospel is going forward. God has been faithful to this island nation.
“I also recently heard that the Bible Society is about to have a big celebration in Cuba concerning the printing of one million Bibles inside the country. So, this is certainly a wonderful sign for the Church there in Cuba because one of the things that has been lacking are Bibles, and there will be more Bibles available for people—for Christians—in Cuba.”
But because ministries from the outside do not usually have access to Cuba, there’s a lack of pastoral training, too. This is why TWR’s work is so very important to the Cuban people. Not only do many people first hear the Gospel in their programming, but it’s helping Christians mature in their faith. And, pastors are even using this content to help them write their sermons. It’s an incredible resource for spiritual growth.
“Trans World Radio has a big impact in Cuba. And Cuba is a very important part of our ministry portfolio. One of the things about Cuba is that the Church has really grown and the Gospel has exploded.”
Recently, TWR powered up their transmitter from 100,000 watts to 450,000 watts. This means their programs are coming in clearer than ever.
“This has put a local-radio sounding signal right across the country, from end-to-end.”
Even in the city areas, people are reporting great sounding radio. But this isn’t the only resource TWR is able to offer to Cuban Christians.
Shantz says when he visited Cuba a couple of years ago, he visited some of the bigger cities. And he saw something encouraging: “In the city squares, there’s kind of a metropolitan area Wi-Fi. And people can purchase an access code at a local store, at a shop, and then they can use that code to get online. So, the city square in the evening is kind of glowing blue from the multiple mobile phone screens and laptop screens.”
TWR 360 is an online platform that provides biblical content by TWR and cooperating partners. Content is available in hundreds of languages with the goal of helping Christians grow in their faith.
“All of this is available on TWR 360. And so, Cuba is starting to use the internet more and more. So, we feel, in the future, as that grows, that TWR 360 will be a very good online resource for people in Cuba to be able to download and listen to programming.”
A Heart for Cuba
As this transition is completed, you might be wondering how you can respond. Shantz says it begins with prayer, and it begins in your heart.
“I think it would be great if Christians across the United States could really get a heart for Cuba,” he says.
The United States and Cuba have a long history of animosity between them. Because of this, Shantz expected an unfriendly welcome on his trip to Cuba.
“I found a real openness and a real love by the Cuban people when they thought that I was an American. I’m Canadian, but they didn’t know that I wasn’t American. And, I asked also how they feel about American people. And, they said, ‘We love Americans.’
“And so, if we could get a love for the people of Cuba, realize that the Gospel has really had a big setback there, and just really pray for that island– that there would be a groundswell of God moving across that island, and that many more people would come to know Christ, that the Church would continue to grow strong.”
Additionally, he says we can be praying for the Cuban government to continue to allow the free practice and sharing of faith. Pray that believers would be allowed to build churches to gather together. Ask God to help the government see the Gospel and Christians as a good influence in their nation.
(Header photo courtesy of GovernmentZA via Flickr)