Cuba (MNN) – Just over a week ago, tragedy struck Cuba.
Dan Warne of El Faro de Redención, a cooperating ministry of Trans World Radio, says, “On Friday, May 18th, a plane taking off from Jose Marti airport in Havana, headed to eastern Cuba to the city of Holguin– it crash-landed upon takeoff. It went up and came directly back down into an agricultural area, just outside of the airport.”
Initially, 110 people killed on impact. However, two of the three survivors have since passed away, raising the death toll to 112.
On the flight were 10 pastors and their wives returning from a marriage retreat in Havana. Warne says they learned from the bus driver who drove them to the airport that the group of Christians prayed about what they had learned at the retreat and for safe travels. But one member of the group even prayed that if it was their time to leave this earth and meet Jesus, they would be at peace about it.
“None of them could have expected what would have happened in just a few hours after that prayer,” Warne says.
Even though it took some time for the news to travel from Havana, the crash clearly shocked the island nation. Last week, they held two days of nationwide mourning for the lost.
“One of the interesting things about Cuba is, it’s not an internet country yet, but social media has really taken off just in the last year or two. So, this may be the first national tragedy that’s had its own hashtag.”
The hashtag, meaning “Cuba Strong” is #FuerzaCuba.
Responding to Disaster
Warne is privileged to serve as the director and speaker of a fairly new radio program for Cuba.
He says, “El Faro de Redención, or Redemption Lighthouse in English, is the Spanish ministry arm of Haven Ministry. Some may know of Haven Today which is a longtime and well-loved radio broadcast in the United States, airing weekly. And, we’ve been around for about 84 years.
“But, in Spanish we’ve only been broadcasting since February 5th. We’re broadcasting into Cuba on 800 am from the Trans World Radio towers in Bon Aire, and we’ve been reaching the entire island with that same, all-about-Jesus, message that Haven Today is known for.”
The radio program features Christian music, testimonies of Cuban Christians, and teaching from God’s Word. And even though Redemption Lighthouse is based on Haven Today, the content is specially written and gathered together for a Cuban audience.
Warne says that the theme of El Faro is that it “…shines the light of Christ from all of Scripture for all of Cuba.” With that in mind, the team knew they needed to change their scheduled content to something that addressed the crash directly.
“In light of this tragedy, we thought, you know, we just can’t go on with business as usual. We record the programs maybe 30 days out. But that’s not what people are thinking about. We couldn’t just air the fruit of the Spirit series that was cued up for this week.”
And so they started contacting friends in Cuba, asking them to send in their testimonies and stories. Pretty quickly, they’d put together a 30-minute program.
“I think I speak for about five minutes. The rest is all Cuban Christians, talking with one another. Sharing prayer, sharing fears. One lady starts singing this beautiful song about what it will be like one day when we see all of our friends together in heaven, and really just sharing the hope we have in Christ– the common thread that just kept coming up over and over. And it’s so interesting with this hashtag, Cuba Strong, is that Christ is our strength. In the middle of tragedy, in the middle of loss, Christ is our strength and our shield.”
They played to program throughout last week and received reports from their listeners of how they’d been ministered to through the content.
Meanwhile, God is working through TWR and El Faro to touch hearts in Cuba. Warne says the radio program “… all sort of began when Haven got involved with sending Bibles to Cuba, maybe three years ago—just after the ban on Bibles was lifted. We kind of thought it would be… a blessing to be able to send 10,000 Bibles. And to date, the Lord is just blowing our minds. We’re nearing the 200,000 Bible mark sent to Cuba by Haven listeners.”
But to reach the entire nation with the Good News, they knew radio would be the best way to do it. So they started praying. When TWR installed the Bone Aire transmitter, the program became possible.
How You Can Respond
Warne asks you to be praying for Cuba as they continue to mourn the loss of these people.
“Pray for those who have lost family members—not just within the Church—but the 110 people that were lost. They were fathers, mothers, daughters. Pray. Pray for Cuba right now in this time of tragedy, in this time of mourning, really.
“And pray that the Cuban Church would shine brightly for Christ, that it would shine with the hope of the Gospel. People are looking for answers. People are asking the big questions as we always do in times like this. So, just pray that this would be a moment for the Gospel to go forth.”
You can also pray for Redemption Lighthouse to continue to be a source of hope for Cuba, and a way for the Cuban Church to grow and encourage one another, regardless of denomination.
And finally, pray for the Cuban Church:
“Ten churches have lost their pastors. That’s significant in an island of 11 and a half million people. Ten churches in the eastern provinces of Cuba are now without a shepherd. So, pray for the Church to be strengthened, for the churches to come together.”