In Cuba—a country where only 11 percent of the population is Protestant Christian, 60 percent Catholic—which includes the rapidly growing religion of Santeria (a voodoo related African religion with Catholic roots)—the Moravian church is vibrant and growing at a steady pace.
The Armando Rusindo Mission Foundation (AMRF) recently led eight foundation supporters and three ARMF leaders on a 13-day tour of six of the eight provincial Moravian churches.Traveling over 2,500 Kilometers (1,500 Miles +/-) from Havana to Guantanamo and back, they engaged in fellowship and worship at each of the churches.
The group was excited to see how the churches have exploded in the growth of their congregations and the projects taken on to support both themselves and their communities. With a membership that has grown from 300 worshipers to over 1,000 in the past several years, and still growing at a steady pace, the church is alive and well in Cuba.
Providing food and care
For example, farms in San Antonio, Guantanamo, Guantanamo City, Santayana, Camaguey and Jaguey Grande and Matanzas are providing food for their churches and communities as well as generating income toward their goal of self sufficiency.
Daycare centers created by Moravians in Guantanamo and Santayana are currently serving more than 100 children. These centers provide all-day care at a low cost to families; the children receive Christian education and are fed by the fresh food grown on the farms. In turn, several jobs are offered to church members while the church receives some financial support. The Comenius Children’s Center in Havana is preparing to open a daycare center in their community as well.
In each case, the church is providing a service to its community, while exposing the children and many of their parents to God’s teachings through evening bible studies and neighborhood celebrations.
Through Moravian efforts, clean water purification systems have been installed in Havana, Jaguey Grande, Santayana and Holguin, and are in development stages in San Antonio. These systems, while quite expensive, purify water using several filters along with an Ozone generator to kill harmful bacteria which cause much illness in the communities. Each system provides purified water to the entire community 24/7.
A pastor told us on our visit that on most weekends the church provides almost 2,000 liters of clean water to the community. He noted that it’s not only community members who have utilized this miracle of clean, drinkable water; the local hospital comes by, as well as a restaurant or two. This free access to safe purified water has created such joy that the church is quickly becoming the center of attention in each community.
Space to support growth
“We need space to support our growth” is a common concern that ARMF representatives heard across the island. San Antonio, Guantanamo, Holguin, Santayana and Havana are all making plans to either enclose and expand outdoor worship centers or build second floors to their church facility to accommodate and support their overflowing attendance and activities. With a large part of the world faced with declining attendance and worship activities, what a joy it is to see the Cuban church flourishing as they seek to bring Christ into the lives of their communities.
Another enlightening experience was the worship service in San Antonio, Guantanamo, where the Rev. Matthew Allen (Olivet Moravian) delivered the message. Approximately 100 people attended that evening where worship was held, in a very well-built thatched roofed pavilion. The service featured much music, singing and scripture readings (as is the norm in all the churches in Cuba) with participation from the young children to seniors.
It is beyond words as to the feeling of the Holy Spirit as many people came forward to dedicate their lives to Christ. People walk as many as four miles to come to church, returning to their homes after midnight. ARMF is so pleased to have been able to grant San Antonio the funds to purchase a horse and carriage to give these folks a ride. This carriage now serves as their own church bus. On days that it is not in use, the pastor takes it to the nearest town to use as a taxi, producing income for the church: a win-win situation.
Building a strong foundation
With help from the Armando Rusindo Mission Foundation, its friends, donors, and the leadership of the Moravian Church in Cuba, a strong foundation is being built to spread the word of God throughout this communist/socialist country. They are dedicated to becoming the center of each of their communities by providing services to those in need: food for the hungry; clean, healthy water for the thirsty and a strong teaching of the word of Jesus Christ.
The recent travel group got to experience all that the church is doing and came away rewarded and blessed. The Moravian church in Cuba, is living like Jesus, loving like Jesus and serving like Jesus.
So, what can we do? Pray, donate and volunteer so that we will continue to build those lasting relationships
God is working in Cuba! n
Joe Jarvis is a representative of the Armando Rusindo Mission Foundation and a member of the Board of World Mission.