Window on the World - Cuba
'Cuba Para Cristo!' (Cuba for Christ!) has become the overriding slogan for most of the evangelical churches across the island. This is not only a song for inviting celebration but also one of challenge for all individuals and institutions committed to bring honour and glory to the name of our Almighty God.
A Visionary Church
The Methodist Church in Cuba sees itself as a driving example to reach the goal of a 'Cuba for Christ', working together alongside other denominations. Despite restrictions on doing street outreach the church goes on victoriously. A common spirit of resistance to the state's restriction unites us to go ahead in the name of Jesus.
Under the wise and charismatic leadership of Bishop Ricardo Pereira Diaz, along with eleven district superintendents, the Methodists continue to be a growing family of over 16,000 members. There are 211 ministers in the three categories of itinerant presbyters, probationers and ministers in formation, and they include ten women pastors. There are two evangelical seminaries; one, the Latin-American Faculty of Theological Studies, is a branch of Asbury Seminary in Orlando, Florida. There are twelve students at the Evangelical Seminary of Theology (husband and wife usually receive equal training).
Other institutions run by the Church include a home for the aged in Havana, and a Christian Education Centre that runs two annual courses for lay leaders, one by correspondence and the other by quarterly courses. There is also a camp, named Canaan, in Villa Clara, where most national events are held.
Pastoral Family Retreats and Minister's Children's Rallies are events held annually and people feel really blessed at these gatherings. Our Bishop will arrange with other ministers, both nationals and foreigners, to speak and lecture on specific themes about the family.
The Church is well organised for missions and carries out its many programmes (evangelism, church planting, Christian Education, women's work, children work, youth work, etc) under the leadership of committed, trained and zealous men and women.
Worship and Praise
Services take place not only on Sundays but also on a weekly basis whereby people meet to celebrate life, to thank God and rejoice in all his mighty acts in their own lives. Worship can last from two to three hours on Sundays, and even on weekdays when people meet for a Bible study or a prayer meeting. In these services individuals can experience all sorts of astonishing manifestations ranging from visions, speaking and singing in tongues, words of wisdom and knowledge, dancing and so on.
The highlight of these services is that people then feel prepared and equipped to go out with a message of love and challenge to those in the prisons and hospitals, Aids clinics and leprosy centres, or simply to those on the street, at bus stops and railway stations - everywhere people are compelled to share the Good News of the Kingdom of God.
House and Cell groups
Almost all church members are committed to offering their homes to hold weekly prayer meetings, that could be led either by the house owner or someone appointed by the church once they have received proper preparation. Once the numbers of those attending a group reaches twelve it splits to give the chance to someone else to start their own meeting, bearing in mind that they must remain accountable to the minister and the church leaders. Sometimes an offering is collected with the two-fold purpose of helping someone in need and also celebrating the cell or house group anniversary or collective birthdays. Churches will usually celebrate the minister's day in June before the annual conference that is always held in late June.
Tithing is practically a requirement for church membership. Candidates for membership begin to tithe even before they are confirmed/baptised. The annual budget is $1,170 Cuban pesos (5% of the USA dollar). People will tithe out of what they earn, and even children are taught to tithe. Sometimes people will pay their tithe in kind, offering to buy an electric keyboard or tambourines, a bicycle or clothing, to share with the most needy missions and missionaries - particularly those who work unpaid.
Despite the need of financial resources to develop its work and vision, the Cuban Church out of its poverty responds to disaster appeals such as the recent Hurricanes Dennis and Emily that seriously affected most of the southeastern area where most Methodist churches were utterly destroyed. Once more, the church of God stood alongside the poor and the needy.
Special thanks go to the Methodist Church in Britain and the USA for their support in times like these and for all the help we've received throughout the years for various reasons. Also to Open Doors for their support, providing books, Bibles and all sorts of resources for over fifteen years. On a personal level, special thanks also go to Wisewood Methodist Church, Sheffield, whose links with my parents (the Rev Abraham and Hilda Williams) go back to 1983. Though visas were denied, a solid and vibrant foundation still remains. We've learned to love and be grateful to the Lord for all the channels he uses to bless his chosen Ones.
The suffering and obedient church
Though in the past 10-15 years church/state relationship have undergone lots of restraints, fortunately things are working for the better through the leadership of Bishop Pereira. We all know for sure that the suffering church is always the growing and glowing church which Jesus himself highly speaks about. Therefore, we do rejoice in the prize that is set before us all as brothers and sisters the world over standing faithful and strong in the faith that is in Jesus our Lord.
Today like in the New Testament church in Philadelphia, we can hear the Holy Spirit saying to us and to the worldwide Christian family: 'Because you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of testing that is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. I am coming soon; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown’ (Revelation 3:10, 11).