Hurricane Irma devastated the island of Cuba. While relief efforts are ramping up to rebuild, it’s imperative that we listen to the leaders of the Cuban church, our eyes and ears on the ground, to help us understand how we can effectively aid the physical and spiritual recovery of this damaged island.
I’m devastated, as we recently participated in an upward movement in Cuba. This movement grew out of conversations that happened because we are living in the golden age of technology.
Last year, I visited Cuba close on the heels of then-President Barack Obama’s momentous visit to Havana. It was the first trip to Cuba by a sitting U.S. president since Calvin Coolidge in 1928.
After I returned, I wrote a few thoughts about the nostalgic draw of Cuba. With its love for baseball, music, and classic cars, as well as its beautiful, historic architecture, it’s no wonder people have a curiosity for this nation seemingly stuck in time.
However, more importantly, I also wrote about the state of the Cuban Church and culture as it prepared to face the realities of the 21st century once the communist nation was officially “open.”
“Cuban church leaders are well aware of what’s coming, and they have immediate and grave concerns. They are not as worried about when Cuba will open, but about what will happen to the Church and society when it does.”¹
I listened as church leaders lamented the ragged fragmentation among Cuban church leaders due to some of their weaker leadership being swayed by outside American personalities who had their own theological and methodological agendas. They were trading a promise of a “relationship” for the price of “ongoing support.”
I groaned, knowing this missiology was off. It’s never good for westerners to march in bringing their own prescriptive influence to newly opened countries–we learned that from Russia.
When Russia opened in the 90’s, a mass of Christian ministries rushed in without much knowledge, or care, of the existing culture or church structure. The result was major pushback from the people and church leaders of Russia who felt dishonored by the hubris of the Western missionaries. This lead to a breakdown of communication, and a delay in reaching the ultimate goal–providing people with the truth of Jesus through the Word of God.
In order to avoid making the same mistake in Cuba, we need to proactively and purposely enter God’s narrative for what He is already doing in His Church there. The Cuban Church has been thriving despite laws and regulations on religious worship. When we take the time to listen and learn about what God is and has been doing there, we not only honor the church leaders, but we also take the position of humbly understanding that the Cuban Church has a lot to teach the American Church.
Shortly after my thoughts on Cuba went live, it captured a leader’s attention. After having a conversation together about my experiences and perspectives on Cuba, things moved quickly….
He decided others needed to know more about the current Cuban Church, and our online “conversation” turned into a face-to-face meeting with additional interested parties. After a fruitful meeting where we discussed strategy for entering into Cuba and learning more about the existing Church, this group decided to organize into a network which is now named the First Frontier Cuba Network. What started as a few church leaders desiring to connect has now grown into a full-fledged movement.
Less than a year after the start of this movement, our group is about to step into exciting meetings which will deepen the dialogue between Cuban church leaders and North American ministry leaders. Together, we will be addressing the changing relations between the United States and Cuba, the current state of the Cuban Church, and vision-casting for its future. These unprecedented conversations will mainly consist of the American church leadership listening and asking how we can help support these Cuban church leaders prepare for a greater opening of Cuba.
You may never intend to start a movement–and that may not be what God intends for you. However, when the Holy Spirit prompts you to ask questions, roots a topic deeply in your heart, or prompts you to open a conversation which connects others to a vision, there’s a reason.
Rob Hoskins, “The New Cuban Crisis,” Rob Hoskins Blog, April 3, 2016, accessed August 18, 2017, http://robhoskins.onehope.net/cuba-in-the-news/