Cuba is full of color, warmth and smells, but most areas are also run down and dilapidated. Poverty is rampant; almost all Cubans experience shortages of literally everything. Although on the appearance it seems “open,” restrictions remain in this communist nation.
Christians make up about 57 percent of the population, the majority being Roman Catholics. Through-out Cuba there is a chronic shortage of basic necessitates including Bibles and Christian literature. Permission for local printing of Christian literature is hard to obtain; therefore, Bibles, Bible study materials and Sunday school materials are in short supply. In addition, Bibles are distributed in Cuba only through official channels so the growing number of unregistered house churches have no access to these materials. One female pastor reported that, “Every month we have dozens of new Christians being baptized. Due to the shortage of Bibles, we do not give people a Bible when they convert. They first have to take a ‘Christianity course’ before being baptized. Once people have finished the course and have been baptized, they receive a Bible.”
There is a huge need for in Cuba for good Christian leadership. One Cuban pastor notes that since many of the church leaders fled or were expelled following the revolution, “there is a shortage of solid Christian leadership in the churches. We don’t have the knowledge and could really use good study material on biblical leadership.”
Christians in Cuba also lack places to worship. One pastor said, “We don’t have our own building and our houses are too small to meet in. Every Sunday we use all the means of transport that we can find to go out into the countryside. There we’re less conspicuous and can hold an open-air service. But if it’s raining or too windy, it has to be called off. That’s a pity, because we like meeting together so much.”
Because churches in Cuba must register, there are many unregistered house churches that have no legal status and experience harassment from the authorities. Another pastor said, “We don’t get permission to build new churches or church buildings. Only the church buildings that have been here before 1959 are officially registered as church buildings. Since then, it has not been possible to obtain permits for new church buildings.”
Religious groups complain about widespread surveillance and infiltration by state security agents. Pastors and Christians are sometimes pressured to stop evangelizing and to limit their activities to their own church premises. When a pastor was asked what his greatest wish was, he replied, “To conquer the city for Jesus Christ!” This is the dream of many Cuban Christians, who show their resiliency in the midst of restrictions. If there are too few Bibles, they simply share with each other and copy out Bible texts. If they are prohibited to proclaim God’s Word outside of church buildings, they then make sure that the music is loud enough and can be heard through the open windows of the building. When evangelizing on the street and the police drive them away, they carry on somewhere else.
In the midst of these challenges, the church in Cuba has much to give thanks for. Many religious organizations reported a significant increase in membership, and even revival, especially among the young. Most churches reported increased participation in religious instruction for children because government schools no longer schedule competing activities on Saturdays or Sundays. Cuban Christians see the restrictions as a challenge; instead of caving-in to the pressure, they stand up for their faith. In this way, the Word is heard and the church in Cuba is growing.
Our Father in heaven, You own the cattle on a thousand hills. You are sovereign over the nations, and we thank You for the way You are building Your church in Cuba even in the midst of many challenges. We pray with them for Bibles and other training materials that they might grow in maturity as Christians. We pray that godly leaders will be raised up in the church and trained to shepherd the people as they seek to lead lives of obedience to Your Word. We pray that You will soften the hearts of the authorities to grant registration to new churches and to permit the freedom to preach the Word without restrictions. In the meantime, we thank You for those who, with courage and faith, worship and serve You in Cuba. Amen
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