The island nation of Cuba located just ninety miles off the coast of the United States, but it still remains a mystery. For decades the Castro regime has exercised tight control over the citizens of the country, its economy and religious life. Now, when relations between Cuba and the United States thawed, for the world to take a new look at Cuba and its Church.
Cuba begins to open its doors and more and more foreigners begin to learn how the local Church existed here in the years of Communist rule. And the answer is: surprisingly well. At the same time, according to many, the difficulties caused by the subsequent rapid growth of the churches.
In the conventional Sunday morning Church in Cuba all over the island Packed with people. Many house churches meet in the living rooms of houses. Other churches look quite typical, but with one important difference: political limitations.
Many Cuban churches, the problem of lack of space. For example, one of the churches refused to sell more land, and as it grows it is forced to reach up. On the upper floors of the Church building housed rooms for Sunday school, and four rooms where you can watch the broadcast Sunday services.
“When the apartment are about 80-100 people, all have very difficult. And some of your neighbors,” says pastor Miguel. He leads a house Church that now meets in his yard because people do not fit in the house. It is common for Cuban churches experiencing rapid growth, but constrained by the restrictions of the authorities. Over the last 20 years has opened more than 16 thousand Evangelical communities.
“Our growth in the faith contributed to constraints and difficulties”, — says the pastor Nestor. Together with his wife Rose he lives in a tiny room above his small Church. During services held on Sunday mornings and in the evenings mid-week, very few will be able to sit on normal seats.
“People here don’t care about convenience. Even if they are tired after a long day of work, they will sit on the bag with stones or the mended chair. They are ready to stand for the entire service,” says pastor rose.
According to the leaders of Cuban churches, the events that followed the fall of the Soviet Union, contributed to the current rapid growth of new churches.
“With the collapse of the system of government in Russia, Cuba had a very hard, and people began to seek solace in the Church,” shares pastor hermano.
The government broke with his atheist philosophy and declared the country a secular state. The result is a whole generation faced the question of “what to believe?” Then one official suggested that the Church, unable to get a building permit, they could get home. After the remarks there was a whole movement, similar to that which gave rise to the rapid growth of the Church in the Book of Acts.
“We told the gospel to all the inhabitants of this district, brought the New Testament in every home, says pastor Francisco. He is one of thousands of Cuban pastors of house churches that passionately follow the gospel.— We can not and do not want to stop. Even if they do not accept the Lord in the first, second, third or fourth time, still we must not stop until they come to God,” said the pastor, Francisco.
Such Church growth is all the more miraculous, given the prevailing poverty. The average monthly salary set by the authorities, is twenty dollars, and professionals tend to earn less than fifty. However, the Cuban Church known for its generosity and willingness to sacrifice for the sake of the gospel.
“We want to share with others what we have and not what we have,” says pastor Francisco.
Another obstacle to Cuban churches is the spiritual enemy in the face of Santeria. It is a mixture of West African religions, known for their ritual ceremonies.
In Havana the followers of Santeria love to come to one of the plantations. Here they perform the ritual ablution in the river and make sacrifices on the stone.
Pastor Nestor meets with resistance right in your area. Once, during a Sunday service, a group of followers of Santeria stood at the back of the Church and beat the drums.
“There was something sort of spiritual duel. The Church just began to pray, and then we began to pray for rain. Suddenly, a clap of thunder, and all the people had to leave,” recalls pastor Nestor.
According to Church leaders, they are now given back some relief. Easier to preach outside of the Church, and they often are allowed to hold special events. And yet most churches are unable to expand or buy land. They can’t produce Christian radio or television programs. And they have to work in the unfavourable economy. Plans for the restructuring of the Church pastor Nestor tolerated indefinitely, since the Church is not yet possible to procure the much-needed cement.
“Without suffering there is no challenges and without challenges, no victories,” does not lose hope and do not despair pastor Nestor.
Cubans preach the gospel with devotion and passion. They gather in the Church several times a week, conducting prayer services, fasting together, reaching out. They are very purposeful and focused on the gospel. Also, they want to unite with the Church worldwide, which includes the Church in the United States. Cubans are willing in harmony and cooperation with other churches to spread the gospel, but are cautious and fear the negative impact on the Cuban Church.