Sunday, August 14, 2011


Fri, Aug 5, 2011

We left at 4:15 am for the airport to get a 6 am flight for Toronto. After renting a car we traveled to Scarborough where we met with a pastor who has been involved in ministry in Cuba for the past nine years. His ministry had purchased a printing press with the intention of producing Spanish material for Cuban pastors. I left him with two Spanish commentaries. I will continue to translate the commentaries and supply him with the electronic files so his ministry can print and distribute them. We prayed together for the ministry in Cuba and for my time at the various conferences.

In the afternoon we visited another pastor and his wife. We shared together and encouraged each other and again spent time in prayer for each other and for the conferences.

Diane and I have been blessed by these times of prayer as we prepare to leave tomorrow.


Sat, Aug 6, 2011

The airline phoned this morning to say that our flight to Holguin had been delayed for over 5 hours. We were able to return our rental car a little later and arrived at the airport about five hours before the flight at 9 p.m.

We were met at the airport in Holguin at 2 a.m. and traveled to Bayamo arriving at our hotel at 4 a.m.


Sun, Aug 7, 2011

Our hosts decided to give us what was left of the morning to rest. Having arrived at our hotel at 4 a.m. this was quite welcome.

Before leaving Canada, two people asked me to bring some ministry resources to Cuba. These were to go to two different individuals. I was somewhat concerned about how I was going to make contact with them. When our hosts arrived at 1 p.m. to pick us up for lunch, however, they told us that one of the individuals I was to contact was having lunch with us. Unknown to me, she was a good friend of our hosts.

When I asked about the second individual, my host told me that he had phoned about meeting me and so he invited him to the conference tomorrow morning. I was encouraged to see the hand of the Lord in this. He had so wonderfully opened the door for me to be a vehicle for these two Christian workers to receive necessary resources for their ministries. To God be the glory!

After lunch I spent time with my translator. We were able to speak about the messages and the direction I felt the Lord was taking me for the conference tomorrow morning.

My translator gave me a completed translation of my commentary on the epistles of John and Jude. This is now the third book to be translated in the Spanish New Testament series.

That afternoon I gave out 3 Spanish commentaries on the Epistles of Thessalonians and Timothy and a CD containing a number of my English commentaries.

We had a couple of hours to relax in the afternoon before meeting with the ministry team for supper in the evening.

It was encouraging, over supper to hear about the burden of the Eastern Baptist church to equip their leaders in ministry. All three Cubans with us for the evening meal had ministries in discipleship and leadership training.


Mon, Aug 8, 2011

We were met in the morning by our hosts and taken to First Baptist Church in Bayamo. The meeting was scheduled to start at 9 but was delayed in order to give pastors living farther away time to get there. Some of these pastors and missionaries were traveling about 30 kilometres by bus or other means to get to the conference. The meeting started at 9:45. Even at that time a number of attendees had not yet arrived.

First Baptist in Bayamo has a large 2½ story building for its 800 members. Paintings of former pastors on the wall show that it goes back to 1905. We had the privilege of meeting a former pastor who had served not only at First Baptist but in other churches for fifty years.

I spoke twice in the morning on a passage from Hebrews 10 challenging those present to make knowing and experiencing God their life passion.

After the morning sessions I gave the last Spanish commentary I had brought to a pastor from another denomination who attended the conference. It is hard to imagine how significant this small thing can be for pastors like this.
After translating the material for the messages that morning my translator asked if he could use it in his teaching ministry. The conference organizer also asked for permission to use the material in his work with youth. I was encouraged to see that what I shared would be used after I left to encourage others.

After lunch I met a Cuban couple serving full time in outreach. He was asking if we had a copy of the message notes in Spanish. I offered to send them copies of the Spanish commentaries as they became available. They appeared to be quite excited to receive any such material to help in their ministry.

BAYAMO (First Baptist)

Fri, Aug 12, 2011

Founded in 1905, First Baptist church in Bayamo was one of the first four Eastern Baptist Convention churches in Cuba. It currently meets in a two and a half story building and has 800 members.
It is the home of a theological training school for missionaries and church leaders. This school ministers to the training needs of leaders in the whole province.

In 1928 First Baptist in Bayamo founded the first Convention Youth Board with one of their own members as President. Youth ministry and training is a vital part of the ministry of the church. The current president of the Eastern Baptist Youth is once again from First Baptist Church, Bayamo.
First Baptist has now planted 11 churches.


Tue, Aug 9, 2011

The second conference of the week took place in Manzanillo, about 70 kilometres to the west of Bayamo. We left at 7:30 in the morning and arrived at 8:45. As in Bayamo, the organizers delayed the start of the conference about 45 minutes to allow those attending time to arrive.

The focus of the sessions was on the importance of seeking God in ministry and not depending on our human wisdom and experience. I spoke for the first hour and then took a break. When we returned to the room five minutes later, the pastors and missionaries were on knees praying for forgiveness for not seeking God as they should in their ministries.

The meetings ended with pastors coming forward to share how the Lord had used the morning to strengthen and encourage them.

At the end of the morning conference I spoke through my translator to the pastor of the church. He gave me his address and the addresses of four other Christian workers he felt could benefit from my books. I will add these names to my Spanish mailing list and send them books as they become available. It is encouraging to know that I can continue to minister to these individuals in this way even when I leave the country.

MANZANILLO DISTRICT (Eastern Baptist Church)

Tue, Aug 9, 2011

After the conference in Manzanillo, I had an opportunity to speak with the Pastor of First Baptist Church in Manzanillo. He told me that the church is over 100 years old and has 385 members meeting in a building that can hold about 400.

First Baptist is one of ten Baptist churches in the city of Manzanillo. The district in which they work stretches 170 kilometres along the western coast and is made up of 7 municipalities. In this part of Cuba, there are 34 Baptist churches (10 of these are in Manzanillo). The size of these fellowships ranges from 60-400 members each.

There are also 48 Baptist church plants in the district. These church plants function as a church but are not yet recognized by the Eastern Baptist Convention as independent churches. The goal is to see each of these church plants become a recognized church.

The Eastern Baptist Church recognizes 207 prayer cells meeting in the district. The goal is to have these prayer cells become church plants and eventually independent churches.

The Manzanillo district has 22 pastors for the 34 churches and 48 church plants. They are assisted by 68 full time Cuban missionaries. The pastor of First Baptist told me that to date this year the region has seen 400 people come to Christ.

It is little wonder I feel compelled to tell them when I speak that I should be the one sitting in the pew and they should be teaching me.


Wed, Aug 10, 2011

We checked out of our hotel in Bayamo just before 9:00 am. We were to leave for Las Tunas at 9:00 but our host was busy making purchases for the event so we didn't leave until around 10:00.

The two hour trip brought us through a more rural part of Cuba. We noticed sugar cane and corn growing in the fields. We passed by several farms with great quantities of cows grazing in the fields.

The conference is to be held at Second Baptist Church. Youth were checking in as we arrived. They will be staying with Christian families in the area.

I woke up in the morning with an upset stomach, headache and sore bones. A big part of this seemed to be the result of the heat. I was glad to finally be able to get to our hotel room around 4:00 where I could rest and cool off in preparation for the evening meeting.

While I have a religious visa to work in Cuba, Las Tunas is in a different province from Bayamo and Manzanillo. The government requires that my passport and visa be registered with immigration in each province I work. My host and the pastor of Second Baptist church prepared a letter letting immigration know what I was doing, the subject of my messages and when I would be leaving. I am now free to speak at the youth conference.
The evening service went well. I am always impressed with the quality of musicians in Cuba. Music seems to form a big part of their lives. The youth sang with joy and enthusiasm. I spoke on Colossians 1:19-20 sharing how it was the pleasure of God to send His Son to die so that they could be reconciled with Him.

LAS TUNAS DISTRICT (Eastern Baptist Convention)

Wed, Aug 10, 2011

Second Baptist Church in Las Tunas, was established in 1940. It was not until 1984, however, that they had their first pastor. It has about 200 members. Up until about five years ago it was one of four Baptist churches in city. Now there are 17!

The District of Las Tunas has 48 Baptist churches. There are, however, only 12 trained pastors for these churches. The missionary I spoke with told me that there are another 12 mission churches being established in the district at this time.

Las Tunas Conference: Day 2

Thu, Aug 11, 2011

I woke up this morning still feeling sick. I was up several time in the night with an upset stomach, sore throat and aching bones. Despite this the Lord gave grace to speak twice, first on God's call to friendship (philos) love and second on his call to die to the flesh and live in the Spirit.

After the first meeting a young man came up to me and told me that two years ago he was suffering with depression. My translator and I prayed for him and the Lord healed the depression. He is now preaching in his church. He asked if I could send him any material I had that could help him in his ministry. I am thankful to the Lord that I now have Spanish books I can send him in the mail.

I also met a medical student from Guyana who had come to Cuba to study medicine. She told me that there were a number of students studying in Cuba from her country. She gave me her address so I could send her English books.

By noon, after speaking twice, I was feeling very worn out and sick. My translator offered me the use of his room during the final session of the morning. I found a place on the floor and was able to sleep for about half an hour. My translator has now became sick with similar symptoms as did another speaker on the team. We are trusting the Lord for strength for another day.

My commentary on the book of Acts arrived today in Las Tunas. They are being distributed to the participants of the conference. Each participant will go home with their own copy of this book.

Conversation with Mission Board Chairman

Sat, Aug 13, 2011

I had the opportunity to meet with the pastor of Second Baptist in Las Tunas. He is the head of the Eastern Baptist Mission Board. He shared with me the church's vision and what they had been seeing over the past few years.

The term "missionary" in Cuba refers to a Cuban Christian worker. As of December 2010 the Eastern Baptist Convention had 1129 missionaries. Of this number 639 are serving part time. Of the 1129 missionaries, 680 are working with no salary.

The missionary effort of the church began in 1990. The denomination has set up missionary training schools to train these missionaries in church planting. This movement has grown significantly in the last few years. In 1998 there were no missionaries in Las Tunas. Today there are 118 in the province.

The Eastern Baptist Convention has a goal to plant 500 new churches before 2015. Last year 50 new churches were founded. They expect that 100 more will be planted in 2011. To accomplish their goal, the Convention, wants to train 200 new missionaries each year.

One of the training programmes the Eastern Baptist Church has established is geared to Cuban professionals who have the opportunity to leave the country. In this training programme, courses are offered in how to reach people of other religions and faiths.

There is a clear sense of God moving in this nation. Thirteen years ago there were only four Eastern Baptist Churches in the city of Las Tunas and 8 in the whole province. Today there are 17 in the city and a total of 48 in the province.

Leadership in this growing number of church is a significant issue. There are currently 154 churches in the Eastern Baptist Convention without a pastor.
Missionaries gather together on a monthly basis to report on their work. This is also a time for them to be encouraged. Speakers are invited to these events to preach or teach on subjects that would help the missionaries.

As a point of interest the president of the Denominations Mission board told me that one of the missionaries from the city of Camaguey was supported entirely by the children of the church.


Sat, Aug 13, 2011

Last night we had the opportunity to speak with our Lester Acosta (our host) about the events of the week. I wanted to get his sense of how the events had unfolded and whether we had accomplished what had been asked of us.

In regards to the University Students Conference, Lester told me that spiritually he felt that the meetings were a success. From what the youth were saying, the messages obviously had an impact on their lives. He told me that he would think of a particular subject and I would preach on it. He wanted to speak personally to the youth after the final session but told me that I spoke what he wanted to say. I am thankful for the way the Lord brought this unity of mind and focus.

The one negative side, apart from the sickness of all three speakers, was the attendance. The location for the event had to be changed because the church originally scheduled to host the meetings had to cancel. Second Baptist in Las Tunas was farther away and likely many couldn't make the trip.

In regards to the Christian Workers conferences, Lester told me that those who attended shared with him that they were encouraged.

Lester told me that while the week was a very intense week the Lord gave "good results"

I am thankful for all who have prayed and made this time in Cuba a success. God has encouraged His people. He brought unity among the speakers and strength despite prolonged sickness. I return to Canada today with a body that is weak and sick but a soul that is encouraged at what God can do despite our weakness.