Yes, It's Legal to Be a Christian in Cuba
The title is my answer to the question I most often receive when people find out that CCC is embarking on a new ministry in Cuba.
Most of us Americans know surprisingly little about this beautiful, socialist, communist country just ninety miles south of Florida. Like many of you, I assumed that atheism was the state “religion” and that Christ-followers and churches would be secret. Yet to my amazement, after the revolution in 1959 that brought Fidel Castro into power, Cuba did not completely restrict religious practice. Only members of the Communist Party were not allowed to have any religion, yet even that has changed in recent years.
In 1995, a Canadian missionary from the Christian & Missionary Alliance started the first C&MA church in Cuba. Since that time, the C&MA has been steadily growing, and today there are sixty-three churches spread from east to west. In the last few years, interest in Jesus has exploded in Cuba. The C&MA dreams of having 120 churches in Cuba by the year 2020.
Churches That Plant Churches
In October 2017, I took a vision trip on behalf of CCC to Cuba to see what God is doing there and scope out opportunities for CCC to be engaged. As I visited eleven C&MA churches and met with church leaders, the only thing they wanted to talk about was their passion to start new churches. In fact, there are currently twenty-seven church plants that are ready to become independent churches in 2018. To become a recognized church, a church plant must:
- have twenty-five regular attenders
- have men capable of being elders
- support their pastor at a minimum of ten dollars per month
- have a small group already focused on becoming a new church
Read that last one again! They must have a small group of people working towards starting a new church plant with a location already determined for that church plant. One church of 200 people I visited has ten groups working toward becoming independent churches all around their city. I was genuinely moved by their passion to multiply and their passion to reach hurting people in their communities with the hope of Jesus.
I Have Nothing, But I’m the Son of the King!
"Seventy-five percent of this little church of fifty-five adults plus children is illegal immigrants."
I want to tell you about a small church near Havana, the capital of Cuba located on the west side of the country, led by a young pastor who must remain nameless. It was towards the end of my week, I had already visited ten other churches, and I was a little burned out… ok, I was a lot burned out. When we visited the pastor, I was just going through the motions and ready for a break. But wow, did the Holy Spirit crash into my heart!
Seventy-five percent of this little church of fifty-five adults plus children is illegal immigrants. In their case, this means they are from the eastern part of the country and are not allowed to live in the west. The eastern part of Cuba is the poorest, so these people moved hoping to find work so they can provide for their families. Being an illegal immigrant means they can’t have a legal job, they can’t get food assistance from the government, they can’t receive medical care, and if they get caught, they get deported back to the east. And yet, here they are sitting in this little shack of a church with joy on their faces.
To say these people are poor is an understatement! They have almost nothing. They work making and selling goods in the underground economy, which is what almost everyone in Cuba does to survive. Yet as I met with a dozen of their key leaders, I was literally moved to tears as they talked about reaching their neighbors for Christ. They spoke of families struggling just to live each day and the opportunity they have to minister on behalf of Jesus. When I asked one man how they can do so much when they have so little, he replied, “I have nothing, but I’m the son of the King!”
Do You Think Your Church Can Help Us Train More Pastors?
The leader of the C&MA in Cuba is Pastor Joel. I was blessed to spend a couple of days with him talking about how CCC might partner with them. While there are many ways for us to help our brothers and sisters in Cuba, the question, “Do you think your church can help us train more pastors?” is at the forefront of my mind.
There are many ways I anticipate CCC may come alongside the church in Cuba in the coming years, but I believe helping them find ways to train more pastors will be at the top of the list. How can they plant more churches without pastors? And how can they get more pastors unless they train them? There will be much on this in the coming months at CCC as we hope to be a part of the amazing work of the Lord in this beautiful country.
Craig Walter is the Director of Missions at Christ Community Church.