Would you spend a year’s salary on a car?
Depending on what you make in a year, it may be that you would. After all, transportation is an essential part of our family and work life. Where my wife and I live, for example, public transportation just doesn’t get us everywhere we need to go.
But would you spend a years’ salary on a bike?
Unless you are a professional rider gearing up for the Tour de France I assume you would not!
Amazingly, in Cuba a pastor or church-planter in a rural area would have to do exactly that. In order to purchase a bicycle he would have to save up an amount equivalent to his annual income.
As featured in last month’s snail-mail newsletter, our Bikes for Pastors ministry has been blessed with many generous donations this year. Our team absolutely loves this project but as donations increased we encountered a problem: we were unable to find enough bikes to purchase!
Ayán Zamora, our representative in the eastern part of the island, recently wrote me the following: “I am sorry to tell you there are no bikes in any of the eastern provinces. My wife has the phone numbers of stores in all the major cities and she calls them every week to see if they have bikes available.” I was hearing the same thing from David Gomero in the west and Alternán Claro in the central region. Keep in mind this is Cuba and this is just how things are.
In July ACTION missionaries gathered in Three Hills, Alberta, to participate in a weeklong Jubilee celebration to commemorate the mission’s 40 years of service.
It was a wonderful time of seeking the Lord and rejoicing over four decades of ministry completed in over two dozen countries by hundreds of Christian workers. The event was hosted by missionaries and staff from the ACTION Canada office in Calgary, and attendance was a bit under 200. All regions of our mission were represented from across the globe.
Held on the campus of Prairie College, the alma mater of many of ACTION’s founders and leaders, the Jubilee included times of worship and teaching led by Calgary pastors Ashwin Ramani and Ian Trigg. There were also excursions to Banff, the Calgary Stampede, the Royal Tyrell Museum of Paleontology in Drumheller, and the Canadian Badlands Passion Play.
One of my most pleasant tasks as Director of ACTION Cuba is to translate into English the thank-you notes we receive from men who have been blessed by our Bikes for Pastors project. I translate them and send them to each donor, along with a picture of the pastor with his bicycle. Here are some expressions of gratitude we have received recently:
Calixto Chala González, Methodist pastor:
I thank our Lord Jesus Christ and the ACTION ministry and all the donors for their love and for blessing us with this bicycle. This will help me keep serving the work of the Lord with all my heart. I bless you and have no words to express my gratitude. I hardly believed it when brother Ayán told me the good news and I was so excited that I just had to kneel down to thank God for this gift. God bless you!
Milton Cadet Brown, Baptist pastor:
God bless your ministry. You have been a channel of blessing to us. The bicycle will be used to visit the brethren and disciple them, and to evangelize others. That work is almost impossible to do without a bicycle. We thank all those who were involved in such a blessing. God bless you, and we will be praying for you.
Our ministry team performs many functions but one of the main things we do is act as a bridge that reaches from warm-hearted Christians in North America to people in need down in Cuba. It is a great privilege that God has given us this role.
The pictures on this page are examples of our “bridge” ministry. A homeschooling group in Lansing, Michigan, made notes of encouragement for the children battling cancer in Camaguey.
Cassie, the organizer of this project, sent me the drawings and I forwarded them to my friend Pat for him to carry down to Bayamo in April. Then our team member Ayán delivered them to pastor Yoán and in May the Hope of Life team handed the notes out during their visit to the hospital.
Thank you all for your love and effort!
Our ministry really needs a strong base of prayer support for all that we do, especially with the enormous changes that are about to wash over Cuba and the Church there, as the relations between our two countries normalize.
Changes are indeed coming and ACTION Cuba and the Cuban Church in general need your prayer for wisdom. It seems to me that more businessmen and politicians have been to Cuba in the past four weeks than in the past 50 years. Guess who also wants to be part of this new “opening” of Cuba? All the false religions and crackpots you can imagine. Cuba has been so hard to minister in over these years that very few of us have made it our life’s work, and boy, has it been work!
Now that people have the impression it may be easier, I am receiving emails every week from groups that want my help to travel down and teach in Cuba. When I check them out on the internet I find their material to be way far out there — and not in the laid-back John Denver “faaar out” of the 1970’s. No, these groups have dangerous, far-out teachings about God that clash dangerously with His true eternal attributes that are clearly demonstrated to humanity through creation, conscience, and Christ on the cross. These pseudo-Christian groups are headed to Cuba one way or another and I am not sure the Church there is ready for the battle.
To become a missionary with ACTION, one must complete a number of requirements, including an application, doctrinal statement, Bible quiz, Board interview, and a brief psychological evaluation.
I learned something about myself in that evaluation, which is meant to help missionaries understand their personality better in order to forecast challenges they might experience on the mission field.
One of the aspects evaluated was “rigid vs. flexible” with regards to plans and circumstances. I’ll never forget the counselor showing me my score. Compared to others, I was almost off-the-charts flexible. The little dot representing this aspect of my personality in comparison to other people was way down at the bottom of the “rigid vs. flexible” grid.
All I could say in response was, “Good thing I minister in Latin America.”
Case in point: In November I met with leaders of the Baptist Convention of Western Cuba along with my Cuban colleague and official ACTION representative David Gomero. We immediately began planing two Bible Training Workshops for April and very quickly we had two excellent conference speakers agree to travel down and teach.
These were significant plans in that they represented many “firsts” — first conferences with this denomination, first events David would organize on his own without me traveling down, first trip to Cuba by both of the speakers. Many, many hours were dedicated to the plans.
This week we received the sad news that a sweet little girl we know named Helen lost her battle with cancer. We had visited with Helen and her dad in November and then again in March, so we felt a connection with her. Her passing hit us hard.
Our first visit with her in the provincial hospital of Camaguey was memorable for a couple of reasons. When we handed out some stuffed toys, she was given a purple whale. We asked her if she was going to name her new toy and she said she would give the whale the name of one of the nurses, which provoked a good laugh from all the staff.
Also, when we invited Helen to come out to the common area for ice cream she said she didn’t like ice cream much. Celia asked her, “What do you like?” “Gum,” she replied. It just so happened that Celia had a pack of gum in her purse and Helen’s eyes lit up when it was given to her.
Every indication was that she was going to beat the cancer.
Here is an amazing testimony from someone I met on my March trip:
Abel was an idol worshiper but his mother-in-law gave him a Bible, which he kept because he thought it would bring him good luck.
One day prior to leaving for work he lit a candle on a plate and set the Bible next to it. This was done as a type of offering to his deceased relatives. The candle later tipped over and the whole apartment caught fire.
Everything was ruined except the Bible, which had been right next to the source of the fire!
Abel opened the Bible and to his amazement the first text he read was “I am that I am,” which brought conviction to his heart. He was discipled by ACTION representative David Gomero and continues in the faith.