By Thiago Molina
During the past 20 years, God has poured out His Spirit across the island nation of Cuba until there are no longer enough churches to hold all the believers. In fact, Cuba is seeing one of the most rapid rates of church growth in the world. This church-planting movement has resulted in 6,500-plus house churches and more than 970 churches among Cuban Baptists.
But the story doesn’t end there.
“In the Great Commission, Christ commanded us not only to go to Jerusalem but also to the ‘ends of the earth,’” says Juan Carlos Rojas, president of the Western Cuban Baptist Convention and pastor of Havana’s Calvary Baptist Church. “We believe it’s God’s time for Cuba — not only here but also to send missionaries to other nations. We want to win the world for Christ. And we believe we can be a part of — and are a part of — what the Lord wants to do with the world.”
This vision for global missions isn’t something new for Cuban Baptists, says Kurt Urbanek, IMB strategist for Cuba and author of “Cuba’s Great Awakening: Church Planting Movement in Cuba.”
“Cuban Baptists have prayed to be able to send their own international missionaries for 54 years,” Urbanek says.
But now, because of recent changes in Cuban law, Cubans are able to travel outside of the country for two years without an exit visa. That change means Cuban Baptists’ dream of sending their own international missionaries is closer to becoming a reality, Urbanek says.
“The time is here,” he says. “The Cuban Baptist mission boards have been preparing for this day.”
To date, at least 200 Cuban missionary candidates are waiting to receive further training, make connections with strategic overseas mission projects and find adequate finances to be able to go.
But the financial support of these missionaries poses a particularly critical issue, Urbanek says.
“Cuban Baptists declare with conviction that they do not want outsiders to pay all the expenses [for the funding of their future missionaries,]” Urbanek notes. “They feel called to do their part in sustaining their own missionaries.”
But “the reality of the situation is that the average Cuban salary is $22 a month,” Urbanek adds. “For them to be able to send the missionaries that are ready to go will cost more money than they have. Thankfully, God is not limited by our financial limitations. Pray that God will speak to His people outside of Cuba, that they might join Cuban Baptists in their quest to take the Gospel to those who have never heard.”
Currently, Cuban Baptists are praying, collecting offerings in their own churches and preparing to send two missionary couples and a single missionary in 2014. These new missionaries will work with unreached people groups. By 2015, Cuban Baptists hope to send three additional missionary teams to Africa.
“These projects are God sized,” says Urbanek. “But Cubans have seen the Lord do the miraculous in their country as they have experienced one of the largest church-planting movements in the world. They want to take the things they have learned and put that into practice in the hardest to reach areas of the world.”
Meanwhile, Cuban Baptists also are sharing what they’ve learned with other believers across the Americas through a program called Cuban Mobilization Initiative. Through this initiative, Cuban Baptists give church leaders from Latin America and the Caribbean a first-hand view of Cuba’s church-planting movement, hoping to spur similar church growth across the region. During the past two years, more than 100 leaders have participated.
“God is calling our church in Cuba and the world to disciple the nations … ,” says Daniel González, director of this training program and pastor of Santo Suarez Baptist Church (formerly McCall Baptist Church) in Havana. “I think that the most brilliant pages of [the story of ] the Christians in the nations have yet to be written. And we are praying and working [toward that end].”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Cuban Baptist pastors Juan Carlos Rojas, Daniel González and José Enrique Pérez were featured speakers during IMB’s report to Southern Baptist Convention messengers June 10 in Baltimore, Maryland. Click here to see this 35-minute presentation and to hear these pastors‘ inspiring messages to Southern Baptists.
This story was originally posted at commissionstories.com.