The vision was born one year ago in the heart of Pastor Yunio Gonzalez, superintendent of the Cuba West District. I could see it in his eyes. I was translating for a Global Partners team comprised of the director of the JESUS Film Partnership of Global Partners, Rev. John Croft, and two other Wesleyan pastors from the United States. During JESUS film team training, John shared the principles and the joy of leading people to Christ. When he finished, Pastor Yunio was excited and said: “Wow, this material is wonderful, but I am sad that only seven people are present to hear this. John, can you come back next year? If you can, we will host an evangelism conference for all the pastors and leaders of The Wesleyan Church in Cuba.”
Pastor Yunio and his wife, Nancy, believe and practice amplifying mission! They began their ministry with what is now The Wesleyan Church in Cuba by planting one congregation 13 years ago. Their goal was to plant one house church per year. In a country like Cuba, this was a huge challenge! God has blessed their labors of love. After 11 years, their ministry was amplified to a total of 11 house churches in the provinces of Matanzas and Havana. The faithful JESUS film team, overcoming many obstacles, has been at the forefront of a church multiplication movement. The Florida District of The Wesleyan Church of North America came alongside the vision by providing funding for bicycles to mobilize lay pastors and minimal financial assistance to church planters. As a result of people coming to the Lord, the number of house churches has been amplified to a total of 24 in the past two years.
In late March 2015, John Croft and I, along with Pastor Dwight Mikesell and Mr. and Mrs. Phil Myers, participated in the first evangelism conference of The Wesleyan Church in Cuba. One hundred and six pastors and young leaders came from various areas of Cuba to the three-day event held at a Christian retreat center—a government authorized place of worship in the city of Cardenas in Matanzas. It was evident that much time had been spent in prayer and fasting prior to the event, which is a key component in the life of the Church in Cuba. Upon arrival at the place we were staying, a pastor witnessed to an employee. She gave her heart to the Lord and was made new! During the morning and afternoon training session, the participants listened and interacted with great enthusiasm as John, Dwight, and others shared.
People from local area Wesleyan churches attended the evening rallies. They had to choose the night they were going to attend because the place was too small for them to attend every night. Nearly 400 people crowded into the worship area. The place was filled with the presence of God as young people played various instruments and led in worship. Pastor/evangelist Mynor Murillo from The Wesleyan Church of Costa Rica was anointed and used by the Holy Spirit to light a passion to reach the people of Cuba and beyond who are lost, with no hope, without Christ.
At the close of an afternoon session, the delegates took to the streets of Cardenas to share Jesus. It was during siesta when not many people are on the streets. That evening and the next day there were shouts of joy as people shared their experiences of leading people to Christ. They were careful to take down the names and addresses of each one. A total of 57 people made commitments to the Lord in the streets that afternoon! Some of those who prayed repented from their sins and came to the rally that evening. The next day, Pastor Yunio confessed to the conference: “We had no plans to plant new house churches this year. Our desire was to firm up the existing congregations. But what are we going to do? Fifty-seven people have come to the Lord. We must start a Wesleyan church in the city of Cardenas beginning this weekend!” Pray for Pastor Yaniel from nearby Santa Marta who will be the lead pastor there. Pray for the JESUS film team as they work in this area in coordination with the pastor.
During the conference, two offerings were received for evangelism. Pastor Yunio did not tell the people how the funds were going to be used. The last morning of the conference, Pastor Yunio called John Croft to the front and said: “This conference has far exceeded our expectations. We want to bless the international JESUS film ministry that you lead.” He then handed an envelope to John that contained the offering received for evangelism: $150.00. When you remember that the average wage in Cuba is $30 per month, this was a tremendous expression of generosity. The offering brought us to tears of joy and gratitude.
I’ll not forget the last session of the evangelism conference when nearly 40 people—men, women, young people, and not so young people—stood weeping and broken before God in the front of the worship area and offered their lives in service to him saying, “Here am I, Lord, send me!” As I prayed with a number of them, my heart was broken and made new before him—”Here am I, Lord, send me!”