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HAVANA, CUBA (FBC)—The Gospel is being shared in Cuba. Lives are being changed. New churches are being started.
“I have never seen revival taking place any more than in Cuba. I rarely see such faith,” said John Sullivan, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention, after a recent visit to the island nation that lies only 90 miles from the southern shores of Florida.
One individual who is helping fan the flames of revival in Western Cuba is Victor Samuel Gonzales, a respected oncologist in Havana, who is currently serving as the first lay president of the Baptist Convention of Western Cuba.
Dozens of Florida Baptists visit Cuba annually to help
with evangelism outreach and training events for pastors as
part of Florida’s partnership with the West Baptist Convention of Cuba.
Because Gonzales is the son of a long-time Cuban Baptist pastor, he knows the struggles that evangelistic believers have faced through the years. Some from his father’s generation were even imprisoned because of their evangelistic zeal. In spite of that persecution, or perhaps because of it, Gonzales and many others from the younger generations persevere in their determination to call their fellow Cubans to a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ.
“Dr. Gonzales serves with compassion and focus as the Cuban convention seeks to see ‘Cuba for Christ’ become a reality,” said Craig Culbreth, who directs Florida Baptists’ partnership effort with Baptists in Western Cuba.
The partnership began in 1996. This involvement affirmed a commitment made more than 112 years earlier when in 1885, the state convention sent the first Southern Baptist missionaries to the Caribbean nation. The current partnership focuses on evangelism, church starting and leadership development.
As a component of that partnership, the Western Cuba Convention is allocated $120,000 from the Maguire State Mission Offering, which represents a little more than 50 percent of the Western Cuba Convention’s operating budget.
“Gifts Florida Baptists give are well spent. A dollar goes a long way in Cuba, and every bit of it goes to help pastors and ministry,” said Culbreth.
One significant source of support and education for pastors, made possible through Florida Baptists’ gifts, is the Baptist Theological Seminary in Havana. Many of the ministers enrolled in the seminary live on campus during the week and return home on weekends to pastor their churches.
A child enjoys worship at one of the Western Baptist Convention of Cuba’s more than 200 constituted churches.
The funding also supports the annuity of retired pastors who have no other source of income. A tape ministry for Cuban pastors, who have limited spiritual enrichment opportunities, also has been provided through the state mission offering.
Additionally, as a part of the partnership, dozens of Florida Baptists personally visit Cuba annually to help with construction projects, evangelism outreach and training events for pastors. “Cuban Baptists know that the Florida Baptist Convention has cared about them from the beginning of their existence,” said Culbreth.
Today the Western Baptist Convention of Cuba is composed of more than 200 constituted churches and another 1000-plus house churches. According to Sullivan, these numbers, which represent changed lives, are just the beginning.
“How exciting to know that language, cultural and political barriers can be vaulted by the preaching of the Gospel. I think Cuban Baptists are on the verge of the greatest revival they have ever had,” he said.