I recently traveled to Cuba with B H Carroll Theological Institute to teach students who are part of Carroll's masters program there. I traveled with three others from Carroll on religious visas to serve in Camaguey. This was my third trip to Cuba, and I was as impressed with the people and the church on this trip as I was the first time I went there.
We held classes in the buildings and among the people who are Primera Iglesia Bautista in Camaguey. The building was built in 1904 and sits in the heart of the historic city. But it is not the quaint nature of the structures that draws your heart to the church; it is the people.
The Cuban Christians are warm, hospitable, and truly love the Lord. They accept what they have been given, and they live joyful, hope-filled lives in Christ. They take trains, walk, ride their bikes, or "BC Taxis," to gather as God's people to worship in song, to learn God's Word, and to pray. And, oh, how they pray! We gathered on Tuesday evening after a day of teaching to join them in their weekly prayer service, which went for over two hours. They believe with all their hearts God answers prayers, so they humbly seek God through "by prayer, and petition, with thanksgiving." (Phil. 4:6) We made petitions and heard stories of answered prayers--and while I did not understand fully the man's prayer in Spanish for my wife and me, I knew God's heart was moved by my brother's prayer of the heart!
I also noticed and appreciated that their music was their own and reflected their culture and heritage. (No imported pipe organs and robed choir.) I recognized one or two praise songs from the Americas, but they mostly sang in their heart language to tunes that were theirs. I also did not sense any imported, stock theology from outside. They translate the Bible into their lives as the basis for what they believe. This was their faith, not an imported substitute. The ekklesia is alive and well in Cuba.
The Coke-Cola of Cuba is tuKola, "your cola." We drank it at lunch and supper every day, and it came to symbolize for me the hospitality and sweetness of the people. We lingered after meals to hear stories and share our own. We drank liters of the stuff! Each night I sat on the roof top of our hotel, the Gran Hotel, and drank a can as I read. When I see the image of the can of cola, I remember the shared meals, faith, and culture of those who are the church in Cuba and know they are thriving there.
I look forward to my next trip and hope some of you can go with me.