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Reformed Conference in Cuba

Author
Category Articles
Date March 8, 2002

A REFORMED CONFERENCE IN CUBA

It’s the second week of February and we’ve just returned from beautiful Cuba, hearts bursting with gratitude and praise to the Lord for His faithfulness throughout the trip.

We left the Valley of the Sun in Arizona several hours late on January 31, due to a snowstorm in Toronto, the site of our rendezvous with Bob and Cathi Selph and our required outside-U.S. departure for Cuba. The stinging wind and below-freezing temperature in Toronto was an interesting scene for launching a ministry trip into tropical Cuba!

That weather-induced delay was an early evidence of God’s help since it turned out we needed quite a bit of extra time to repack our suitcases at the airport. We were taking three very large suitcases packed exclusively with gifts (mostly heavy books) for Cubans and had to redistribute the weight so as not to pay overweight charges.

When we met Bob and Cathi and their multiple overweight suitcases at the Toronto airport the next day, we saw the Lord’s powerful hand at work in causing the “by-the book” airline attendant, who just moments before had been insisting there was absolutely no way for us to avoid a hefty overweight charge, to suddenly shrug it off and send us on our way rejoicing. Our mighty God controls the weather and people’s hearts!

Are you wondering what was so heavy as to cause us so many problems? Well, to give you an idea, we were hauling 160 long-awaited hymnals, books for pastors, including Bibles, Vol.1 of Juan Boonstra’s excellent and helpful sermons (just released), Hodge’s Commentary on I Corinthians (covering the issue of tongues), Peter Jeffery’s “Stepping Stones,” Palmer’s “Five Points of Calvinism,” our book “Liberacion,” three of the “magical” music machines called “Gloria,” and Confessions of Faith. We also carried an accordion, and such lighter items as pairs of shoes, 60 pens for the pastors, medicine, a volleyball, two ball gloves and balls (gifts from Stephen Straub for Pastor Daniel Perez’s two sons), frying pans and cooking utensils for Daniel’s wife and others, beautiful Arizona Highways wall calendars, baby quilts, name tags to assist us in getting acquainted, and the always-popular candy! (Since they’d been expecting around 40 pastors to attend the conference, we’d taken that many copies of most of the books.)

CUSTOMS

Our flight took us directly to Holguin, a city of about 300,000 on the eastern end of the island, where our first hurdle after passing immigration was the customs officers. The plane had been filled with Canadians traveling light on their way to spend a week or two in resorts on Cuba’s beautiful beaches, and we were noted because of the quantity of our luggage. When we gave the simple explanation that we were taking gifts for Cubans, we were informed that all such gifts had to be individually inspected and taxed.

The agents said they must see everything we carried, so we opened the first suitcase and pulled out a hymnal for examination. I promptly offered it as a gift to the agent, explaining that they’re marvellous for singing. A couple of officers examined it, and after a renewed effort on my part to make it a gift to them, they handed it back like it was a serpent about to strike, told me to put it back in the suitcase and that we were free to pass through.

We exited with great pleasure (without paying a single centavo!) straight into the loving embrace of Pastor Daniel, who was waiting outside with friend Samuel, who owns a four-cylinder diesel-powered 1955 Pontiac station wagon, just perfect for carrying us through the night. Within an hour we
had reached our destination Arroyon. All in all we found the Cuban
officials at every point to be kind as we complied with all their requests.

DANIEL PEREZ

For those of you to whom Daniel Perez may be a stranger, a bit of background history. While studying at a seminary in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1990, Daniel had come across some Banner of Truth books and wrote to their offices in Edinburgh, Scotland. His letter was forwarded to the Banner office in Carlisle, Pa., where it was handed to David Straub, then coordinator of RBMS, who was planning soon to visit Jamaican pastor Oscar Bloise there.

While in Kingston one day, David asked Oscar if he knew where the local return address on the letter might be so that he could try to meet this brother. Oscar pointed to a building a short distance away down that same street, and so the acquaintance began. In 1997 David Straub and I made a first trip to Cuba to visit Daniel and his work, and we were blessed immensely to see what God had been doing there in that land of amazing beauty and history.

In November 2000, 1 made a second trip, this time accompanied by Bob Selph. Each time we’ve been kept busy preaching in the churches and teaching classes to the pastors in training. Daniel was granted permission to come for last March’s General Assembly of Reformed Baptists in Texas and many were blessed to meet him and hear from him of the work God has been doing in Cuba.

In the past four years, by God’s grace, I5 house-churches have sprung up in that rural area of the island where sugar cane is king. Bob and I were especially blessed on this trip to have our wives, Cathi and Nancy, along for teaching the pastors’ wives and other Christian women able to attend and, perhaps more importantly, to show by life and word the beauty of Christian marriages.

We were thrilled to see that God has enabled our dear Cuban brothers and sisters to press forward not only in the spread of the gospel, but also in practical physical improvements of the property. Where there had been an outdoor cooking area there is now a building with a dining room and two bedrooms with fans (to discourage the myriad mosquitoes from landing). Where there had been only a wall and a bucket to drag water from the well for bathing, there is now a cement structure with four private toilets and even running water for a shower. Christ’s work in the hearts of His people there has made them diligent and has given them a lovely spirit of joyful service to Him.

A DOXOLOGICAL WELCOME

Even though we arrived at the Perez home in the wee hours of the morning, there was too much adrenaline to sleep. Daniel’s wife Reyna had a complete meal ready for us to eat, and as we pulled out hymnals the family began excitedly to insert them in the clear plastic covers to protect them. The next day, a group of church members was immediately organized to finish getting the hymnals ready for distribution: remaining hymnals were put in plastic covers, numbered and labeled for each house-church

Meanwhile the sound of the Gloria, with voices raised in praise to God, was constant. That evening (Saturday) we traveled for our first house church service in a nearby town Sunday morning’s worship service was a celebration of answered prayer for our and, more importantly, the hymnals’ safe arrival!

After feeding on God’s Word, everyone was thrilled to watch as Bob projected onto a bed sheet hung on the wall the larger-than-life pictures of our families and scenes from previous trips. They were amazed at the reminder of how far they’ve progressed in the last four years. We all enjoyed a meal together, and in the evening visited a second house-church.

THE PASTORS’ CONFERENCE

The pastors’ conference officially began on Monday morning at 8 a.m. and ended with lunch on Thursday. (These bi- or tri-monthly conferences of intensive study form an integral portion of the modular courses of ministerial training, in addition to which Daniel holds classes one day each week for the pastors in training.) Each day from 8 to noon, then again from 1:30 to 3, Bob and I took turns teaching around 90 pastors and church leaders. Bob took them on a walk through the New Testament with emphasis on Sola Scriptura and gave an excellent address on the need for pastors to take leadership in their homes.

My sessions dealt with the progressive work of the Holy Spirit in Scripture, the importance of understanding the closing of the canon and the apostolate, an understanding of New Testament tongues and healing, and the work of the Holy Spirit today.

Cathi and Nancy had been asked to teach the women, so during the men’s morning sessions the women gathered to learn from the Word how to be godly women, wives, mothers/grandmothers, and how to have a proper place in the church. They enjoyed singing together and finished with a time of answering some specific questions about living with an unconverted husband, reaching unconverted teen-age/adult children, and women’s role in the church.

(Did you notice the number discrepancy? You remember we’d prepared for about 40; but the Lord sent a truckload of 50 or so additional men with pentecostal background from an area about eight hours away. Along with them came some women, one of whom introduced herself as a pastor, so we immediately recognized the importance of the subjects the Lord had directed for this conference. Not surprisingly, He gave grace to us and to the “kitchen crew,” multiplying the food to feed 125 when half that number had been expected!)

Each evening during the conference Daniel traveled with Bob, Cathi, Nancy and other brothers and sisters from the churches to the designated house-church for a worship service. The mode of transportation was a high farm trailer with sides, pulled by a wagon, and it was amazing to see even women and children making this trip through the darkness to join in the worship. In each place, however humble, the Word was heard with joy, the singing was exuberant. and delicious refreshments were enjoyed by all.

Daniel does an outstanding job of translating. and Bob’s sermons were powerful and profitable. I stayed behind with the many who could not travel to the house-churches because of limited space in the trailer. and we had preaching services at the church there in Arroyon for them in the evenings through Wednesday.

NEW FRIENDSHIPS

There were also countless opportunities to show Christ’s love and to minister His Word informally through conversation and, hopefully, by our behavior throughout the week. For Bob and me it was a renewing of precious friendships; for our wives, a whole new beloved family in Christ, from Whom we learn so much about selfless service for Christ.

On Friday morning while the ladies “ran into town” to hunt a few souvenirs to bring back as gifts, Bob and I had the joyous privilege of examining and exhorting two of the six men who are presently serving in house-churches.

These brothers, Ariel and Armando, have finished their formal ministerial training and, God willing, will be officially graduated in a ceremony in April when Pastor Keith Maddy, who, with the congregation in Owensboro, Ky., have given much assistance to the ministry in Cuba, and Pastor Oscar Arocha from Dominican Republic plan to be there. Then, God willing, these two brothers will be ordained in November of this year.

Our dear brothers and sisters in Cuba have an amazing musical ability. They learned new hymns and psalms throughout the week. Every moment that they were not otherwise occupied the sound of their voices was heard, along with the “Gloria,” praising the Lord in joyful song.

We are thankful for the vision the Lord has given Daniel to see Cuba reached with the gospel, and for Reyna, his gracious and generous helper in the work. Their two sons are joyfully serving the Lord and are an asset in the ministry in many ways.

Let us rejoice together that our God has brought us together in love to participate in this great thing He is doing, and let us be fervent and faithful in our prayers for Cuba!

JIM ADAMS

Jim Adams is a former missionary to Colombia. He has been a pastor at Cornerstone Church of Mesa, Arizona, since 1980. This report is in the current edition of the ARBCA Update and used by permission.

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